Ubuntu

by on August 13, 2006 · 28 comments

This post (and the previous one) is being posted from a 6-year-old iMac running the Ubuntu distribution of Linux.

The Ubuntu story is fascinating. It was created by Mark Shuttleworth, a 30-something South African entrepreneur who made his fortune in the 1990s, flew to space in 2002, and then decided to knock Microsoft off its perch as the world’s leading desktop OS. (AKA fixing bug #1) In just two years, Ubuntu has become widely recognized as the desktop version of Linux to beat.

Of course, a big part of its success is the $10 million a year he’s reportedly sinking into Ubuntu’s parent company, canonical. Still, there’s no way you could build a full-featured OS from scratch in two years with $20 million–to say nothing of a desktop OS with hundreds of applications and support for multiple architectures. Ubuntu is a very thin layer of commercially-developed (but free-as-in-speech) enhancements to off-the-shelf free software. Most importantly, Ubuntu is built atop Debian, a Linux distribution that focuses on stability and using exclusively free software.

Below the cut I’ll give some of my initial impressions of the OS, which necessarily will be a little bit more technical than the usual TLF fare. I’ll consider some of the economic implications of Ubuntu in a future post.


I last played around with Linux in 2002, when I installed Debian on an old Power Mac 7300. The improvements since then are striking. In 2002, you still had to boot into a text-based installer that made you do things like partitioning your hard drive manually. A lot of little things didn’t work right, and in many instances, you were required to troll newsgroups and then pop open a command line to edit text files in order to get stuff to work right.

In contrast, the Ubuntu installation process was dead simple: download a CD image, burn the image to a CD-R, boot the computer from the CD, double click the “install” icon, and then answer about 5 questions on non-technical subjects like your preferred language and time zone. (I did have to edit the X config file at one point to get the GUI to come up properly, but I think that’s due to my having a 6-year-old machine running an obscure CPU) The installer automatically partitions the hard drive and copies the necessary files to it. There were lots of bells and whistles that weren’t there on my previous experience: sound worked flawlessly, there were attractive splash screens and reasonably helpful status messages, and when I was in doubt I could consistently choose the default and it would work just fine.

Things get even better once you boot into your freshly installed system. A nice graphical software-update tool pops up offering to upgrade your software to the latest version. You click “OK” and it does its job in the background without having to do anything on the command line. Useful utilities like OpenOffice and GAIM are installed by default and work flawlessly. There are a dozen games pre-installed, and a variety of helpful tools like calculators, dictionaries, and an address book.

The desktop environment was a program called Gnome, which I continue to find clunky. It seems determined to take over as much of my screen as possible, with a menu bar at the top of the screen, a panel at the bottom, and a menu bar in each window. The windows themselves also seem to take up a lot of unnecessary space, with a tall title bar and wide borders around each window. So I converted to KDE–a process that did require me to open up a command line, but only required typing one command–and am much happier with its look and feel. Most importantly, it allows me to put application menu bars at the top of the screen where they belong. The KDE preference panel also strikes me as vastly superior to Gnome’s alternative, although maybe that’s because of its similarity to the Mac OS X preference panel.

Neither Gnome or KDE are up to the level of fit and finish of Mac OS X, though. My biggest pet peeve with X (the Windowing system that serves as the foundation for Gnome and KDE) is its idiotic use of text selection for “copy” and pressing the middle button for “paste.” Selecting text and cutting-and-pasting are distinct operations. I often want to select text for deletion purposes without overwriting the contents of the clipboard in the process. Although most applications now seem to support proper copy and past commands, there are enough old style apps around to make it irritating to use.

If I were to switch to Ubuntu as my full-time OS, I would sorely miss other Mac OS innovations: notably Expose, Apple’s insanely great window-switching utility. And I’ve heard (although I haven’t tested this) that Ubuntu still falls well short on the laptop side, with Mac OS being superior on rapid sleep and wake (something Windows doesn’t do right either) and on rapidly and transparently finding and logging on to wireless networks.

But those are details that can doubtless be ironed out in future posts. It seems to me (based on a few hours of tinkering) that the biggest obstacle now facing Ubuntu is that it has to swim against the tide of the Windows and Mac OS network effects. In many cases, the features that Ubuntu lacks are features that are provided for free to other companies. For example, there doesn’t appear to be a user-friendly Flash player for PowerPC-based Linux machines. And Google Maps doesn’t seem to work with Konquerer, the default browser of KDE (it works fine with Firefox, however). These aren’t a case of Linux users being too cheap to pay for needed software: Adobe and Google give these products away for free to the users of other platforms. It simply reflects the fact that there are not yet enough Linux PowerPC and Konquerer users, respectively, to provide support.

