Has Ubuntu hit a plateau?

Has Ubuntu hit a plateau?

Summary: The other day I downloaded the alpha 5 release of the upcoming Ubuntu 9.04 (which is curiously codenamed Jaunty Jackalope) just to see how things were progressing in the Ubuntu world. What surprised me was that there was very little to get excited about (OpenOffice.org 3.0 ... woohoo ... yawn). In fact, even the next release (9.10, or Karmic Koala) which is over six months away, has nothing that really gets my blood moving. Sure, there's dedicated netbook support, but I don't see myself getting all that enthusiastic about that.


The other day I downloaded the alpha 5 release of the upcoming Ubuntu 9.04 (which is curiously codenamed Jaunty Jackalope) just to see how things were progressing in the Ubuntu world. What surprised me was that there was very little to get excited about (OpenOffice.org 3.0 ... woohoo ... yawn). In fact, even the next release (9.10, or Karmic Koala) which is over six months away, has nothing that really gets my blood moving. Sure, there's dedicated netbook support, but I don't see myself getting all that enthusiastic about that.

Has Ubuntu development plateaued? Is the best that we can expect the from now on evolutionary changes rather as opposed to revolutionary ones?

Don't get me wrong, I like Ubuntu. Of all the Linux distros that I've tried, it's the one that seems to show the most promise of being able to go mainstream. Like every other Linux distro, it's fast, reliable and secure, but Ubuntu manages to add a few cherries on top of all that in the form of a slick interface and a good selection of software applications. Another compelling feature of the Ubuntu distro is the six monthly update cycle - as regular as clockwork, a new version of Ubuntu (complete with daft code name) is released. Unlike Apple and Microsoft, both of which are coy about release dates until what feels like the final hour, with Ubuntu, users get plenty of notice of a new release, as well as a clear idea of what will be in that new version. Problem now though is that it seems like the next few updates feel like service packs rather than full-blown releases. It's almost like the dev team have a final product in mind and are now working to make that vision a reality.

Here's an example of what I mean, from the 9.10 announcement:

First impressions count. We’re eagerly following the development of kernel mode setting, which promises a smooth and flicker-free startup. We’ll consider options like Red Hat’s Plymouth, for graphical boot on all the cards that support it. We made a splash years ago with Usplash, but it’s time to move to something newer and shinier. So the good news is, boot will be beautiful.

In case you're thinking that I've deliberately chosen a boring bit, the only other improvements mentioned to the desktop is better netbook integration and something about the "desktop will have a designer’s fingerprints" all over it ...

I'm left with a few random thoughts ...

  • Maybe there really isn't enough you can do to an OS to warrant a release every six months (after all, both Windows 7 and Mac OS X "Snow Leopard" also seem more evolutionary than revolutionary).
  • Developing a new operating system relies on shaking things up and redefining the wheel periodically (new interface, different ways of doing what you've been doing for years, a few tweaks here and there).
  • The OS is slowly becoming irrelevant, and it's the applications that matter.


Topics: Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • Ubuntu's Development Both Blessing and Curse

    Unfortunately the issue with Ubuntu, it that it has become a victim of its own development successes.

    Technologically it is now for the most part the equal or better of Windows, or OSX. However this shines the bight light on the fact that there is very little revolution is taking place in Desktop Linux land. They seem to be in a perpetual state of copycat, perfecting what exists but rarely evolving.

    Linux desktop initiatives now need to learn to REALLY innovate. These projects need to recruit more GUI designers, usability experts, artist, et.al. I'd love to see Ubuntu make a quantum leap like Apple did to the GUI desktop when OSX was released. Not just try to [i]look[/i] like OSX.
    • What are you basing your opinion on?

      On Linux side I have seen eye candy such as translucent windows since before XP came out. It is now standard for a Linux distribution to boot off a CD, find all the drivers and then allow you to install what you see on your hard drive with a single click. Linux can even run programs written and compiled for windows. In fact, first net-books ran Linux because Microsoft software and licensing was incompatible with the netbook concept. It is Microsoft that is playing catch-up and not Linux.
      • My whole point

        When OSX came out, love it or hate it, it had a lot of new ideas about how a GUI should work. It wasn't just about eye candy, it was about innovating a new way of doing things.

