Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

8Apr/102

A Letter Of Complaint To Ubuntu 9.10

Okay, most of my readers know I’m a big proponent of Linux as an alternative to Windows. But lately, there’s been dissension among the ranks. And in a rare fit of frustration, I find myself dissatisfied. I suppose I should be more specific. I’m not installing Windows on my workstation, not getting rid of my MythTV box. I’m not talking suicide… just need to get a few gripes off of my chest about the best free OS ever made.

For years, I used Red Hat Linux. It was the de facto standard, and most servers ran it. Then along came SuSE Linux, which was a huge step in advancement. There are still times when I wish I ran a SuSE distribution, it’s that good… at least as of a year or two ago it was.

Then I discovered the phenomenon of Ubuntu, and all its flavors. For people like me who wanted to try out all the newest apps and have them work out of the box, Ubuntu was a Godsend. Everything worked for me right off the bat, it had all the apps I wanted already in the repositories, and you could get it with different desktops preinstalled.

However, in a surprising turn of events, I’ve discovered Ubuntu has utterly failed in several categories in the last year, specifically with version 9.10. I happily ran Ubuntu 8.10 for quite a while, and had no issues until I replaced my graphics card one day… all of a sudden it wouldn’t autodetect it, and I couldn’t get X to work right no matter how hard I tried. When I tried putting the original card back in, the system was rendered useless. So I backed up my stuff, made a note of apps I wanted to install, and did a fresh install of Ubuntu Studio 9.10. This is when the irritation set in.

I discovered that while I was happily working away with a 2-year-old distro, the people at Ubuntu had been amassing a huge list of apps that they would be upgrading to newer versions. The problem? The newer versions had less features than the older ones. Two apps right off hand I noticed were Amarok and GDM. One is a media player, the other is the graphical system login screen.

Ubuntu 8.10 uses Amarok version 1.4.10, which is fantastic. It supports every media type I can think of, has a fantastic media management system, looks slick, supports neat features like Last.fm scrobbling, has a nice OSD, and so forth.

Then the developers at Amarok broke it by introducing version 2. I can’t find a single thing it does better, but now I can’t even figure out to add internet streams to the favorites list. I mean, why is that? Because they weren’t thinking. The Amarok development forums are full of people who hate version 2, because it still does not have all the features that 1.4 has!!

Also, for some reason, the Gnome Display Manager (gdm) that is the first thing users see when they log into an Ubuntu system is now not only ugly, but is no longer skinnable, and cannot be customized in any way. Why?!? What is the purpose of releasing a new version of software if it has less features?!?!? And what’s more, you can’t just downgrade the package, because they broke a config file in the process!

Now, I shouldn’t say it’s Ubuntu’s fault for including the newest packages; that’s what they got popular for. But if you see the developers are shooting themselves in the foot, for heaven’s sake, do something! Don’t just blindly include the newest packages without checking to see if they’re actually worth anything! I’m afraid to dig any deeper, for fear of what else I might find they they missed. I’m seriously thinking about downgrading to 9.04 or even back to 8.10 because it actually works. Better than 9.10, anyway.

The newest big hype with Ubuntu is version 10.04 which is supposed to be the new LTS version (which means it is Long Term Support, and will not get EOL’ed for several years). I hope, I really hope they pull their heads out of their butts and decide to not include the newest versions of everything, but the best versions. If they won’t, there’s a good possibility I will switch to another base distro, like… well, like anything else that uses a Debian package base.

ADDENDUM:

I’ve just read through the release notes and improvement for Ubuntu 10.04. Right off, here’s what I see:

  • Default search is changed to Yahoo!
  • Integration with UbuntuOne, an online file storage/music store service
  • faster boot times (less functionality)
  • Built-in social networking
  • improvements on the free nvidia driver (which nobody uses)

I’m guessing I will be leaving the Ubuntu camp in the near future for something with more long-term stability.

(EDIT: It's now 2014, the latest Ubuntu LTS is 14.04, and I'm still using it, despite Ubuntu One being discontinued this year! It pains me to see how frustrated I was about such insignificant things.)

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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  1. I had to take a break from Linux since every other update seemed to boot to a black screen with no video, a shame too I was enjoying using Ubuntu and then really liking Elementary OS.

  2. Yeah, things have gotten better since I wrote this. I’m about to upgrade from 12.04LTS to 14.04LTS. everything still works, and have improved since 9.10.


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