Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) and the Latest Tempest

This has been an exciting week for Ubuntu. Today they released Beta 1 of their next major update, 10.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

This has been an exciting week for Ubuntu. Today they released Beta 1 of their next major update, 10.04 Lucid Lynx. The rest of the week was spent in an ever-increasing tempest that centers on some changes that have been made in this series of pre-releases from Ubuntu, the reaction of a large part of the Ubuntu community to those changes, and some statements that Mark Shuttleworth about those reactions. Interesting times, indeed.

First, the Beta 1 release. I have installed the "standard" Ubuntu release and the Netbook Remix on three of my notebook/netbook systems - a Fujitsu Lifebook S6510, an HP Pavillion dv2-1010ez and an HP Pavillion dm1-1020ez. It installed on all three without a hitch, and it seems to run just fine on all of them too. I have no doubt that it will install and run easily on everything else around here as well. That's the good news.

The less good news is that they have made some significant changes in the appearance of the desktop. First, they have changed the color scheme from moderately boring (tan/brown) to moderately ugly. I can't even think of an accurate way to describe the color, so just take a look at this screen shot of the basic desktop:

Lucid Desktop

I know that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and all that... and I know that there have been quite a lot of complaints about the drab, boring brown that Ubuntu has used for their basic color scheme. But in this beholder's eye, that is a ghastly color, and it seems to get even worse when you are subjected to it for extended periods. Ugh.

But it is not only the choice of color that people have been complaining about. There is also a change in window control buttons that is actually at the center of the controversy. Again, a picture is worth a thousand words (thanks Jake), so take a look at this:

Lucid Window

See how the three control buttons have been moved to the upper left corner of the window, rather than the upper right as they have been previously? The sequence of the buttons has been changed as well, they are now, from left to right, Maximize, Minimize and Close. The symbols in the buttons have been changed too, as show in this picture:

Lucid Controls

This combination sort of hits me with a "double whammy" - first, I instinctively go to the top right of the window for the controls, and second once I realize that is the wrong place, and I move over to the top left, I usually get confused by the reordering of the buttons. Not fun.

But as I said, it is not only the changes that have people up in arms. As the protest grew louder this week, Mark Shuttleworth write a blog containing what is certain to become a famous quote:

"This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But we are not voting on design decisions."

There is a lot more, but I'm not going to try to link to a bunch of stuff here. I just want to add a few thoughts about that statement.

First, he's right, at least as far as decisions concerning the Ubuntu distribution are concerned. Mr. Shuttleworth has paid the bills, essentially out of his own pocket, since the beginning of the Ubuntu distribution. He gets to make the decisions, period.

Second, that is not true of Linux distributions in general, or more broadly of FOSS in general. There we do have a democracy, of sorts. People get to "vote" with their feet, and with their wallets. If you don't like the way Mr. Shuttleworth is running Ubuntu, or if you disagree strongly with the decisions that are being made there, then change to some other distribution. There are plenty of others, large and small, and there are a lot of people who can make very strong arguments that many of them are better than Ubuntu in a lot of ways anyway.

Third, I think this makes it very clear why having a variety of Linux distributions to chose from is a very good thing. If the one you are using suddenly does something stupid, or just disappears, or whatever, you can move to another distribution with a minimum of pain. Compare that to what happens when Microsoft does something stupid with Windows (like making Vista). You get to sit and wait, and stew, and either use a nasty broken Vista or go back to a rapidly aging XP, until Microsoft finally does you a favor and lets you pay them even more money to buy their next release.

I have been saying for quite some time that I like Mepis and Mint better than Ubuntu. That preference comes not only from the experience of using them, but also from watching some of the things happening at Ubuntu. Things like forcing a change to Grub 2, and adding the idiotic 30 second delay on shutdown and reboot. A lot of people are also very upset about Ubuntu making Mono an integral part of their distribution, and then including things like Tomboy and F-Spot which depend on Mono. Oh, and another big one was the search deal with Yahoo.

Anyway, my point is that if any or all of these things upset you, don't waste your time getting all worked up over it. Move on. Look around. Try Mepis, or Fedora, or Mandriva, or openSuSE, or whatever. That's the beauty of Linux!

jw 20/3/2010

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