11.07.09

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Ubuntu 9.10 Works Well (and So Does the Microsoft Propaganda Machine)

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Mandriva, Marketing, Microsoft, Ubuntu at 8:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’d put the Linux phenomenon really as threat No. 1.”

Steve Ballmer, 2001

Summary: Response to over-inflated complaints and FUD about Ubuntu 9.10, which seem to have begun with known Microsoft boosters

THE launch of Vista 7 was not a success. Even Microsoft's CEO knows it. So what would a company like Microsoft naturally do? Well, its ecosystem of Internet trolls/AstroTurfers has been attacking Ubuntu 9.10 for several weeks now, both in Web sites and in Internet forums.

One might jokingly suggest that Microsoft is applying in reverse the same “hype machine” it used for Vista 7, this time aiming it against the #1 rival of Microsoft, namely GNU/Linux (even on the desktop). Inevitably — however belated it is — Microsoft listed Ubuntu as a “risk” in its last SEC filing (Microsoft must do so, as shareholders can otherwise sue).

My most recent install of GNU/Linux was one of Ubuntu 9.10*. I tested it 2 months before the release and reported some bugs that I found (mostly minor, no show-stoppers). It has worked almost flawlessly for me since alpha (with KDE), meaning that all the hardware worked out of the box and hitherto there have been no substantial technical issues. People whom I speak to report similarly-positive experiences.

A couple of days ago we linked to the following post, which says:

The Myth of the Bad Ubuntu Release

[...]

OK, so there’s something that always disturbs me when release time comes around. Here’s a rough chronology of every Ubuntu release (at least since I’ve been involved, so that goes back to Breezy Badger) and what the “buzz” around the internet says:

1. Alphas come out: buzz says, “not much to see here folks, move along.”
2. Beta comes out: buzz says, “wow, great release, but where’s the new artwork?” and I’m thinking “How on earth can the pull this off?”
3. RC rolls around: buzz says, “new awesomeness right around the corner!” and I’m thinking “darn it, there’s a lot more to do.”
4. Release day: buzz says, “OMG I have to download this” and I’m thinking “phew, that’s over, I’m glad I rsync’d/zsync’d yesterday”
5. The week after a release: buzz says, “Noooooo, this is the worst Ubuntu release EVER!” and I’m thinking “wow, they really did pull it off”
6. Rinse and Repeat

[...]

So my conclusion, for what it’s worth, is that while some Ubuntu releases are a bit better than others, this periodic buzz around the internet that the latest Ubuntu release is an epic FAIL is a self-perpetuating myth, mostly caused by people needing something to complain or write about.

Another post from the same day correctly says that “No distro is perfect. Exaggerated reports or isolated cases will not be very helpful either in assessing these things.”

“What happens with 9.10 is not much different than usual, but the reaction is biased and exaggerated.”What the above group of posts is about are reports which label Ubuntu 9.10 a failure. A lot of people who claim such an issue (without testing for themselves) are linking to Microsoft booster Gavin Clarke, who was probably one of the first to attack Ubuntu 9.10 (in The Register). Too many people are taking his words blindly and then parroting them; it’s like an echo chamber.

Canonical has just responded in its blog, also naming Gavin Clark [sic] as one of the culprits. What happens with 9.10 is not much different than usual, but the reaction is biased and exaggerated.

The much misunderstood Ubuntu 9.10 upgrade poll

[...]

I upgraded to 9.10 a while ago. Flawlessly. So I saw little need to go tell a forum. This is where people go when they have problems. Gavin and Serdar were shocked to find people with support issues on a support forum. I have no doubt the help line at Microsoft has taken a lot of calls recently, but I would not extrapolate from that a large percentage of Windows users are having upgrade problems.

Tellingly and almost the last word on this are the polls from our previous releases, none of which were considered or reported as upgrade disasters:

Jaunty Poll

Intrepid Poll

Hardy Poll

Gutsy Poll

A very useful summary of these findings by Nicholas Ipsen is here. I am linking to these polls not because I want to provide evidence that the Karmic upgrade experience is or was good or bad, there are other more qualified to comment on that, but that there is nothing new here.

Canonical’s Jono Bacon also wrote about this subject, apparently trying not to alienate people who did genuinely have problems (all users of all operating systems encounter issues sometimes, even though these issues do not get amplified equally).

In the interests of keeping things in perspective, I just wanted to remind us all of some of the things going on in the background that I think are worth remembering. Take these for what they are, but I think they go a long way in helping to understand the picture before us.

The “picture before us” was absolutely fine for about a week (even after the release), just before Clarke and other known FUDMeisters took it upon themselves to link and quote very selectively, thus seeding material for opponents of Ubuntu. By the way, Ubuntu has opponents even inside GNU/Linux.
_____
* I still recommend Mandriva for new users, but at the time of my most recent install it didn’t have KDE 4.3.1 in a mature enough form.

KDE 4 in 2009
My Kubuntu 9.10 desktop; Click for full-sized image (4.4 MB)

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3 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    November 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, uh, yeah.

    FWIW, there’s one real area where Ubuntu (and every distro) is going to have problems, and that’s running newer versions of Xorg on ancient chips. There’s a lot of ancient code falling off the edge as the Xorg developers desperately try to drag X into the 21st century, meaning (a) old chipsets break (b) the people with those chipsets don’t find out until their distro uses that version of the Xorg Xserver, maybe a year later (c) there’s about no-one who can actually fix it. This is less than ideal …

    That said, there’s an Ubuntu PPA for Xorg daily builds, so you can catch breakage to your favourite chipset! https://launchpad.net/~xorg-edgers “We don’t need to know what we’re doing, except that we will break our X and put our computers on fire.”

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    A common problem area seems to be the screen resolution detection that was introduced with the xorg.conf file going away. For example, one of my old laptops from 2001 with a ALi/Trident CyberALADDIN-T chipset with integrated graphics with a native resolution of 1024×768 can’t seem to go beyond 800×600 with the automatic detection.

    David Gerard Reply:

    Yeah, I have the same sort of thing with a Toshiba Satellite 6050 with a Trident S3 chip. If you set up an xorg.conf it’s fine, so it can be worked around at least.

    Thankfully that sort of thing is fixable – it’s not the problem I mean, where the driver has bitrotted and *just doesn’t work any more* – but it requires the person with the crusty old driver to be a coder.

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