Categories
Operating Systems

CrunchBang Linux is back from the dead

It was just a little while ago that the Linux world was shocked to find that CrunchBang Linux had died. The CrunchBang developer felt like it was time to move on, and so CrunchBang users were going to have to let it go and find a new minimalist distro for their computers until now.

The loss of CrunchBang Linux hit a lot of people hard, given its popularity. Fans of CrunchBang even buy t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, and stickers on Amazon to show their loyalty to their favorite distribution. Yes, CrunchBang Linux has a lot of devoted users who value it far above other distributions.

The CrunchBang Plus Plus site is promising to continue the legacy of CrunchBang, but this time it will be based on Debian Jesse packages. The site already has a beta version available for download, and it’s promising to have a release candidate soon.

The download page also has this warning for those who want to give CrunchBang Plus Plus a try:

HEADS UP
Keep in mind, as the distro is currently based off of the Debian netinst, an internet connection will be required. This is in no way a finished product. The Beta is currently more of a proof-of-concept than a full fledged release. As such, some breakage may arise through normal use. Regardless, experienced users and those familiar with the issues between Jessie and the #! metapackage will likely be familiar with the issues and should have no problem using this as a daily driver. While we don’t forsee any serious issues at this time, INSTALL AT YOUR OWN RISK. We are not responsible for any loss of data or otherwise unexpected consequences. VMs would be the safest choice until we can test further.

KNOWN BUGS
Thunar home shortcuts are missing (change manually in ~/.gtk-bookmarks) -cb-welcome prompts are mostly/all non-responsive -cb-pipemenus (Install Chromium, Install LibreOffice, etc.) are largely non-responsive

The resurrection of CrunchBang Linux

I must say that I was shocked to see CrunchBang resurrected so quickly, although I probably should not have been surprised. While it was never as well known or as popular as Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and other distributions, it did seem to have its dedicated following. And those folks were not happy to find that their favorite minimalist distribution had died.

Kudos to the folks who have brought CrunchBang Linux back from the dead. I’m a big fan of people having choices, and CrunchBang has always been an excellent option for those who want a minimalist Linux experience on their computers. So CrunchBang Plus Plus could be a fine replacement for the original CrunchBang distribution.

Some Redditors shared their thoughts in a thread about CrunchBang Plus Plus, and some of them weren’t supportive of bringing it back:

Emk2203: What exactly is it that needs to be kept alive? What need does crunchbang fill that is not already satisfied with arch, gentoo or debian unstable?

Cbmuser: You can just install Debian and install Openbox with the package manager.

NothingMuchHereToSay: Oh okay cool, while Linux Mint goes backwards by using Debian Stable, CrunchBang is now based off Debian Testing. Unless CrunchBang has hideous security practices for beginners like Linux Mint does, then it’s not that big of a deal since this is even more niche than Linux Mint.

TheManThatWasntThere: Crunchbang had unbelievably sane defaults which can take awhile to replicate, especially for new users.

Cathalgarvey: I love Debian, but I always use distro overlays like LMDE (which was a mistake because they EOL’d without switching to Jesse..) and !#. Why? Because Debian is ugly and heavy on first-launch config. Sorry, but that’s precisely why there are so many debian forks; user experience.

As you can tell from the comments above, the resurrection of CrunchBang also brings a bit of controversy with it. But I still think it’s a good idea, and I’m glad to see it happening. It may indeed be another niche distro, but if the developers support it and people want to use it then more power to all of them.

Welcome back, CrunchBang!

Update: Apparently CrunchBang Plus Plus is not the final word on CrunchBang Linux. FOSS Force is reporting that there is another CrunchBang version in the works as well:

…many long-time CrunchBang contributors and forum moderators (of which I am one) have banded together to form what is now being called Bunsen Labs — named after the Muppets’ top scientist Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, perhaps? — to preserve the spirit of the technological simplicity initiated by CrunchBang, and combine it with maintaining the spirit of openness and helpfulness that was the hallmark of the CrunchBang community.

