Linux

The new Ubuntu look

The new Ubuntu "looks" were announced a while back and Jack Wallen is far from "impressed." Read on to see what Jack thinks of Ubuntu's bold new look (and what he thinks Ubuntu should really be doing).

Figure A

Recently it was reported that Ubuntu 10.4 was going to ship with a snazzy new GTK theme that would, by default, enable transparency to bring the Ubuntu GNOME desktop on par with the modern look of, say, Windows 7. Take a look at Figure A to get an idea of what I'm talking about. This image was one that has bounced around the Ubuntu "rumor mill."

I've been using Lucid Lynx for some time now (and am rather impressed so far). I've tried to find the ability to install or enable this look, but to no avail. I've added the correct repositories, but have come up with nothing that allows for transparent windows (outside of Compiz).

Figure B

This had been going on for a few weeks - before the Ubuntu community became alive with thrills and chills upon the announcement of the new Ubuntu Lucid Lynx looks. First there is the new Ubuntu Logo (See Figure B). Wow. Okay...not impressed (and what about the tattoo I have of the original Ubuntu logo - does that just go to prove I'm nothing but "old school" now?) The original logo oozed the very core of what Ubuntu was about...community. Now, it just looks like someone's lame attempt at making a T-shirt for Cafe Press.

Figure C

And then there are the new themes: Impression and Night Impression. These are really what had the community excited. Figure C shows the Impression theme and Figure D shows the Night Impression theme.

Figure D

Have you picked yourself up from your chair? Are you able to see through the awe and admiration in your eyes? To me they look like someone just adjusted the color settings on the default theme and then slapped on a different background. Yeah, I know they are cleaning up the code base so theme coding is easier and cleaner. But the average user...do they see the code base? Not so much.

Here's my thing...if the Ubuntu community wants to really wow the public with a release then simply do this:

You already have basic Compiz support rolled in. Beef that up (by adding the Cube and Cube rotation, 3D windows, and a few extra bells and whistles) and then install and enable Emerald by default. You can even set opacity of specific windows through Compiz so, what the heck, enable that as well.

What I am getting at is this: The Linux community has the ability to create a distribution that would really WOW the public. The Elive distribution comes about as close to this as any other distribution. I know that eye candy isn't really all that important for an operating system...at least not in its functionality. But take a look at what the public is buying en mass - Apple. Why? Because they place an importance on aesthetics few other companies can match. And look at the evolution of the Windows GUI. From Windows 2000 to XP to Vista to 7 - it's all been a progression of (among other things) aesthetics. Linux needs to follow suit.

I have been a big champion of Linux really pushing itself into the forefront of innovation. Why? Because that is one of the strengths of the open source community. The distributions need to take advantage of that and place more effort on making Linux look like something the public wants and needs.  The day that a Linux distribution realizes this, and makes something so cool that people can't resist, that old school idea of world domination might just come true.

Ubuntu has really missed the boat on this one. They have the underlying technology to take their Linux distribution way ahead of the pack. Instead they tinker with a few colors and call it a day. Make a statement Ubuntu! If you want to really make an "Impression" don't think, for a second, those new "themes" will do just that.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

166 comments
public_domain
public_domain

what i find hilarious is the apparent need for dolts to need something like the look of winnydoze just to know where to click. frankly, i am a MAC fan from w-a-y back and find the dependency for most on winnydoze most sickening.

count_zero_interuptus
count_zero_interuptus

Looks get you attention !!! then you can sell the contents. How long does it take some to get it? Problem? Programmers that think they know graphic design. Hire some real design people to do it right.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Linux used to be about function and blazing performance. Nowadays? Hmpf! Theme my emoticons disgusted. PS: I'm not speaking against aesthetics, just cruft.

esarhaddon
esarhaddon

Linux is still no better than any other OS. I have the new Ubuntu and there still is not any way I can find to install my USB RT73 wireless Card. This is a very common chip and still used in-mass. It has been a sore thumb for many Linux users and not adiquately answered. I see no reason to think that the complaints about drivers for windows holds any validity as ling as issues like this exists. Creating drivers is a challenge for any OS programmer and the complaining and bragging needs to stop across the board.

