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Jaunty Jackalope: Are Alarm Bells Ringing in Redmond?

Jaunty Jackalope: Are Alarm Bells Ringing in Redmond?

Ubuntu's Jaunty Jackalope has bounded onto desktops, and reaction in the Linux blogosphere is mostly thumbs up. There are some who wish the Ubuntu distros didn't come in such quick succession, however, arguing that there's not enough time to stabilize them and get into serious application development. Still, if it's all part of a hellbent for leather effort to compete with Microsoft, it may just be working.

By Katherine Noyes
04/27/09 4:00 AM PT

With the release of Ubuntu 9.04 last week, it's not too surprising that few other topics got much attention on the Linux blogs in the ensuing days.

Yes, there was a rather intriguing discussion of porn and piracy over on DaniWeb and LXer; and yes, a moderately active conversation fired up the Slashdot community following Keir Thomas's post about "Good Enough Computing" on the PC World blogs.

When it came right down to it, though, it seemed people mostly just wanted to talk about Ubuntu 9.04 -- Jaunty Jackalope, that is, the successor to Intrepid Ibex. It soon became clear that the release was a very, very exciting one, if the discussions were anything to go by.

'Not Bad at All'

"I have to admit this is the first smooth Ubuntu install I've ever had," reported Slashdot's JoeytheSquid. "It actually detected my wireless adapter right out of the box. No fiddling, no CLI hackery, no sacrifices to the pagan gods of open source (which is good because my lease forbids livestock and the downstairs neighbors frown upon blood dripping through the ceiling.) Not bad, not bad at all."

Multiple threads were devoted to the topic on each of Slashdot, Digg and LXer, in fact. Slashdot bloggers, for example, chimed in with 500-plus comments first on the news of the release, then with a similar number over its gleaming user interface; and that's following the discussion of the release candidate put forth the previous week!

On LXer, meanwhile, the conversation split between the release itself and the release parties that celebrated it.

All Ubuntu, All the Time

On Digg, bloggers first took an early look at the release candidate -- to the tune of more than 1,000 Diggs and more than 200 comments -- then major improvements in the release, with close to 1,000 Diggs more -- and, finally, news of the release itself, which shattered the sound barrier with almost 3,000 Diggs and more than 400 comments.

Keeping up with all this was no easy task, you can bet!

Computerworld's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols looked at "The Five Best, New Things" in Ubuntu 9.04 -- also picked up on PC World -- while the Linux Loop's Thomas Teisberg chimed in with his own two cents.

We know there was more; bottom line is that it was all Ubuntu, all the time over the past few days. And that, in turn, made it clear what we here at LinuxInsider needed to focus on in our own little investigation.

'Gigantic Improvements'

"Jaunty is a dramatic improvement over Intrepid, which felt more than a bit forced," Slashdot blogger drinkypoo told LinuxInsider. "Audio is still a big mess, but the video driver situation has recently undergone gigantic improvements that seem to be helping a lot of users. The install process has advanced in leaps and bounds, and other users I've talked to have said that they hugely appreciated the option to migrate homes to the new system."

What drinkypoo most appreciates, however, "is that the 64-bit platform seems to have been ironed out a bit," he added. "Java and Flash 10 support have so far presented no problems whatsoever, and they have traditionally been problematic."

Ubuntu Brainstorm is very likely at least part of the reason for the big, positive changes, drinkypoo suggested. "By providing a conduit for users to complain loudly about their pet issues, Ubuntu has made itself perhaps the best-informed Linux distribution," he said.

'I Want to Upgrade So Badly'

"It is nice to see Ubuntu focusing on refining old features and speeding things up instead of just adding new features," agreed Gerhard Mack, a Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger.

"Oh, I want to upgrade so badly," Slashdot blogger Mhall119 told LinuxInsider. "But I want to do a clean install and change around my partitions, and, unfortunately, I have too much on my plate at the moment to put my laptop though that kind of a change."

Xubuntu 9.04 is going to be the base for Qimo 2.0, explained Mhall119, who is also creator of the operating system for kids by that name. "Now I need to get started getting everything together for that."

'I Prefer Debian'

Not everyone was ready to jump aboard the Ubuntu bandwagon just yet, however.

For example: "I have used Ubuntu in education, but I prefer Debian, the mothership," educator and blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider. "Ubuntu has added some nice features to the desktop, but they tend to get in the way of what I do in schools."

A widget that checks the print queue every second, for example, "is wonderful for a single PC, but on a GNU/Linux terminal server it was a significant load on the CPU and network," he explained.

Stability Issues

"The big plus with Ubuntu is the rapid release cycle, which ensures the latest features are available," he noted. "The downside is many more bugs. I prefer to be a year or two behind the bleeding edge on my production systems."

Stability in the GUI/desktop is an issue that needs to be resolved, Pogson added.

"I do not see why we have to keep changing it all the time in incompatible ways. If we could stabilize this platform, developers could concentrate on applications, and Ubuntu and Debian could be very harmonious. Are we there yet? With all this effort we should be close. This would help greatly in battle with that other OS," he pointed out. "Why divide our forces?"

'You Risk a LOT of Breakage'

A similar response came from Slashdot blogger hairyfeet:

"While I am glad that Ubuntu users have a new distro to play with, in a way it kinda highlights for me a problem that Linux has -- and that is simply putting out version Y instead of taking the time to fix version X," hairyfeet told LinuxInsider by email. "By changing versions so quickly, you risk a LOT of breakage. It also highlights why it is hard to get vendors to support Linux."

Whereas four drivers will support the entire Windows ecosystem from the past 11 years, hairyfeet asserted, the same is not true for Linux.

"If you are writing for Linux, you are trying to hit a dartboard with a live bumblebee," he said.

"Do you support Debian or Red Hat? Do you support Stable, testing, long-term support? How long after you release your app will it run before being broken by the next update? These are questions that by and large Windows developers simply don't have to deal with," he observed.

"The Linux community needs to come together and set up a common framework to where an app or driver works no matter if I have Ubuntu, PCLOS, Red Hat, etc.," hairyfeet concluded. "And they should have a set of core frameworks that are stable, static and pretty much frozen, to minimize app breakage."

'Alarms Are Ringing' in Redmond

Still, there are those who contend that Ubuntu 9.04 may just be what it takes to make Microsoft sit up and take notice.

"I admit I was not a big follower when it first shipped, but I run virtually every distro sometime, and the first time I tried Ubuntu I was duly impressed," Slashdot blogger yagu told LinuxInsider. "It recognized all of my hardware -- something XP failed to do -- and even brought up my wireless seamlessly, one of the nemeses of Linux.

"All the reviews I read on this latest release heap high praise and go so far as to compare this desktop Linux with Windows Vista and Windows 7 favorably," yagu added. "I've seen enough to know I'm downloading and trying this latest release."

In Redmond, meanwhile, "I imagine there are sentinels on the Microsoft campus whose alarms are ringing this week," yagu asserted. "Maybe Ubuntu raises the bar. Maybe Microsoft cares this time."


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