Rich Freeman on 15 Dec 2011 08:50:12 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] I have had time to consider and may now comfortably hate Unity.

On Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 11:19 AM, Alex Launi <> wrote:
> You're using an older version of Unity. Neither of these are true in 11.10.
> We learned lesson that in 11.04.

I think part of the problem may be that it is highly experimental but
being made the default.  A better approach would be to make Unity an
optional desktop environment until it is mature.  Gentoo generally
uses this approach, though it might work better for us since our users
are probably a bit more likely to use non-default configurations in
the first place and give them more testing exposure (we ran two
different sysvinits for a year or two).  My sense is that most Ubuntu
users like to stick with the defaults, since up until recently they
"just worked."  However, if your distro is distinguished on having a
"just works" experience then it is even more important that it "just
works" or you've eliminated the main thing that distinguishes you from
any of the bazillion distros that offer cutting edge but with less

I think that this sort of issue would also be less of a problem if
Ubuntu were desktop-neutral.  Every distro I've ever run didn't
declare a preference for any particular DE (granted, the last one I
used before Gentoo was Mandrake - when they were still called that).
Offering more choices means that users don't have to like your default
choice to still find your distro useful.

I think the underlying issue is that we're departing from "the unix
way."  The unix way is to offer the user a bazzilion tools and let
them pipe them all together to do whatever they want.  The new
direction seems to be a lot more vertical integration, and it is very
hard to have that if your distro supports every DE under the sun,
combined with every sysvinit/x11/etc implementation.

Gentoo has been struggling with the same sorts of issues and generally
we get away with sticking with something closer to "the unix way" by
offering reasonable defaults and letting the user tweak away to their
heart's content.  That won't win us many users in the
afraid-of-config-files crowd, but it works.  Lots of people tweak the
defaults and use Gentoo as a bit of a meta-distro and that is another
way to handle it.  The individual pieces just follow upstream with
only a little bit of glue and a lot of howtos to tie it all together.
On Ubuntu you get suspend to disk after you run the installer and pick
all the default options.  On Gentoo you get suspend to disk after you
step through the 12 page install guide, then the kde/gnome guides, and
then the suspend to disk guide (hmm, maybe we should suggest putting
resume on the kernel line when users first install it - I imagine it
is harmless if it isn't set up).

> If you care about the success of Linux on the desktop Unity is your last and only hope.

I guess the issue is that while I care about the success of Linux on
the desktop, we won't get there by destroying what already works for
our users.  Linux desktop environments are already successful in my
view, and there are a few Gentoo-based consumer products out there
already (though they don't aim to be traditional desktops).  I think
we're better off letting the various desktop environment projects try
to work out the future of the desktop enviornment, and provide support
for all of them so that everybody can use what works best for them.
Standards for interoperability should of course be promoted.  I don't
see it as being important that every device that runs "Linux" have the
same UI - clearly that battle was lost a LONG time ago.

See my earlier post about gimp and how FOSS can end up catering to
niches.  Canonical may very well be doing the best thing for the
long-term success of Ubuntu, but they might have to give up some of
their existing userbase to do it.

All that said I wish you the best of luck - everybody benefits from
any of the desktop environment options improving, and perhaps one of
these days we'll see unity available as an option in Gentoo alongside
the other ~50 window managers we support (though it wouldn't be fair
to consider unity in the same class as twm).

Hmm,  that sounds like a neat PLUG talk - a tour of 50 different
window managers from matchbox to ratpoison.  :)

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