mtaylor619
mtaylor619

In this day of 28" screens, I would like to see a screen option that allows icons to dress up the edge on all four sides and when the screen is maxed, it limits itself to the icon edges. That way I get easy access to programs while keeping my main window data where it needs to be. While you code monkeys are at, could you also make a mouse over section that list folder contents?

brian
brian

Whenever I use any OS, I notice major design blunders and oversights in core operating system and UI features. These are often paired with a snazzy interface that doesn't matter a whole lot because, well, s--t don't work. Linux has too many flavors to identify anything that "most users" have experienced, but I can list several that I've seen. Kubuntu 9.04, the premiere of KDE4: If you accidentally leave the mouse hovering over a taskbar entry, the system becomes incapable of launching any new tasks. This includes simple cron scripts, screensaver, literally NOTHING will happen until you move the mouse and the popup goes away. This is on top of KDE4's move from a fairly rich set of GUI-based configuration tools, to a sparsely populated and generally incapable control panel (30%?) with a shiny new look, and reduced compatibility. Even being the default installed browser, Firefox is incapable of the simplest tasks even on the newest Ubuntu without technical user modification. You can't launch most file types by double clicking them in the Downloads view, even if those file types are registered to the OS. You also can't right-click and open the file's location, because it doesn't know how to launch a file browser. I messed with it for about 20 minutes before I decided it wasn't worth it and booted back to Windows. Windows has consistently failed to provide a convenient way of copying large trees of files that actually works well. I've seen Windows refusing to copy a file or folder tree, not because your OS's filesystem cannot handle the filename, but because some severely outdated legacy versions of Windows would be unable to read the file. (Referring to maximum fully-qualified file name length.) If a file or folder in a Windows network share starts with a space, you can't access the folder, rename the folder, delete it or interact with it in any way. If you want to copy a large tree of files and folders, say a 30GB project folder, so you can take your work with you on your laptop, you can't fire the copy and forget. Windows will demand your input at random intervals and chances are your copy will not complete. XCopy, the supposed way around this, will happily stop copying for no reason without an error message, so that "poor-man's backup" you thought you did last night may only have 40% of the intended files. Mac OS-X can't even handle too many files being on the desktop. I've rescued at least three OS-X machines that became inoperable because some program accidentally dumped a thousand or so files to the desktop. To qualify inoperable: It took eight hours to boot to the desktop, and 30 minutes to successfully launch a Terminal to clean it up. If your program isn't in the dock, you're stuck either relying on Spotlight or launching programs like we did back on Win 3.1. And please can we have a file manager that shows enough of the file name to actually browse for things? If you have two items that start with the same 8 to 10 letters (anybody who has versioned saves of anything) you have to drag that stupid finder bar back out every time you change folders. So please, can we start focusing on making core OS features work properly? Until that is done every minute of work anyone spends making transparent windows or floppy windows or desktop peek is only one thing and that is WASTED.

umer
umer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHFRNNHG_F8 I agree that transparency should be enabled by default... and also there is another problem with the transparency of Ubuntu... unlike Vista it does not smuge/blur background so the transparency makes reading content difficult.

edward05
edward05

Well what out opensuse????? I think is mint in its look??? Ed

dgs010243
dgs010243

Ubuntu has a tradition. Search for "linux blog" via Google. Dan, professor, pensioned

ehk
ehk

I've been using *NIX systems since the late 1970s and would be delighted to purge my eight PeeCees of all traces of Winblows. But, there are still far too many instances where doing something that is relatively simple with Winblows involves searching the Internet for instructions and then entering 10, 20, or more lines of commands in a terminal window. Rather than wasting time on eye candy, it would be far more productive to match Winblows in simplicity and perhaps even more important consistency especially with respect to installation procedures. I'm not afraid of the command line. I use msys under Winblows and do much of my writing using vim. But, nonetheless, I often find myself "challenged" by Ubuntu to do things that are trivial with Winblows. If I'm "challenged," I would imagine that many punters are thoroughly put off even if they can be induced to give Ubuntu a try. EHK

wolsonjr
wolsonjr

Excuse me, but where would apple be if it only had looks??? Looks are okay but far second to function. And believe me, I stare at monitors all too long. I want clarity and clarity and more clarity, nothing else.