By the same token, there doesn’t appear to be a convenient way to access the iTunes Music store or load my MP3s on my iPod. This is a deal-breaker for me. But again, Apple give iTunes away for free to Windows users. If there were more Ubuntu users, doubtless Apple would create a version for them too.

Of course, there are two ways that these problems could be solved. One would be for Apple, Google, Adobe, and company to produce proprietary versions of their software for Linux. In some cases, however, the solution is even simpler: just publish the specs and give the Linux community permission to create their own open-source clones of the software. In many cases, there are open source developers who would be happy to do the work themselves if they could just get ahold of the necessary information.

Both of those problems would begin to ease if Ubuntu began to take market share away from Windows. Linux support would no longer be a luxury to satisfy a few vocal geeks: it would be essential to serve a growing part of your customer base. The Linux community, then, faces a kind of chicken and egg problem: users won’t adopt the platform until third parties start supporting it, and third parties won’t spend the resources to support it until it has a significant number of users.

If they ever do solve the chicken-and-egg problem, though, its growth could be explosive. The promise of hundreds of free applications, no viruses, and free software updates for life should be a big draw for users. More importantly, as hardware costs continue to decline, the Microsoft Tax will be a larger and larger fraction of the cost of a PC, giving OEMs a substantial incentive to migrate their customers to a free alternative.

  • http://elfs.livejournal.com Elf M. Sternberg

    There are sleep/suspend operations that are as fast on Linux as they are on a Mac. I run Gentoo Linux on a Thinkpad, and it’s sleep/suspend is as fast as my wife’s MacBook. For the most part, that’s due to IBM’s release of the Thinkpad power API to the public, so Linux programmers could write to it reliably. Doing so on a Mac isn’t a matter of technology, it’s a matter of corporate action: Apple doesn’t want you to have as good an experience under Linux as you do with their own product.

    The copy/paste behavior of the mouse is a matter mostly of habit. I’ve been using Unixes of various flavors for so long that I consider the Windows way of doing things to be just odd.

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    Mark Shuttleworth
    deliberately won’t make Ubuntu binary-compatible with other distributions. From the proprietary ISVs’ point of view, a desktop Linux market that’s split between Ubuntu and SUSE becomes a less lucrative target. The Linux Standard Base effort is ambitious, but it’s been around more than half as long as Linux has and is nowhere near the level of completion that would let an ISV sell a software product “for Linux.”

    Binary incompatibility is either a Unix-vendor-esqe platform-dooming flame war or a master plan to build a global all-Free Software computing platform.

    (Yes, two panels is too many for me, too. On new GNOME installs I do this: Right-click on the bottom panel and select “Delete this Panel” then right-click on the top panel, select Properties, and make it the bottom panel.)

  • http://elfs.livejournal.com Elf M. Sternberg

    There are sleep/suspend operations that are as fast on Linux as they are on a Mac. I run Gentoo Linux on a Thinkpad, and it’s sleep/suspend is as fast as my wife’s MacBook. For the most part, that’s due to IBM’s release of the Thinkpad power API to the public, so Linux programmers could write to it reliably. Doing so on a Mac isn’t a matter of technology, it’s a matter of corporate action: Apple doesn’t want you to have as good an experience under Linux as you do with their own product.

    The copy/paste behavior of the mouse is a matter mostly of habit. I’ve been using Unixes of various flavors for so long that I consider the Windows way of doing things to be just odd.

  • http://linuxworld.com/community/ Don Marti

    Mark Shuttleworth
    deliberately won’t make Ubuntu binary-compatible with other distributions. From the proprietary ISVs’ point of view, a desktop Linux market that’s split between Ubuntu and SUSE becomes a less lucrative target. The Linux Standard Base effort is ambitious, but it’s been around more than half as long as Linux has and is nowhere near the level of completion that would let an ISV sell a software product “for Linux.”

    Binary incompatibility is either a Unix-vendor-esqe platform-dooming flame war or a master plan to build a global all-Free Software computing platform.

