I have very mixed feelings about Ubuntu.
I like the distro because it is straightforward to install, and set up, and there is scope to personalise it. The latter is good because I find the ubuntu themes are nasty. For multimedia it is great. I prefer straight Debian, as that is rock-solid, but it is limiting in it’s insistence on only implementing fully free software.
I am very disappointed that Ubuntu are creating yet another variant with Unity, in favour of gnome3. Unity is great for netbooks, older laptops with small displays and slow cpu and low ram – but on desktops and newer laptops, I like gnome. I don’t mind KDE so much now (used to hate it), but keep finding I go back to gnome. I installed Fedora 15, but gnome3 would not run on the hardware I used, so I am still not too sure about the way gnome is going. I like gnome the way it is, as I have been using for ten years now – from what I can tell, it seems a bit too big a jump, like the way XP went to Vista (and nothing seemed to quite work right?). I’ve played around with Compiz, but I’m not too bothered about the eye candy.
I have tried out Mint, and as they are sticking with gnome, that may be the way to go – but it is yet another distro, and originally forked off from ubuntu. I don’t trust Canonical – I reckon they are using the linux community to create a poor-man’s Mac, and put back less than they take out (unlike me, who puts nothing back…); one day I reckon they’ll find a way of locking ubuntu down in a way they can market it as a fully commercal OS – because it is a business. Not sure how they will fair – IBM, Sun & Oracle have all got bitten on the backside when they tried that with OpenOffice, Apache, and so on. One of the beauties of OpenSource & GNU licensing is that if people start to try and take ownership of this stuff, people can just vote with their feet, grab the source, and start again – like with LibreOffice.
I’ve tried a number of variants I like, such as PClinuxOS – but found it pretty unstable. I hate SUSE, although I couldn’t say why – something about it makes my skin crawl. Fedora I am playing around with – have 14 installed ready to upgrade to 15 whenever. I never liked RedHat, but I am getting along with Fedora. I prefer Debian derivatives, and Ubuntu was the best. Gnome2 still works on 11.04, but I had to fiddle a bit to get it to act as the default interface, and display properly. I had it set up to look a bit like a Mac – and some of the stuff I’d used to get it to do that didn’t work any more with the upgrade to 11.04. Now I keep with a fairly neutral Clearlooks theme – which avoids most of the ubuntu look apart from the logo on the menu bar.
Gnome and ubuntu have made bad decisions about their future – and ubuntu recognises this in gnome, hence its response. This heralds a period of instability possibly worse than with what happened with KDE a while back. That is bad news for linux, and linux users, and will do the OS no good at all, which is a shame as it was starting to win some non-technical people over; most people have no time for this stuff. It is daft that there are so many different distributions offering different variants; this just confuses ordinary people, and makes the job of selecting one harder.
There needs some kind of unified linux system – from the kernel up to the interface, having so many different options for the interface (KDE, Gnome2/3, LXDE, XFCE, and now Unity) is overkill; I get the need for them (although with LXDE, not sure what the point of XFCE is). The Linux Foundation is working towards this, and is looking at using Canonical’s App Manager as a standard across distributions. Really, it would be better if they could agree on a single package management system, and merge the .deb & .rpm formats, so that there any user of any distro can pull in any package regardless of whether it was packaged for a particular distro. There needs to be a single, unified, reference linux distro, similar to the way the kernel is managed – which distributors can take and personalise with variations for particular markets, but incorporates admin and management features that are a base-line.
I’ve been looking at OpenSolaris’ implemention of gnome on top of SVR4 unix, and while available packages are limited compared with your average linux distro, it is very neat. You can get most of what you would need, it looks professional, and it looks solid. I liked SVR4, and was quite comfortable on the command line using the korn shell. If there was a stable release of OpenIndiana, I think I’d use that, and run linux as a VM within it. However, the more I look into this, the more I am coming round to the idea of eventually getting a MacPro with i7 4-core & 8GB RAM, running vBox, then having XP, W7, Fedora and Ubuntu running as VM’s – that way I could run the Windows software I have, the software I can get with linux, and have a decent Mac for image processing software like Adobe PS.CS as well as some of the professional Astro stuff that have Mac versions.
One day, maybe…
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