Wandering Thoughts archives


My personal view of Fedora versus Ubuntu on the desktop

It all started with a series of tweets (1, 2) where I wound up saying:

I have a lot of history with [Fedora on my desktop] and it still seems to be the best of a bad lot of choices. Ubuntu makes me even more unhappy.

This made me really think about what I felt about Ubuntu and Fedora. The following are my own views about my personal usage and I don't expect anyone else to agree with them. They are also more than a little bit inflammatory, but I don't feel like lying about my views.

I run Fedora on my desktop and am unlikely to ever run Ubuntu for several major reasons:

  • Having worked with both, I feel that RPMs are a better packaging format in practice than Debian .debs for both source and binary packages. (Yes, I care about this a fair bit.)

  • Ubuntu is not meaningfully a community distribution. Regardless of the official stance, it is really Canonical's distribution (Canonical's attempts to fool people about this leave a bad taste in my mouth, but that's a side issue).
  • I don't believe in the direction that Canonical is taking Ubuntu's user interface and design. I don't believe that it's possible to have a single interface that is good for tablets, phones, and regular desktops with keyboards and mice and (multiple) monitors, and Canonical is clearly focusing on tablets and phones, not desktop computers.

I've said plenty of bad things about Gnome 3 in Fedora and the direction the Gnome standard desktop is going, but at least the current Gnome philosophy is not the official viewpoint of the distribution and there are plenty of real alternatives (I'm running one on my laptop). Unity is the official 'this is the way it is going to be' interface of Canonical. Everything else is at best a second class citizen.

Oh, Canonical may not admit that or say it outright but come on, everyone knows what the score is. Canonical doesn't give a rat's rear end for anything except Canonical's priorities. This handily brings me to a final issue:

  • I no longer trust Canonical itself to have any real care for my interests or the interests of open source and Linux in general. What made this crystal clear to me was Canonical deciding to ship user desktop searches off to Amazon for affiliate revenue and never mind any of the many, many problems with this.

(I'm aware that I'm late to the party on this one.)

If Fedora screws something up, I have confidence that it is going to be inadvertent and that there are real people there who care. Canonical? No. If I put Ubuntu on my desktop I'd be just as much at the mercy of an uncaring corporation as if I used OS X or Windows. And that corporation has demonstrated that its priorities and interests are very divergent from mine.

So the short version: Canonical is going to do whatever it feels like, it's going to periodically do bad things to me, and it's not even going to produce a desktop that I like. And there is no chance that Canonical is going to listen to me, either individually or en masse. Canonical has a goal and I am just a bystander (since I use a desktop machine, an unimportant one).

(We continue to use Ubuntu for servers on an LTS release to LTS release basis. It remains the best Linux server distribution I know of for our purposes, which require a blend of long support, reasonably frequent releases with current packages on release, and a wide package selection.)

Sidebar: smaller reasons

  • Fedora is better than Debian at moving forward. Sometimes this is not a great thing and I've heard rumbles that Fedora is slipping, but on the whole I like the results.

  • relatedly, I think that Fedora is generally making good technical choices when it moves forward. Debian has visibly fumbled several important issues that Fedora has gotten right (cf).

  • Ubuntu is worse than Debian at making good technical choices, as hard as that is to believe. Especially, Canonical seems to have a terrible case of Not Invented Here syndrome, which is deadly in the open source Linux world. Exhibit one of this for me is their grim insistence on sticking with upstart for their init system.

  • I don't think that Canonical is really committed to open source in their heart. Instead open source is a strategic choice for them, one I expect them to abandon when and where it is convenient. I can't imagine Fedora or Debian doing this; both are really committed to the spirit of open source, not just its legalities.

Debian people will be unhappy with me for saying this, but in general I've wound up feeling that Fedora gets stuff done and Debian doesn't. And yes, I've heard rumbles that Fedora has its share of real internal problems and things are more precarious and problematic than they look from the outside.

(I compare Fedora to Debian since Ubuntu inherits a significant number of things from Debian. Or at least I perceive it as doing so.)

(See also.)

linux/FedoraVsUbuntuDesktopView written at 01:12:20; Add Comment

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