Canonical is Failing

A word of advice to FOSS geeks:

If you must recommend Ubuntu Linux to others, recommend nothing later than 10.04, the last LTS release.

10.10 saw a number of minor but irritating bugs creep in that show a significant shortage of testing and forethought. There were countless small things like context menus no longer working after returning from a suspended state or new window positioning that’s completely counter-intuitive. Some of them, like changing sides for window buttons or listing indecipherable package descriptions above package names in Update Manager, were deliberate (and conceivably, in some universe, necessary), but most of the changes were clearly mistakes. When these are combined with long-standing bugs (like Network Manager arbitrarily deciding to disable the Save button) and inconsistencies, they begin to weigh against Ubuntu’s many virtues.

In 11.04, Unity, combined with an increase in the number of stupid bugs (that spiffy state-of-the-machine motd message is FUBAR’ed now on console login) clearly indicates that Ubuntu is more interested in new and shiny than they are in quality. A quick scan of Launchpad (itself a new product designed to simplify bug maintenance and supplant the competition, but which has done neither) shows that there are, on average, 100 open bugs per project.

Ubuntu is slipping out of control. Canonical have stopped listening and – more importantly – working with the community. The number of defects is growing, but Canonical’s response is to make it harder for mere mortals to submit bugs. They seem to think that strong guidance is needed for their product to grow in new and interesting ways. Fair enough, but they’re confusing leadership with control. They’re simply imposing their views because they don’t value the discussion. They’re treating criticism as opposition and shutting themselves off from valid feedback.

Worse, they simply don’t have the number of skilled developers they need to achieve their goals. When I look at the bug queues on some packages, I shudder in sympathy with the poor souls who are expected to wrangle them. Canonical is clearly embarked on an impossible task, but nobody’s either got the guts or the vision to spell this out to Shuttleworth and co.

Getting buy-in and active participation from the community is a pain in the arse at the best of times, but the alternative is far worse. Heaven knows that the GNOME dev camp are… special, to be nice. But it’s clear that, given the choice between getting a partial but workable success through compromise or taking their ball and going home, Canonical has consistently chosen the latter.

This cannot end well. It will, however, end sooner than later.

Posted: May 18th, 2011
Categories: geek, hard-core, wonk
Tags:
Comments: 5 Comments.
Comments
Comment from rhY - June 14, 2011 at 5:14 am

I’d love to get your feedback on Linux Mint. It is the go-to distro I use for all of my clients now. I never have to explain anything more than once, and frequently I never get a support call from them again, until they want to upgrade, they have a hardware failure, or they want to recommend me to somebody else.

Comment from Tjeerd - June 14, 2011 at 5:51 am

Recommend Linux Mint. They seem to be on the track Ubuntu used to be on.

Comment from bah - June 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Whiny geek who thinks he has all the answers in life.

Ubuntu still is by far the easiest distribution for noobs and for people who don’t have the time to tinker with their OS. All decisions made by Canonical are made with this in mind.

Finally, you don’t like it? Don’t use it. FFS, it’s free, so you have wasted nothing by installing it rather than time…

Comment from Graham Crumb - June 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm

If you’d read any of the older posts on this blog, you’d see that I’ve publicly advocated for Ubuntu in the past, in newspapers, in public forums and on the Internet. I think I’ve earned the right to whine. 8^)

My complaint about them is not so much that Ubuntu is useless – it’s not. My complaint is that Canonical has been making bad decisions recently that are impacting Ubuntu, and that this is removing one of the best hopes for widespread acceptance of Linux on the desktop.

I still think that 10.04 is a strong release and recommend it to anyone who asks.

Comment from Scott - June 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I think it’s clear that Ubuntu is moving to making the LTS releases their main goal and that the in-between releases are more and more rolling testing/beta versions.

If this is indeed the case, ubuntu.com should reflect this and point users to using LTS releases as the main choice and the 6 month release for those who want to be on the edge.