Is Ubuntu Heading Down the Microsoft Release Path?
This thought hit home when I was working to fix a sound issue on my computer, although the seeds had been sown quite some time ago with my upgrade to Ubuntu 7.04. My concern is not about FOSS philosophy, but rather about updates and version releases.
Alas, there are updates that break simple things. About two weeks ago Kubuntu (Ubuntu with the K Desktop Environment) popped-up and told me that new updates were available. As usual, I clicked on the icon, ran the updates, and didn’t give a second thought. At least not until my audio was not coming out clearly as it had before.
A similar problem (no audio) had reared its ugly head before on another machine, but only in Windows. Ironically, this audio issue was what pushed me over the top in my migration to Kubuntu 5.04. After trying and trying, my audio would just not return on that old desktop inside XP, so I moved from dual-booting to only Linux.
Unlike with XP, I was able to play with ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) for this time and finally get my audio working properly on my laptop again. Two days later, an ALSA update was released that probably replaced the offending update. Unfortunately though, this breakage was enough to water a small seed of concern that things might be changing. For me, the damage has been done.
New Releases: Not Ready for Prime Time
Previous Ubuntu upgrades had been smooth and without incident, but changing from Ubuntu 6.10 to 7.04 caused major breakage. There was so much damage in fact, that I backed up everything to my external drive from /home and did a clean installation. Next up, Uubntu 7.10 did not cause nearly the headache, but there were still some bruises. Moving to Ubuntu 8.10 was not super smooth with the KDE change, but was to be expected.
I am very excited at the prospect of Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) debuting in April, but leery at the same time. When 9.04 is released, I will probably wait until the middle of May before I even think of upgrading the OS — unless there is some super-awesome improvement that I must have. Heck, the change may even wait until June.
As an administrator, I know to avoid Microsoft releases until at least Service Pack 1, and sometimes even later. With Ubuntu there had never been an issue until 7.04, but that debacle caused me to rethink my lead time after a release. Since then I have been waiting at least a month for the last bugs to be squashed after a release. I will wait until the first batch of updates after 9.04 formally releases, just to be safe.
So, Where Are We Headed?
In reality, I am far from ready to leave Kubuntu, however these issues have given me pause for thought. Is Ubuntu breaking a system with updates, and then going ‘oops’ a day or two later? Is Canonical putting out a release that really isn’t ready for prime time?
I realize that ‘oops’ will happen, and that some bugs make it through until a release is in the wild with a bigger audience. What frightens me though is that Ubuntu may be pushing updates and releases out the door just like that Redmond company we see bashed repeatedly for the same issues.
Personally I am more than happy to wait longer than the established 6 month cycle if it means there will be a more polished product. Kubuntu is a great product with the Ubuntu family behind it, but putting out products just to make a date will only demean the brand to Windows levels.
Contributing blogger Dan Voyles is a junior network admin for a small environmental company based in Mount Vernon, IL. He has used Kubuntu since 2005. Follow Dan on Twitter, or his personal blog: blog.danvoyles.us