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Ubuntu: Desktop Linux's Success Story

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the doing-things-right dept.

Linux Business 68

Johhny writes "What is it about Ubuntu that has enabled it to grow so much? This distribution has clearly built on Debian's success but it has more than a few other things going for it. Ubuntu has become one of the most popular versions of desktop Linux despite its many differences from some of the other popular versions out there, including its scheduled releases and its counterpart, Kubuntu. The article takes a look at this distribution and tries to find out how Ubuntu defied the odds. This article generated a really informative comments page at OSnews."

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68 comments

Meanwhile, somewhere in Africa.... (4, Funny)

Dr. Photo (640363) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270447)

... two hunters meet to discuss their predicament:

Ubuntu: Did you hear that? They took my name and made a Linux distro out of it! It's time to sue!

Jumanji: Hell yeah! That's what I've been saying all along!

Ease Of Use (3, Informative)

zaguar (881743) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270454)

You want to know why Ubuntu succeeded. It's been said before, but I will say it again: ease of use.

The major barriers affecting linux adoption on the desktop is hardware compatibility. Ubuntu is constantly pushing these barriers. Consider the example of wireless cards - often a problem are for linux. For both of these cards (DWL-G650 PCMCIA and DL-520 PCI) (both Atheros chipsets) were automatically detected in installation. And to configure them, it was a simple application (network-admin). While there are still areas for improvement (WPA with wpa_supplicant) Ubuntu is still a great desktop OS.

And this is all without mentioning apt-get, the Ubuntu package tool. While using windows I constantly wish for the ease of use of apt-get. A simple apt-get update && apt-get upgrade is enough to update. I wish I could say the same for XP.

Re:Ease Of Use (4, Interesting)

Erik Hensema (12898) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270775)

Well, Ubuntu certainly is not the first user friendly distro. IMHO it's not even the most user friendly distro. Suse has far better (and easier) systems management with Yast and Mandriva has been known for its friendly interface for years. In hardware support Ununtu doesn't seem to be the top of the crop either.

It must be something else.

I think the reason for Ubuntu's popularity is Debian. Debian always has been a distro with a large userbase, but it was never aimed at anybody except nerds. Dispite that Debian was used by a large number of 'normal users'. They al seem to have converted to Ubuntu now.

Lots of ubuntu users I know are in fact ex-debian users. They're al very happy they found a polished debian distro (and rightfully so, Debian is rough round the edges).

Also, I think Debian users are traditionally quite vocal. I think it's likely this has skewed the statistics in favour of Ubuntu (and Debian). Fact is: measuring market share of linux distributions is a very hard thing to do. I don't believe any stats unless random people on the streets are polled. Polls on the internet are always skewed since the people polled are people wanting to be polled. It's a consious decision to go and vote for your favorite distro.

Re:Ease Of Use (2, Interesting)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270860)

I think you are wrong. The Gnome developers hard work is shining very bright through Ubuntu. It's very easy to use and the new Gnome mantra "less is more" is starting to bear fruit. Yast may be good but compared to the Ubuntu/Gnome control panels it's still very complex. I'm not saying they are not good or powerfull, just more complex than Gnome.

I'm usually a commandline guy, have been on Gentoo for years and too complex GUI programs just scares me away, just as it would scare away new users without computer knowledge. Ubuntu and Gnome is right on target for me and many others.

Re:Ease Of Use (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14274577)

I used SUSE until I found Ubuntu and you are right. System administration is easier in many respects in SUSE. Package management on the other hand is easier with Ubuntu using synaptic. Yast is easy enough but there simply are not enough packages, even with 3rd party repositories.

What you are forgetting is that package management is virtually the only aspect of system administration that affects a desktop distribution. SUSE is plagued with the same bloated menu's that make most linux distros difficult to navigate. The interface in Ubuntu is to SUSE (or Fedora, Debian, Mandrake, etc) as Google's is to Microsoft.com.

Re:Ease Of Use (1)

ToasterofDOOM (878240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14275510)

My Ubuntu experience has actually worked with everything _but_ my Atheros 5212 card (Netgear WG311T), but that might be a result of the stupid 128 bit password generated WEP. Great, clean distro though, pity you can't get Kubuntu CDs from shipit. I even got my Mac-Nazi CLI-phobe friend to use Kubuntu.

Re:Ease Of Use (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14278073)

You want to know why Ubuntu succeeded. It's been said before, but I will say it again: ease of use.

It was also the first major distro effort to come along since large numbers of people started to sour on RedHat/Fedora. Ever wonder what happened to the Fedora rah-rah-sis-boombah crowd? They went to Ubuntu.

I don't use either distro; I'm pleased as punch with Xandros which had robust hardware support (incl the first autofig for USB devices), usable PDC access, and common-sense printer support all in the GUI before Ubuntu existed or Fedora had been spun-off from RedHat. In no case is Xandros pure FOSS like these other two, but I really don't care. There are already enough purist distros and I don't have time for enless wrangling with media players, browser plugins, using special tools or the CLI just to access SMB shares and VPNs, and all the extra time spent in /etc.

Fedora and Ubuntu are good starting points for talented admins who want to mold the installation to special applications or very controlled work environments. But as general consumer desktops??

Re:Ease Of Use (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14285568)

I would think (having installed it) that it's a mixture of good hardware support, easy install, and compactness. One CD to boot, and then it grabs the rest from the net. From a psychology standpoint, that's much better than alternatives such as SuSE (which I used for years and actually prefer), which require you to stand there and swap disks.

Undoubtedly, the power-to-the-people ethos, and an easily pronouncible, yet abstract to most users, name, helps as well. Branding matters; think of Xerox, Kodak, Exxon. I know Ubuntu has a real meaning, but not natively to the english speaking world. It allows people to think of it as a brand, and it's a very comfortable word to pronounce. It has a downright reassuring sound.

The best part is, of course, that they took the pain out of Debian, and brought it to the average, versus power, user.

