My take on a Unity review

The real takeaway here is this:

What really puzzles me is that Canonical isn’t building on Ubuntu’s best feature: the ability to basically create your own OS…In my heart of hearts, I always hoped that Canonical would take this idea – this sense of freedom – and make it central to Ubuntu. Imagine being able to visit the Canonical website and tailor your own OS: so the first screen would ask whether you used your machine for web browsing or photo and video editing, or office work perhaps, with a separate option to discover what kind of machine you used. This information would be used to decide what software should be automatically installed.

From what I’ve read recently, this is something one could do starting with an Arch installer. The idea of putting the process onto a website and providing a downloadable DVD image of a custom installer at the other end is very attractive. Would require much more programming than I’ve got, but it’s a brilliant idea.



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6 responses to “My take on a Unity review

  1. Meh. I’m afraid I could not disagree more.

    I though the whole point of Ubuntu was to make Linux accessible to ‘human beings’. Complete freedom begets complexity and that in turn becomes a barrier to entry.

    Customizing your Linux build has always been possible (e.g., just look at how many window managers are out there. Take your pick and customize the hell out of your Ubuntu installation. Be my guest.

    Canonical is making Linux accessible by providing defaults. Raging about how that limits freedom is simply stupid and plain wrong.

    I personally love the new Unity interface. Simple and effective. Pretty and performant. Sleek and sexy.

    • I look forward to checking out linuxfromscratch. I don’t entirely agree with the review either (and haven’t yet tried Unity – using Ubuntu 10.10 and #! 10 mostly). I was intrigued by the reviewer’s suggestion of a site where one could design their own OS and come away with a personalized installer. I’m not sure the reviewer (whose name I can’t find) is claiming that Unity limits freedom, per se, but it doesn’t build on the freedom that seemed to be promised in earlier versions.

      The barrier to entry you describe is a big issue – the folks I’ve been listening to lately on Linux podcasts extol the virtues of having access to the code and being able to get your hands dirty with it. But for most users and potential converts to Linux, that just makes the computer less accessible. My hat is off to Canonical (and LinuxMint and quite a few other modern distros) for making an OS that for the most part just works.

    • Joe

      I realise that my title seemed to indicate that the link was to something I’d written. Sorry for any confusion.

  2. Customizing the installer is total nonsense. What if i change my needs later?
    I have to use other customization tools (apt-get). Duplicating functionality is a waste of resources.

    • I would suggest that there are certain users who have no fear of tools like apt-get and others who would welcome a system that meets their perceived needs out of the box. GUI and command-line software management tools would have their place even in my mythical custom installer distro.

  3. What I mean is 95% of the people out there have the same needs. Aside from personal preferences like GNOME vs. KDE or Firefox vs. Chromium. Only 5% would create a custom installer that was different from the one it exists now.
    If you want to be able to choose Chromium over Firefox in the installer, then you are overriding the distro’s quality evaluation. Which programs come by default is one of the things the distro makers do when they create a distro. How do you know the version that is packaged with the distro you have not yet used is working fine?
    Other customization people do is install programs that don’t fit in the CD, but again, those are not what most people (non technical) use. Software centre is quite good at helping you do that customization in any case.
    And also, once you install Ubuntu and customize it, you can upgrade without losing your customizations every 6 months. That is the recommended upgrade path and it works. I have dist-upgraded Ubuntu since 2007 in 3 different computers and seen people do that on many others. I have only seen minor issues easily fixed. So you don’t need to install ubuntu from CD more than once in the life of a certain computer.

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