Rather than rushing into producing something quick and ghoulishly capitalizing on attention given to a distro in demise — a distro that has meant so much to so many — Bunsen Labs is taking a more careful and thoughtful approach in refocusing the original intent of the original distro to make sure what the original lead developer started remains intact.

So it remains to be seen exactly what will happen with CrunchBang. We may end up with several versions of it being done by different groups. I suppose that some might see that as a bad thing, but at least it will give former CrunchBang users some options as to which one of the new CrunchBangs they want to use.

You may also want to check out this thread in the CrunchBang forum for reactions to the news about CrunchBang Plus Plus from some CrunchBang users. Some folks aren’t happy with the spin-off using the same name as the original distro.

More information: Books about Linux

Check out these helpful books to learn more about Linux:

Linux Pocket Guide: Essential Commands

Linux Pocket Guide provides an organized learning path to help you gain mastery of the most useful and important commands. Whether you’re a novice who needs to get up to speed on Linux or an experienced user who wants a concise and functional reference, this guide provides quick answers.

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you’ll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more.

How Linux Works

Brian Ward makes the concepts behind Linux internals accessible to anyone curious about the inner workings of the operating system. Inside, you’ll find the kind of knowledge that normally comes from years of experience doing things the hard way.

Linux All-in-One For Dummies

Linux All-in-One For Dummies explains everything you need to get up and running with the popular Linux operating system. Written in the friendly and accessible For Dummies style, the book ideal for new and intermediate Linux users, as well as anyone studying for level-1 Linux certification.

Categories
Operating Systems

Why do Mac owners run Linux?

There’s an odd thing happening out there in the world. Some Mac owners are replacing macOS with Linux. While there are no numbers available to show how many are doing this, it’s something that has been happening for a while as you can see from this thread on Reddit. I have some thoughts of my own to share about this, and I’ll tell you in this post why some Apple customers might be moving to Linux on their Macs.

Why Apple hardware?

It seems like a strange idea, doesn’t it? People buying Apple’s Mac computers to run Linux? After all, most Linux users are thrifty people and would probably consider Macs to be relatively expensive compared to the cost of other computers. But nominal price does not necessarily equate to the real value of Macs for some users.

For example, Apple has a deserved reputation for industrial design that has helped it sell tons and tons of Macs and iOS devices. For good or ill, people like the way Apple’s products look and they are willing to pay more to get them. And I suspect that there are some Linux users out there who feel the same way, but probably don’t talk about it much publicly.

For some people there is real value in Apple’s line of Mac computers. They don’t see the price tag as a hindrance to buying one of them to run Linux, and they probably appreciate the build quality of Apple’s Macs. I certainly can’t blame them for that since Apple has an excellent reputation in that regard and it shows in the loyalty of its customers year after year.

But I suspect that some of them may also be saving money by buying used Macs instead of brand new ones. Amazon, for example, sells refurbished MacBooks, MacBook Airs, iMacs, and MacBook Pros on its site that are significantly cheaper than new ones bought from Apple’s stores or website. And these may work very well for Linux users that want to use Apple hardware without paying full price.

Apple hardware also seems to hold its value for longer periods of time than cheaper computers. Perhaps this is more because of Apple’s brand power, or maybe it’s because Apple’s computers work well even years after their initial release. I’m not sure which reason makes the most sense, but Mac users do seem able to sell their old hardware for good prices.

Another reason might be that nobody can quite match Apple regarding the design of its MacBook or even iMac lines of computers. The form factor of Macs screams elegance and, in the case of the MacBook Air, also provides a terrific portable computing experience. And it may be that some Linux users want that kind of hardware for their favorite Linux distribution.

 

Why Linux instead of macOS?

The more interesting question for me is why Linux instead of macOS? You’d think that an Apple customer would gravitate toward the operating system created by the mothership. But that doesn’t always seem to be the case with those who opt for Linux instead of macOS.

macOS itself is a fine operating system, it offers a wide range of software, and it has a good reputation as a stable platform for productive uses. But it is tethered to Apple, and that means that it is not as customizable as Linux, nor does it give users the deep control over their computing experience that Linux offers.