Re:Ease Of Use (1)

towsonu2003 (928663) | more than 8 years ago | (#14300504)

>The major barriers affecting linux adoption on the desktop is hardware compatibility.
hell yes!
>apt-get, the Ubuntu package tool
well, that's there thanks to Debian, not ubuntu...
>A simple apt-get update && apt-get upgrade is enough to update. I wish I could say the same for XP
you don't have to do anything in XP to update... it will do it by itself if you enable it from the security center.

The REAL story... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14270458)

This article generated a really informative comments page at OSnews.

I mean, c'mon, user-friendly Debian variants are all over the place, but that hasn't happened before!

wtf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14270467)

Not to be a complete troll but...why the hell is everybody talking up Ubuntu, and yet I see daily posts on bugtraq about new security exploits...

Re:wtf (2, Insightful)

moro_666 (414422) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270576)

hmmm ...
not to be a complete troll but most applications that have security exploits exposed are also used in other distros :p

and ubuntu is the only one brave enough who gives out warnings and security updates at the same time to keep you safe. other distros just leave you in darkness or provide you with packages that are safe, but sadly older than my grandma. if you compare the number of codelines in package sources to the number of ubuntu/debian developers/packagers, you will find out that there developers and packagers are always and forever hopelessly outnumbered. it's impossible for them to create distro from opensource packages which is 100% secure, but unlike redhat and it's colleagues, debian/ubuntu people have the guts to tell you that "hey, there's a bug or a security flaw here".

  if one company in redmond doesn't have the staff to check it's 100 applications for flaws, how do you suppose a bunch of opensource workers or a few hundred redhat people can pull the security checks off for thousands of applications ? it's pretty clear that they just can't. you are no safer with any other linux distro.

i use ubuntu on my laptop because i'm a fan of debian, but a raw debian on a laptop is hardly as nice as ubuntu. so this is the "gui version" of debian for me. i know how to keep it safe and i know how to keep it clean. most commercial distro users have no idea about any of this on their machines. and this successfully nullifies their idea to go on linux for better security. ignorance may be bliss, but it won't protect your files.

nothing can protect the computer from the ignorance and stupidity of the end user, not even the "supermegabest distro".

The real success story (5, Funny)

Mr.Progressive (812475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270471)

I think the real success story here is the presence of an informative comments page at OSnews

Re:The real success story (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272447)

Yeah, your comment beat most on osnews...

Decent UI? (0, Flamebait)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270485)

Common people, it's not that hard. Despite what Linus "I'm smart" Torvalds thinks, the real reason Ubuntu is powering along is because of Gnome and it's ease of use. A lot more people would use Linux if KDE kame with a Knome mode.

Let's not forget that Gnome doesn't have spelling that's kool to the makks.

Easy but not completely easy (5, Insightful)

foszae (655528) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270514)

One of the things that i think might have been a key to Ubuntu's success is the very fact that they didn't ship with the various multimedia libraries necessary. Yes it's all true that it installs easily on almost any hardware, and yes the chocolate coloured theme is quite pleasant. But i think there was a real magic trick to leaving out mp3's and avi's.

let me put it this way: you get a fresh clean install and there's nothing at all to configure or fuss with. seems great but you can't play mp3's. hunh? it's a small thing, you can figure it out. so you go and do a little search at Ubuntu [ubuntulinux.org] and they explain that it's not free. you're a newbie to linux and you don't understand how it's different here than on your windows box. so you drift over to GNU [gnu.org] and do a little reading. maybe you learn about free-as-in-beer vs free-as-in-speech.

then you go back to the friendly forums and find a nice step by step on how to add in extra repositories. wow, all this stuff is free, and hey look how much there is in the Universe, and then in the Multiverse. yoiks! this linux thing is amazing. and it's not so tough.

and i think that might be the whole point. someone waltzing into a full distro with everything in the world (even a program that will time how long your tea steeps) is a lot more intimidating than most of us really think. and of course the exact same goes for a distro that you're compiling from scratch. if there is any single thing i think Ubuntu has going for it, it is that it gives you everything a complete OS really needs to have (office, web, photos) but somehow sneaks in just a small lesson here and there about what the linux world is really about. if your parents can read a help menu (and the Breezy Badger help is one of the best i've ever read) they can figure out those little things that will eventually convert them to being true penguin lovers for life

Re:Easy but not completely easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14273713)

let me put it this way: you get a fresh clean install and there's nothing at all to configure or fuss with. seems great but you can't play mp3's. hunh? it's a small thing, you can figure it out. so you go and do a little search at Ubuntu and they explain that it's not free. you're a newbie to linux and you don't understand how it's different here than on your windows box. so you drift over to GNU and do a little reading. maybe you learn about free-as-in-beer vs free-as-in-speech.

then you go back to the friendly forums and find a nice step by step on how to add in extra repositories. wow, all this stuff is free, and hey look how much there is in the Universe, and then in the Multiverse. yoiks! this linux thing is amazing. and it's not so tough.


I don't believe this is correct. Joe and Jane average just want the machine to work since they view it as an appliance. If the multimedia stuff went it as easily as say Flashplayer on the Windows side of the house I could see it, but for the complete and total novice dealing with repositories is a pain in the ass. It's just like working on your own car: there are people who have no trouble changing their own oil, but a large percentage go to the dealer or some place like Jiffy Lube because they either can't or don't want to deal with it.

Just because Ubuntu cannot bundle the appropriate stuff right into the installer or default repositories doesn't mean that we should gloss over it. That being said, I think Ubuntu and Kubuntu are great distros.

Re:Easy but not completely easy (1)

aika (939446) | more than 8 years ago | (#14275637)

I must agree.. tried to switch my girlfriend over to Ubuntu and after installing it she proceeded to load XMMS, and complain that her MP3s wouldnt work. Was too impatient to let me enable the repositories but after that small setback she really grew to like it.. The oil changing metaphor was great.. but I must say that having a car not explode on me whilst driving is more important than being able to view an annoying flash ad!

Re:Easy but not completely easy (1)

Risen888 (306092) | more than 8 years ago | (#14276925)

I never thought of that, but now that you put it like that, I agree.