    (Yes, two panels is too many for me, too. On new GNOME installs I do this: Right-click on the bottom panel and select “Delete this Panel” then right-click on the top panel, select Properties, and make it the bottom panel.)

  • http://gondwanaland.com/mlog/ Mike Linksvayer

    I make both panels autohide, though Don Marti’s solution sounds pretty good too.

  • http://gondwanaland.com/mlog/ Mike Linksvayer

    I make both panels autohide, though Don Marti’s solution sounds pretty good too.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Maybe somebody can give me a bit of background on which parts of the GUI functionality Gnome and KDE provide. I mean, I know that logically it sits between the X server and your individual applications. Does it control things like widget appearance and behavior? One of the things that Mac OS X does phenomenally well is to define high-level widgets like toolbars and text areas, which the application developer can drop in and leave it to Apple to add additional functionality to those widgets. Having monolithic control over the GUI APIs gives Apple the advantage of being able to introduce global changes to GUI elements in all applications.

    To put this a different way: are there philosophical or technical difference between the way Gnome and KDE are put together that should make me jump on the Gnome bandwagon? Or are they mostly glorified window managers, with one working about as well as the other?

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Maybe somebody can give me a bit of background on which parts of the GUI functionality Gnome and KDE provide. I mean, I know that logically it sits between the X server and your individual applications. Does it control things like widget appearance and behavior? One of the things that Mac OS X does phenomenally well is to define high-level widgets like toolbars and text areas, which the application developer can drop in and leave it to Apple to add additional functionality to those widgets. Having monolithic control over the GUI APIs gives Apple the advantage of being able to introduce global changes to GUI elements in all applications.

    To put this a different way: are there philosophical or technical difference between the way Gnome and KDE are put together that should make me jump on the Gnome bandwagon? Or are they mostly glorified window managers, with one working about as well as the other?

  • http://elfs.livejournal.com Elf M. Sternberg

    Tim, there are philosophical and technical differences. Gnome and KDE are not just window managers: both of them provide an in-depth collection of widgets and utilities that applications are written on top of. These include look and feel issues; networking issues; interprocess communication issues such as drag and drop; unified print and audio control; and so on.

    Gnome is written in C, and was written to be GPL from the beginning; KDE was written in C++ by a commercial group that released a GPL version, and therefore has a much more unified API and heritage. Gnome’s attitude has been one of customizability, which leads to its infinite variety of themes; KDE is much less interested in skins and customization. You get what you get. Businesses like KDE for that reason; lots of old-school linux hands like Gnome because both its API and the end product feel less coporate.

  • http://elfs.livejournal.com Elf M. Sternberg

    Tim, there are philosophical and technical differences. Gnome and KDE are not just window managers: both of them provide an in-depth collection of widgets and utilities that applications are written on top of. These include look and feel issues; networking issues; interprocess communication issues such as drag and drop; unified print and audio control; and so on.

    Gnome is written in C, and was written to be GPL from the beginning; KDE was written in C++ by a commercial group that released a GPL version, and therefore has a much more unified API and heritage. Gnome’s attitude has been one of customizability, which leads to its infinite variety of themes; KDE is much less interested in skins and customization. You get what you get. Businesses like KDE for that reason; lots of old-school linux hands like Gnome because both its API and the end product feel less coporate.

  • enigma_foundry

    The desktop environment was a program called Gnome, which I continue to find clunky. It seems determined to take over as much of my screen as possible, with a menu bar at the top of the screen, a panel at the bottom, and a menu bar in each window. The windows themselves also seem to take up a lot of unnecessary space, with a tall title bar and wide borders around each window. So I converted to KDE�¢â?¬â?a process that did require me to open up a command line, but only required typing one command�¢â?¬â?and am much happier with its look and feel.

    Yes, the revolutionary idea of user choice and it’s no accident that this value deeply embedded in hacker culture, and in the GPL, also turns up in Linux distributions. To illustrate the depth of this choice, I would suggest anyone go to Distrowatch.

    User choice also plays a role in adoption of linux, for example, being able to modify programs, and to have a choice when to stop running a given product, instead of having the rug pulled out from under your feet.

    Most importantly, it allows me to put application menu bars at the top of the screen where they belong. The KDE preference panel also strikes me as vastly superior to Gnome’s alternative, although maybe that’s because of its similarity to the Mac OS X preference panel.

