Apr 29

Today: 29-Apr-2009: Why Ubuntu?

Category: today

So I’m using the latest version of Ubuntu at work and its been interesting. The upgrade process was smooth which is what I’d expect and I didn’t have any problems. My work machine isn’t particularly complicated and doesn’t have esoteric packages and dependencies unlike some of my other machines (some of which I have a weird combination of Debian Unstable running on as well which makes upgrading fun).

The problem I have now is that Ubuntu have introduced a whole heap of new features that look cool but don’t really work properly. Take for example something that appears to resemble the Growl notifications that I have on my Mac. Ubuntu have them with a nice rounded black opaque box with the text and potentially the icon of the application reporting stuff. Pretty cool and I’m happy with that, until I want to dismiss one. I can’t do it. Hovering over the thing causes it to disappear but then unhovering from where it was causes it to return until such time as it disappears. What the? Growl gives me a few options: I can click on it and it’ll either go to a URL, activate the application or disappear harmlessly (depending on that) but in addition to that it also has a little cross on each notification so that I can make it go away forcibly. It also has a slightly different behaviour on hover: it stays around for longer. Perhaps its a longer message you want to read properly, hovering over it keeps it active and it doesn’t disappear. Ubuntu seem to have seen this idea and copied it badly, which reminds me of another operating system vendor who copy ideas badly.

The next point of weirdness is their update manager. Now this doesn’t appear to be a new thing but in fact a rather strange old bug. The update manager displays normal updates and security updates but it also displays some weird form of distribution update. Why it displays this is beyond me because one cannot select it for update no matter how hard they try (ticking its check box infuriatingly just unticks itself) and even when all of the other updates are installed it remains there but at least at this point the entire update list is disabled so its obvious you can’t update it. It turns out that the solution for getting rid of this is to go into Synaptic and update or remove the package manually which then prompts the user with a list of packages it’s going to remove/update and continues on its merry way. I can see they don’t want people to click it randomly and potentially break things but having it there and not obvious what to do with it is a rather glaring design flaw. Either provide instructions on how to resolve the situation or don’t bother displaying it in an interface where you can’t do anything to fix it and where it looks like the rest of the updates (it clearly isn’t).

I probably wrote a whole heap more on this topic but WordPress (in its infinite wisdom) seems to have lost that information. I seem to not be having much luck with it lately.

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