I'm a n00b to Linux (I've had Breezy for a month and a half), and that was indeed the first thing I ran into. Was it a pain in the ass that first time I had to figure out how apt-get works, and what a sources.list was? Sure it was.

But only for half an hour or so, and I walked away from it, Immortal Technique blasting from my speakers, thinking "Hey, that wasn't so hard, and damn, but there's a lot of stuff in that Universe thingy!"

Does this mean that a successfull distro must be (3, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270521)

If I look at the survey results it looks like a successfull distro must be free of charge (Suse and redhat free versions score slightly higher then their pay versions), binary and have a good package system?

Debian scores higher then I expected and since debian is hardly cutting edge it must be because its package system is considered so good. I can only think that this is also the reason that gentoo actually is visible despite the fact that it is a beast (I use it myself so I know what I am talking about).

It seems that the choice of software is less important. ubuntu is gnome by default (as far as I know) if you want kde it is called kubuntu and since in general KDE seems to be more popular (/me runs from an angry mob of Gnome fans + assorted fans from the gazzilion other desktops out there) it is odd to see a gnome distro score so high.

Oh well good luck to them but lets not be too optimistic about this shall we? The survey was after all only asking wich linux distro people had installed with no option for NONE. Ubuntu having x more installs then suse means very little when you realize both are fighting over the table scraps left by MS.

Although, IF the PS3 + HD addon does indeed have the capacity to run user choosen linux apps (IBM's own site reports that they ported it succesfully and it can run most PPC (mac) linux apps without modification) then we might see a huge potential market for linux being opened up. MS will probably not allow windows to run on the PS3 (although a sony spokesman did suggest that the cell should be able to run any OS) so that leaves the field right open (Apple has already declined to use the cell in its new computers) for linux.

Can you imagine millions of living room desktop machines? Supercomputer linux. Droool. Oh and no driver problems since you will know EXACTLY what hardware is inside a PS3. The biggest handicap of linux (no drivers for every piece of crap hardware outthere) solved in a flash.

Worth considering I think for any distro that wants to be handed a few million virgin computers with NO ms inside and a hardware maker that would love to shaft MS like it has never been shafted before.

Re:Does this mean that a successfull distro must b (5, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270565)

It seems that the choice of software is less important. ubuntu is gnome by default (as far as I know) if you want kde it is called kubuntu and since in general KDE seems to be more popular (/me runs from an angry mob of Gnome fans + assorted fans from the gazzilion other desktops out there) it is odd to see a gnome distro score so high.

Well, usually both Ubuntu and Redhat are very high on any use list; on distrowatch, Gnome-based distros have frequently been at the top. The vocal people - the ones that are very visible and audible - are a fairly small group, and not representative for the large group of users. You have to be both passionate and fairly knowledgeable to bother to vote or fill in survey results about such arcane things as the choice of desktop. Most people just don't care that strongly either way.

And I think that is exactly what Ubuntu is getting right. Yes, apt is nice, the distro has a lot of spit and polish applied, and it has a wide and current selection of packages to choose from. But most important, Ubuntu is inclusive. People on the mailing lists and forums really _don't_care_ if you're running Gnome or KDE; or if you prefer Vi or EMACs, or ... People are all focused on making a nice system for you no matter what you happen to prefer. It's the idea that things should work well together, be cooperating, not competing.

Since that attitude is fairly pervasive on everything from mailing lists to Wiki docs, people feel welcome, they feel appreciated. It's easy to get help because it's easy to _ask_ for help; you can feel nobody is going to call you an idiot for asking a dumb question. I think that is really what sets it apart and what makes it so popular.

Re:Does this mean that a successfull distro must b (5, Insightful)

civilizedINTENSITY (45686) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270658)

I agree, and I think this is important and is often overlooked. Ubuntu people I've chatted with on IRC are among the most friendly and helpful people I've experienced online or off. This really matters, and it matters at least as much as, (and to a newbie, especially, quite a bit more than,) the technical merits behind differences between distros or desktops. I've always respected Debian, but I can't say I'll be going back to their IRC channels.

Re:Does this mean that a successfull distro must b (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14274780)

It's worth mentioning that I don't think the choice of apt is really what is behind Ubuntu's success. I suspect that including Synaptic alongside it was what tipped package management over the edge.

The comfortable and painless transition from superuser to regular user is also essential. By requiring a regular user but making typical daily tasks involve a transparent trasition to super privs some of the greatest benefits of the working user and security model on linux come to life without the hassles or confusion.

Re:Does this mean that a successfull distro must b (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270700)

Worth considering I think for any distro that wants to be handed a few million virgin computers with NO ms inside and a hardware maker that would love to shaft MS like it has never been shafted before.

Sadly, Sony have blown it with the rootkit saga... I am now refusing to buy new Sony items, I will however buy secondhand... so will have to wait for some time before used PS3's come onto the market... :(

Re:Does this mean that a successfull distro must b (1)

jessecurry (820286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272915)

that's kind of dumb, sony has many different divisions. I could understand boycotting sony's music, but why deprive yourself of a PS3?

That's like deciding never to shop at a certain mall again because the guy at the shoe store was an asshole.

My reason for using Ubuntu (3, Funny)

scool (845419) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270678)

I've only been using linux for about two years and I recently switched over to Ubuntu (I used Fedora and Suse previously). At first the warm tones of the human theme and the gnome desktop threw me off, but now I quite like them, and even if I hadn't it's not hard to get around them. There are two reasons I prefer ubuntu:

1.It is well thought out. Not only did I find ubuntu easy to setup the way I wanted it, but it had a lot of nice added touches like sound effects. The ubuntu website makes it pretty easy to get any information you need.

2. What really appealed to me about linux in the first place was the idea of people freely helping and empowering one another, without being reliant, or not as directly reliant on corporate interests. Ubuntu seems to capture that spirit very nicely. I like the idea of a distro striving to be equally accessible to people of different regions and with differing physical abilities.

That said, if they shot the three happy hugging people in the togetherness logos I wouldn't get upset.