    That’s actually a user preference, in Gnome, you don’t have to have the menubar, the panel bar and tall title bar. But like you, I prefer KDE, although I continue to have a sweetspot for blackbox, which I ran for over three years.

    My observation of SuSE Linux on ThinkPad is that the power conservation works better than windows, and probably about the same as a MAC. That was one of the reasons why I bought the ThinkPad–because IBM had released the modules for running the power processes. So they sold hardware because of their contribution to free software.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Elf: Speaking as a member of the GNOME board, GNOME has been strongly anti-customizability (well, anti-option, which is subtly different) since c. 2000, and a modern default GNOME install has far, far fewer preferences than a modern KDE install. (Your second paragrpah would have been very accurate, c. 1999) For more information on why GNOME has changed, read the section ‘The Question Of Preferences’ in Havoc Pennington’s “Free Software UI” article.

    Tim: to answer your question more generally, you should think of GNOME or KDE as roughly equivalent to the graphical programming layer of Apple or Windows (only masochists program directly to the X server anymore) and the core applications that come with each OS. So Elf’s summary (the first paragraph :) is pretty solid, but incomplete- each group provides not just the programming layer Elf discussed, but also the core applications- like the file browser, a simple text editor, etc., and is typically responsible for design, quality assurance, and translation of those pieces of software. So if you’ve got GNOME bugs, blame me- I ran the GNOME QA team for a long time :)

    Finally, almost all Linux apps (GNOME, KDE or otherwise) can use the standard ctl+c/ctl+v/ctl+x combinations as well as the middle-click for copy and paste. At least in GNOME’s case, if the app does not support ctl+c/ctl+v then that is a bug and should be fixed. I can’t speak for KDE, but I assume it is the same for them.

  • enigma_foundry

    Oh, yes Tim, BTW I use my Ipod with the program gtkpod, and it worked fine (until my wife someone gradually took over the Ipod, now I have generic equiv…(how exactly did I let that happen, anyway….? I think it started with the idea that the Ipod would make me a target for ne’er-do-wells on the train…hmm I am sure she only had my best interest at heart, right?)

  • enigma_foundry

    Gnome’s attitude has been one of customizability, which leads to its infinite variety of themes; KDE is much less interested in skins and customization. You get what you get. Businesses like KDE for that reason; lots of old-school linux hands like Gnome because both its API and the end product feel less corporate…

    I disagree: the KDE interface has more customizations than Gnome does now. Note that many of the corporate based systems have Gnome as the default, and even SuSE that used to be default KDE has migrated over to Gnome for their corporate desktop. Gnome has shown a goal of becoming less customizable recently, in order to have a more consistent view. I think they’ve gone too far towards consistency, and that KDE had the right balance, but as the saying goes, let a hundred flowers bloom, let a thousand schools of thought contend…

    Take a look at http://www.kde-look.org for the many examples of KDE customizations. In particular, I would point to superkaramba and programs like Yakuake (best thing since aterm)

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Oh, right, and re: ipod, I currently suggest Banshee- apt-get install banshee should get you the beast. It won’t get you itunes store support- the title of the page where you can get ITMS support for linux is ‘so sue me‘.

    Tim, DRM lock-in issues aside, I’d be interested in hearing your take on the incestous relationship between iTunes/ITMS/iPod, and how comfortable/uncomfortable you’d be with those relationships if the DRM issue went away.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    The desktop environment was a program called Gnome, which I continue to find clunky. It seems determined to take over as much of my screen as possible, with a menu bar at the top of the screen, a panel at the bottom, and a menu bar in each window. The windows themselves also seem to take up a lot of unnecessary space, with a tall title bar and wide borders around each window. So I converted to KDE�¢â?¬â?a process that did require me to open up a command line, but only required typing one command�¢â?¬â?and am much happier with its look and feel.

    Yes, the revolutionary idea of user choice and it’s no accident that this value deeply embedded in hacker culture, and in the GPL, also turns up in Linux distributions. To illustrate the depth of this choice, I would suggest anyone go to Distrowatch.

    User choice also plays a role in adoption of linux, for example, being able to modify programs, and to have a choice when to stop running a given product, instead of having the rug pulled out from under your feet.

    Most importantly, it allows me to put application menu bars at the top of the screen where they belong. The KDE preference panel also strikes me as vastly superior to Gnome’s alternative, although maybe that’s because of its similarity to the Mac OS X preference panel.

