Friday, May 31, 2013
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Thursday, May 9, 2013
As I mentioned in a recent post, I have come to like Ubuntu 13.04 quite a bit. Raring Ringtail marks the first Ubuntu installation lasting more than a day in one of my machines since the Ubuntu 10.10 days. In fact, the more I am using it, specially after getting some updates that have improved stability, the more I am liking it. It´s been a two year hiatus and now that I am getting to love it again, I can´t help but being a bit concerned with everything I am reading about Canonical changing the core of Ubuntu.
News has it that Ubuntu will, over the next year, change its software packaging system to what they call "Click Packages", abandon X and forget about Wayland to embrace Mir and, last but not least, transition Unity entirely to Qt. The idea behind this sequence of changes it to provide a unified foundation for all the Ubuntu platforms (mobile + desktop, maybe TV?) to build upon. Given how quickly they want it to be ready, though, and the fundamental nature of all the changes, it is quite the ambitious plan, to say the least.
Looking back at the "promise-to-achieve" ratio Canonical has been able to score in the last couple of years (quite poor), the quality of what was being offered (again quite poor, requiring 4 full releases to get to an acceptable level) and the fact that there was a clear lack of direction, this all sounds a bit scary. If getting Unity to work as expected took two years an a half, when can we expect all these radical changes to work nicely? Ubuntu 14.04 is the target of all these changes converging together on all platforms, but does that mean the same as actually meeting expectations?
Lots of users like me were disappointed in Ubuntu after 11.04 and it took more than two years to finally offer something compelling enough to bring (some of) them back. If Canonical chew more than they can swallow now, if they get back into unstable, under-performing software for several more releases, it´s just going to be a pity and they may lose some users forever.
On the other hand, I must admit that, if Ubuntu is ever going to be a decent opponent to Android, iOS and the like, these changes might be not only critical, but also an absolutely must. Some are criticizing that Ubuntu is isolating itself from the Linux ecosystem and seeking more control, but let´s be honest, that´s the only way for it to become an alternative to the big names out there. Ubuntu must up its game big time in many respects if it ever wants to put up a fight, becoming more dynamic, flexible, reliable, better looking and way more responsive.
Let´s just hope they get it right this time and are able to complete these changes as planned, within the next 12 months. If Canonical pulls this off, it may be the beginning of Ubuntu for real, a serious distro that can truly compete out there. However, if they again take 2-3 years to actually make it happen, I believe their train will have left the station, probably forever.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Monday, April 1, 2013
- Living on the edge: Fedora is about being at the forefront of Linux. The latest Kernel, new partitioning defaults, new file system defaults and probably most importantly for standard users, a very up to date application catalog... As long as a Fedora release receives support, users don´t need to worry about their software getting rusty, as is usually the case in Ubuntu. Being systematically on the cutting edge of the spectrum is not always best, it has pros and cons and sometimes you may find nasty surprises along the way, but I have come to appreciate that Fedora is amazingly stable given its edgy spirit.
- No PPA hassle: A direct consequence of the previous bullet point is that staying up to date results in no need to look for repositories to download updated versions of software. Fedora repositories are pretty significant in size, which in my case means that I have never downloaded anything outside of the official and/or fusion repositories. This makes using Fedora comfortable, but also very safe as one can rest easy knowing that software always comes from trusted sources.
- YUM package manager: Unlike Ubuntu, Fedora does not have a great UI software manager, so you end up using YUM way more than you would use APT in Ubuntu. However, because of how great a package manager YUM is, after a while you come to appreciate it and it´s hard to get away from it.
- Pure DM flavor: Fedora likes to keep the user experience with a certain DM as pure as possible. In that sense, you will not find a heavily customized KDE or GNOME here, it´s all pretty stock, and that´s something I love.
- Security: Aside from the PPA bit I discussed before, I like how Fedora doesn´t go overkill with sudo, as Ubuntu does. Some things remain locked under the root umbrella, and while that may feel a bit less comfortable than usual if you come from Ubuntu, it quickly makes sense. Other features like SELinux and the onboard Firewall certainly help in keeping you and your data safe.
- Flexibility and Power: Some distros out there have, for better or worse, a very defined scope. They target a certain set of users and what the distro does and how it works is very closely related to that scope. Fedora has a more flexible approach in that regard, offering all the power a very advanced user may seek while (specially in recent releases) offering a simple enough approach for starters. Now, don´t get me wrong, Fedora cannot (and probably doesn´t want to) compete with Ubuntu or Linux Mint in terms of ease of use, specially for someone new to Linux, but is accessible enough while certainly offering more flexibility and power in the top end.
- The Ubuntu community: Ubuntu is obviously a very popular distro with a huge user base. In my experience, it´s hard to experience a problem with a distro from the Ubuntu family that you cannot find information about in the Internet. Fedora is popular as well, but I have not seen nearly as much information about it out there.
- The Ubuntu benefits, minus the problems: I must admit it, I can´t stand Unity. I have tried over the past couple years, but I just don´t like it. Performance problems are just a tiny part of the problem when you release an alpha project to the public and keep adding nonsense features instead of addressing basic issues... And who wants all the Mac-like design concepts? The lack of a decent icon theme is not a major thing, but still bothers me, specially since they have been announcing it for so long and it is important if they want to be a true alternative to Android, Windows Phone or iOS. Kubuntu offers most of what is awesome about Ubuntu, with a solid KDE integration that still boots very fast, has probably the best installation wizard in Linux and all the other stuff that make Ubuntu great.
- Drivers management: This one is indeed an Ubuntu benefit, but deserves its own category. Ubuntu does an EXCELLENT job at detecting and automatically downloading and configuring drivers needed for specific pieces of hardware. So does Kubuntu.
- Software management: Fedora has improved recently with PackageKit, but I find Muon better. Not only do I slightly favor its UI, but it is also great that it incorporates ratings and reviews from Ubuntu.
- LightDM KDE: While Kubuntu aims to be as pure KDE as possible, it stopped using KDM and embraced LightDM, as used in Ubuntu. Personally, I think this is the right way to go, as LightDM is faster, lighter, easier to tweak and theme, and most importantly, fixes many of KDM shortcomings that have bugged me for years. For instance, is it so difficult to display a message when a user enters an invalid username or password? In KDM both fields are reset and the user has no idea what the problem is... "Was my user account not created?" "Is my password incorrect?" LightDM also fixes some of the inconsistencies around screen resolution, avatars, and the ability to add a guest account.