Why I Dislike Ubuntu - Reason #37

Why I Dislike Ubuntu - Reason #37

Summary: I got burned by Ubuntu again this morning - as if I needed to be reminded why I dislike it so much. I have a number of computers around here, and they all have a moderately complicated multi-boot configuration.


I got burned by Ubuntu again this morning - as if I needed to be reminded why I dislike it so much. I have a number of computers around here, and they all have a moderately complicated multi-boot configuration. Each of them has multiple Linux distributions installed, and most of them have some sort of Windows as well. I always use the openSuSE Legacy GRUB bootloader. The overall result is that it does what I want, and it's reliable. At least, it was reliable until I installed some Ubuntu updates this morning.

I was catching up on updates on a variety of systems, when I let one of the install the latest available updates for Ubuntu 12.04. When it was done and rebooted, it came up with the Ubuntu GRUB 2 bootloader. I thought that was a bit odd, I must have overlooked something said it was ok to overwrite the MBR, or at least a notification that is was going to do that. So when I installed the Ubuntu updates on another system I paid closer attention to the process - and there was no such question or notification, but sure enough when it rebooted, it came up with the Ubuntu GRUB 2 bootloader. Grrr.

It's not too difficult to fix this, and recreate my preferred bootloader configuration. But it is rude and/or careless of Ubuntu to do this. Those who have a multiboot configuration which includes Ubuntu 12.04, watch out for this.


Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • It’s been my my experience, from following Linux in the press via knowledgeable and respected sources such as you, that a negative report on Ubuntu often results in a personal contact from The Spacey Cadet, imploring the offending--and, no doubt--offensive individual to try it one more time; to give Ubuntu another chance. What Shuttleworth will NEVER admit to is that people are fed up giving Ubuntu (NOT Ubuntu Linux; that's an oxymoron) 'just one more chance'.
    Keep callin’ ‘em as you sees ‘em.

    Apparently you have a lot of company. I just checked DistroWatch (thought I’d spice things up, and generate a lot of flames from the Ubuntu artificial-intelligentia), and it seems as though a whole BUNCH of people don’t like Ubuntu either. Mint has bested Ubuntu for the past year by anywhere from (approximately) 1.5:1 to 3:1.
    To make the news even worse for The Astronaut, Ubuntu dropped to third place, behind Mageia and Mint for the last thirty days; and to fourth place, behind Mint, Fedora, and Mageia.

    Now it’s time for the Ubuntu zombies to weigh in with their “...DistroWatch numbers don’t mean a thing...” rants, along with questions about my lineage.

    Keep up the good work, and warmest regards...
  • It is very easy to do a custom install with Ubuntu and select exactly where to put the grub2 bootloader. Also, Grub 2 is very good once you learn how to customize it.
  • Ubuntu has made no secret of the fact that it is a bit Vanilla, and wants to do the best for all machines and men.

    So, I have ltlle sympathy with tinkerers who cause trouble for themselves. At least in Ubuntu he can get under the bonnet and tinker. How amny people can do that with Windoze.
  • comeon that's a user error. You typed dist-upgrade hit enter. The prompt showed grub2 and then you hit yes.
  • @ JAW:

    You did, no doubt, take note of all the BDFL-type responses:

    In no particular order:
    a) even though you explicitly stated that your problem, which doesn’t appear with other installations, happened twice--once while you were closely monitoring the process--you DID something to make poor Ubuntu work improperly. Sounds precisely like a typical Canonical response to your problem and complaint.

    b) Ubuntu is a ‘plain vanilla’ OS. Really?! Since when does something(s) as arcane as (dis)Unity and HUD make for a ‘plain vanilla’ OS? Oh, and just as an aside: the aircraft industry, which created HUD in the last century, refers to it, and always has, as ‘headS-up-display’ (Ars Technica got it right in one of their articles, but of course they’re wrong, too). Grand High Poobah couldn’t even get THIS right, let alone giving credit for the inspiration for ‘his creation’.

    c) If you would just stop screwing around with, and complaining about what Canonical and Spacey knows what’s best for you, and forces you to use, your life will be much better.

    d) What’s your problem, Watson? All you have to do is to CUSTOMIZE an OS--which is “...so simple even your mum can use it...”--and you wouldn’t be having any problems.

    Now, isn’t the answer to your post clear? (Sounds just exactly as if Shuttleworth were responding to you; perhaps you won't hear from him, as you already have. Now you know why I use the term "zombies").

    As you so eloquently put Canonical’s and Shuttleworth’s mindset AND position in one of your blogs (I paraphrase):

    “We created it. It’s good for you. Get over it and get used to it”.

    Warmest regards...
  • I never said that the custom install is “...so simple even your mum can use it...” It is simple for someone dual booting with multiple operating systems. You select where you want to put the OS, and where you want to put the bootloader. I take it a step further, which is not requires, and use a separate partition for home and one for swap.
  • @zdnetukuser - Yes, I saw them, and decided that it wasn't worth the energy to respond. If they can't read and understand the original article, they are certainly not going to manage it with the comments. My favorite of the lot, though, was the one who told me what I had typed and what I did in response to that. I would have sworn that I was installing updates, not doing a dist-upgrade, but then that just shows how little I know.