    That’s actually a user preference, in Gnome, you don’t have to have the menubar, the panel bar and tall title bar. But like you, I prefer KDE, although I continue to have a sweetspot for blackbox, which I ran for over three years.

    My observation of SuSE Linux on ThinkPad is that the power conservation works better than windows, and probably about the same as a MAC. That was one of the reasons why I bought the ThinkPad–because IBM had released the modules for running the power processes. So they sold hardware because of their contribution to free software.

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Elf: Speaking as a member of the GNOME board, GNOME has been strongly anti-customizability (well, anti-option, which is subtly different) since c. 2000, and a modern default GNOME install has far, far fewer preferences than a modern KDE install. (Your second paragrpah would have been very accurate, c. 1999) For more information on why GNOME has changed, read the section ‘The Question Of Preferences’ in Havoc Pennington’s “Free Software UI” article.

    Tim: to answer your question more generally, you should think of GNOME or KDE as roughly equivalent to the graphical programming layer of Apple or Windows (only masochists program directly to the X server anymore) and the core applications that come with each OS. So Elf’s summary (the first paragraph :) is pretty solid, but incomplete- each group provides not just the programming layer Elf discussed, but also the core applications- like the file browser, a simple text editor, etc., and is typically responsible for design, quality assurance, and translation of those pieces of software. So if you’ve got GNOME bugs, blame me- I ran the GNOME QA team for a long time :)

    Finally, almost all Linux apps (GNOME, KDE or otherwise) can use the standard ctl+c/ctl+v/ctl+x combinations as well as the middle-click for copy and paste. At least in GNOME’s case, if the app does not support ctl+c/ctl+v then that is a bug and should be fixed. I can’t speak for KDE, but I assume it is the same for them.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Oh, yes Tim, BTW I use my Ipod with the program gtkpod, and it worked fine (until my wife someone gradually took over the Ipod, now I have generic equiv…(how exactly did I let that happen, anyway….? I think it started with the idea that the Ipod would make me a target for ne’er-do-wells on the train…hmm I am sure she only had my best interest at heart, right?)

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Gnome’s attitude has been one of customizability, which leads to its infinite variety of themes; KDE is much less interested in skins and customization. You get what you get. Businesses like KDE for that reason; lots of old-school linux hands like Gnome because both its API and the end product feel less corporate…

    I disagree: the KDE interface has more customizations than Gnome does now. Note that many of the corporate based systems have Gnome as the default, and even SuSE that used to be default KDE has migrated over to Gnome for their corporate desktop. Gnome has shown a goal of becoming less customizable recently, in order to have a more consistent view. I think they’ve gone too far towards consistency, and that KDE had the right balance, but as the saying goes, let a hundred flowers bloom, let a thousand schools of thought contend…

    Take a look at http://www.kde-look.org for the many examples of KDE customizations. In particular, I would point to superkaramba and programs like Yakuake (best thing since aterm)

  • http://tieguy.org/ Luis Villa

    Oh, right, and re: ipod, I currently suggest Banshee- apt-get install banshee should get you the beast. It won’t get you itunes store support- the title of the page where you can get ITMS support for linux is ‘so sue me‘.

    Tim, DRM lock-in issues aside, I’d be interested in hearing your take on the incestous relationship between iTunes/ITMS/iPod, and how comfortable/uncomfortable you’d be with those relationships if the DRM issue went away.

  • dennis parrott

    interesting post and comments. recently I decided that over the long-term (between right now and the imposition of Vista and TCPA on the computing public) I was going to figure out if it was really feasible for me to jettison WinXP Pro as my laptop and desktop OS.

    after some reading of various blog posts and web pages, I decided to take an old laptop (a Dell C610) and install Ubuntu. i tried to install the version that has a default Gnome desktop. the live CD would run but the installer would lock up midway through copying the files to the h/d. i d/l’ed the KUbuntu version (a KDE default desktop) and it worked right out of the box. my prior experience with mandrake v8.x was nasty; this was easier than installing Windows until I got into the tricky parts; re-config-ing X (trying to use a higher screen res I thought the laptop did but didn’t).

    after installing firefox (i like google notebook and sync…) i surfed over to myspace.com since i use it and knew it would require me to install Flash. that was where things got sort of ugly — the only Flash you can get for Linux is v7 and most websites that inflict Flash on their users are at least at v8 and myspace is at v9. a v9 Flash player for Linux is still months away. while i only have a couple of days tied up here, i can see that unless there is some sort of sea change, Linux will remain crippled as a viable desktop OS competitor.

