Has Ubuntu lost it's relevance – Why does it suck so much !

Ubuntu has long been the darling of the media, or at least the small number of people who actually cover Linux and related technologies. And I haven’t read anything but good things about it … until recently. Has Ubuntu lost it’s charm as the “Linux for human beings” ? Are there other contenders for the human linux title now ?

A small but growing number of users are being vocal about the fact that even after more than 5 years in the market, Ubuntu has still not been able to fulfill their promise of a Linux system which normal human beings can use.

I’ve been an Ubuntu user since the last 3 years and have actually been quite happy with it. Except for small annoyances, Ubuntu had been serving me well … until recently. Because of all the problems I’d been having with it, I removed Ubuntu 8.04 from my notebook last week and have now moved back to Debian, which I used to use before I got into Ubuntu. I have to say this. The latest version of Ubuntu just plain sucks ! I’ll repeat it again. Ubuntu 8.04 sucks. And no I’m not going to upgrade to Ubuntu 8.10, 9.04, 9.10 LTS or whatever it is that they decide to name it next.

I’m not off Linux and I’m certainly not getting on to Windows. I’m off any distribution which makes me relearn everything that I’ve learnt in the last 9 years. I’m against Ubuntu because it doesn’t help me configure my graphics cards any better, and instead makes me search for well known configuration files by wandering around obscure directories because the file locations have been changed in the name of evolution.

I’m off Ubuntu because I don’t want to configure the wifi card (which was anyway a pain to configure in the first place … but that crib’s for another day) again just because I decided to update my operating system. Which is what happens to me each and everytime a major upgrade comes through … which, for Ubuntu, is almost every week.

The updates, btw, include kernel upgrades, which force me to reboot. In the two months that I had Ubuntu 8.04 for, I already had about 5 kernel upgrades in my grub.conf. I mean, seriously, if 8.04 wasn’t ready, why did they have to release it !

I don’t even understand who are they trying to compete with. Microsoft, updates their flagship operating system once in like 5 years. Apple does it once in a maximum of two years. And Ubuntu … every 6 months.

Now, to be fair, I’ve been a Linux user for the last 9 years and have been hand editing configuration files all along and have no problems with it. But, my mom can’t edit configuration files. And when a distribution claims what Ubuntu claims, I expect it to be good. And that makes me crib.

Infact, the next time a friend comes along asking me about Ubuntu, I’ll tell him to install Debian instead. Sure, it’ll take a while to configure but atleast it won’t be a hassle to maintain after that. A Debian server that I installed 6 years ago is still running along with the latest updates. Sure, it has been rebooted a couple of times but atleast I haven’t had a hardware fail on me because the latest update decided to not include the particular driver.

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Update: Iam Murdock wrote two blog posts on similar lines and those pretty much summarise my reasons for leaving Ubuntu. I welcome your comments on my thoughts but please understand that this is a personal decision. If you guys are happy with what Canonical and Ubuntu are doing, all power to you. If not, switch. You have the freedom to make your choice.

Join the Conversation


  1. Huuuh, the writer of the above article is really bad about some realistic points:
    Upgrading the operating system will
    – 1. breaks major system components (network/wifi))
    – 2. not offer expected options (configure graphic card)

    O.K. Lets calm down a little bit. I think there are some major faults thinking about upgrading. But I also will show possible solutions:

    First: Upgrading an operating system may ALWAYS break your system in certain parts (heard about trouble with a certain “service pack 2”?). The complexity of modern operating systems and hardware configurations make this a system immanent fact.