And I suspect that folks opting for Linux on their Macs want or need control of their computers in a direct way that isn’t possible to obtain with macOS. On the other hand, Mac users that stay with macOS are probably very comfortable remaining in Apple’s OS niche. They probably don’t see a need to venture out into other operating systems like Linux.

Linux also offers a massive range of different desktop environments, as well as many different Linux distributions to use with them. That may also be a key reason why some folks opt for Linux on their Macs. They may be bored with the look and feel or even the functionality or software selection of macOS, and may be looking for alternative desktop experiences. These Mac owners are probably distrohoppers at heart though they may not know it or be familiar with that term.

And some might also argue that Linux – depending on the distribution – can be significantly faster than macOS on the same Apple hardware. I can understand this since some Linux distributions require minimal hardware to run, so they could get quite a lot of mileage out of even an older or low-end Mac in a way that the latest version of macOS itself might struggle to match.

The challenge of running Linux on a Mac

One last reason might also explain why some Mac owners run Linux instead of macOS. They may consider it to be a challenge to get their favorite Linux distributions installed and running on their Macs. I can understand this need to give something potentially tricky a shot to see if it can be done, and done well.

Linux users are an adventurous lot, and they savor a challenge when it comes to running applications and operating systems on their computers. So it may very well be that they are opting for Linux on their Macs just to see if they can make it work. The harder the challenge, the sweeter the taste of victory!

Good for the Mac owners who run Linux

There are some in the Linux community who loathe Apple for various reasons. The very idea of putting Linux on Apple’s hardware probably leaves them with a bad taste in their mouths. They might roll their eyes or laugh at somebody trying to get Linux running on a Mac. But I disagree entirely with that attitude.

I think it’s great if a Linux user wants to grab a Mac and have at it. I’m a big believer in choice, and that includes hardware as well as applications and operating systems. If running Linux on a Mac works for you, groovy! I hope you have fun and enjoy your Mac computer with whatever Linux distribution you choose to run on it.

Save money: Buy refurbished Apple computers at Amazon

Are you set to take the plunge and get a Mac to run Linux? If so then use the links below to save money on your refurbished Mac. There’s no point in paying Apple top dollar for brand new hardware when you can get a great deal instead from Amazon.

Buy MacBook

Buy MacBook Air

Buy MacBook Pro

Buy iMac

Categories
Operating Systems

Why Mac users don’t switch to Linux

Linux and Mac users share at least one specific thing: they prefer not to use Windows. But after that the two groups part company and tend to go their separate ways. But why don’t more Mac users switch to Linux? Is there something that prevents Mac users from making the jump?

Before I go any further, I want to encourage folks that are new to Linux to check out these helpful books on Amazon. They will help you understand what Linux has to offer and will let you get the most out of it.

Datamation took a look at these questions and tried to answer them. Datamation concluded that it’s really about the applications and workflow, not the operating system:

…there are some instances where replacing existing applications with new options isn’t terribly practical – both in workflow and in overall functionality. This is an area where, sadly, Apple has excelled in. So while it’s hardly “impossible” to get around these issues, they are definitely a large enough challenge that it will give the typical Mac enthusiast pause.

But outside of Web developers, honestly, I don’t see Mac users “en masse,” seeking to disrupt their workflows for the mere idea of avoiding the upgrade to OS X Yosemite. Granted, having seen Yosemite up close – Mac users who are considered power users will absolutely find this change-up to be hideous. However, despite poor OS X UI changes, the core workflow for existing Mac users will remain largely unchanged and unchallenged.

No, I believe Linux adoption will continue to be sporadic and random. Ever-growing, but not something that is easily measured or accurately calculated.

I agree to a certain extent with Datamation’s take on the importance of apps and workflows, both things are important and matter in the choice of a desktop operating system. But I think there’s something more going on with Mac users than just that. I believe that there’s a different mentality that exists between Linux and Mac users, and I think that’s the real reason why many Mac users don’t switch to Linux.

 

Why don’t Mac users switch to Linux

Linux users tend to want control over their computing experience; they want to be able to change things to make them the way that they want them. One simply cannot do that in the same way with OS X or any other Apple products. With Apple, you get what they give you for the most part.

