Ubuntu’s “evolution” is weird

I’ve decided to use GNU/Linux once again (after 3 years of pause). Installed Ubuntu 7.10 and configured all the stuff like I was used to a few years back. I was really amazed that my wireless card was supported and that Ubuntu shipped the requited kernel module to toggle my Wi-Fi kill-switch (bash script required). Everything was just fine until I decided to switch to Ubuntu 8.04.

I won’t start blogging about the suckiness of that release particularly, I will rather concentrate on the model in which all GNU/Linux distributions are “evolving”: Why, o why are distributions including experimental and untested software in their new releases? Why is everybody pushing the “testing” itself onto us users? How can the distribution be considered stable and evolving if the next release is worse then the previous?

To detaliate on the problem:

  • Broken Wi-Fi. The old (non-free) drivers for my Intel card were working perfectly in 7.10. They decided to replace them with an experimental OSS driver from Intel. My internet is coming through a wi-fi link so how can I download the back ports of the old driver?
  • Broken Gnome VFS. Yeah, they decided the old (working) implementation was rather bad so they started a rewrite. I completely agree but why include the new implementation which wasn’t even tested properly?
  • Broken Sound. I know PulseAudio is the new standard (and pretty cool) sound-card daemon. But why include it by default when it’s not yet stable? Probably many users are quite happy with it, but in my case (as in many others) it completely messed up the whole “Linux experience”.

So why not have a new system configuration module for this things? For example show the user the old components (stable) and the new ones (experimental). Let the user select which component he wants to use. One can select the “New Sound System” over the “Stable Sound System” and check if it works the way one wants it to work. If it has problems, revert back to the old module. That way I could have simply selected “Old Intel Wi-Fi drivers” and continue with my work. That is the fair way! This would also prevent thousands of posts all over the internet stating “Ubuntu 8.04 sucks”.

This post can probably be applied to any “bleeding-edge” distributions out there with ease (like Fedora).

5 Responses to 'Ubuntu’s “evolution” is weird'

  1. Michael says:

    Wifi has always been a tough hurdle for the *nix’s. Its a whole lot better, but its not perfect.
    If you like linux and but dont like the crap that happens when you update, I reccomend two things:
    1. Keep a record of everything you did to get modules to work in a certain release, and be active in the wikis, so you can keep a handle on solutions. ubuntu forums is great about that.
    2. If you want to keep using linux and you get your nerd on a little more, go one of two different philosophies: use a more conservative distro, such as slackware, or use a distro with no major releases, such as foresight, arch, or etc. Arch is bleeding edge, so things might break more, but they’ll (probably) be smaller breaks, if that makes any sense. I know of quite a few people who had one or two small things break when they updated ubuntu to 8.04.

    Afterall, its all about package management.

  2. slacker says:

    although I can see your objection to pulseaudio as being valid, (I always remove it completely on any new 8.04 install) I have to say that GVFS has been an absolute blessing. For me at least it has worked flawlessly and saved me a lot of headaches and I cannot comment on the wifi because my IPW3945 worked perfectly out of the box on both 7.10 and 8.04.

    All in all I have found 8.04 to be a very solid release and I’m very happy with it. It’s a shame it didn’t work out so well for you.

  3. alex says:

    @Michael

    Yes, well my comments are basically “bashing” Ubuntu’s policy. Also … the times when I actually loved hacking through config files and and trying out new stuff are gone. Just wanted to try a distribution people call “best”. I guess I should think again.

    Thanks for the tip. Will have to try out slack sometimes.

    @slacker

    That is the entire point. They tested those only in a few circumstances. I heard it was fixed later on, but since there’s no Wi-Fi I can’t check it out.

  4. JamesJ says:

    I have had no problems with 8.04, but I hasten to add I waited at least two months before installing it. Since I started using Linux, I have tried multiple distributions, and always cycle back to Ubuntu. As for your comment “Why is everybody pushing the “testing” itself onto us users? ” I think that is quite all right since it gives thousands of people a chance to voice their opinion. It allows us all to be involved. And to conclude, with respect to your statement “For example show the user the old components (stable) and the new ones (experimental). Let the user select which component he wants to use.” , I keep 8.04 installed in one partition with the latest Ubuntu dis installed in a different partition. This allows me to check out the newest while retaining the old, and if necessary revert back easily.
    I did enjoy your blog.

  5. alex says:

    Hi JamesJ,

    Unfortunately I do not have the luxury of time nor do I have enough space to keep more than one distro installed.

    In the end I decided to stay with 7.10 and recompile all new versions of software I need that Ubuntu would not update anymore for me. Will skip a few versions just to be sure there is progress :)

    Thanks for your comment.

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