    Reason 1 — Plug-ins rule. the average web user has plugins for Flash, Shockwave, Quicktime and how many other things. if you can’t use them, you may as well be blind and deaf in the land of the living web. most of the folks in linux-land can’t surf these websites and actually see the content.

    Reason 2 — Cash rules. i believe that an unholy alliance of interests REALLY REALLY LOVE Vista and what appears to be its TCPA underpinnings. all the computer manufacturers like it because they will probably sell a lot of new hardware because of it. software manufacturers like it because Vista will probably frustrate users into buying new versions of programs they already own. the “fascist” element likes it because they will assert more control over my computing environment than they should ever have. now cash is in tight supply. if you are gonna spend it, where would you spend it? on a new platform where you can cause users to spend theirs to get your stuff or on a system that users get for free and where much of the software is free? for these reasons, there is a lack of incentive to build things for the linux platform.

    Reason 3 — Freedom can be a problem. as observed, the fact that linux is free anyone can decide to roll up a distro. you can easily see that linux distros are like the weeds in my driveway — they just keep sprouting. this means that linux !== linux in all cases. you cannot be assured that what you develop for ubuntu or RH or gentoo or … will work in all cases. so if you are a supplier are you going to spend your cash developing for such a fragmented situation?

    Reason 4 — Open standards won’t happen where vendors have a proprietary interest. it is true that IF there were a standard for Flash, someone in the F/OSS community would implement it. the problem is that macro-dobe doesn’t see how that advances their interests. it is unlikely to change since i believe they and many other s/w vendors would much prefer the lock-down features of Vista and TCPA that will NEVER get implemented in Linux. and trying to reverse engineer something like Flash would run afoul of that wretched DMCA regime.

    i really believe that until there is a way to fill in these gaps you won’t see linux be a viable competitor for users desktops — they want to be able to deal with flash-besotted pages and look at quicktime files and so on — regardless of how well the actual install becomes (and in the case of ubuntu, it became EASY)…

    i will most likely keep kubuntu running so that i can try some of the other multimedia apps i would need if i did switch (audio and video editing) but unless we can begin to easily address the plug-in gaps, i don’t see most people converting…

    just my $0.02…

  • dennis parrott

    interesting post and comments. recently I decided that over the long-term (between right now and the imposition of Vista and TCPA on the computing public) I was going to figure out if it was really feasible for me to jettison WinXP Pro as my laptop and desktop OS.

    after some reading of various blog posts and web pages, I decided to take an old laptop (a Dell C610) and install Ubuntu. i tried to install the version that has a default Gnome desktop. the live CD would run but the installer would lock up midway through copying the files to the h/d. i d/l’ed the KUbuntu version (a KDE default desktop) and it worked right out of the box. my prior experience with mandrake v8.x was nasty; this was easier than installing Windows until I got into the tricky parts; re-config-ing X (trying to use a higher screen res I thought the laptop did but didn’t).

    after installing firefox (i like google notebook and sync…) i surfed over to myspace.com since i use it and knew it would require me to install Flash. that was where things got sort of ugly — the only Flash you can get for Linux is v7 and most websites that inflict Flash on their users are at least at v8 and myspace is at v9. a v9 Flash player for Linux is still months away. while i only have a couple of days tied up here, i can see that unless there is some sort of sea change, Linux will remain crippled as a viable desktop OS competitor.

    Reason 1 — Plug-ins rule. the average web user has plugins for Flash, Shockwave, Quicktime and how many other things. if you can’t use them, you may as well be blind and deaf in the land of the living web. most of the folks in linux-land can’t surf these websites and actually see the content.

    Reason 2 — Cash rules. i believe that an unholy alliance of interests REALLY REALLY LOVE Vista and what appears to be its TCPA underpinnings. all the computer manufacturers like it because they will probably sell a lot of new hardware because of it. software manufacturers like it because Vista will probably frustrate users into buying new versions of programs they already own. the “fascist” element likes it because they will assert more control over my computing environment than they should ever have. now cash is in tight supply. if you are gonna spend it, where would you spend it? on a new platform where you can cause users to spend theirs to get your stuff or on a system that users get for free and where much of the software is free? for these reasons, there is a lack of incentive to build things for the linux platform.