Is it a success? (5, Interesting)

ninjeratu (794457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270682)

Not trying to troll here, but is it really such a success? Compared to what? And based on what?
Is it successful because of the number of downloads or ordered CDs? We all know that is not a very reliable measure of success. The number of searches on Google? The number of positive articles submitted on the web? Doesn't say anything about actual usage, as we all know.

For most companies support is important. You can't afford to have a desktop no one can fix if something goes wrong. Which is why Xandros could be attractive to companies, or maybe Fedora/Red Hat/SuSE. Ubunto might be solid as a rock and work out-of-the-box, but I doubt companies would use it unless you have people that can support in in-house, or from a company (that you've actually heard of before). Which is basically why people use Windows. It "works" and you can easily get support if something goes wrong. And you've got Office. (Again something most people think is exclusive to Windows).

As for users .. For most users "Linux" is just like "Windows", just more isoteric (read: difficult) .. but free. (Free is not always a good thing, remember that. Free means crappy and unsupported to some.) The distro names have no meaning to them, just like the difference between "Windows XP" and "Windows 2000" might be lost to them (except that they might know XP is newer than 2000, and newer means better .. right?). What is important to most is that they can read their mail, surf the web, write documents and play an occational game (raise your hand if you've heard of someone that don't like Linux because "games don't work").

What it all boils down to is .. this "success story" seem an awful lot like preaching to the already converted. It's "successful" to a limited community. Just like Gentoo was "successful" a while back (and still is, except that no one's talking about it anymore). Next year something else will be "successful". And people will still use Windows .. :\

(K)Ubunto is a nice distro. No need to hype it.

Re:Is it a success? (4, Insightful)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 8 years ago | (#14271431)

Just like Gentoo was "successful" a while back (and still is, except that no one's talking about it anymore)

My theory on that is that there is a group of linux users that swarm to whatever is new and different and are very vocal about it. Gentoo was new and different for a while, now it's not and those users have left, leaving users who use Gentoo because it fits their need better than the alternatives. These users tend to be less vocal and so it appears that Gentoo has largely disappeared from slashdot/fark/whatever even though the gentoo community continues to grow (at least according to forum statistics, netcraft surveys, etc).

It will be interesting to see if all the buzz surrounding Ubuntu lasts once it is no longer a novelty and the swarming users have moved on.

Ubuntu's release cycle can feed that. (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272261)

By the time the bloom has worn off of Breezy, Dapper will be in open beta. You'll see lots of articles about it. Then it will be released and you'll see more articles about it.

And so on.

It's the 6 month cycle that feeds the journalists' need for new material.

Re:Is it a success? (1)

halleluja (715870) | more than 8 years ago | (#14325488)

Gentoo was new and different for a while, now it's not
Well duh, you have to run emerge --sync once in a while..

Re:Is it a success? (2, Informative)

gi-tux (309771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14271838)

There is support. You can go to their website [ubuntulinux.com] and click on the "Support" tab and then "Support Options" and then "Paid Technical Support" and see that you can purchase "commercial support" for ubuntu linux for Desktop or Server and two levels each. No this does not include on-site support but you really should have someone available to lay hands on the machine before you use any computer/OS combination.

I can say that as a Linux user since 1993, that I like (K)Ubuntu. I find it a joy to use and I don't have to spend all my time supporting and tweaking the system. This is the first Debian based system that I have used and I am growing quite fond of it. I used RedHat for many years and then moved to SuSe, but it finally got too expensive (before OpenSuSE became available). I went looking and tried GenToo (took too long to get running on some of my older hardware). I then tried Fedora (given my RedHat background), but never seemed to really go for it (primarily a KDE user). I then stumbled across and article on Ubuntu and found Kubuntu (5.04 was just out). I downloaded an ISO and installed it. I have either Hoary or Breezy running on every machine in my house now except one that is scheduled for upgrade over Christmas vaction.

I don't believe that its support is strictly from newcomers, I believe that there are people like me using (K)Ubuntu. Folks that have given their time to managing, supporting, and maintaining computers with various distros for years and are looking for the easy to maintain system. I would not be afraid to put (K)Ubuntu on a client site. I actually use it at one non-profit that I do volunteer work for also. It is used as a server, but runs flawlessly.

Re:Is it a success? (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14273205)

You can't afford to have a desktop no one can fix if something goes wrong.

I *can* afford to have a desktop "no one" can fix because I *can* fix it myself. That's what I love about Linux. And the effort to *fix* a problem with Ubuntu is minimal as far as I'm concerned so I have taken the stance that if a family member or friend takes my advice and installs Ubuntu then I will gladly help them with it when they have problems. But I don't have time to visit Mom every two or three weeks and remove spyware from Windows anymore so Mom uses Ubuntu.

Windows is not a nice system and it is hyped all over the place. as nice as it is I will keep hyping Ubuntu because as someone who works on computers a lot it will make my life easier when more people switch.

And it's spelled (K)Ubuntu.

Re:Is it a success? (2, Funny)

wolf31o2 (778801) | more than 8 years ago | (#14273672)

The first rule of Gentoo is you don't talk about Gentoo...
The second rule of Gentoo is you don't talk about Gentoo...

I see a lot of new faces here tonight, which means a lot of you have been breaking the first two rules of Gentoo...

Re:Is it a success? (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 8 years ago | (#14277104)

Which is basically why people use Windows. It "works" and you can easily get support if something goes wrong.

Except that most companies changed over to windows long before their was widespread corporate support for it, when in fact it was one of the OSes with the least support. Dos/Windows became popular because it allowed employees freedom (freedom to install their own apps without going through IS) unlike the Mini/Mainframe systems.

I second to that (3, Interesting)

owlman17 (871857) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270737)

Well, I second to everything for that matter. Ubuntu doesn't try to be too lean, or too optimized. (I've done LFS, btw.) Doesn't try to put every single app in the galaxy into 3-4 DVDs. It's just right, and it just works. I don't mean to be a flamebait (and I'd suppose this has been hovering at the backs of the minds of more than just a couple or people) but I guess it has captured that "Windows formula" and then some.

