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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Sat, 01 Jun 2013

Mark Shuttleworth closes Ubuntu's Bug No. 1 now that Microsoft's hold on computing is declining

Ubuntu's SABDFL ("self-appointed benevolent dictator for life," as he's known) Mark Shuttleworth just added comment No. 1834 to Ubuntu's Bug No. 1 -- "Microsoft Has a Majority Market Share" -- and closed the bug.

Sure, Ubuntu might have played a small part in knocking off Microsoft Windows as the dominant operating system for computing devices, but as Shuttleworth admits -- and I give him a whole lot of credit for doing so, it's more the move (especially in the consumer space) away from desktop/laptops to mobile and tablet devices running iOS and Android that has pushed Microsoft to the sidelines.

Coincidentally, I've also been thinking about Ubuntu's Bug No. 1 myself lately, and like SABDFL figuring that it should be closed.

Many have trouble with Ubuntu these days. The distribution itself and the company behind it, Canonical, are innovating like crazy. Ubuntu is pushing into new areas with its server (cloud everything, massive deployments managed with things like Juju charms) and pretty much remaking its desktop product to put phone and tablet front and center.

Most of the noise is due to Canonical going its own way rather than working with upstream on such projects as the Unity desktop environment and Mir display server, as well as the seeming marginalization of the traditional desktop/laptop present in favor of a mobile and tablet future. This potentially leaves "official" flavors like Xubuntu and Kubuntu -- as well as the dozens of derivatives that include Linux Mint -- in somewhat of a lurch. These distributions -- and their users -- are wondering if innovation on the Ubuntu desktop will stop. It has certainly slowed as major components of Ubuntu are rewritten for phones and tablets. Not all -- or maybe even most -- want a touchscreen/tablet/mobile way of doing things on their non-touchscreen, mouse-driven desktops.

Pushing a mobile paradigm onto desktop users hasn't exactly done wonders for Microsoft; Windows 8 has taken quite a shellacking over the unholy marriage of the tile-packed Metro interface and what's left of the "traditional" Windows XP/7 desktop, it's lack of a Start button (set to return in 8.1) and Start menu (not set to return) adding to the bonfire.

I'm surprisingly OK with Ubuntu's tablet/mobile direction.

Right now my use-case is dual-booting Linux and Windows 8 on a Secure Boot/UEFI HP system. All of Linux is pretty much ignoring my AMD chipset -- no "good" 3D acceleration for me -- and Xubuntu 13.04's installer couldn't set up a working dual-boot. I tried and failed.

With Fedora 18's Xfce spin (again, Xfce because while 2D isn't without video artifacts, it works 98 percent of the time), I get a working dual-boot under UEFI. It's not all sunny. The 3.9.x series of Linux kernels won't boot at all under UEFI. It's an upstream problem, just like my no-good-3D video issue.

So despite the mobile/tablet focus of Ubuntu, I would run it on my desktop if I could successfully dual-boot with Windows 8 on the HP Pavilion g6-2210us. Fedora can do this, and I'm happy to use it.

Should I decide to stop dual-booting, it'll be open season again, and things like a working netflix-desktop package (not happening for me in Fedora) -- along with working 3D acceleration (my video chip isn't even mentioned in AMD's Catalyst 13.4 compatibility list, so I'm doubly SOL) would drive me back to Ubuntu/Xubuntu/Ubuntu GNOME in a red-hot (not Hat) minute.

Here's the tl;dr: Canonical and Ubuntu, go right ahead and break the mold. Innovate your way onto phones and tablets. I'm rooting for you. Really. Given that there are dozens -- some would say scores or even hundreds -- of desktop alternatives for "traditional" computing uses, I'm happy that somebody is trying to bring free software to the devices that -- like it or not -- are already dominating the computing landscape around the world but which themselves are dominated by two not-so-free operating systems (iOS and Android). I'm happy to use Fedora on the desktop. I recognize that in terms of even marginally free software, outside of Android it's you and Mozilla targeting the mobile space. The stakes are high, and keeping fanboy desktop users happy shouldn't keep you from doing something potentially game-changing.