    @javajeff - I was not doing an install. I was not selecting where to put GRUB 2. I had already done all of that, and it was working just fine until Ubuntu decided to ignore what I had done and overwrite it with their own configuration. That is rude and unnecessary. Oh, and wow, you have a separate partition for home AND one for swap! That's so impressive, it's no wonder you know all about configuring GRUB. All of my systems have 15 partitions (yes, fifteen, that is not an exaggeration or a joke), of which anywhere from 6 to 10 are bootable, some with Legacy GRUB, most with GRUB 2 these days, and occasionally one will still have LILO. So, are there any other body parts that you would care to measure?

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Really.

  • @javajeff--

    You are absolutely correct: you never said those words. The Space Cadet did when he introduced disUnity to the world, to try and justify Canonical's and his monumental ego.

    Hopefully the following demonstration will help clarify the matter for you:

    "It is very easy to do a CUSTOM (emphasis mine) install with Ubuntu" ["...(Ubuntu with Unity) is so easy that even your mum can use it..."; Mark Shuttleworth] "and select exactly where to put the grub2 bootloader. Also, Grub 2 is very good once you learn how to customize it."
    Please explain, for the benefit of us all, the logic of having to do a custom install (to take care of a simple problem) on an operating system which is as easy to use as Shuttleworth says it is.

    What you have just done is put the lie to Shutleworth's many, many egregious claims for Ubuntu. But then again, that is like, as they say, shooting fish in a barrel: it's too easy; there's no sport involved.

    Warmest regards...
  • You did have that experience that you created. However your situation does not apply to me at all. I have 2 ubuntu machines, and I'm happy with Unity, happy with my dual boot setup. thanks - Jay
  • Some of you are completely missing the point. The piece is about Ubuntu doing something without regard for what the user wants, something fairly important in messing with your MBR. Doesn't matter if you like Ubuntu or not, doesn't matter if Ubuntu is good or bad, that is just wrong. It should not mess with your MBR without any type of notification.

    I do admit I was expecting a little worse. As I read the piece I started cringing at the thought it installed Grub 2 with only Ubuntu as a boot choice. That would be the ultimate slap in the face.
  • @databasejay - That would be the reason why the article is titled "Why I Dislike Ubuntu", rather than "Why You Dislike Ubuntu", or "Why databasejay Dislikes Ubuntu", or "Why Everyone Else Should Dislike Ubuntu". I'm glad that this has not happened to you - and I am pretty sure that you would not be a happy camper if it had. I'm honestly even more glad that you are happy with Ubuntu, and I hope lots more users come to the same conclusion. Lots and lots and lots more. Because at the end of the day, it is all Linux, and it is all good, and it is all NOT WINDOWS.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Like the other commenter noted, the updater is putting out a dist-upgrade ... you have the option to deselect any updates you want or even to bar apt from updating those packages. What probably happened is that you gave it the ok to go ahead with the dist-upgrade and it detected a legacy grub, so it decided to update it (since you okayed the update and all that).

    It didn't ask you because it already saw that you had grub setup.

    If it had crippled your system I would understand, but it seems it didn't, so pardon me if I don't see what all the fuss is about
  • I believe chainloading is intended to address situations such as this.
  • lkm32 - You seem to be implying that once you agree to perform a dist-upgrade, no further questions will be asked. As it happens, I upgraded a friend's laptop from Ubuntu 11.04 to 12.04, so I did TWO dist-upgrades. In each case, there were 2 or 3 occasions where the system paused and I had to hit "Ok", or select a choice and then hit "Ok", before it continued. Based on my experience, I think it's reasonable for Jamie to assume that if he's running a legacy bootloader, that it would ASK before simply overwriting it without a warning. The bootloader isn't just any program, it is one of the more crucial components and it isn't odd for people to want to keep the old one in use when it works just fine for them.
  • @lkm32 - You are at least partially right, I did already have GRUB setup, but Ubuntu took it upon themselves to overwrite that with a different setup, and even a different version of GRUB. As I said in the original article, that is not a serious problem, but it is rude.

    @RamboTribble - In fact I was using chainloading from the openSuSE Legacy GRUB to all of the GRUB 2 distributions. But that has nothing to do with addressing situations like this.

    @Thomas - Finally, someone who understands the situation. You are correct, all I expected them to do was either install the new GRUB 2 in exactly the same configuration as the existing (original) installation, or to ask before doing something else.

    As I said previously, my favorite parts of these comments are the ones who presume to tell me what I did... "you typed dist-upgrade..." or "you gave it the ok to go ahead...". Believe me, I know what I did, and I even repeated it a second time on another system so that I could be extra careful and observe what happened. As zdnetukuser noted above, it is getting to the point where you can not say anything negative about Ubuntu.