Make everything fit on a CD, plus the essential stuff that'll run your PC. Plus don't give out too archaic, or too dumbed-down error messages.Make adding and removing programs a snap.

I just love the Synaptic Package Manager. To Windows users, its like Critical updates on steroids. Like I said, everything just works, and everything's, convenient. That's the word I was looking for.

A sad article based on a near-meaningless survey (3, Insightful)

1369IC (935113) | more than 8 years ago | (#14270903)

It's sad to see an opinion piece based on a news story about a survey that doesn't really tell you anything concrete about what the opinion piece claims to be about. If you look at the survey, you see that only 50 percent of the respondents claim they have already deployed Linux on the desktop. The question about distros asks which distro they're considering or currently running. So there's a good chance half the people are doing rectal extrapolations based on what they've been mulling over after reading something somewhere in the mainstream media about easy-to-use versions of desktop Linux.

And the survey choices can be questioned. They list quite a few distros, but don't have three -- Mepis, Slackware and Damn Small -- that have been in the Distrowatch top 10 for a while now.

Worse, the guy who wrote the opinion piece goes out of his way to lump Kubuntu in with Ubuntu (which seems fair, given the Kubuntu respondents would probably pick Ubuntu), but doesn't lump the two versions of Suse and Red Hat together. Maybe he was put off by the fact Suse would have ended up with 60 percent of some imaginary number (seeing as respondents could apparently choose as many distros as they wanted) and beat out Ubuntu. I can see why they would want paid-versus-free information on the survey, but if you're doing an opinion piece strictly about popularity, I think you should lump them together.

But popularity is the point. And the little note about the survey getting more attention in some communities than others is, I think, the telling point. I use Slackware and Ubuntu, and as somebody who lurks in both communities, my take is that Slackers are busy keeping to themselves, solving their own problems and doing stuff, while those Ubuntu guys set aside some time in their days for evangelism. They're everywhere, and they're apparently writing and voting all the while. Reminds me of when I was a Mac user and certain sites would link to online surveys to make sure the Mac platform wasn't left out. You could watch the numbers change as the word spread in the Mac community, skewing the results.

So the article is air, and not even hot air at that. That said, I use Ubuntu on my laptop after getting several distros (Gentoo, Slackware, FreeBSD...) almost there (damn suspend and CPU frequency scaling). I popped in Ubuntu and everything worked out of the box. It's not my main machine, so it's the path of least resistance. And we all know how appealing that is to most people.

Re:A sad article based on a near-meaningless surve (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272315)

As a rabid Ubuntu evangelist, I have to say, "Well put."

I lost interest in the article pretty much the moment I figured out they were analyzing the results of a web survey. I mean, really. Where do they get off saying:
"...we have no reason to doubt the veracity of this poll, though the survey admittedly had more exposure in certain communities than others.
???

Re:A sad article based on a near-meaningless surve (1)

KermitJunior (674269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272871)

I've found that most SUSE users would not respond with "Red Hat" They are different distros, package management aside. (K)Ubuntu, however, are the same distro. I can go back and forth by choosing at the login screen (apt-get install kubuntu-desktop ubuntu-desktop), for the most part... not true of SUSE/RH.

Re:A sad article based on a near-meaningless surve (1)

1369IC (935113) | more than 8 years ago | (#14273328)

Sorry I was unclear. I meant lumping Novell Suse and OpenSuse together, and Red Hat and Fedora, which were also mentioned separately (and got 45 percent together).

Shipit (1)

lpcustom (579886) | more than 8 years ago | (#14271318)

I believe it's so popular because of "shipit". I have received about 75 CD sets totally free from Ubuntu. I don't know of any other distro that'll ship you their OS for free(free shipping as well). They will ship you as many as you need.
I like Ubuntu(Kubuntu rather because the first thing I do when I install Ubuntu is usually: apt-get install kubuntu-desktop) but currently I use Arch. More people should try Arch in my opinion. I've tried just about every major distro and Arch owns them all.
I beginning to prefer pacman over apt and Arch just runs faster. I predict next year the article on slashdot will be about Arch and it's rise to fame.

Archlinux is CRAP (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272234)

I've used archlinux 0.7, everything worked in the begining, got my sip-phone working and the free version of turboprint for my canon printer.

But then they upgraded alsa, oups, alsamixer was broken...
I fixed this by creating my own package, but just a few days later a new package arrived which had a working alsamixer, to bad the capture device option where missing.

Also some upgrade fucked up whatever Linux calles their DEV-system (who follows?), so there wen't all usb devices away, no digital camera or printer. Yeah, good idea!

Also the pacman packages are spread all over the place, their own servers doesn't hold many packages so you have to add a lot of private mirrors for different things, and what isn't there you have to create your own package thought, which is really easy but anyway.

Sure you as they can always say that I can fix it myself and so on, but I'm not intrested in fixing things broken by others, it worked first, I don't want someone to screw up my machine, I don't want to have to fiddle around with it.

I don't give a shit if it's fast, or have new versions, it's crap and broken, it has few packages.

Not that I like many Linux dists at all, but I guess that depending on who you are Ubuntu, Gentoo or SUSE will fill your needs the best.

Re:Archlinux is CRAP (1)

lpcustom (579886) | more than 8 years ago | (#14274386)

I've never had those sort of issues with Arch and I know quite a few others who prefer it. Maybe its not for everyone. One thing it doesn't do is hold your hand. I does require a little bit more time. In the process though you learn more about Linux. It's not crap, and it's not broken. I've never had something break.
Their repos do in fact have plenty of packages. Maybe they didn't when you tried it. I don't know. I've been using it for 3 months now and it's had everything I've looked for. You do have to edit the pacman.conf file in /etc. This isn't hard at all. You just uncomment the lines in that file of the repos you wish to use. Arch's documentation on their site is very well put together. Their user community is always helpful. Many distro's communities are helpful though. Once I learned some of the nuances of Arch I realized how intuitive it is. Maybe you should try it out again when you aren't so angry. Oh, and yes I can fix it myself but it's not because I'm some 1337 linux guru. It's because I take five minutes to read every now and then.
I've used Ubuntu, Gentoo, and Suse. I like Ubuntu and Gentoo, but SUSE breaks packages more often than my dog breaks wind. RPM distro's try to make everything point and click for some reason. I don't know why RPM distros are all like this but I find that the average SUSE, Fedora, Mandriva users don't know their way around the CLI. When their system breaks they usually "pull a Windows" and reinstall. Now I didn't say all were this way but a lot of beginners go with one of those distros because it's all point and click. They end up thinking Linux is crap. Because they haven't really learned enough to fix their system when it breaks. You state a lot of "crap" in your post.