For Mac (and iOS) users this is fine, they seem mostly content to stay within Apple’s walled garden and live according to whatever standards and options Apple gives them. But this is unacceptable to most Linux users. People who move to Linux usually come from Windows, and it’s there that they develop their loathing for someone else trying to define or control their computing experiences.

And once someone like that has tasted the freedom that Linux offers, it’s almost impossible for them to want to go back to living under the thumb of Apple, Microsoft or anyone else. You’d have to pry Linux from their cold, dead fingers before they’d accept the computing experience created for them Apple or Microsoft.

But you won’t find that same determination to have control among most Mac users. For them, it’s mostly about getting the most out of whatever Apple has done with OS X in its latest update. They tend to adjust fairly quickly to new versions of OS X and even when unhappy with Apple’s changes they seem content to continue living within Apple’s walled garden.

So the need for control is a massive difference between Mac and Linux users. I don’t see it as a problem though since it reflects the reality of two very different attitudes toward using computers.

Mac users need Apple’s support mechanisms

Linux users are also different in the sense that they don’t mind getting their hands dirty by getting “under the hood” of their computers. Along with control comes the personal responsibility of making sure that their Linux systems work well and efficiently, and digging into the operating system is something that many Linux users have no problem doing.

When a Linux user needs to fix something, chances are they will attempt to do so immediately themselves. If that doesn’t work, then they’ll seek additional information online from other Linux users and work through the problem until it is resolved.

But Mac users are most likely not going to do that to the same extent. That is probably one of the reasons why Apple stores are so popular and why so many Mac users opt to buy Apple Care when they get a new Mac. A Mac user can simply take his or her computer to the Apple store and ask someone to fix it for them. There they can belly up to the Genius Bar and have their computer looked at by someone Apple has paid to fix it.

Most Linux users would blanch at the thought of doing such a thing. Who wants some guy you don’t even know to lay hands on your computer and start trying to fix it for you? Some Linux users would shudder at the very idea of such a thing happening.

So it would be hard for a Mac user to switch to Linux and suddenly be bereft of the support from Apple that he or she was used to getting in the past. Some Mac users might feel very vulnerable and uncertain if they were cut off from the Apple mothership regarding support.

Mac users love Apple’s hardware

The Datamation article focused on software, but I believe that hardware also matters to Mac users. Most Apple customers tend to like Apple’s hardware. When they buy a Mac, they aren’t just buying it for OS X. They are also acquiring Apple’s industrial design expertise, and that can be an essential differentiator for Mac users. Mac users are willing to pay more because they perceive that the overall value they are getting from Apple for a Mac is worth it.

Linux users, on the other hand, seem less concerned by such things. I think they tend to focus more on cost and less on the looks or design of their computer hardware. For them, it’s probably about getting the most value from the hardware at the lowest cost. They aren’t in love with the way their computer hardware looks in the same way that some Mac users probably are, and so they don’t make buying decisions based on it.

I think both points of view on hardware are equally valid. It ultimately gets down to the needs of the individual user and what matters to them when they choose to buy or, in the case of some Linux users, build their computer. Value is the key for both groups, and each has its perceptions of what constitutes real value in a computer.

Of course, it is possible to run Linux on a Mac, directly or indirectly via a virtual machine. So a user that liked Apple’s hardware does have the option of keeping their Mac but installing Linux on it.

Too many Linux distros to choose from?

Another reason that might make it hard for a Mac user to move to Linux is the sheer number of distributions to choose from in the world of Linux. While most Linux users probably welcome the vast diversity of distros available, it could also be very confusing for a Mac user who hasn’t learned to navigate those choices.

Over time I think a Mac user would learn and adjust by figuring out which distribution worked best for him or her. But in the short term, it might be a very daunting hurdle to overcome after being used to OS X for a long period. I don’t think it’s insurmountable, but it’s something that is worth mentioning here.

Of course, we do have helpful resources like DistroWatch and even my own Desktop Linux Reviews blog that can help people find the right Linux distribution. Plus there are many articles available about “the best Linux distro” and that sort of thing that Mac users can use as resources when trying to figure out the distribution they want to use.

