Is Canonical becoming Microsoft-like?


Ubuntu (Canonical’s main product) sports “Linux for human beings” as it’s motto. With its main goal to make Linux easier for everyday use, it’s no surprise it has become the most widely-used distribution. I myself still run it as the main OS on both of my computers. However, next time I’ll need to reinstall or update, chances are that I’ll switch to Debian or Fedora instead.

I’ve been noticing Canonical treating Ubuntu more and more like Microsoft treated Vista or Windows ME. One of my biggest annoyances is the effect of their set-in-stone 6-month release cycle on the quality of included software. I like getting a new shiny OS every 6 months, but I don’t like being stuck with unstable, buggy beta versions of software just because the developers wanted some new flashy feature and couldn’t wait an extra couple weeks for it to be tested properly. Remember Firefox 3 beta becoming the default in Hardy Heron long-term release? Putting a beta browser into a release you plan to support for 3 years doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. I also remember pulseaudio, which replaced alsa in 8.04 before it was thoroughly tested, and caused me grief in both, Flash and Boxee until I decided to remove it and rebuild alsa again until pulse support got better in later versions.

Karmic came with its own can of worms as well. After installing it, I was unable to boot into my Hackintosh anymore. The culprit? Grub 2 beta replaced the original Grub bootloader, and support for OSX loading was not completely there yet. Again, why are you bundling BETA software into your releases, Canonical? I’m starting to feel like I’m using Windows again, except instead of SP1 to save me, Canonical releases a new version of Ubuntu that usually ends up fixing one thing, but breaking another. Fast forward to Lucid Lynx, another long-term release. All of a sudden the Window control get moved to the opposite side. I was able to move them back again after a few minutes of research on Google, but why mess with something that works, Canonical? I doubt you’ll appeal to the Mac users just by moving the buttons to the wrong side.

The second problem with 10.04 is the new XulRunner, which completely removes all hulahop support that several other applications, including Pyjamas-Desktop have depended on in the past. Obviously, Pyjamas-Desktop package, which was added to Ubuntu package manager in 9.10, wouldn’t work anymore. Canonical’s solution? Remove the entire Pyjamas package, as if it was never there. Any bugs opened against this on launchpad automatically get ignored, since the affected package (Pyjamas-Desktop) is no longer in current version of Ubuntu. How convenient? Screwing the little guy to make work easier for themselves has long been Microsoft’s specialty (ignoring web standards, pushing their own propriatary formats while ignoring existing ones, etc.), but it seems Canonical might soon take the cake. After being confronted about this behavior by Pyjamas developers, Canonical added the Pyjamas package back (since it does not depend on hulahop), Pyjamas-Desktop is gone for good, however, unless it gets ported from XulRunner to WebKit.

Another minor annoyance I have with Canonical is their push towards GPL-software and drivers. I have no problem with that, unless (as is often the case with drivers) the proprietary version is free and actually does a better job than the GPL one. A good example is the NVIDIA and ATI drivers, as well as Wifi drivers. Just like Microsoft seems paranoid of all open-source, Canonical seems paranoid of all closed-source.

Since I’ve stayed with 9.10 (Karmic) to use Pyjamas-Desktop, I’m not sure what new surprises Maverick brings, but chances are I won’t have to find out.