    SOLUTION: All linux distribution flavors I know and used (mainly debian, ubuntu, (open)suse, redhat & fedora) are in the time of their release not ready for everybodies (hardwares) use! This is a fact that never will change due to the complex nature of our hardware and software landscape and the linux kernel development process. And this will NEVER change.
    1. The only thing you can do is invest into a manufactor that will do the necessary quality assurance tests for you and give you the according gurantees. Even then it is not assured, that you will get upgradable (!) systems, most manufacturers – like Dell – only assure this for ONE distribution flavour! There are others: e.g. emperorlinux.com that offer other options, e.g. kernel upgrades.
    2. Every distribution allows to do shrinking of partions or at least have a live distribution version of your system. Due to the fact, that upgrading can be a mess, this is what you have to use and do having a complete checklist of your troublesome hardware. Sorry, but if you change major system components (like kernel), you are on your own doing the necessary testing BEFORE upgrading (and doing a backup).
    3. Waiting – at least – half a year before doing a major (release upgrade) of a distribution is always a wise decision for less experienced users.
    4. Buy a mac.

    SECOND: The development process of open source software is always OPEN to their users. Due to the fact of the rapidness of development it is not always possible to integrate everything that’s probably on the way. And there are traditional differences between the distributions and their way of defining “user friendliness”.
    SOLUTION: 1. Don’t be to much in a hurry for new features. In most cases they are not necessary, and in the rare cases they really are, learning the very easy-peasy debian/ubuntu way of compiling packages from sources (you can use the sources from upcoming debian/ubuntu versions). So partially updating a running system is more often wiser, than doing a complete upgrade.
    2. Probably keeping your old kernel might solve a lot lot of problems.
    3. Sometimes there is already a solution out there in the wide universe of debian packages, but you did not already found it.
    4. Engage yourself in bug writing and proposals for the next versions.

    So guy, that’s what I had to say about the linux way of life. But I think you already knew that before and I appreciate your article, but if all people that are participate the linux development would “be off” as fast as you from their favourite distribution – believe me – they would not exist any more 😉

    Greets Axel

  2. Look…Ubuntu is full of hype. It’s a heavy handed distro that lacks any sort of ability outside hacking files and console CLI hacks to let the user customize and setup his distro. How is this ever going to be THE DISTRO for the common user? If the scripts it uses gets it right, everything is fine. However, if not, the user has a lot of work to do.

    I use PCLinuxOS for many reasons. First, it has a modified version of the Mandriva Control Center that gives this power into the hands of the common user. Second, it’s a “rolling release” distro that doesn’t give you headaches when you upgrade. Third, like all Debian based distros (PCLinuxOS is an RPM distro) it uses Apt and Synpatic. Lastly, it simplifies everything. No multiple repos with all these cryptic “universe”, “multiverse”, and whatever else sections. One repo is all you need and there are just a couple of simple sections like “main”, “extra”, “nonfree”, & “KDE”, It’s a winning combination, without all the headaches and hype Ubuntu gives you and unlike Ubuntu…it’s stable!

  3. I agree with everything Linuxlover wrote. I would just like to make one correction to something he wrote.
    Pclinux is Mandriva based not Debian based.

  4. @Axel: I agree with most of what you’ve said and I do try and participate in the open source process whenever I can by filing bugs, writing docs/tutorials on my blog and generally helping people. I can’t code as well as I used to in my time 😉 otherwise I’d have helped there too. My problem is that Ubuntu, in my opinion, has just gone way off their goal of providing a try free linux. The distribution is unstable, filled to the brim with binary non-free blobs and actually encourages the user to install them and is just too different from the other distributions (in the name of evolution) that it just doesn’t feel right any longer.

    I can’t even use *most* debian packages with Ubuntu because of the fact that they have diverged from their parent distro so much.

    I’m sorry if you didn’t like my line of thought, but Ubuntu just doesn’t make the cut for me anymore.

  5. I also run Debian in addition to Sidux, Ubuntu, Mint and so on..

    Debian for sure is a lot more stable, esp the stable branch. Lenny is looking very good at this point.

    However I am sure you would have a lot less kernels coming if you did not include backports and proposed, double check that you have not enabled those repos, as that would cause a lot more kernels and other updates.

    I do however agree that 8.04, esp. pulseaudio was a buggy alpha sw that should not have made it into a LTS release.

    Good Luck

  6. @habtool: Totally agree. Debian Lenny is definitely looking slick right now and very stable. And yes, Ubuntu’s problems have stemmed from the 8.04 release, mostly. I was frustrated with them earlier also but 8.04 totally killed it for me.

