posted by Kroc Camen on Sun 13th Sep 2009 16:33 UTC
Icon"For the last 12 months, I have used Ubuntu 8.04, 8.10, and 9.04 as my primary OSes. I remain a very happy Linux convert, but I worry that Ubuntu is being unevenly developed. Certain areas have seen great improvements over the last 12 months, while other areas have languished or been largely ignored. The purpose of this article is not to whine or rant, but to bring some perspective to the evolution (or lack thereof) that Ubuntu has experienced between versions 8.04 and 9.04."

I shall start with a disclaimer: Tanner Helland (the author of the article) is a personal friend, but I felt the article was well worth forwarding to the OSnews community regardless of its writer. His blog is small and this fine article would otherwise be overlooked via the main news channels. I think this article does a better comparison than I could personally do because I do not use Ubuntu full time.

I’ve tried every release since version 4 and it doesn’t last long before some bit of bad design irks me too much, considering I’m already on a very trouble-free system with OS X, and don’t want to ‘downgrade’ my experience. That said, Ubuntu has really progressed every year. Version 9.04 was the first to support all the hardware in my MacBookPro out of the box, a superb achievement. User friendliness has improved, the speed has improved plenty.

Tanner has taken a much more reasoned approach than I can as he has done what he set out to do and that is switch to Linux full time and live with the problems until he can overcome them or the community fixes those bugs. Tanner writes this article not out of some ‘look-at-me’ jab at the state of Ubuntu but out of a passion for the operating system that he wants to see go places and that desperately needs attention in some areas if it is to make grounds with regular users. This is a man that speak of the experience of anybody who has had to endure a long and arduous operating system switch, but also that of converting friends and family to linux and seeing how it stacks up ‘in real life’.

Tanner covers the subjects of:

  1. Hardware support
  2. Appearance
  3. New features / innovation
  4. Default software selection
  5. Performance
  6. Usability
  7. Community and support

Ranking them from school-style from A to F based on how these aspects have improved since Ubuntu 8.04.

The appearance factor, it could be argued, is unfair as all that bling is not what a good number of users want, and Ubuntu is better for not having it.

I personally don’t think that fits within the scope of the article which has the underlying theme of how Ubuntu stacks up against the other OSes when it comes to regular non-geek users. Ubuntu is frankly bland and lacks oomph. Users don’t understand what goes on under the hood, so they will associate looks with quality. Nothing stands out in Ubuntu as something pleasant to use every day. It’s too much like a dreary corporate desktop.

Yes, but, you ask—doesn’t Compiz add all that eye-candy and bling? Well, not really. A static screenshot can’t show Compiz off, but in Vista and 7 you have the glass reflections on the windows and the same on the OS X dock.

Ubuntu doesn’t need to sell itself to geeks, it’s already sold. It needs to sell itself to regular users, and yes, bling is annoying to some and it’s tacky and it doesn’t solve real problems, but I have to agree with Tanner when he says:

from 2005 to 2009, almost no major progress has been made on the default theme and initial desktop presentation. I find this less than acceptable because one of the biggest hurdles to Ubuntu adoption, in my experience, is how unimpressive it looks at first glance.

Anyway, you the community—linux users who all know better than I do—sound off in the comments with your own grades and how you feel Ubuntu has improved for you over the years, and where it’s still needing work.

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