Say “Linux” these days, and most people automatically think, “Ubuntu.”
Such is the level of mainstream awareness and success Canonical‘s distribution has achieved, even as such goals have proven more elusive for other distributions.
Of course, it can’t be denied that the fact that mainstream users think *anything* when they hear the word “Linux” is a good thing — and an improvement over how things stood not so very long ago.
One could certainly say that Ubuntu has helped Linux in that respect, then. But what’s been its overall impact on the open source operating system?
That, in fact, was the topic of a recent post by none other than Carla Schroder over at LXer, and it’s created quite a discussion in the Linux blogosphere.
‘Ubuntu and Canonical Deserve Credit’
Raising Linux’s visibility, generating excitement and creating name recognition are all among the ways Schroder believes Ubuntu has benefited Linux.
Its most significant contribution of all, however, has been “building a true community infrastructure that provides a clear path for users to become contributors, and for newbies to get mentoring and support,” wrote Schroder. “The lack of this is one of the biggest shortcomings of FOSS.”
Regardless of one’s views about Ubuntu’s latest particulars, “fostering a community and providing a space for noobs to learn and grow is a special skill set and a lot of work,” she concluded. “But for Linux and FOSS to continue to grow it’s the most important job of all, and Ubuntu and Canonical deserve credit for giving this a high priority.”
‘Huzzah! You Are Spot On’
Linux bloggers practically stood up and applauded.
“Huzzah! You are spot on, especially in regards to noobs who are long-time passive Windows users,” wrote Scott_Ruecker in the LXer comments, for example.
“Nice article and I agree with every word,” echoed skelband.
“A fine article, Carla,” chimed in Steven_Rosenber. “However much we (or just I) criticize Ubuntu, especially over the past few releases, there’s no denying its value in offering a polished-up, Debian-based distro during a time when Debian couldn’t get a stable release out the door, and adding a welcoming, newbie-friendly community besides.”
‘More Mindshare Means More Software’
Despite all the heat Canonical has received for its Unity decision, in other words, it’s been a virtual Ubuntu love-fest nonetheless in the Linux blogosphere.
Linux Girl knew it was time to hit the streets for more insight.
“Ubuntu has done fantastic things by bringing Linux to people who wouldn’t have even heard about Linux just a few years ago,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack offered. “More mindshare means more software and better support from third parties.”
‘We Are Stronger’
Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, took a similar view.
“I would generally concur with that list,” Travers told Linux Girl. “The strength of open source is that everyone gets to try things differently, and this is always good. It means contributions are always coming in from a variety of sources.
“Because everyone has different ideas about what needs to be done, we are stronger because we can cover all opportunities and possibilities,” he concluded.
‘Why Fix What Is Not Broken?’
“Promotion of GNU/Linux is giving back, and Ubuntu has done that well,” blogger Robert Pogson agreed. “Deals made with OEMs and providing services to businesses for servers have advanced the visibility of GNU/Linux considerably.”
At the same time, “Canonical does rub me the wrong way sometimes,” Pogson admitted. “I love X, which they seem to be side-lining — X is one of the top reasons to use GNU/Linux.”
In fact, “Canonical is changing the desktop GUI radically for no particular benefit that I can see,” he asserted. “If someone wanted an Android/Linux GUI, they can just install the Dalvik VM or Android/Linux. Why fix what is not broken?”
In short, “I think Canonical has lost its way,” Pogson concluded. “They should stick with what they do best: promoting GNU/Linux. That expertise does not make them automatically software designers.”
‘Give the Finger to the Community’
Slashdot blogger and Windows fan hairyfeet saw Canonical’s position very differently.
“I’m hoping and praying that they’ll just fork the whole thing away from the ‘community’ anyway,” hairyfeet told Linux Girl. “It is pretty obvious the community doesn’t want to go where Canonical is going — look at the howls and screams about losing X or getting away from Gnome.
“If there is EVER gonna be a ‘Linux for the masses,’ then ultimately the kernel will have to be taken away from Linus,” hairyfeet opined. “It is high time for Canonical to do what Jobs did with BSD, and that is to give the finger to the ‘community’ and take the whole ball of wax in a new direction.”
Then “they could make a stable ABI and make sure everything ‘just works’ with Ubuntu,” hairyfeet said.
‘Ubuntu’s Goals Aren’t the Community’s Goals’
Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site, had a more measured reaction.
Some of Schroder’s list “is definitely true,” Hudson began. “Certainly, there are plenty of people who associate linux with Ubuntu.”
That, however, is “a mixed blessing at best,” Hudson told Linux Girl. “People try Ubuntu, and if it doesn’t work out for them, ‘linux is crap.'”
One of the problems with Ubuntu, in fact, is that “there’s so much hype that just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and when you point this out, the ubuntu natives get restless,” Hudson asserted.
“Ubuntu’s goals simply aren’t the larger community’s goals,” she concluded. “We’re not ‘waiting for a linux desktop’ — we already have one (or several). For us, the competition with Windows ended long ago.”