  7. While I will concede the include of PulseAudio and Firefox b3 in 8.04 were not the swiftest of choices, I’d say it’s a long way from “sucking”. I see a lot of problems with some of the statements and “logic” in your article:

    “I’m off any distribution which makes me relearn everything that I’ve learnt in the last 9 years.”
    — where configuration, file structure, etc… are concerned, Ubuntu is not fundamentally different from other Debian setups. Provide examples please if you’re going to make such statements.

    “makes me search for well known configuration files by wandering around obscure directories because the file locations have been changed in the name of evolution.”
    — which files, exactly? And perhaps you’d like to familiarize yourself with the “locate” command?

    “I’m off Ubuntu because I don’t want to configure the wifi card…just because I decided to update my operating system…which, for Ubuntu, is almost every week.”
    — PITA Wi-Fi setup in Linux is not exactly exclusive to Ubuntu in case you haven’t heard. Any you do know that you’re not obligated to check for upgrades on a daily/weekly basis, right? (or at all for that matter)

    “I don’t even understand who are they trying to compete with. Microsoft, updates their flagship operating system once in like 5 years. Apple does it once in a maximum of two years. And Ubuntu … every 6 months.”
    — Umm.. Windows and Mac O/S upgrades are a little different, they’re more like sweeping O/S-wide changes to generate more sales. Linux upgrades are evolutionary and Ubuntu strives to put in new features to make using Linux easier for the lay-person… You’re complaining they do this every six months? It’s not like anything is generally drastically changed…

    “But, my mom can’t edit configuration files.”
    — Who says she had to? What are you editing configuration files for – the wireless I assume? I’m beginning to think this whole rant is because your wireless broke…

    I for one like having a system that evolves, and as far as Ubuntu “maintenance”, there is none. As a geek, I like seeing the new features the 6 month updates offer me, and as a user and Linux fan, enjoy seeing the strides made towards improving the desktop experience and minimizing the hassle for everyday users.

  8. I haven’t actually used Ubuntu 8.04 myself (I stick with a different distro) but I’m willing to believe everything you just said.

    However, I don’t think that means it’s the end for Ubuntu. It just means either switching distros or sticking with an older release for 6 months, and hoping the next version will be an improvement.

    Ubuntu isn’t the first distro to have a release which was a complete let down (one of the versions of Suse I tried was almost unusable, where as some before and after that have been great for example), and it no doubt wont be the last. Hopefully the next version will be back on track, and if not, there are plenty of other options available.

  9. I use Ubuntu on my desktop computer and eeePC with no problems, ever and I have used 8.04 since alpha. I say stop your whining and use whatever you want to, just don’t rag on about other distros supposed faults. Instead use what works for you and build a following by being positive.

    It reflects poorly on Linux at large when people cause friction by cutting up competing distros to the one they favor. Nobody is forcing anyone to use Ubuntu or any other distro. Thankfully we have choice. Obviously your viewpoint is the minority viewpoint since Ubuntu is the most widely used. It must have quite a few happy users.

    If you like PCLinuxOS or Debian that is great. Brag up their merits up, but stay positive. You sound like a bunch of whiny losers instead of winners. I am currently of the opinion that PCLOS is a great distro but their users are the most annoying people in the Linux community because they have nothing worth hearing about any other distro.

    I have used hundreds of distros and currently run at least six on various computers,including Debian and PCLOS. I prefer Ubuntu for many reasons but that doesn’t cause me to go off on a rant about why the others aren’t my main distro. I recommend PLOS to newbies because it is dependable, has restricted drivers and codecs by default and it has KDE. RPM is its deficiency IMO, but Synaptic is a good choice for package manager. It does not offer all of the programs that I want and use in its repositories and dependency problems do not turn me on, so I stay away from going outside PCLOS’ repositories. Similarly, I recommend Debian, particularly MEPIS because it has all the advantages of PCLOS but uses DEBs.

    I may not always use Ubuntu, but when I jump ship I won’t cry about ut and rain on everyone else’s parade.

