This article was originally published on 09/20/11 at Muktware.com
I want to revisit this article for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I think enough has changed in the last 6 months to invite some commentary. Journalism is sometimes just the ability to speculate widly and then put those crazy, wide-eyed presumptions onto paper. That said, not everything in this piece came true, and at the same time some of this things are still developing.
The point of this piece is to make a point. It’s a point that I don’t think I made clear the first go ’round. So, now I plan to make it right. :)
In the Android world, there is a bit of an epidemic caused by greedy manufacturers who seem eager to prove that they have a distinct product. Carriers go out of their way to make their mark on devices too. This is called fragmentation. The same thing is happening on the Linux desktop right now. Of course the big difference here is that mega-corporations aren’t involved and there aren’t very many chinese suicides (that we know of). The biggest fragmenters are Canonical (Ubuntu), and Mint.
Ubuntu has put together a clumsy desktop environment that fails at managing windows in the same way as vanilla Gnome 3. The difference here is that Unity is such a stretch from Gnome 3, users are not able to even stay current with Gnome 3 if they have Unity installed. In fact, the upcoming 12.0r release contains a mix of Gnome 3.2 and 3.4 packages to suit the agenda of Unity. This is fragmentation, plain and simple.
I mention later in the article Linux Mint’s plans to recreate a traditional desktop using Gnome 3 as a base. Well, that day has come and gone. It’s here, and it’s ability to exist is nothing short of amazing to me. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, relies on Gnome, relies on Ubuntu’s staggered release set of packages for Unity, and is somehow available to be installed on other distribution. Those distributions, Fedora, SuSE and the like, don’t have this problem of having to stagger packages to make something unnecessary work (Unity). Welcome to this brave new world of broken packages. Be prepared to be careful what you’re installing.
To a lesser extent Elementary OS furthers the fragmentation. Both Mint and Elementary fragment the Gnome 3 universe while fragmenting Ubuntu which is already a fragmentation of Debian. How long until we get some distros that are based on Mint? Why the hell now, we’ve come this far already. Back on point. The Elementary OS, while not as hot as Mint, is a much more ambitious fragmentation, going so far as to draw up their own user human interface guide and provide original software.
This point that I was trying to make in the piece was that, while ironic, users may flock to Ubuntu to gain choice, though the nature of its package’s make it impossible to truly be free.
Lastly, I made the claim that users of Gentoo and Arch users may flock to Ubuntu in fear of Gnome 3 breaking this machines during a rolling update. Perhaps even to gain a few extra choices in desktop e environments. Well, I was wrong about that one.
OK, read on.
Beware Of Flying Rocks
It’s been a long time since a desktop environment has caused so much controversy in the FOSS universe. How long? It is really hard to say, since the last time I can recall any kind of user backlash and retreat was over half a decade ago when the KDE project announced KDE 4.0. Alot of people relate the release of KDE 4 to the release of Gnome 3, drawing all sorts of wild parallels; but I say that these 2 releases could not be any more different. Now this article is not about KDE, but at the same time, a clear line in the sand must be drawn in order to explain what Gnome 3 really is.