Thursday, November 05, 2009

If Ubuntu 9.10 Tarnishes Linux's image, community needs to fix it.

So it sounds like Ubuntu is getting a bad rap with its latest release, 9.10 Karmic Koala. This isn't good right now because while Linux was making gains as Vista was failing and products like Netbooks, which Vista did not work on, were growing today the market has switched around. While Linux made some modest gains, this reversal of fortune could end up un-doing those gains and make it harder to pull people back since now its a fresh memory of the issues and not some long standing ones from when Linux was only a command-line operating system.

Windows 7 is still getting good reviews overall with the most significant piece being that it is stable, and "just works" for the most part. Considering this was one of the biggest issues with Vista and something people have gotten used to with Windows XP, it sounds like Microsoft has finally gotten something right for the time being. Of course there are issues, but the one beneift of it coming after Vista's marketing and technical difficulties is that the bar Windows 7 has to overcome is so much lower than it was after Windows XP.

Linux, on the other hand, still has to reach up to that bar and has been doing a very admirable effort in reaching that bar! I think Linux has reached heights only dreamt of in years past and still has momentum and opportunities so long as they, and the users, don't dwell on issues that have come up.

One good piece of news is that Ubuntu is just the first distribution to be releasing a new version. Mandriva has just released 2010 today, in one week openSUSE releases 11.2 and just under 2 weeks from now Fedora will release 12. So from a technical perspective Linux has 3 opportunities to "fix" its image with rock-solid and secure releases. I think Fedora can probably bring the most to help this image.

Fedora is long thought of as an unstable, bleeding -edge type distribution and testbed for a major North American Linux Vendor (yeah, Red Hat.. I just like the mysterious "major North American Linux Vendor" since I saw it on the CentOS website), so if Fedora can come out with a stable, up-to-date release it would mean more than if a distribution with a standard stability reputation comes out and says they are stable.

So what can the community do about this? Actually the community can a vital part in maintaining and/or helping Linux's image.

The process people will go through will be the same. Newer users will have questions and go to the forums for answers. The key, though, is that the community needs to be patient, upbeat and helpful to give people a reason to stick with it. A user will be much more interested in sticking with it if they see that they can still get help, that people are not upset or emotional about it and if these people helping the user are sticking with it why can't the user?

Remember, it is only 6 months until the next batch of releases, Ubuntu and Fedora at least. This next release from Ubuntu is also a Long Term Support (LTS) release which means it had better be more stable than the Karmic release because this one will be around for longer and has the more important users; companies. While having general users is all good and well, companies and enterprises are the ones that will bring in the money. If Dell were to stop or scale back providing computers with Ubuntu installed due to these issues then there goes one potentially important avenue of revenue, marketing and availability. And if Dell won't carry it then why would a business trust it?

So the community needs to stop complaining and work together to help those people in need as much as possible. In time this will be sorted out and honestly, by December or January I expect a lot of these issues to be addressed in one way or another. Will anybody retract their statements at that time? Of course not, so Linux needs its community members to push through this with a smile and helpful hand until such time as these issues are addressed in the next couple of months.