    You should be ashamed of yourselves. You give Linux a bad name and are poor representatives of the community which is known for its friendliness and helpfulness.


  10. For the record, Sharninder, I did state the PCLinuxOS was RPM based. I only pointed out that just like Debian based distros, PCLinuxOS uses Synaptic, which is the one of the main reasons I use it. All other package installation schemes are slow and inferior, IMO.

    As far as RPM vs. Deb, there really isn’t much difference. People that claim RPM is a deficiency are those that have bad memories of using RPM in Red Hat or Suse or something else from years ago. RPM is the equivalent of dpkg. If you install a package via the dpkg command, you’ll get dependency errors. Install via Apt or Synaptic, those errors are mostly gone. I say mostly because even with Debian, Ubuntu, or any other Debian based distro using Apt and Synaptic, you can and will get dependency errors using those apps. Unlike other packaging managers like Yast, they’re far more polite about it, though. An RPM and a Deb package are not very different and the file format is irrelevant. It’s the package management software, in this case Apt, that solves the problem. Other RPM based distros have equally problem free package management, including Mandy’s URPMI and Fedora’s Yum. However, they’re glacial in speed compared to Apt and more complicated to setup.

    I say choice is good and it gives us competition so that Linux can always move forward. I outlined why I choose PCLinuxOS, but you use what you want, as long as it’s Linux or Unix.

  11. @Boo and others: I knew my rant would get a lot of criticism but I believe this was important for me to write. Ubuntu 8.04 made me switch to a different distribution and I think that was reason enough for me to crib.

    I still love Linux and continue to use it, I just don’t use the same distribution which, probably, you and other reading this use. I don’t understand how that is bad for Linux in any way. If Ubuntu works for you, use it. It didn’t work for me and so I switched. Isn’t that choice what Linux is all about ? Isn’t choice a part of the freedom open source offers ?

    And no, this isn’t only about my wifi. Infact, getting wifi to work with Ubuntu was probably the simplest.

    As you can see from the other comments, Ubuntu 8.04 has put off a lot of people and I think that needs to be fixed, hence the rant. And yes, I’ve filed bugs where I could.

    My brother also recently moved to Mint from Ubuntu and he didn’t even ask me before switching, and he’s not even a technically inclined person. That was the final straw for me and I had to pen down my thoughts on this.

  12. @Sharninder

    At any rate, you were none too specific about these supposed newly located configuration files and all the things you had to re-learn. And the invalidity of your other statements still stand. So in the end, it is just that – a rant.

    Where desktop distributions are concerned, I see no other distro making the great strides that Ubuntu has been doing lately, nor directing as much attention to the Linux community as Ubuntu does.

    What is “bad for Linux” is articles like this trashing one distribution without any solid reasons (or providing reasons that would be different in another distro) and providing a bad impression of the Linux desktop experience in general. Not that one small blog amounts to much in the scope of things.

  13. When you mentioned your mother I couldn’t resist posting this message

    I am part of the CentOS promotion team and we tell people that 99% of the people that use computers probably have to look into an Enterprise Linux distribution.

    Why ? Because 99% of the people do not need an new update every 6 months and an Enterprise Linux distribution is supported (and does not change) for 7 years. That means for 7 years you mainly get security updates and little to no application changes.

    And that is exactly what most people need. Unfortunately when I tell this at conferences, I am usually talking to the 1% of the people that are technical, fancy the latest applications and may be part of the Open Source development community.

    But those people are exactly the people I want to address. Those are the people that decide to put Linux on the computer of their mother or other family members that simply want to use the computer, not upgrade every 6 months and break new things.

    So while Enterprise Linux distributions often cost a lot of money, CentOS is an Enterprise Linux that is free and offers those advantages for free. You will not get the latest and greatest software, but for someone who simply needs to use the computer, for whom a computer is a means, not the goal, an Enterprise Linux like CentOS is sufficient.

  14. @Dag: That is an interesting thought and I’d tend to agree. Infact, I’m surprised why I don’t see free enterprise grade distributions being praised more for exactly this reason.

