The latest incarnation of Ubuntu appeared a few days ago, and I’ve had the chance to do a little playing around. I seem to keep referring to it as Tasty Tahr, rather than Trusty Tahr. Hopefully I’ve now lodged the correct version in my mind.
What’s nice is that Tahr is available for my Cubietruck, so I did a nice distribution upgrade. The process was smooth enough, and I am very happy with the transition so far. I like to let the upgrade process trash whatever configuration files I had before, so as to make the files fresh and syntax-compliant. Inevitably, some hand-crafted configuration gets trashed in the process. Personally, I’m happy with that. I generally keep good records and backups, so I count it as an opportunity to tighten up my procedures. The services that were damaged during the upgrade process were, for me, dovecot (pop3 server), samba, and Apache. I haven’t delved into fixing dovecot yet, but I’m sure it is no biggie. Samba was relatively easy to fix. I created my own config file, which is now included from the main Samba startup configuration. Reinstallations of Samba should be a breeze in future upgrades. Apache had only a minor configuration wonk, in that it couldn’t determine my ServerName. I couldn’t remember where the setting should be, so I took the radical step of uninstalling Apache and installing Nginx in its stead. it was an easy decision to make, as I was itching to try Nginx in any event. I hear that it’s better for low-resource machines.
So, I’m very happy with the upgrade process. I don’t really mind configuration problems, I expect it as par for the course. As long as I can still ssh into the box, I’m good.
I also installed Xubuntu as a desktop as my main machine. I had given their Unity desktop a fair crack of the whip in 13.10. It’s a very attractive desktop, I’ll give them that. I think it’s a retrograde step in terms of productivity. Having an application panel down the bottom is very useful. In fact, I gave up on 13.10 and went back to Windows 7 with cygwin. I do have my cubietruck to fall back on as a Linux box, but I now, when I write coding projects or use software, I try to maintain compatability between my server and cygwin. This arrangement is proving satisfactory, and I think I will be reluctant to use Linux as a desktop environment.
My dislike of Unity led me to try Xubuntu directly, instead. I may try Unity in Ubuntu’s next release, we shall see. One thing I hate about the *buntus is that they download language packs when you install them. Why now include the packs on the DVD? It makes things feel a bit “Microsofty”. If you make a hash of the installation, or want to install on several machines, it means that you have to download the pack each time.
Xubuntu looks quite nice as a desktop. I notice that the icons have been given a bit of a spring clean, and the whole look of it is much more “modern” and aesthetic. I’m glad that the open-source community is taking aesthetics seriously. It even looks a little more polished than Win 7 and OSX in some instances. Linux had a tendency to have dreadful fonts, and theming that was visually grating. A lot of those problems have been fixed. Aesthetics is a fine balancing act. Not enough, and you end up with terrible fonts, a system that looks like it was stuck in the 90′s, and a colour scheme that looks like it was inspired from playing with faeces (yeah, you know what I’m talking about). Too much, and you get windows that catch on fire when you close them, cubic desktops, and bling that can be just too annoying.
One thing annoying about Xfce is that I wish they would turn off virtual window scrolling by default, and enable aerosnap by default. I finally worked out how to do that. It should still be a default. I also think the panel should be on the bottom by default. Just stick with Windows conventions. There’s no need to make gratuitous design deviations.
I think Ubuntu is the best Linux for general desktop usage. I’m quite a fan of apt-get package management systems. Ubuntu archives seem modern when I compare it to something like Debian. Although I played with rolling-release systems like Manjaro and Arch, I now don’t like them. They have a tendency to break too frequently. You also have to pull a lot of stuff from the servers sometimes. It sometimes looks like you’re effectively downloading the distribution again. So, I think point releases are the way to go.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts. Undoubtedly, people will disagree with some of my points and come up with their own “yes but” arguments. And they will be right. But also wrong.