ItsTheBottomLine
ItsTheBottomLine

I have about Linux and the goofball purist (you know the ones just a wee out there) is that it does not look polished. It looks clunky and "old". Compare that with Windows 7 and OS X and you don't have anything. This is a HUGE step in the correct direction, in my opinion. That and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee.

robot682
robot682

I like Linux. Enough so that, a couple times a year I consider abandoning Windows entirely. There are two things that currently stop me. The biggest obstacle for me is an inability to connect a linux mail client to a Microsoft hosted Exchange Server 2007. My school has their email hosted off-site. It is accessible via web browser or Outlook Connector. I have my whole life organized in my Outlook calendar and I sort of require the ability to use e-mail as well as calendar sharing. The other item isn't such a big deal, but I would also like Netflix on Linux, but that is not something that is crucial and I agree, the problem there lies with Netflix.

baghmesheli
baghmesheli

The look is very important to create an interest in the public eye. Unfortunately, most people judge the computers by their cover, so if it is not attractive enough, it'll look rubbish in their eyes.

desktopanalyst
desktopanalyst

I remember a couple of years ago when people were complaining because Ubuntu was spending too much time making it "prettier" instead of fixing stuff... Now, the look matters? Who cares what it looks like, it has been fine for a while, that is why god invented gnome-look.org... ha ha...

tr
tr

Please! From 9.10 I have experienced buggy GUI and messed up themes, and a lot of instability to go with it. I always said that Ubuntu would pick up the fight in the business segment, but I didnt mean that they should start by copying "aestetic" related bugs from Windows. (And be careful..I believe Microsoft have already patented the bluescreen and a lot of other stupid error messages..). Keep it stable - thats what the rest of the world never knew they expected from the beginning!

jmbrasfield
jmbrasfield

It still looks like M$ Windows. Why compete with Windows and OSX? Do something completely different, be different, be Linux. I installed Ubuntu NBR on my netbook and love the desktop. It's clean and functional. Everyone that sees it wants to know how to get it, install Ubuntu NBR. I've got it on my netbook, laptop, and PC and have found it hard to go back to a desktop FULL of needless icons. I've even installed it for a few people within Windows. That way they can have both and if they decide to convert over, as I did, they'll have the feel for it. Or, just uninstall it thru the Add and Remmove Program in Windows and forget it, you aren't a Linux person, your a Windows PC.

gathagan
gathagan

Ubuntu has always been targeted as an alternative for the the average Windows user that is easy to for said user to learn. There are a LOT of Linux distros out there. If you don't like the "eye candy" direction, perhaps Ubuntu is simply not the one for you. If you prefer KDE over GNOME, perhaps Ubuntu is simply not the one for you. If Ubuntu isn't as stable as you would wish, perhaps Ubuntu is simply not the one for you. Why does your dislike for whatever aspect of Ubuntu you fixate on require that you respond with such vitriol?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Well they do not care what the OS is be it Windows, OSX, BSD, Unix, Linux or whatever. If they can see something that makes sense to them and click on it they are happy the OS driving it is unimportant to them and it could be anything. Apple has proved this with their adoption of BSD with some pretty Wrapping to look something like Windows. Yes I know that to a dedicated person who lives and breaths OSX or Windows they are not similar but to an outsider provided that the Icon looks about right they are happy to click and see what happens. While I'm certainly no Windows Lover using the term [b]winnydoze[/b] to describe the most commonly used OS on the planet at this point in time I feel reflects badly on you not those who like/love Windows. And I prefer to use M$ to denote Microsoft but not as anything other than because I worked Medical once and MS is a disease with no known cure which is widely known by most people in civilized countries. Insisting that Microsoft also be denoted by the same Shorthand only causes confusion that is not warranted. ;) Col

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Only some of the major distributions are focused on pretty looks and cruft. You can still find the distributions built for speed if you want them. For me, Debian provides the stability and speed versus "pretty". If it was about makeup, I'd be using ELive instead.