"I don't give a shit if it's fast, or have new versions, it's crap and broken, it has few packages."

That is a general statement that is totally off the mark. I'm posting this comment from an Arch system that's not broken. The repos have more useful packages than more distro's I've seen. I'm using no "private" repos.
Here's a list of the distros I have used and spent at least a month with before basing my opinion on Arch: Red Hat, Mandrake/Mandrive/, Turbo Linux (back in the day), SUSE, Fedora Core 3 and 4, Ubuntu, Debian Sarge, Gentoo, LFS, Knoppix, Slackware, Corel, and though it's not Linux, Freebsd. I've been using Linux since '98 and I've been a distro whore pretty much the whole time. I know the ins and outs of all of them, and you can't tell me SUSE is better than Arch. It has a pretty gecko mascot, but that doesn't mean it's better. The things you describe about Arch like broken repos and private repos I've found is more prevalent in Ubuntu and Debian. For instance, win32codecs package in Ubuntu. How about mplayer plugin for mozilla? Yeah I know where the marillat repos are, but arch has them on it's "extra" and community repos that are in pacman.conf. You just have to uncomment them and grab the packages.
How about Xorg in debian? Or KDE 3.4? 3.4 was in testing I believe last I looked. Sarge is officially still 3.3. Hell 3.5 is out. Where's it at in the Debian repos? I've seen Debian users add every repo to their /etc/apt/sources.list they can get their hands on. Mixing up Stable, Unstable, Testing, and Experimental repos. Fudging their entire system. Any Linux is easy to break if you don't want to take a few minutes to learn what you are doing.

Re:Archlinux is CRAP (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 8 years ago | (#14276257)

Oh how suprised I'm over "One thing it doesn't do is hold your hand.", it's not that, it is that it did work and they broke it, it's unstable crap, I don't want an os which becomes broken every now and then.
It is crap, and it is broken, wtf do i "learn" from adding urls to whatever pacman (or well, ark or what they called the source code version) package building framework file? What do I learn from broken udev or whatever it was? Why do you remove something before you've got something else which works?

I used it like 6 months ago, the regular servers didn't had many packages, but many of them where reachable from other servers which often just contained 3-10 packages or so, so you had to find all those people which made packages themself and add them instead of using one site for all your package needs.

I'm not angry, but I don't want to walk thru all that shit, I don't want to make alsa packages myself just because some moron replaced the old working one with a broken one, I don't want to spend time trying to understand the dev issues of the linux kernel (I'm mostly running *BSD so I don't know much about devfs, udev and so on, so I have no idea what really happened, sure I could find out, and probably solve it by switching kernel version or building my own one with support for whatever it needed, but I'm simply not intrested in doing that, my workstation worked, then it didn't.)

I haven't used suse so I don't know how it is, it uses rpm and I'll stay away from it, but if you DO what a supported rpm-dist I think suse makes more sense than mandriva or redhat. I haven't used ubuntu, but I used debian back in the days of slink (2.1) and it was nice except the packages become quite old, ubuntu have solved this, and also the elitism in the community it seems. I've ran Gentoo 3-4 years ago but after a while I went back to FreeBSD, just wanted to see where Linux where. Gentoo is all right, but I don't think all the time used to build your own packages are worth it, and it probably makes people breaks things with their elite optimizations, was nice to have new versions of everything. FreeBSD have 13.800 ports nowadays thought so they aren't that much behind.

"Because they haven't really learned enough to fix their system when it breaks.", I shouldn't have to, I guess I've grown from the "fix all the broken stuff"-issue.

Well, when I used it, which was quite recently anyway, it WAS fast, it had new versions (so new they wasn't tested and therefor broken I guess..), but I had to make quite a few packages in ABS (that was what it was called...), and especially if that results in dependencies and so on you could almost just as easily have gone with no package manager at all. Me no like, I want to have all packages updated and served fast. Don't you think an os which breaks the mixer TWICE in less than a month and fucks up your usb device support is broken? What would you say if it was Windows?

I haven't used SUSE so I can't say it's better than arc, I just said these three probably fills their purpose, maybe Slackware instead of Arc aswell. I think you are better off with gentoo than arc for the same kinds of users.
And to answer on your my e-penis are bigger than yours I've used Linux since 1995, sometimes thereabout (maybe 96) I installed RedHat on my home machine and a little while after that debian slink, I used debian until 98 when I installed FreeBSD on a machine with broken IDE controller, didn't got it working so I tried OpenBSD and got some help with turning off DMA or whatever was the issue and the system worked. Back then I ran OpenBSD at home, later replaced with NetBSD and when I got a new machine Gentoo, after that FreeBSD. I run an IRC server which ran OpenBSD which I upgraded from something like 2.5 to 3.5 without the system breaking (if it wasn't my fault due to CFLAGS), it runs NetBSD 2.0 now thought since I like the system layout of that OS a little more.
The reason I installed archlinux where that I played the WOW beta and therefor installed Windows instead of FreeBSD, then I got a new HDD and I wanted to see the state of current Linux dists so I tried "Yoper" which where also supposed to be so fucking great, atleast their webpage said so. Only thing was that not even apt-get upgrade worked, it always crashed after 1-3 packages, then I tried Arch which I liked in the begining when everything worked, even thought I had to build a bunch of packages myself.
Recently I installed Solaris Express 27 but because I can't get any SIP phone working (I've tried a little, see kphone mailing list, but it might be possible to fix, just that I'm not THAT intrested in fixing it, and I'll probably run into similair issues later) I'm thinking about installed ubuntu or freebsd, I guess I'll install ubuntu to see what it is and how it works and then go with FreeBSD.

