Over the past few weeks prior to the Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron” release, I was skeptical about Ubuntu fully endorsing and officially supporting Wubi in Ubuntu 8.04. Previously, Ubuntu 7.04 and 7.10 included Wubi, but unofficially. I’ve tested Wubi on a few different computers, and have had varied results. It works sometimes, other times it fails completely. I’ve heard the same stories over and over from multiple Linux users that Wubi either works or doesn’t work at all. The inconsistency of Wubi is what worries me.
Wubi is supposed to be a way for potentially new Linux users to try out Ubuntu without needing to partition a drive, or know anything technical at all, right from the Windows desktop. A few clicks, and magically, Ubuntu is installed. However, it’s proven not to be the case for a lot of users.
Originally, I thought Wubi becoming “official” would be great for Ubuntu, and the Linux Desktop in general. If users can easily install a Linux distribution that “just works”, then the Linux desktop is on the right track to becoming a much more mainstream operating system. Wubi is an awesome project, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for users being able to install a Linux distribution without having to bother with partition information, right from their Windows desktop. Among the many advantages, Wubi helps pull in a new crowd of potential computer users that just may make the switch from Windows to Linux if they see how easy it can be. However, if these potential users are installing Ubuntu with Wubi and getting errors, how does that make Linux look? Bad. Buggy. “Linux doesn’t work!”. Right?
I’m amazed that Ubuntu has provided Wubi in the Long Term Release with such an inconsistent success rate. Each new user that tries out installing Ubuntu with Wubi faces the chance of Wubi failing. It makes Ubuntu, and Linux in general look bad. Heck, even Mark Shuttleworth himself called out for users to test Wubi before the actual release of Hardy Heron so that developers could fix any last minute issues. Obviously everything wasn’t fixed. A quick glance at the Ubuntu Wiki for Wubi, shows over twenty known issues. From boot problems, to crashes, to random error messages. It’s just not ready to be supported officially.