jackie40d
jackie40d

Was it plugged in when you installed Ubuntu ? I have found that some things are not found unless plugged in when it is installed . . And since it is there the OS will look for the drivers . . The internal WiFi is a broad com BCM4813 It did ask me if I wanted it activated as it was to be a restricted driver or something like that . . I did have the Netgear WG1113 plugged in to go on line incase it did not pick up the internal . .

justagallopin
justagallopin

I agree that so many flavors of linux make it hard to find the right one. Some of the programs/websites that recommend a distro based upon your filling out a questionaire can help you start to pick some out, but still a lot to think about. Just about overwhelming for a newbie. There is, however, a need for this to some extent. I can't go buy a newly released version of Windows that will run good on my old p3, but puppy or some others will come to the rescue. On the other extreme you have the newest as we speak of here, that will work well, but need much better hardware to run properly.My dual core pentium D doesn't like desktop effects, but does do well with slightly older versions of linux. I do love the eye candy with any dual core of a decend speed. Don't like the fancy stuff to slow down my work. I agree, make em work right, then make them work flashier.

PCNetSpec
PCNetSpec

I didn't realise it was you when I made that post... I'm glad I didn't push the Linux thing too far ;)

PCNetSpec
PCNetSpec

I AM a linux purist and have been for some time, but I must agree. On one level I can see that appearances are superficial and unimportant, but they go a LONG way in giving the impression to new users that the O/S has been written with end users in mind, and it's first impressions that count.

jackie40d
jackie40d

There is a program called Evolutuion in Ubuntu almost the same crap as Outlook Express with same stuff in it . . I have not been to netflix yet to test it but I am sure it would work I see all the rest of the stuf fon the web with Ubuntu 9.10 And I hope 10.10 is a gob better reminds me got to drop off a suggestion for 10.10 or the next version I go to the library and laugh at windows users LMAO when it starts off with the windows opening sounds I even hand thema copy of Ubuntu 9.10 on a CD-R . .

PCNetSpec
PCNetSpec

I agree it would be nice to have a Linux client for Exchange, but this isn't really a Linux fault either, surely it's a proprietary software 'lock in' problem and therefore something only M$ can remedy... don't hold your breath though ;-)

jlwallen
jlwallen

I really like Ubuntu. In fact, other than Elive it is my distro of choice. My issue is really about all Linux distros (pointed to Ubuntu for making such big noise about the "new look" of 10.4) in that they have such possibility and never really show the user (without much tweaking) how far the desktop can go.

rfolden
rfolden

"There are a LOT of Linux distros out there" and there you have it, amongst a myriad of other reasons, coming in at #1 with a bullet, why most people don't "hate" linux... they just want to get some work done and get on with their lives.

brian
brian

Restricted drivers are just Ubuntu's compromise between two competing philosophies: The Debian philosophy: "Be 100% free and not just free but also open-source, and do not accept closed stuff." The philosophy of people who actually want to DO things: "My computer should be usable." i.e. NVidia is never, ever going to release the source code for their video drivers, nor would any reasonable person in their position. But we want our computers to work, so Ubuntu recently started including NVidia's Linux drivers. But Ubuntu is Debian, and they don't want to crap on the Debian philosophy, so they make it the user's option to activate or ignore those drivers. That way purists can have 100% open machines, and people who do actual things with their computers only suffer a minor inconvenience installing drivers.

ItsTheBottomLine
ItsTheBottomLine

looks sell (sorry but that's the way it is). I'm not a purist, they are just tools, but I see what people look for and the 1st thing is (there are the more logical people but the % is small) how good does it look. Is it a slam - heck no - it's just real life. The other area, is the installations. I think that needs to be cleaned up. Once you make that as simple and brainless as Windows or Mac OS (for the most part) then the walls are removed. And from my opinion Ubuntu was one of the ugliest out there. I use Mandriva. Infact I just bought a bare bones Dell to run it full time on that laptop...just to get more play time with it...

brian
brian

Outlook Express is not the same as Outlook. It doesn't even do 20%. It's a gimp-ware version designed to give people basic email support, when they don't need a full-featured client. In general if you hear the word "Exchange Server" you are hearing someone whose needs are well above what Outlook Express can provide. I too am in the market for Linux software that does what Outlook does...

