Ubuntu should focus its marketing on LTS versions

2009/11/08 § 6 comentaris

Since its inception, Ubuntu has released a new version every six months, which allows to quickly integrate new technologies and to release them to the community. Thus, users can test them and give feedback. This way there is a constant dialogue between the project and the users, which enables the project to improve rapidly.

However, not all Ubuntu versions have the same quality. Every two years Ubuntu releases a LTS (long term support) version of the distribution, which is more stable and has a much longer support.

As a consequence, thanks to the short release cycle, Ubuntu progresses rapidly, and thanks to the longer LTS cycle, Ubuntu adapts well to the needs of companies and users who use the distribution in critical environments.

One of the most important differences between the distributions of GNU/Linux and other operating systems such as Mac OS or Windows is that, in the world of Linux, software is distributed from a central repository. This repository contains the software, which the user downloads and installs, using an intelligent system that takes care of everything. This way, installing software on Linux is trivial and trouble free most of the time, provided that the needed program is in the repository (the vast majority of cases).

The disadvantage of this approach is that when a version of Ubuntu is released, the programs in the repository are frozen, they are only updated if there are problems related to security. This means that if you decide to only use LTS versions of the distribution, then you’ll just have software updates every two years, which sometimes can be a problem.

However, the Ubuntu project has recently solved this problem, creating the PPA system (personal packages archives), which allows to any developer to create her own repository for her specific program. Thanks to this system, we have the best of both worlds. We can use a LTS version of the system, which is very stable, together with the latest version of that specific program that needs to be updated often, as its new versions provide new important features. Thus, thanks to the PPA system, it is not as necessary as before to upgrade every six months.

Recently, Ubuntu has released version 9.10, which is also known as Karmik Koala. This release is not a LTS, therefore is not as stable as some people expect a Linux distributions should be. So there was quite debate (here and here), because some users have reported problems with their upgrades. Probably this error of perception about the system stability is due to the fact that all Ubuntu versions are advertised in the same way.

My point of view is that now, that we have the PPA system, the way Ubuntu advertises its releases should change. Ubuntu should continue to publish a new version every six months, but it should not make too much advertising of non-LTS releases, as these should only be used by early adopters. Most users should use LTS releases, which should be as solid as a rock.

This strategy would have the benefit to also improve the marketing. Significant marketing efforts could be done every two years, instead of every six months, which would allow to reach more people. After all, a newspaper will not run a cover story of news that take place every six months.

Dell sells Ubuntu boxes that cannot run Ubuntu

2008/12/30 § 74 comentaris

This Christmas, some friends made me a gift, it’s a Dell Mini 12, a small, lightweight laptop which will become my guerrilla computer, that is, it will be the computer that I’ll always take with me when not at home, thus preserving my main computer of the risks of the street and, at the same time, preserving my back.

The good news is that Dell sells this computer with Ubuntu pre-installed, so this is the first time that I do not pay the Microsoft (or Apple) tax for a computer that will run Ubuntu. This is great news, because Ubuntu is my preferred operating system.

However, when opening the box I found something suspicious, the DVD provided by Dell was not a standard Ubuntu, but a version that contains a + after the number of the version. This Ubuntu is not free because it is written “Do not distribute”  on the DVD.

When I switched on my new computer, Ubuntu asked me some data, as in any normal installation, but then I discovered the famous Dell desktop, which is like a kind of virus. It is ugly and impractical. In addition, the selection of packages made by Dell seems strange (lots of KDE stuff in a Gnome based system). Furthermore, Firefox showed the Yahoo! toolbar. This is ugly. This computer contained an Ubuntu full of shit (call a spade a spade), so I decided to remove that version and change it to an ordinary Ubuntu. After all, having a  12” screen, I do not need to have a distribution of Linux for netbooks because, despite having a netbook processor (Intel Atom), this computer is the size of a small standard laptop (lpia aside).

So I tried to upgrade the installed Ubuntu 8.04+ to Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid). I configured the update manager to offer me upgrades to “normal” versions of Ubuntu, and not only LTS versions. Unfortunately, the upgrade manager didn’t propose me to upgrade to 8.10. I checked the sources of software and I saw that these were not official, but a special Dell repository hosted by Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu. I changed to sources to the standard ones, but the system failed to update the package list. I realized that this Ubuntu was too tuned, so I decide to start from scratch, to install Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy). But the installation failed. I found myself in front of a black BusyBox screen. I looked at the forums and saw that the Dell Mini 9, (more people bought this one in comparison to the 12) has the same problem with 8.04, but 8.04.1 is ok for this computer. I tried and failed again. So I decided to install Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid). I thought that a newer version of Ubuntu should work fine, I trusted Canonical, I thought that they would support computers sold with Ubuntu pre-installed and that they would try to fix all the issues in the last version of the operating system. After all, I had an Ubuntu box! I Prepared a USB key with the installer (the computer has no CD player) and it failed again. There was a problem with the drivers of the graphics card. I saw that there is already a bug on Launchpad. The information found on Launchpad allowed me to get the system to boot and install Intrepid. Now, everything works fine except for one thing: I can not get a decent screen resolution. I can only get 1024 × 768 and apparently it will not be solved in this version of Ubuntu. I will have to wait half a year, until Ubuntu 9.04 appears, and now I don’t trust them, maybe the problem is not solved for that version. This is a problem, because the resolution I get is not proportional to the size of the screen, as a consequence, everything is deformed. Alternatively, I can buy an external DVD player (which costs a lot of money) to install, again, the experimental pseudo-Ubuntu shiped by Dell, but this one is only a 8.04 full of shit, which will force me to use older versions of the programs I like to use.

In short, I bought a computer that, in theory can run Ubuntu, and it turns out that, in practice, it can only run a distorted and old version of the operating system. I wonder how many people, due to this Kafkaesque situation, have decided to just install Windows XP and give up Linux, convinced that Linux is still somewhat experimental and only suitable for geeks. Frankly, to let Dell use the brand Ubuntu for a distribution that is based on it but, in fact, is not a real Ubuntu, is a serious error. After all, the buyer that buys a Dell with Ubuntu hopes that it will work with the standard version of this operating system, the very same version used in  his other computers, and also she hopes to upgrade the distribution every six months, as she always has done with her other computers, at least for a reasonable time.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, said, not a long time ago, that, in a few years, Ubuntu will be better than Mac OS X. But Apple customers buy computers that work, computers that, in general, can be upgraded and that have no issues with the versions of the OS. One can use Leopard on a MacBook or a MacBook Air, however, I bought an Ubuntu computer that cannot run Ubuntu!

In short, I’m very disappointed. Those who know me know that I have devoted many hours to spread the use of free operating systems and, in particular Ubuntu. I hope that, in the future, Canonical will not allow the use of the Ubuntu brand for non standard distributions. People that buy Ubuntu should be able to run Ubuntu! This is very important, because Ubuntu is a very good operating system, that should be used by many people.

Now only remains for me to ask if anyone has tried openSUSE, or any other good quality Linux distro, on this computer, because Ubuntu does not work.

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