But one of the reasons why Apple customers buy Macs is the simplicity and all-in-one solution that they offer regarding the hardware and software being unified by Apple. So I am not sure how many Mac users would want to spend the time trying to find the right Linux distribution. It might be something that puts them off considering the switch to Linux.

Mac users are apples, and Linux users are oranges

I see nothing wrong with Mac and Linux users going their separate ways. I think we’re just talking about two very different groups of people, and it’s a good thing that both groups can find and use the operating system and software that they prefer. Let Mac users enjoy OS X and let Linux users enjoy Linux, and hopefully, both groups will be happy and content with their computers.

Every once in a while a Mac user might stray over to Linux or vice versa, but for the most part, I think the two groups live in different worlds and mostly prefer to stay separate and apart from one another. I don’t compare the two because when you get right down to it, it’s just a case of apples and oranges.

More information: Books about Linux

Check out these helpful books to learn more about Linux:

Linux Pocket Guide: Essential Commands

Linux Pocket Guide provides an organized learning path to help you gain mastery of the most useful and important commands. Whether you’re a novice who needs to get up to speed on Linux or an experienced user who wants a concise and functional reference, this guide provides quick answers.

 

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you’ll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more.

 

How Linux Works

Brian Ward makes the concepts behind Linux internals accessible to anyone curious about the inner workings of the operating system. Inside, you’ll find the kind of knowledge that normally comes from years of experience doing things the hard way.

 

Linux All-in-One For Dummies

Linux All-in-One For Dummies explains everything you need to get up and running with the popular Linux operating system. Written in the friendly and accessible For Dummies style, the book ideal for new and intermediate Linux users, as well as anyone studying for level-1 Linux certification.

 

Categories
Operating Systems

The dark side of distrohopping

I’ve been a distrohopper for as long as I can remember. What is a distrohopper you might be wondering? Well, it’s a guy or gal who loves using different desktop distros and who frequently hops from one to another. I wrote a column called The Psychology of a Distrohopper a while back that explores what exactly goes on in the minds of distrohoppers.

As fun as distrohopping is, it’s not all wine and roses. There’s a dark side to never being able to stay with one distro, and that’s what I’ll talk about in this column.

Before I go any further, I want to encourage folks that are new users to check out these helpful books about Linux on Amazon. They will help you understand what this great operating system has to offer and how to get the most out of it.

A never-ending flow of distros

If you’ve ever spent any time on DistroWatch, then you know that distros are constantly being updated. There’s a constant flow of new and exciting distros, and also updates to existing distros. Distrohoppers can find themselves continually downloading stuff every time DistroWatch has an update or new distro posted.

If you’re one of the unfortunate people stuck with a download cap (such as Comcast’s 250 GB limit), you can burn through a lot of your allotted bandwidth by downloading some larger distros. Distros can vary widely in download size. Some are very modest, even tiny in terms of size. But others can bloat up to four or five gigabytes or more.

Which distro to use?

The never-ending flow of distros can also be perplexing in another way, which ones should you try? All of them? Just a few? This question is particularly hard for newbie distrohoppers that are just getting into Linux. Many of them are coming from Windows and the freedom that Linux offers can be intoxicating.

Some people are overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices and don’t know where to start. This is quite understandable, given the enormous range of options available to Linux users. There is a distro for everybody out there, and it can be confusing to newcomers who are used to Windows or even OS X.

Other newbies leap right in and don’t look back. These folks can easily morph into compulsive distrohoppers. One download can quickly turn into an addiction as they begin experimenting with various flavors of Linux, always searching for that elusive “perfect distro.” These folks often don’t stay with any distro since they are so jazzed up by using Linux that they careen from one distro to other with reckless abandon.

If you’re a newbie distrohopper, I recommend that you concentrate on getting used to some of the more widely known distros such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, PCLinuxOS, and MEPIS before trying some of the lesser known variants. This will at least let you get your feet on the ground and give you a foundation of experience through which to view other distros.

