Theres always the question of whether a popular, mildly mainstream Linux distribution like Ubuntu serves the overall GNU/Linux community well. It’s my belief that there are two sides to the debate regarding Ubuntu; the Good, and the Bad. Some people have stated that Ubuntu is becoming the generic Linux distro, while others agree that Linux in the mainstream is great for the growth of Linux. With every widely used and increasingly popular entity comes both good and bad. Let’s go over a few of the good and bad points Ubuntu brings to the Linux community in general.
Ubuntu is good for the Linux community
There are a lot of great things that Canonical and Ubuntu have brought to the Linux desktop. Here are a few.
Easy, straightforward Installation
Theres no question that Ubuntu has redefined the Linux installation process as a whole. It used to take a lot more knowledge for someone to be able to successfully install Linux. Not only that, but once you had Linux installed, you most likely had one or two pieces of hardware that went unrecognized, forcing you to recompile the kernel, or search endlessly for a way to make it work. No doubt this used to turn people away from Linux. Now, an Ubuntu installation usually grabs everything and configures it correctly during the installation process allowing a painless Linux install.
Easy Setup and Configuration
Apart from the straightforward Ubuntu install is the fact that once the installation is complete, you’re placed at the Gnome desktop and most likely ready to do whatever you want. Painless X.org configuration, easy installation of additional packages, even warnings if your device drivers are not open source. Ubuntu has done a lot of good for the configuration and initial setup of the desktop.
Easy Migration from Windows to Linux
Ubuntu has always attempted to make a migration from Windows to Ubuntu Linux as seamless and easy as possible. Now, with the upcoming release of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron, Windows users will be able to install Ubuntu in a dual-boot like mode right from the Windows desktop using Wubi and umenu. It’s obvious that Ubuntu has a goal of getting users away from Windows and onto the Ubuntu Linux desktop.
Allowing for Mainstream Acceptance
With the Dell announcement in May 2007, and Sun hardware certified and supported on Ubuntu, Canonical is definitely opening the Linux desktop and server environments to a wider audience with Ubuntu. However, it’s not only in a business sense that Ubuntu has opened doors for a wider mainstream acceptance. Ubuntu is also leading the way for Linux becoming more mainstream with computer users in general. Ubuntu has been ranked #1 on Distrowatch for quiet a long time, and it’s no question most new comers to Linux are being recommended to install Ubuntu first.
Ubuntu is bad for the Linux community
Now for a few bad things Ubuntu may be doing to harm the Linux community and reputation.
What is the Command Line Interface?
There are so many Ubuntu users out there that have no clue how operate on the Linux command line. Ubuntu has done well in making their distribution a user friendly, point and click environment. However, as a long time Linux user who started out on the command line, I strongly believe that every Linux user should be able to operate on the CLI if need be, without the use of a GUI application that does everything for you.
Ubuntu *IS* Linux
Adrian Kingsly says it best here. He believes that an increasing number of Linux newbies seem to think that Ubuntu is Linux and Linux is Ubuntu.
What about the Future of Linux?
Now, this may be a bit far-fetched but let’s be hypothetical for a moment. Let’s say Ubuntu becomes *the* Linux distribution. Everyone becomes accustomed to the point and click mentality of Linux, and general audiences (mom, dad, grandmother, sister, neighbor) in middle of main stream America use Ubuntu Linux. Where will Linux go? The whole original idea behind open source and Linux is that we as a community are the ones who are responsible for building onto the project as a whole. If every child, parent, and grandchild ran Linux without the technological knowledge most Linux users today have, would Linux still grow at a decent pace? Who will be our future programmers and kernel hackers if nobody is even introduced to the command line, let alone a programming language? Ubuntu allows users to become ignorant of the technical side of Linux.
I can see both sides
In general, I’m not on either side of thinking Ubuntu is good or bad for Linux as a whole. I can see both sides. I use Ubuntu on my work desktop and laptop and I love the ease of use Ubuntu brings to the desktop. However, I’ve also been waist-deep in command line mess well before Ubuntu was spawned from Debian, so I feel I have a greater appreciation for the ease of Ubuntu administration, configuration and maintenance. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ubuntu Linux rocket to the top of the desktop Operating System chart. I just don’t want Ubuntu to overshadow the roots and original philosophy of GNU/Linux.
Can you think of any other good and bad points of Ubuntu?
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