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Maybe it's just me, but I believe Ubuntu and Canonical have a severe case of the Not Invented Here. Instead of building on one of the three most suitable distributions at the time (each with advantages, disadvantages and often trade-offs): Debian, and Mandriva Linux (formerly Mandrake Linux) and MEPIS, they have forked Debian, and created an improved but incompatible version. Furthermore, they have their own proprietary web-based translation tool, their own proprietary bug-tracker (what's wrong with Bugzilla, Trac, or Request Tracker), they had two version control system ("Bazaar" and "Bazaar-NG"), which aimed to combine "the best advantages of all the rest", and wrote many system utilities from scratch.

The worst thing is that they are burning money fast. Mandriva used to be profitable for a while, and could have been more if it had a better management when it started. And Red Hat is very profitable. All the distributions I mentioned (including Ubuntu) are open source and may survive the going-away of their parent company, either by a new company being established, or by the community working on it. By open-source I don't mean the FSF-fanatical view in which every component must be free software, but rather the fact that it can be bootstrapped and usable using FOSS exclusively.

Ubuntu has done some things well: good hardware detection and integration, viral marketing, positive hype, etc. Debian has its own share of problems, but I still think it's more independent and economically-sound and less NIH-syndromed than Ubuntu is. So I guess from now on, I'll use Debian instead of Ubuntu when I do (i.e: when I'm not using Mandriva or Fedora or whatever), and recommend everyone to do the same.

Some people think Ubuntu is perfect. It may be very polished, but it has its share of problems. I think Debian is actually better in this regard with its rigid quality control. No one can deny Mandriva has bugs, but they have a public bug-tracker, and they fix these bugs. I guess fast-moving and bug-free are often trade-offs.

So stay cool, be independent, think for yourself but cooperate with others, and don't be "Ubuntu". Cheers.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 29th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
Ubuntu v. Mandriva
As you already know, I think, I'm also more of a Mandriva fan than an Ubuntu fan. In fact, despite the hype that Ubuntu is SOOOO easy, I actually got a Mandriva install up and running on one computer in a fraction of the time that it took me to get an equivalent Ubuntu laptop working to my satisfaction.
Mar. 29th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
I don't see it this way..
Use Ubuntu because:

1. The Grandma Test - I use Debian Sid. I love it but I still wouldn't let my own grandma use it. Ubuntu OTOH is getting very close to pass this test. Closer than any distribution I know. If you hate the inclusion of non-free software in it, you can always use: http://www.gnewsense.org/ .

2. Ubuntu has done exactly what Mandrake has done when it forked from Red Hat Linux (to remind you - Mandrake also started as RH compatible fork). The main reason for this incompatabillity is the need to improve the basic Debian concepts and doing this was just too hard to accomplish within the Debian Project. That's why I tend not to judge Ubuntu too harshly for their actions.

Don't use Ubuntu because:

1. Ubuntu's obsession for python. Python is a cool language but I think you just have to choose the right tool for task.

2. Ubuntus developing it's own closed source systems (translation, bug-tracking ..) really sucks in ways I cannot describe in words. But if you talk with the people behind it on IRC they claim that it will all be released as Open Source in the future.

To conclude : I would recommend Ubuntu to Linux newbies and Debian for the others (people who can handle the command-line).

Mar. 30th, 2007 09:32 am (UTC)
Very insightful summary
It was very interesting and refreshing to read an article from somebody pointing out problems with Ubuntu. The people using Ubuntu daily, as well as the Ubuntu developers clearly have it all wrong, and should be told so.
I am sure that articles like this will be of benefit to the Linux community as a whole.

A few things I didn't understand:
"they have forked Debian, and created an improved but incompatible version." Arent't you allowed to do this, Debian being open source and all? Have you tried looking into the reasons why Mark Shuttleworth based Ubuntu on a fork?

They have a proprietary web-based translation tool. I also think this is a bad idea, but it will be open sourced eventually like Java. By the way, do you know the reasons why they don't use bugzilla etc. Please tell me.

"No one can deny Mandriva has bugs, but they have a public bug-tracker, and they fix these bugs".
As opposed to Ubuntu, where bugs aren't fixed?

I think like you that every distribution has its own merits, but I cannot see why this leads to the conclusion "don't be "Ubuntu".

Thanks for your comments in advance,
Mar. 30th, 2007 10:09 am (UTC)
Re: Very insightful summary
Ha Ha Ha, Well said :)
Mar. 30th, 2007 10:25 am (UTC)
Ubuntu is also missing something else - the 64bit world. In somewhat unorthodox decision they have set the following convention: /lib32 & /lib64 are real directories containing the shared objects you would expect them to contain.
Yet, /lib is a symlink for /lib64, which makes installing "backward" packages from the 32bit distro impossible. This is in contradiction to what RedHat & SuSE had done.
I expect that when the 64bit OS world will gain more installation base, this will stand against them. It just makes the user life much more difficult.

- Noam Meltzer
Apr. 1st, 2007 09:40 am (UTC)
Just a note
Well, just a note:

1. When I said that some things are "so and so" in Mandriva or wherever, I didn't mean they weren't present in Ubuntu. What I meant was that they were perfectly fine in Mandriva despite what people may say.

2. Mandriva started as a rebranded RedHat with KDE and some other minor improvements. You can say it was later forked. However, Mandriva is still compatible with RedHat to a large extent, and many RedHat RPMs will work on Mandriva and vice versa. I don't know why Fedora, Mandriva, etc. don't cooperate more on writing the system configuration applets, but I guess it's only a small part of the work as well.

3. Ubuntu is relatively fine technologically. I was mostly focusing on its philosophy, strategy, public image, etc.
Apr. 1st, 2007 09:47 am (UTC)
Cannot agree more
You put my thoughts on paper (or more precisely, on a blog-paper :) ).
Ubuntu started as a nice young and fresh brother of Debian, trying to overcome some problems that Debian as a sole community-based distribution cannot solve.
But it seems as the years passed, Ubuntu got in the wrong direction, since it tries to deny its older brother. Nothing is wrong with forking, but that wasn't the idea of Ubuntu, and it may very soon lead to its shutdown..
Jun. 6th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
You article implies that Mandriva is a fork of debian. This is wrong as Mandriva has always been RPM based.
Jun. 6th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
No, it doesn't.

My post certainly does not imply that. While Ubuntu is a fork of Debian, I know perfectly well that Mandriva was originally based on an old version of Red Hat Linux, and is RPM-based. What I did say was that Mandriva is a viable alternative to Ubuntu Linux.

Jun. 6th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
Re: No, it doesn't.
oops, totally mis-read. re-reading the sentence now and it hit me that MY brain needs fixage.

sorry for the noise.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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