Where did I leave that file?

Sometimes distrohoppers hop around so much that they leave necessary files or folders in one distro and then realize they can’t find the file while using another distro. This can be especially bad if you use VirtualBox and have a ton of distros installed. This has happened to me more than once, and it’s a pain in the ass if you’ve created a document and then lost track of which distro you created it in.

Of course, the most natural thing to do is to adopt a “Main Distro” and leave your valuable data there. Or better yet you can also use cloud-storage services to keep your data somewhere where it’s always accessible no matter what distro you are running. Google Docs is great for documents, but other cloud services can be a big help in accessing data rather than leaving it lost in a haze of distros.

Distro deficit disorder?

Attention deficit disorder is defined as the following:

A syndrome, usually diagnosed in childhood, characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness, a short attention span, and often hyperactivity, and interfering especially with academic, occupational, and social performance.

I’ve often wondered if some of us distrohoppers have our form of this called Distro Deficit Disorder or something like that.

Is part of our distrohopping because we simply can’t focus on any one distro for any length of time? Perhaps our version of attention deficit disorder should be added as a sub-disorder? Maybe the pharmaceutical companies could come up with a pill for us that might help us tone down our distrohopping.

A reviewer whines

I look at a lot of different distros as a reviewer. One of the problems with reviewing so many distros is that sometimes things begin to blur in my mind. I start trying to remember what I saw in one distro to compare it to another distro, but then I become confused as I can’t remember which version of the previous distro I’m thinking about. Was it the latest version or a previous one?

I call this Distro Amnesia and I suffer from it frequently. Sometimes I can’t even remember my own name after messing around with distro after distro.

Sometimes people will ask me about this feature or that feature in a particular distro, and I will sometimes draw a complete blank. My mind then tries to filter my thoughts backward through various distro releases until I can locate the feature, bug or another issue. It takes a while sometimes as I try to work my way through so many different versions.

Final thoughts

Distrohopping can be fun, there’s no doubt about it. There are always some cool, new features to play with in an updated or new distro. But that doesn’t mean that you have to always be on the move. You can opt to slow down a little bit once in a while.

Rather than careen from one distro to another like a pinball, it might be a good idea to savor each distro a little bit before moving on. Try to limit your distrohopping to no more than three to five different distros per day or less. That way you can enjoy each distro without moving on too soon or making yourself suffer from Distro Amnesia or the Distrohopper’s Lost File Syndrome I mentioned earlier.

Moderation in all things is a good idea, even for us distrohoppers.

More information: Books about Linux

Check out these helpful books to learn more about Linux:

Linux Pocket Guide: Essential Commands

Linux Pocket Guide provides an organized learning path to help you gain mastery of the most useful and important commands. Whether you’re a novice who needs to get up to speed on Linux or an experienced user who wants a concise and functional reference, this guide provides quick answers.

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you’ll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more.

How Linux Works

Brian Ward makes the concepts behind Linux internals accessible to anyone curious about the inner workings of the operating system. Inside, you’ll find the kind of knowledge that normally comes from years of experience doing things the hard way.

Linux All-in-One For Dummies

Linux All-in-One For Dummies explains everything you need to get up and running with the popular Linux operating system. Written in the friendly and accessible For Dummies style, the book ideal for new and intermediate Linux users, as well as anyone studying for level-1 Linux certification.

Categories
Operating Systems

Unity: Ubuntu’s descent into madness!

If you ever watched the movie “300”, then you know that one of the supporting characters proclaims at one point that “…this is madness!” shortly before being fatally kicked into a deep, dark hole by one of the main characters.

That, I’m afraid, will soon be the fate of Unity.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Ubuntu will change its desktop interface from GNOME to Unity in Ubuntu 11.04. Changing from GNOME to Unity is madness on Canonical’s part, I’ll tell you why in this post.

Before I go any further, I want to encourage folks that are new to Linux to check out these helpful books on Amazon. They will help you understand what Linux has to offer and will let you get the most out of it.

What the heck is wrong with GNOME?