    Reason 3 — Freedom can be a problem. as observed, the fact that linux is free anyone can decide to roll up a distro. you can easily see that linux distros are like the weeds in my driveway — they just keep sprouting. this means that linux !== linux in all cases. you cannot be assured that what you develop for ubuntu or RH or gentoo or … will work in all cases. so if you are a supplier are you going to spend your cash developing for such a fragmented situation?

    Reason 4 — Open standards won’t happen where vendors have a proprietary interest. it is true that IF there were a standard for Flash, someone in the F/OSS community would implement it. the problem is that macro-dobe doesn’t see how that advances their interests. it is unlikely to change since i believe they and many other s/w vendors would much prefer the lock-down features of Vista and TCPA that will NEVER get implemented in Linux. and trying to reverse engineer something like Flash would run afoul of that wretched DMCA regime.

    i really believe that until there is a way to fill in these gaps you won’t see linux be a viable competitor for users desktops — they want to be able to deal with flash-besotted pages and look at quicktime files and so on — regardless of how well the actual install becomes (and in the case of ubuntu, it became EASY)…

    i will most likely keep kubuntu running so that i can try some of the other multimedia apps i would need if i did switch (audio and video editing) but unless we can begin to easily address the plug-in gaps, i don’t see most people converting…

    just my $0.02…

  • enigma_foundry

    Dennis:
    I would suggest you give ASPLinux a try. It has all the multi-media libraries pre-compiled, so you won’t have any difficulty in say playing a DVD.

    Also, SuSE has flash installed and correctly configured, and it works perfectly on a few sites that I visit that use flash. But there was a little bit of a headache to get SuSE to use play Dvd’s. (hint:PACMAN)

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Dennis:
    I would suggest you give ASPLinux a try. It has all the multi-media libraries pre-compiled, so you won’t have any difficulty in say playing a DVD.

    Also, SuSE has flash installed and correctly configured, and it works perfectly on a few sites that I visit that use flash. But there was a little bit of a headache to get SuSE to use play Dvd’s. (hint:PACMAN)

  • Ronald Tate

    I am tired of reading articles by people saying that installing Ubuntu from a burned CD is “dead” simple. I have tried burning
    many such disks into the ISO format. Not once has such a
    disk booted up from my G4 Power Mac QuickSilver. I have spent over 2 weeks trying to get either Ubuntu or SuSe to boot up. You will never win me over or others who are not familiar with Linux to switch to that OS or share it on their Macs if it continues to be an impossible feat to install. I have clicked on every imaginable file in the CD install program to try to figure a back door way of getting the CD to install. I find working in ancient OS of DOS 3.0 for PC’s remarkably much simpler and forthright than the secrets and confusion of Linux.

    Confused and Unconvinced in San Antonio,

    Ronald Tate

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Ronald:

    I’m sorry you found it difficult. My experience was different: it booted into the installer on the first try, and I literally just had to double-click on the “install” icon.

    Keep in mind that you’ve got a 5-year-old machine that runs an obscure (relative to x86, at least) architecture. In all likelihood, your experience would have been better if you’d tried it on a newer Mac or a PC.

    Ubuntu obviously hasn’t reached parity with Windows as a consumer OS. But the gap is closing.

  • Ronald Tate

    I am tired of reading articles by people saying that installing Ubuntu from a burned CD is “dead” simple. I have tried burning
    many such disks into the ISO format. Not once has such a
    disk booted up from my G4 Power Mac QuickSilver. I have spent over 2 weeks trying to get either Ubuntu or SuSe to boot up. You will never win me over or others who are not familiar with Linux to switch to that OS or share it on their Macs if it continues to be an impossible feat to install. I have clicked on every imaginable file in the CD install program to try to figure a back door way of getting the CD to install. I find working in ancient OS of DOS 3.0 for PC’s remarkably much simpler and forthright than the secrets and confusion of Linux.

    Confused and Unconvinced in San Antonio,

    Ronald Tate

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Ronald:

    I’m sorry you found it difficult. My experience was different: it booted into the installer on the first try, and I literally just had to double-click on the “install” icon.

    Keep in mind that you’ve got a 5-year-old machine that runs an obscure (relative to x86, at least) architecture. In all likelihood, your experience would have been better if you’d tried it on a newer Mac or a PC.

    Ubuntu obviously hasn’t reached parity with Windows as a consumer OS. But the gap is closing.

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