justagallopin
justagallopin

I can thank Ubuntu for my first stab at linux, but prefer kde and PCLinuxOS fit me better. The latest kde4.4 makes desktop effects easier than ever to control right from the Mandriva derived control center. No more do I have to learn compiz to have nice transparancy, cube effects and wobbly windows etc with ease. One thing I miss most when in windows are the multiple desktops.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

" As I understand it, Ubuntu and Debian are pretty close to each other. Out of curiosity, if Ubuntu were to decide that "forks are bad I guess" and merge their work back into Debian, would something like that work? " Debian is an old distribution that focuses on stability and security. It has it's own management structure and organization which happens to be a non-profit. Cononical produces Ubuntu by taking Debian and repackaging the chosen default programs and modifications. It has it's own separate package repositories and management. This is a child or fork because it's a redistributed modification on the parent Debian distribution. If Debian produces a car, Cononical orders those cars directly from the factory then swaps in some premium parts, tunes it for a specific kind of driver and does a custom paint job before selling it branded Ubuntu. If Cononical makes a cool customization, Debian may include it in the original base car design. Debian also gets to see all Cononical's safety reports so those changes can be made in the original base car design. Upstream, Debian developers can see what changes Ubuntu is making and choose to ignore or include them in Debian. Security patches found through Ubuntu users are probably considered by Debian. Downstream, Ubuntu developers start with one of the Debian versions, usually "testing" I believe so they get the newer programs. They then choose what extras and modifications to include. They set the list of default packages which make the gnome and applications plus the custom themes. They can choose to include closed binaries like the nvidia drivers and newer versions like XFI support if through alsa sound. They remain downstream though since they always work with the base system duplicated out of Debian. The two also share developers as someone may be writing code for both Ubuntu and Debian. Debian's use for servers also attracts different developers than Cononical's distribution versions. The differences in distributions appeal to different people and generally work in a meritocracy. Ubuntu is currently popular for new users and desktop use. It used to be Mandriva but Cononical's products are currently at the top of the popularity contest. For servers, Debian ranks high as would Red Hat and CentOS. Suse has some attraction in businesses. They all compete for different types of users/developers.

brian
brian

Now that you mention it, for all the good Ubuntu has done, you've got me wondering why all that good wasn't done to Debian. You may also be interested to know that my X-Fi also works in Ubuntu 9.10. I tried to stick with Debian for a while but I'm in the category of user who doesn't have a huge amount of time or patience for tweaking OS functionality myself. I also don't have a solid enough understanding of what-does-what-and-where to always solve an issue like, say, USB drives not auto-mounting on insert. I generally go for the distro that gets the system the closest to what I need so I don't have to mess with it. As I understand it, Ubuntu and Debian are pretty close to each other. Out of curiosity, if Ubuntu were to decide that "forks are bad I guess" and merge their work back into Debian, would something like that work? Is Ubuntu in danger of drawing so much attention away from Debian that they "cut their life-line" so to speak, and have to take on the work that they have been merging from new Debian releases? (Or does it not even work that way?)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm not using Ubuntu. As an admitted fork snob; I go with the parent distribution unless there is a clear reason not to. I currently have no clear reason to use Ubuntu when I can instead use it's parent distribution. This does add variables for me though. - The Nvidia drivers may not have been packaged yet so they are still pending in Debian 5 repositories. - The Nvidia drivers may have been deamed a newer version excluded from Debian 5 for not simply being related to a security update. - The Nvidia drivers may be included with Debian 6 currently in testing. This means either waiting until Debian 6 release later this year or getting it through Debian 5 backports. I don't mind Debian's policy so much though. Provided Debian 6 includes the new Alsa version with X-FI support and the new Nvidia drivers; it'll all work out. Good to know that Cononical is still making those ease of use additions in there forked distribution though. It's those kind of additions that made Mandriva so great in it's day.

