10 Things Ubuntu Needs To Improve On

A favored distro for newbies and enthusiasts alike, Ubuntu has a lot going for it – and plenty of things to fix, too.
Posted November 5, 2007

Matt Hartley

Matt Hartley

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Ubuntu has been a force to be reckoned within the Linux world for a couple of years now. It’s undeniably the path to Linux gaining mainstream acceptance. In this article, I’ll examine ten areas where I think Ubuntu could go still further; that is, really improve and even gain back those who abandoned it out of frustration.

1) Wireless consistency
Ubuntu's biggest problem here is not its lack of working hardware, rather it is the distro’s developers’ maddening belief that attempting to make Broadcom chipsets a working reality is a good thing.

The logic is flawed on two counts: First, there are other great chipset options out there that do not require NDISWrapper. Second, why work so hard to support something that roughly 80% of the time is known to fail the end user? It just doesn't make any sense.

The smart money is on a three-tiered chipset approach: Intel, Ralink and Atheros. All of these have a long-standing history of workable success with most common Linux distributions. Yet Ubuntu developers apparently believe that the three out of fifty people who actually get it working are producing numbers solid enough to warrant the tremendous frustration from others who also try the Broadcom option.

This thinking, along with the ever-buggy network-manager, will continue to frustrate Ubuntu users release after release. Even with the vastly improved wireless stack found with Ubuntu Gutsy, you’ll find that cards based on the chipsets above often fail unless you uninstall the network-manager and replace it with the non-integrated Wicd application.

2) Multimedia Codecs
Watching and listening to certain types of media formats in Ubuntu provides a challenge on two fronts. One, rules rightfully put forth by the GPL that forbid the restricted codecs like WMA, WMV, etc. from being included by default. And two, the patent laws and organizations who maintain the right to use these codec formats.

Despite the perceived hassle with the GPL's rules, Ubuntu has done everything in their power to make installing them as simple as possible. Which is comical for U.S. users, as they are seen by many as 'breaking the law', despite the fact that the law relates to the distribution of such codecs rather than their use. So for some Ubuntu users, this leaves things in an uncomfortable position. Even with the likes of Dell selling Ubuntu PCs to the public, everyone continues to pretend like this is an issue that will eventually resolve itself.

I would suggest another approach. Make something once thought to be counter-culture, cool again. For instance, seeing Canonical teaming up with the people who make devices like the iaudio 7 portable music player, makes more sense than pretending that no one in the U.S. is going to mind dealing with perceived legalities of restricted codec legality. It's just too complex to explain. And perhaps with some creative marketing, would encouraging Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theroa alternatives might make for a more agreeable solution?

(Another distribution, Fedora has a unique approach on this matter. Rather than dance around the issue, Fedora states their case quite clearly.)

3) GRUB as the bootloader
Lilo has long since been touted as more reliable than GRUB for keeping track of which operating system(s) you have installed. And by reading about the number of people who have been faced with 'fixing' GRUB after an error, there very well may be something to this line of thought.

Still, other people will point out that any issues encountered with GRUB on Ubuntu are rare, and something that can be overcome easily enough. And yet these are the same people who claim that Ubuntu is definitely “newbie-ready,” then point them to the command line as a fix for these 'rare' occurrences. This leads me to believe it may be time to replace GRUB with something else.

Next page: back-up, restore, IPV6, and common sense

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