    Thanks to all for reading and commenting.

  • @J.A.Watson
    The title is a real pebble thrower...and watch the ripples. Not sure what your agenda is here. Is it to achieve perfection for Ubuntu? Or is it to somehow malign Ubuntu as a distribution? - due to its direction away from Gnome 2.xx? Or is it self promotion? (Jeremy Clarkson style).

    Yep, we know you don't like Unity, we know you don't like Windows Vista / Windows 7 (Vista with Lipstick). But applying the same brush as you do to Vista to Ubuntu/Unity, does Linux no favours.

    As said, I'm not sure what your trying to achieve, but overall its disappointing (and undermines otherwise interesting blogs regarding Linux) for which I feel Ubuntu 12.04 doesn't deserve criticism in this case. If Linux Mint with Gnome/Mate/Cinnamon had done this, would you have been as quick to malign it as a distribution? I doubt it.

    I personally find it a bit ungrateful to malign Linux Distributions. Yep, you can have favourites and dislikes but at the end of the day - its free, and lots of people over the years have given a great deal to get it to a point at which it competes on a pretty much equal footing with Windows, today.

    Sadly your blog comes across as a petty piece to undermine Ubuntu/Unity, to promote Linux Distros using Gnome 2.xx (or equivalent), which meets your viewpoint/agenda.

  • Cont...

    I use Ubuntu extensively, in various set-ups and on various machines. I wouldn't recommend the setup you use to install multiple OSs. Virtualisation is a much better method, because the OSs, both Windows and Linux only see the partitions of the OS in question, when testing multiple OS's alongside each other.

    What I would say to anyone doubting Ubuntu 12.04 as a fine/stable installation, is having 3 Primary Partions (including Windows) + an Extended Partiton (which is then divided into 15 Linux Distributions + Swap + Home Directories), is unlikely to be a stable directory structure, across multiple operating systems. However careful and diligent you are.

    The problem being these partitions are being read by both Windows and Linux, and by various different Partitioning Tools. In the end it will give you a non-standard disk structure. Like it or not, you can't get past the quirks between the way Windows and various Linux installs see your hard disk. You get the same, mixing open source disk tools with commercial ones such as Acronis and Paragon. Thats why I always recommend keeping to a single Partitioning tool.

    It could be that you chose the default top level, Primary Partition for installation of grub on your initial installation (way back when), then moved it to the extended partition later on, with the boot-strapping technique afterwards - updates still seeing this initial install.

    As said, in this situation, considering your disk structure setup - you can't rule out the disk structure as the cause, so the premise of the original piece is an extremely weak one.
    I don't believe you have done yourself any favours. Keep it objective. (And that's meant in a nice way).
  • I'm a little puzzled. I think what JW is saying that the Ubuntu 12.04 kernel update should have known not to update the the *MBR* since he had not installed the Ubuntu 12.04 boot loader to the MBR, in preference to his choice to use the Suse boot loader and chain load the other operating systems.

    However adamjarvis raises two points which might in fact be relevant. I have experienced strange results having used multiple partitioning tools. JW must answer whether any confusion arises from having previously installed Ubuntu Grub 2 on the MBR.

    If I understand correctly, the complaint is about Ubuntu 12.04 scribbling all over the MBR without consideration of the existing configuration, much as Windows does, causing Linux users considerable irritation.
    The Former Moley
  • @zdnetukuser

    “DistroWatch numbers don’t mean a thing...”
    Well, not much, anyways. Apart from that, you nailed it.
  • What's so hard to understand about this? Ubuntu should not write over a critical configuration file without notification or permission, and also should at least incorporate/convert/transfer-over the old config file if it does anyways. What the Ubuntu update did was the same sort of thing that Microsoft has done. Talk about double standards!

    Not that anyone supposes Canonical decided to deliberately do this -- this was a goof, not malice. The problem is that Ubuntu has been having just too many goof, oopsies and neglected (sometimes outright dismissed/ignored), long-standing issues. Users who started with Dapper Drake and proselytised this wonderfully easy-to-install Debian-derivative, have been falling away in droves, and a major factor in this exodus (it began well before Unity was launched) has been the declining quality.

    And the notion that JAW would have been any less displeased, if a different, (supposedly user-friendly) distro had pulled the same stunt, is a clear imposition of the commenters biases over JAW's established record. JAW is quite able to distinguish between his personal preferences and reasonably critical assessment.

    (PS: - OT -
    Actually, since Mint is essentially a very small shop (or even one man show) while Ubuntu is a large, well-capitalised trans-national corporation with many full-time developers, it might, arguably, even be pretty reasonable to cut Mint just a little more slack and tolerance for the occasional lapse than one gives a large, well-capitalised corporation like Canonical -- don't you think? But to hand-wave the awkward facts away as no big deal and to, despite clear, careful accounting of the carefully observed repeated sequence of events, to re-write the story in contradiction to the facts, so as to cast blame on the victim, rather than admit fault in one's own favourite, says more about the narrator than the subject.)