        I think their has been flashes, like the Enlightenment project. But on a whole the community gravitates to KDE and Gnome, where it seems to be about emulating the GUIs of other OS's

        As far as Linux's apps go, its great but it never really leverages it for anything. Say I want to get a program to compose music, and I was a pretty novice computer user. Right now I rummage through Synaptic and I never really get a clear understanding of what the apps do. Why can the packaging system accept input like "I want to create music" and return a verbose list of apps with detailed descriptions. Then when I choose to install it, I get a folder of bookmarks to community sites of tutorials, howtos beginner guide, etc. If a Linux/OSS desktop could really tie all of its strengths together, and BRING THEM ALL THE WAY UP TO THE DESKTOP LEVEL, I believe it would be a force to be reckoned with. Now, it just looks like they are trying to be Windows 95 with translucent windows and cubed desktops.
        • Add/Remove

          Use the add/remove applications applet in the Applications menu if you want it to accept input like 'create music' and provide detailed info about the apps(including links to the product homepage); Synaptic is for advanced package management(though it too provides info, but in slightly geekier language).

          If you think KDE 4.x is a copy of any other GUI out there, I'd seriously like to know which one.

          Linux is community driven, and it evolves according to what the community wants or needs it to be. If you'd like to see a particular feature in your distro of choice, you can
          1) code it yourself and submit it, or
          2) ask the developers to do it
          (Ubuntu Brainstorm is an example)
          If your idea is deemed good by other members of the community and if it's feasible from a technical and legal standpoint it'll be part of the next release.
        • Stereotype is not the point.

          Synaptic is there to install software. Synaptic is not a one-stop research place. For that you google, talk talk to other people etc. You wouldn't decide your software purchases based on what is written on a CD in the store, would you?

          There is nothing special about OS X. It is a toy OS designed to run handpicked software on handpicked hardware. It also lock your information into proprietary hidden format. You need to buy an app to see hidden folders on your system. When you uninstall program you need to manually hunt down all the associated files and delete them (that is just lame). There are no multiple desktops by default (you have to pay $30 for that). When you click on your picture folder to see your files, it launches a picture application instead. I could go on and on.
          • Hey!

            I think you'd better do your research! http://www.apple.com/uk/macosx/features/spaces.html. Oh, and it's part of the OS.You a so wrong! Have you ever used a
            Mac? Didn't think so.
          • I guess my information is out-dated, but...

            ...it's nice to see that OS X finally caught up with Linux and other Unixes
          • So even if you were wrong

            about the multiple desktops. I think you're spot on with many of the other observations. Apple is about tying you in whereas Linux is about setting you free. I doubt OS X would install on my HP laptop as easily and as quickly as Ubuntu either. Most of the so called innovative ideas that appear in an OS are worthless eye candy. Once something starts to reach perfection it's bound to plateau. But that's how I like it. Something that just works the way it should time after time is fine by me. Do you complain every time you buy a car that its still using wheels to drive you along. A white wall tyre isn't innovation it's eye candy. You get to a point where you can only go so far with something and then all you can concentrate on is performance and reliability. Something Ubuntu has in abundance. I rest my case.
          • I agree

            "about the multiple desktops. I think you're spot on with many of the other observations."

            And I do have a mac - just don't use it a lot anymore ... though Safari 4 may change that. Pity every site will be written to look good in IE though.

            The next leap in desktops won't come from any current major player. It will be a small project somewhere that will come up with something new. So far, none of the 3d-ish virtual informationscape interfaces have really worked - they are fun but not really useful.

        • You make a good point

          What Ubuntu needs now is software, and software support. The more Ubuntu does to get users to the software they want, and get them to enjoy using it, the better for Ubuntu.

          Instead of just Synaptic, it should be a fully feature software discovery, purchase/install, and use experience. That would be a revolution, because no one is doing that, and that could greatly improve usability.