    On the flipside, we have already moved on the debian in my family and even though Debian doesn’t call itself enterprise grade, I have no reason to believe it isn’t so. The stable tree of Debian gets security updates only and the OS doesn’t stress the hardware too much. What more can a *normal* computer user want.

  15. I think your comments are a good incentive for future improvements of Ubuntu.
    Nevertheless, I am a common user, in my profession I use my laptop lake some guys drive their cars without knowing the details of how it works. I am using Ubuntu since 2006. Yes, I had my headaches with some problems with graphic card and wifi. It is not perfect but I have found solutions for each problem on my own in the Internet. More: since 2006 I have not needed to format the disk (in Windows I had to do it once or twice a year) and I had choose to make only one major upgrade, and just because I want to use a PCMCIA 3G communication card.
    I believe this is the path for the future of personal computing. Even if it still has allot of room for improvements.
    In a short term I will need to change my laptop. Not because is too slow for the actual system (like it is happening in Windows) but because it is really getting wear (lines on the display, CD/DVD drive not working properly after 15/30 minutes, battery costing near a new laptop.

    1. @Hugo: I agree with you. The idea about writing this post was basically to vent my frustration and also start a dialogue with like minded people. Too bad that too many people thought I’m against the concept of Ubuntu. No, I’m not. Infact, I still use and love Ubuntu for what it is.

      But, I stand by my comments and also believe that updating an entire distribution every 6 months is not the best way. 6 months is too short a time to implement all of the ideas in Mark’s vision and bugs are bound to creep in.

  16. This has not been my experience. My experience has been positive. In fact I am an IT guy that works for a small company and I Convinced my boss and coworkers we should give ubuntu a shot. We use it on servers and workstations. Ubuntu has afforded our company some low cost, low headache solutions to lots of problems. No licensing headaches. No virus worries. Cron automation of our backup system using rsync and SSH. And a learning curve much kinder than than any other flavor of linux. I have no complaints.

    1. Good that Ubuntu works for you.

      I have no problems with Ubuntu and the most of the people commenting on this post have misunderstood me. What I have tried saying is that Ubuntu does not work for me and *I think* that it sucks and I’ve mentioned the reasons why I think so.

      I’d be really happy if Ubuntu succeeds and would even be willing to work with them to solve the issues that I’ve been facing. Anything for a better linux world.

  17. I gave up on ubuntu after it mysteriously stopped recognising or finding drivers for my WiFi card and refused to install them even from the Terminal… The first time I installed it, everything worked out of the box just great. Second time… I don’t know what the hell happened but even the Software center wouldn’t work properly!

    I’ve tried installing again several times but I can’t seem to get past this half-baked half-working version that’s installing compared to my previous set-up -_-

  18. The reason im reading this is because I wondered what was wrong. Im not an idiot who can’t use a pc. Thank you for the heads up.. ubuntu really does suck.. I am advising anyone: just don’t waste your time. Peice of crap 10.4 just sucks…. get it? Don’t work! Duh.

  19. Late addition to this post, Ubuntu now up to 11.10, is still blowing chunks. i am not new to computers, but not fluent in linux per se. i replaced my wifi card so it could config, then spent 4 days trying to get BASIC nvidia drivers installed. This has been hella lame. i can’t believe it doesn’t work. hundreds of redundant forum pages still don’t leak the right answer, and even if they did that doesn’t make any sense, how hard should one have to try to get their fundamental hardware running properly? how many different programs and command lines and tweaks should it take? (answer: none for starters), Hate to say it Windows 7 is a dream next to this, even xp beats it hands down.

    There is no clear documentation (or path) for what needs to be done from the source, so screw em. Though I have figured out what needs to be done to some things, it was very much on my own and the community was useless, and i am still not satiated in the least. Ubuntu has totally put me off linux platform yet again, after having endured red hat of yesteryears i would preffer that to this new incarnation of hell on earth. ubuntu i did try ya, would not even buy ya… (even for free)

    ubuntu is only a bargain if you think your time is worth nothing.

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