I know Debian and derivates are a little sensetive when it comes to licenses and shit, but you can still get the packages, and if you want "everything" there are always Gentoo.

I know debian have old shit, that's why I never ran stable potato, which took YEARS to arive anyway, I don't use debian, I where talking about Ubuntu which DO come with X.org and KDE 3.5. But atleast in debian you can expect your sound mixer and usb support to work, it won't break when you upgrade, and it probably won't in ubuntu either althought it's probably not that safe as debian. It's all a matter of tradeoffs. I also used unstable packages in debian, sucked to don't do it due to all the old packages, I will never use debian stable as a workstation, but this thread where about ubuntu.

Re:Archlinux is CRAP (1)

lpcustom (579886) | more than 8 years ago | (#14277117)

I wasn't comparing vpenis size. I was just stating that I have tried most distros out. If you last used Arch 6 months ago you may want to try it out now instead of stating how "crappy" and "broken" it is. It has come a very long way in a short amount of time. You stated that you used Freebsd. Pacman is very simular to ports. You stated that you didn't like the compile time in Gentoo yet it's portage is modeled after Freebsd's ports system. Last I checked Freebsd's package management compiles in much the same way. You can also install from binary in both. The problem I have with your comments is that in response to me saying people should try Arch you say that it's crap and broken based on your experience with it 6 months ago. It's at version 0.7.1. It's a very young distro. Yet, in the six months since you last used it, it's came very far evidently. I first tried it 3 months ago and I've been using it since. Before I used it, I was using Ubuntu and Debian. It hasn't broken that whole time.
It may not be for you. Six months ago it may have broke on you. Some people would love it though if they tried it out. I think coming off all negative about something you don't really have any recent knowledge of is pretty pointless. I do think by this time next year that it'll be a much more popular distro. I could be wrong. Maybe you'll try it again within the next year and decide you like it. Who knows?

Re:Archlinux is CRAP (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 8 years ago | (#14277244)

I'm sure it will get better with time, but still I want it enough stable so that I can trust the machine to work. Regarding gentoo and freebsd I didn't thought gentoo had binary packages? But maybe it does, but yes, mostly I install them from ports in freebsd anyway. But it's not really that I choose freebsd over gentoo because I didn't had to, it's more like because I have to in gentoo anyway I can just aswell use freebsd. We'll see, I really wanted to learn Solaris but I don't think I'll use it as a workstation os if a few (I've just found one or two) "necessary" open-source applications doesn't want to run right now. I'll probably install it on another machine which I can run X from remotely to learn without "beeing handicapped".

I don't think I'll try arch again since I've already "been burned" once, but who knows, if it got a bunch of positive reviews I might do it. But then most people are quite evengelistic about whichever dist/os/.. they choose so I guess you'll end up reading most of them are good. I don't know for sure which one I should use of gentoo, ubuntu or freebsd either, I'll guess gentoo will works atleast as good as freebsd but that I run it more because Linux already got enough users, the other alternatives need to have some to. Would be boring without any.

Re:Archlinux is CRAP (1)

Moebius Zero (939506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14277241)

aliquis said:
"And to answer on your my e-penis are bigger than yours I've used Linux since 1995, sometimes thereabout (maybe 96) I installed RedHat on my home machine and a little while after that debian slink, I used debian until 98 when I installed FreeBSD on a machine with broken IDE controller, didn't got it working so I tried OpenBSD and got some help with turning off DMA or whatever was the issue and the system worked. Back then I ran OpenBSD at home, later replaced with NetBSD and when I got a new machine Gentoo, after that FreeBSD. I run an IRC server which ran OpenBSD which I upgraded from something like 2.5 to 3.5 without the system breaking (if it wasn't my fault due to CFLAGS), it runs NetBSD 2.0 now thought since I like the system layout of that OS a little more."

So then does that mean that my "e-penis" is bigger than yours, since I have only been using Linux for one year, and can handle the maybe 5 config file changes I have to make with Arch?

aliquis said:
"Because they haven't really learned enough to fix their system when it breaks.", I shouldn't have to, I guess I've grown from the "fix all the broken stuff"-issue.

If you cant handle doing a little fixing when things go wrong, then use an abacus. There is no such thing as a 100% problem free OS, and never will be. But if you were using arch, and used ONLY the current stable repo, you would be well ahead of debian, and it would NOT break. Its just so sad that you "SAY" you have been using Linux for 10 years, and whine like a Windows ME user. Maybe if you put more effort into learning to use an OS than bashing one, you would see the beauty of Arch. But hey, some people like to have a machine that runs almost as slow as Windoze, must be conditioned for it.

Re:Shipit (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14273223)

I have no doubt Ubuntu is good for the regular users. But how well is this distro for the more corporate tasks like installing oracle 10 or the more heavy duty stuff.

Re:Shipit (1)

angrykeyboarder (791722) | more than 8 years ago | (#14278032)

Arch has been around much longer than Ubuntu. I doubt we'll see any "rise to fame" unless they make some big changes.

Re:Shipit (1)

lpcustom (579886) | more than 8 years ago | (#14278152)

Though Ubuntu wasn't first released until 2004 and Arch was first release in 2002, Debian has been around since 1993. Debian was popular way before Ubuntu came out. Ubuntu has newer packages. Debian Sarge is a rock. Arch originally was a Linux from Scratch with influences from Crux. Never the less it was built from the ground up. In that perspective Ubuntu has about an 11 year head start on Arch.

What is it that has enabled it to grow? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14271333)

Steroids?

the one fault with ubuntu imho... (2, Informative)

smash (1351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14271734)

It doesn't turn DMA on, on hard drives by default.

:)

Not that any other distro does either, but it's something the average user would miss, and it makes a heap of difference to media performance...

smash.

Re:the one fault with ubuntu imho... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14273013)

What? In my experience, the Linux kernel turns DMA on by default, unless you tell it to do otherwise (can be useful on flaky hardware). If Ubuntu is slow it may be because you're running it from the CD.

