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Ubuntu 10.10 – Beware of the upgrade!

If you’re a fan of Ubuntu, today is an important day, as Canonical (the company behind the popular flavor of Linux) released the new Version 10.10 (not coincidently, at 10:10 AM on 10/10/10).

Over the years, I’ve become a Ubuntu fan. I’ve always run a Linux server for my development work, but with each new release, Ubuntu becomes more of a usable Windows replacement for “the average Joe” on the desktop.

But while they work to catch-up with Microsoft and Apple in usability, they still make some goofy mistakes that keep me from recommending it to my SMB clients.

A good case-in-point is the built-in upgrade to this new version (I was using 10.04 previously)… They wanted it to be as easy as something from Apple or Microsoft (I applaud that goal), but it was a disaster for me. I’m glad I tried it on a test machine, without anything important on it.

Here’s the problem… It “looks like” a simple “Click here to upgrade button,” and things begin impressively enough. Ubuntu smoothly determines what will stay, what will go, and what will be updated. It then effortlessly begins the download and upgrade process. 25 minutes in, it presented its first prompt, asking me if I’d like to keep my current Samba (file sharing) configuration, or not.

Much to my horror, though, the upgrade had already done something to the USB drivers, rendering both the keyboard and mouse  unusable.

Naturally, I had no way to respond to that prompt!

I had no other choice but to power-down the machine in the middle of the upgrade, and naturally, that broke everything – When it came back up, Ubuntu could not find the file system.

It just strikes me as common sense to not do anything with the modules that might jeopardize user input until after that user input has been gathered.

The upshot… While Ubuntu “appears” to be more user friendly with each release, Canonical is no Microsoft or Apple… There’s still a big disconnect between the marketing,  usability and engineering mind sets, and that’s still (too) often apparent in “duh!?” moments like this.

Ubuntu remains a fascinating operating system, and it’s still (in my mind) one of the best Linux systems for serious development work. I continue to hope that one day they’ll learn that to compete for regular users on the desktop, they need to focus as much mind-power on usability and product management, as they do on development.

 

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