          One of the chief complaints about Linux is installing software. Sometimes you can't find what you want. Other times, what you want has very poor support and requires a lot of manual work. Improving the software discovery features in Ubuntu may help motivate software companies to support it more.

          Who doesn't like free advertising? That's what search is.
      • Linux find all the drivers

        sorry I have to disagree with this statement. Ubuntu and other Linux distro does not install my wirless network card in my Aspire Aspire 5000. In Gusty it did with a lot of work, but every version after that it will not work no matter what I do. Other people who have the same wirless card but in a different brands works fine. But for whatever reason it will not work with the Acer Aspire 5000. Windows 7 beta works great, as well as Vista and XP, but Linux does not.

        I keep hearing how Linux works with all hardware, yet every computer I owned and tried had major driver problems.

        Lindows/Linspire had a problem with ATI cards and though Linux would boot no 3D option, so I could not play games, render movies, or any other 3D stuff.

        I could use Open Office and that was about it.

        Linux still has a long way to get drivers to work.

        As I have always said, I want to build a computer around my needs, not the OS needs.
        • What were the specs and problems?

          I've been using Ubuntu 8.10 with no trouble for driver support. Actually, I haven't had to search for any drivers at all, it was done for me the moment I booted my computer the first time for any proprietary drivers and I was done.

          From what I read in your post, it sounds as if you're doing something horribly wrong if every piece of hardware you've installed Linux on has had these problems. I've read through forums, looked through as much info as I could find and never found anyone who had as much trouble, especially on multiple attempts.

          As I stated before, my first install of Ubuntu 8.10 had zero problems on a patchwork PC.

          So, as stated in the subject line. What were the specs of those machines? and, more importantly, What problems did you have with them? Please, go into detail.
          • I've been using Ubuntu 8.10 in an Aspire laptop with no trouble

            Everything has been working fine right from the start.
            InAction Man
          • Is your Aspire the 5000 series?

            I suspect no. Some newer and some older the Wireless card does work, but I have the Acer Aspire 5000 series.
          • So where is your problem again?

            I went back and reread your original post. You mentioned having problems with multiple PCs, not just one.

            Again, exactly what problems did you have? What were the machine specs?

            If the only problem you can come up with is from a single line of computers then maybe, just maybe, the problem lies in the hardware and not the software. If it took so much work to get it to run at all under Gutsy, maybe it just doesn't work at all now. In Intrepid, my wireless card runs perfectly. Actually, it runs better than it ever did in Windows, finding more wireless networks in my neighborhood than before and connecting to my own more reliably.
          • Go to Ubuntu user forums

            and search for Broadcom 4318 Acer Aspire 5000.

            Again it is with the Acer Aspire 5000 that the wireless card will not work, even following all the people who tried to help.

            Use Dell, Gateway, Sont, etc.. with that same card and everything works fine.

            If you read the forums you will see a lot of people having driver issues.
          • Wireless and Acer Aspire 5000 with Ubuntu 8.10

            This sure sounds like a hardware problem to me.
            Update victim
        • I disagree.

          Ubuntu 8.10 has **always** been good to me.
          InAction Man
        • Most everything is automated now.

          I don't know what issues you had with Gutsy, but when you fire up Intrepid, it finds your display and most all other driver needed. Wireless is standard now, it seeks your router and loads the drivers. You do need to install the video card drivers, but they are usually in synoptic manager.

          Keep in mind that video cards are GUI driven, so they work different than CPUs. The downside is that nVidea is tough to deal with, they don't support Linux as well as they should. ATI is not much better at it then nVidea. The more users Linux gets the better the support they will get.

          Apple doesn't use cutting edge hardware so the makers of that hardware isn't pushed to get drivers like the Microsoft drivers get pushed. If Apple was capable of using some of the faster chips available, they would have driver issues like MS.
          • Oh I see the problems are only with Nvidia or ATI

            mmm that about covers every driver that comes with a pc out of the box!