Re:the one fault with ubuntu imho... (1)

!equal (938339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14273921)

Maybe that poster meant that Ubuntu doesn't turn on DMA, by default, on CD/DVD drives which would result in jerky playback of DVD's.

Re:the one fault with ubuntu imho... (1)

smash (1351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14276345)

This is correct.

It also doesn't turn DMA on by default on cdrom drives - or 32bit disk access on ANY drive.

And it's not just flaky hardware... unless intel 865 chipset IDE controller on an intel board with a seagate drive is flaky - along with all the other hardware I've tested it on.

Simple enough to fix, but yeah - exactly that reason, makes stuff jerky, and slows down the desktop as well, when you're pushing it.

For reference, this is what I get by default:

/dev/hda:
multcount = 0 (off)
IO_support = 0 (default 16-bit)
unmaskirq = 0 (off)
using_dma = 1 (on)
keepsettings = 0 (off)
readonly = 0 (off)
readahead = 256 (on)
geometry = 65535/16/63, sectors = 156301488, start = 0
root@ubuntu:~# hdparm /dev/hdc

/dev/hdc:
IO_support = 0 (default 16-bit)
unmaskirq = 0 (off)
using_dma = 0 (off)
keepsettings = 0 (off)
readonly = 0 (off)
readahead = 256 (on)
HDIO_GETGEO failed: Invalid argument
root@ubuntu:~# hdparm /dev/hdb
/dev/hdb: No such file or directory
root@ubuntu:~# hdparm /dev/hdd

/dev/hdd:
IO_support = 0 (default 16-bit)
unmaskirq = 0 (off)
using_dma = 0 (off)
keepsettings = 0 (off)
readonly = 0 (off)
readahead = 256 (on)
HDIO_GETGEO failed: Invalid argument

(hda = seagate 80gig drive, hdc = Pioneer DVD burner, hdd = LiteON cd burner)

Safe, I guess - but perhaps there should be either a "buggy" hardware register, or a "working" hardware register to enable it to be turned on by default, if safe, in the majority of cases?

smash.

Re:the one fault with ubuntu imho... (1)

!equal (938339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14279378)

It also doesn't turn DMA on by default on cdrom drives - or 32bit disk access on ANY drive.

I don't understand why it doesn't turn on 32 bit disk access for you, but it does turn on 32 bit disk access for me on my Maxtor hard drive and for my CD burner in Ubuntu on an Asus board with a VIA chipset.

Here is the output of my "hdparm /dev/hda" (my 80 gig Maxtor hard drive) in Ubuntu 5.04:

/dev/hda:
multcount = 0 (off)
IO_support = 1 (32-bit)
unmaskirq = 1 (on)
using_dma = 1 (on)
keepsettings = 0 (off)
readonly = 0 (off)
readahead = 256 (on)
geometry = 65535/16/63, sectors = 81964302336, start = 0

and the "hdparm /dev/hdc" output (on my cd burner after I enabled DMA using "hdparm -d1 /dev/hdc"):

/dev/hdc:
IO_support = 1 (32-bit)
unmaskirq = 1 (on)
using_dma = 1 (on)
keepsettings = 0 (off)
readonly = 0 (off)
readahead = 256 (on)
HDIO_GETGEO failed: Invalid argument

Maybe it only has 32 bit access disabled by default on all drives only on certain kernels or something? I am using the "k7" kernel instead of the default "386" kernel in my install of Ubuntu.

Re:the one fault with ubuntu imho... (1)

smash (1351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14298089)

Interesting.... I'm running the stock kernel... or whatever is required to enable my nvidia card (forget if it installs a new kernel or just modules).

smash.

A Shared Philosophy (2, Insightful)

jdub! (24149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272189)

Here's a topical answer for you: One of the major factors in Ubuntu's technical success has been the no-questions-asked, "Just Works" philosophy it shares with GNOME, and the application of that philosophy to the entire operating system stack. If you needed any proof that real users are begging for simplicity in their digital life, look no further than the spectacular rise of Ubuntu and the even more spectacular rise of Google.

Re:A Shared Philosophy (1)

jbolden (176878) | more than 8 years ago | (#14277130)

How is Google any simpliar than Lycos, Webcrawler, Yahoo, altavista... the search engines that came before it? It seems to me Google was more accurate not easier to use.

Re:A Shared Philosophy (1)

jdub! (24149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14282091)

The other search engines have all replicated, to a certain extent, the Google front page and search result designs. Google came in, focused on user goals, made life simple.

Re:A Shared Philosophy (1)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14284659)


How is Google any simpliar than Lycos, Webcrawler, Yahoo, altavista... the search engines that came before it?


How about no frigging "shock the monkey" ads for starters?

Re:A Shared Philosophy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14280087)

Yeah, and the simplicity to develop GTK/GNOME applications... OH wait!

And the simplicity to integrate GNOME applications... Oh wait!

Curious (1)

Lord of the Fries (132154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14272599)

This is in honest question. I run a Debian box, I track 'testing' and upgrade about weekly. What would (K)Ubuntu offer me at this time? I think if I were building a new machine, I'd definitely try this "Ubuntu thing" out. Would there be any reason to switch though?

Re:Curious (1)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14284679)


This is in honest question. I run a Debian box, I track 'testing' and upgrade about weekly. What would (K)Ubuntu offer me at this time? I think if I were building a new machine, I'd definitely try this "Ubuntu thing" out. Would there be any reason to switch though?


Probably not. (K)Ubuntu's philosophy of being "Linux for the people" is what makes it so attractive because it serves as a buffer between developers and users.

Thanks Ubuntu (1)

jawahar (541989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14278421)

Sorry for posting Offtopic.
I wanted to thank Ubuntu guys for sending me the free CDs

Gnome has cooties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14282367)

Linus Torvalds confirms it :^p

hardware (1)

towsonu2003 (928663) | more than 8 years ago | (#14300323)

is it so hard to understand? it recognizes most of the hardware out there... even those that don't work with any other distros...

driver support is what counts in desktop linux...

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