One thing that puzzles me about this choice is the implication that GNOME is apparently not good enough to remain the default desktop interface for Ubuntu. Why not? GNOME is arguably one of the best, most comfortable desktop interfaces around. It has come a long way from where it started, and it’s gotten better and better over the years.

I confess that I prefer GNOME when using Linux. Don’t get me wrong, other interfaces are also quite good (KDE, Xfce, etc.), but I usually return to GNOME. It has always worked well for many people, including myself.

Canonical is claiming differences between their priorities and those of the GNOME developers, as noted in this article from Ars Technica:

Shuttleworth described desktop adoption of Unity as the “most significant change ever” for Ubuntu. He also acknowledged that it is a “risky step” and that much work remains to be done to prepare for the transition. The move reflects Ubuntu’s growing divergence from the standard upstream GNOME configuration and effort to differentiate itself with a distinctive user experience. During the keynote, Shuttleworth emphasized that Ubuntu is still committed to GNOME despite the fact that it will ship with Unity instead of GNOME Shell. He contends that diversity and competition between different kinds of GNOME environments will encourage innovation and benefit the GNOME ecosystem.

I also asked Shuttleworth why Canonical is building its own shell rather than customizing the GNOME Shell. He says that Canonical made an effort to participate in the GNOME Shell design process and found that Ubuntu’s vision for the future of desktop interfaces was fundamentally different from that of the upstream GNOME Shell developers. He says that GNOME’s rejection of global menus, for example, is one of the key philosophical differences that would be difficult to reconcile. Canonical has accumulated a team of professional designers with considerable expertise over the past few years. They want to set their own direction and create a user experience that meets the needs of their audience. The other major Linux vendors, who are setting the direction of GNOME Shell’s design, have different priorities and are arguably less focused than Ubuntu on serving basic desktop users.

Ugh! Talk about a bunch of self-serving malarkey! Give me a break, Shuttleworth. Seriously.

Nobody wants a netbook interface except Canonical

As you may have noticed, I write a lot of distro reviews on Desktop Linux Reviews and quick looks at distros here on Eye On Linux. I’ve never, ever gotten a comment from anybody related to replacing GNOME with a netbook interface. Ever. Nobody’s ever brought it up to me or indicated any desire to have a netbook interface on their desktop computer.

So Canonical’s decision is quite puzzling. Or is it? Perhaps there’s another agenda hidden in this decision?

I suspect, based on Canonical’s statements and various media articles, that “touch” is what this entire change is all about. Canonical wants a desktop interface that is friendly to touch-screen usage. That’s fine as far as it goes, but even Apple (the company who introduced multi-touch on its iPhones, iPads, etc.) recognizes that the desktop is a different experience.

Apple has wisely opted to use touch via the Magic Mouse rather than introduce fingerprint-laden touchscreens to its desktop computers (iMacs, Mac mini, Mac Pro). Apple knows very well that touch has its place on the desktop, but they have smartly opted to do it in a way that works for the desktop.

They have not, as Canonical seems to be doing, decided to change Mac OS X’s interface to suit multi-touch. Canonical’s switch to Unity is more an example of the tail wagging the dog, and it ought to reconsider this foolish decision.

Don’t misunderstand me here; Unity certainly has its place, and that is on netbooks, not desktops. Netbooks are handy tools for many people, and Canonical is quite right to support them with a proper interface.

It is, however, important to note that a desktop is not a netbook and vice versa. The two computing experiences are very different and require a different approach regarding interface design. What works for one may not work very well for the other.

Let me go back to Apple yet again for a moment since Canonical has indicated their admiration of Apple in the past. Apple does not use a “netbook interface” for its notebook computers. Users of Macbooks and the like offer a full-blown version of Mac OS X. Only users of iPads, iPhones, etc. get a different interface.

Apple knows quite well that a netbook interface does not fit the bill at all for desktop computing. The two things are apples (no pun intended) and oranges; a lesson that Canonical has yet to learn firsthand. How ironic that Canonical apparently chooses to emulate Apple on some things but seems unable to discern the logic behind a lot of Apple’s interface decisions related to Mac OS X and iOS.

