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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Thu, 13 Mar 2014

Actor/geek icon Wil Wheaton less than happy with Ubuntu

Rumbling around the Internet the past few days is talk about actor/geek icon Wil Wheaton's Google+ post about not being terribly in love with Ubuntu.

At least he's running it with Xfce.

The post made its way to OMG Ubuntu! where it provoked much discussion.

Much of it was of the "How dare he!" variety, though there were plenty of people who pointed out that the opinions of non-Linux users sampling today's distros are extremely important.

My constant complaining about the lack of proper suspend/resume with the open-source drivers and the concurrent lack of a packaged closed-source AMD driver in Fedora is the longtime user's equivalent.

For me, the benefits of Linux on the desktop outweigh the trouble I've had over the last year with video and suspend/resume.

But a new user who's on the fence? It's just another deal-breaker.


My comment on the OMG Ubuntu post, which is buried in the middle somewhere, said that the Linux desktop is suffering, I think, because the "unity" we had a few years back when many major distros (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Suse) shipped GNOME 2 as their default desktop environment is all but gone. The fragmentation we're suffering today (Unity/GNOME 3/Cinnamon/Mate/KDE, etc.) isn't helping with adoption of new users, who are probably more confused than anything.

I also said, I think, that melding some of the innovations of GNOME Shell and Unity -- namely the searchability in their respective dashboards -- with a more traditional menu-centric desktop would go a long way toward giving OS X and Windows 8 refugees what they want.

Clearly Ubuntu/Canonical is looking toward mobile -- and more phone than tablet -- as their primary area of interest. And much of what is wrong with the Linux desktop goes beyond Ubuntu into every other distribution using the Linux kernel.

What I didn't say in my OMG Ubuntu comment was that UEFI isn't making things any easier. The distributions need to nail that down.

Drivers have gotten better, but in cases like mine they aren't all the way there. And we're talking in my case about a year since I bought this laptop. That's just not right.

I still think that preloaded desktops and laptops from major computer manufacturers represent not just the best way but probably the only way to really gain traction in the market.

And now that desktops and laptops are considered yesterday's hardware, scuttled in favor of tablets and phones, it would be nice to see someone out there pushing for major vendors to ship Linux-equipped computers with hardware guaranteed to work.

Ubuntu has done this a bit, and I wish they'd do more. Now that they're all about mobile phones, it would be nice if they could double down on laptop and desktop preloads at Dell and other makers. I don't see it happening. But it would be nice if it did.

Meanwhile, what can I say to Wil Wheaton? With Linux, you've got to love it, and it needs to fit into your life.

For a writer who works on web sites, is learning to code, and deals with a lot of multimedia, it's a perfect environment. OK, with better high-end video-editing choices it would be perfect, but for me Linux can't be beat.

Windows and OS X don't do it for me. The flexibility and freedom of Linux do matter, both as principles and practicalities. I love the Unix/Linux world and won't be giving it up. It's the way I prefer to work, a hobby and a passion (or maybe an obsession) all rolled up.

If I was happy running a Macintosh, I'd continue to do that. (I couldn't because the whole OS X model is one of manipulation and extraction of payment, but that's another rant for another time.)

For anybody "into" computers and computing, it doesn't hurt to have a second or third machine on which you test out what Linux and maybe even the BSDs have to offer.

You can't go wrong with that.