Ubuntu’s New Groove
Ubuntu is one interesting monster, and has been since it’s inception. We have seen it jump from a simple upstart, to the huge distribution that it is today. But that change is not without criticism or concerns…
To start, one such aspect is Ubuntu’s visual desktop structure. I cannot think of one distro that changes how it looks (as the default environment) so much as Ubuntu. Now, now all of this is bad. Take it from this perspective: Mark Shuttleworth’s aim is to make Ubuntu as easy to use as possible, and that is coming with some growing pains, but progress is being made.
When Ubuntu switched to Unity as its main interface, many were irritated and concerned. “Why should I have to use Unity?” many would ask. The easy response was to use an alternative DE, such as KDE or Gnome and so on. There were numerous examples of Ubuntu doing visual changes like this, and this was just one major occurrence. Alternative distros such as Mint are thriving as a result, and we owe a lot of that to Ubuntu. Again, the power of choice is beautiful.
It’s not that I like the changes, but I understand the reason for them, and why Ubuntu is doing what it is doing. With one of the smallest commit size to the Linux Kernel, many criticize the giant for not being a big enough contributor to Linux as a whole. But, that is not what their aim seems to be. They are a part of something much bigger, the desktop experience.
Look at it this way, Ubuntu is doing what other distros are too afraid to try. They are looking to make Linux as something easy to use and acceptable to outside users that currently use Windows or OS X. Sure, being a current Arch user, I desire other things, but I truly appreciate the efforts of Ubuntu in this regard. They are really trying to get Linux out in the open, despite the criticisms along the way.
Now, we are seeing this same sort of gamble with MIR, which has roots in the Linux Kernel, as well as being something new visually to the desktop. MIR aims to solve some of the current issues with Compiz and Unity, as well as make it “easier” going forward for other implementations. Now, obviously MIR is receiving criticism, not just from users, but from internal Cannonical developers as well. While we see Ubuntu sort of “distancing” itself from other distros and technology that is considered “standardized,” we may see something good out of this. No one should argue that Ubuntu is not* driving media attention to Linux, and even if they do not win out in the end, people will be talking more about Linux, and by proxy, consider other distros.
In the end, I think Ubuntu’s gamble may very well pay off. That is the beauty of choice. If you are a Linux “nerd” or “power user,” then by all means use a distro that presents, or allows you to do so. That is why I truly believe in Linux, the power of collaboration and choice, the community, philosophy, and the growing presence that you are a part* of something, rather than the OS pushing you to do things that you don’t want. Ubuntu is doing a great job of making GNU/Linux acceptable to regular people. In that respect, I applaud Ubuntu. They are plowing the road for something great, even if it is not what I will use.
The next decade or so will be increasingly interesting to watch. We will see many changes, especially with Ubuntu, good or* bad. Seeing Ubuntu in the media will draw people to other aspects of Linux as well if they are curious to see what else is out there as well. 1 step at a time people. Big changes are in the works for Linux as a whole, so it is definitely an exciting time. So, in the end, give them some credit for doing things that others have not, despite the ripple in the dev and user community surrounding Ubuntu.
Comments are very welcome for this story.