Ubuntu 11.04: A half-ass GNOME distribution?

Despite changes to the Unity interface, Canonical has promised that Ubuntu will still be a GNOME-based distribution. Here’s what one of the Canonical folks had to say about it on their blog:

Mark just announced at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando that we will be shipping the Unity environment in the Ubuntu desktop edition. Unity is the environment we shipped on the Ubuntu Netbook Edition for the first time in Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat, and users and OEMs have been enjoying the experience. It is an environment that is inspired by great design, touch, and a strong and integrated experience.

I think this is a fantastic opportunity for Free Software, and this is going to be a busy cycle. We have a lot of work to do, and we know that quality is a firm focus for this release, and we have identified a solid set of issues we need to focus on and resolve, but I know the final product will be something that we will all be proud of. Another key focus is performance; we have already started porting Unity from mutter to Compiz and the initial work is much faster, most notably on hardware that has traditionally had the most trouble from bug reports. Quality meets design meets performance. Together as a community we can make this rock.

There is going to be some questions about this decision in relation to GNOME. I want to make something crystal clear: Ubuntu is a GNOME distribution, we ship the GNOME stack, we will continue to ship GNOME apps, and we optimize Ubuntu for GNOME. The only difference is that Unity is a different shell for GNOME, but we continue to support the latest GNOME Shell development work in the Ubuntu archives.

Um…well okay, but then why bother with Unity in the first place? It’s like saying that you’re going to serve somebody a delicious steak dinner, but instead of steak, you’ll be giving them liver instead.

What Canonical will be serving up is a part-GNOME distribution that includes GNOME apps and other elements, but that defaults to a non-GNOME interface. Sorry but that just doesn’t cut it, Canonical. The company can spin this like a mad top, but it can’t change facts.

Ubuntu 11.04 will no longer be a GNOME-based distribution.

Final Thoughts: Consequences, choices & alternatives

Canonical’s decision opens the door for Ubuntu derivatives like Linux Mint and others to gain more users, at Ubuntu’s expense. I suspect that many faithful Ubuntu users will be casting around for alternatives the minute they see what Unity looks like on their computer screens.

We are blessed with choices in Linux, and switching away from generic Ubuntu to one of its derivatives or a non-Ubuntu distro is probably going to happen once long-time Ubuntu users experience Unity.

If you are unhappy about Canonical’s foolish decision to make Unity its default interface, I recommend that you consider Linux Mint Debian Edition instead. LMDE gives you all of the advantages of Debian (and the excellent Linux Mint tools & utilities) without any of Canonical’s poor choices and silly design decisions.

You get it all with Linux Mint Debian Edition; I strongly suspect that many Ubuntu users will choose it once they are aware of the awful changes that Canonical has in store for Ubuntu users in 11.04.

Canonical has no one to blame for themselves for this mess; it will be the operating system equivalent to users switching from Digg to Reddit after Digg introduced it’s horrific site “upgrade.” Somebody at Canonical is in desperate need of a smack upside the head to wake them up to this potential disaster.

Sadly, I doubt anyone there is listening. But Canonical surely will be after Ubuntu 11.04 comes out, and the screams of horror begin in earnest. When that happens the only thing left to be said will be this:

CAN YOU HEAR US NOW, CANONICAL?

More information: Books about Linux

Check out these helpful books to learn more about Linux:

Linux Pocket Guide: Essential Commands

Linux Pocket Guide provides an organized learning path to help you gain mastery of the most useful and important commands. Whether you’re a novice who needs to get up to speed on Linux or an experienced user who wants a concise and functional reference, this guide provides quick answers.

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you’ll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more.

How Linux Works

Brian Ward makes the concepts behind Linux internals accessible to anyone curious about the inner workings of the operating system. Inside, you’ll find the kind of knowledge that normally comes from years of experience doing things the hard way.

Linux All-in-One For Dummies

Linux All-in-One For Dummies explains everything you need to get up and running with the popular Linux operating system. Written in the friendly and accessible For Dummies style, the book ideal for new and intermediate Linux users, as well as anyone studying for level-1 Linux certification.