brian
brian

I'm surprised your GTX260 doesn't work. My system has a GTX260 and it worked using the "activate restricted drivers" method. (Ubuntu 9.10.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I just hit that very point with my new GPU. GTX260 appears to be supported by the latest Nvidia drivers however the version included in Debian's non-free packages is not that latest version. I'll be using Nvidia's direct download for now. I don't know how complex the actual driver component is. Nvidia seems to drop it in as a kernel module and I'm guessing the Debian specific package does the same though binaries are pre-compiled since they are built specifically for the current Debian kernel packages. From what I know, copyright or patents are the reason ("IP" is a buzword that confuses the two distinct areas of law). Some of that closed code from Nvidia contains things they are unwilling or unable to release publicly. In the clean Linux from kernel.org they don't want to encourage and include closed hardware drivers; no one can fix them or keep them up to date. Distributions are free to include closed modifications to the kernel though so you have distributions like Mandriva which provide there own re-rolled kernel and various closed source bits. "What's got me wondering is, how is it that in Windows we can install whatever drivers we like from simple EXE and MSI files" In part; how it's built. Microsoft provides the kernel and driver API hooks but the hardware vendors provide the drivers. Because of there market share; third party vendors are obligated to make there drivers work "the Windows way". Windows updates have broken hardware support more than once though. And, moving drivers between recent major Windows versions; forgetaboutit. But, there is benefits to being the brand that third party hardware vendors target first when deciding who to write drivers for. This is really the equivalent to distribution provided drivers. For Windows, I download Driver.zip for Windows XP 32 bit and run setup.exe. For Debian, I download Driver.deb from Debian's software repositories and the package manager installs it as part of the download process. In the first case, a third party vendor has insured that Driver.zip's setup.exe makes the drivers work on my desktop. In the second case, Debian package maintainers have insured that Driver.deb makes drivers work against the standard Debian system. Same goes for Mandriva or Ubuntu because the distribution has scripted the install process and tested it against the rest of the distribution. The anomaly comes from not delivering drivers through the distribution repository; forcing "the Windows way" on unix like OS by making hardware drivers the soul responsibility of the hardware vendor. They, for whatever reason, give up the benefits hardware support in the kernel where it naturally belongs. Those benefits include lower development costs since the kernel.org folks would be providing development time. In general, hardware that uses industry standard command sets rather than the Microsoft command set will "just work". Hardware who's driver source is written into the kernel (compiled in or as a module) will also "just work" since it'll be built along side the kernel or delivered to you with it in final binary form. Hardware that ignores industry standard command sets (Winmodems) or will not provide minimal support information to kernel.org folks will require a specific driver from the hardware vendor or be popular enough hardware to justify reverse engineering driver support. " I'm way over my head with all that stuff anyway, but IMO it still remains a stability concern. Seems like hardware manufacturers should have a stable way to release drivers without revealing the full source code, and without "balancing" the drivers on top of the Kernel. " Well, a security concern of sorts; they rely on obscurity to protect there driver included bits. Nvidia doesn't want ATI to figure out the "secret sauce" recipe so they keep the driver source closed along with whatever patented crap they have in there. Broadcom claimed that providing driver information or source would allow people to modify the radio strength of some wifi card models so they keep the drivers closed thinking us lowly users can't still modify radio related settings. It seems to be a lot of grief imposed on end users because companies make the hardware drivers a "competitive advantage" rather than a simple translation bridge between kernel and hardware. Nvidia could simply provide a firmware update utility that stuffs the secret sauce on the GPU board and leaves an unencumbered driver that can be clearly documented or released as source. Broadcom's wifi NIC is still modifiable using alternative drivers so there concerns are pointless. I've yet to hear conclusive reasoning for why driver source should be closed at all; if anything, drivers should be open source by default. There are too many benefits for the end user from compatibility on through to security and stability. Heck, my notebook wifi card has a driver package and simple utility to go fetch it's firmware (wifi NIC also store there firmware outside of the card when not in use). I got my driver and the company's secret sauce firmware was not put at risk. I do actually have to give Nvidia credit also. If they can keep the drivers more up to date, stable and secure than a community project then fine for my needs. So far, they have remained better than the community developed driver so fair enough. They've also provided a clean install method no more complex than a Windows driver install. Download, uncompress, run setup.sh and reboot. They are at least supporting non-Windows consumers even if not through the better distribution channels. Other hardware vendors are far worse. In the end, I get a more flexible, stable and secure system for the trade off of one out of several machines at home requiring graphics and soundcard manual driver installs. It could be greatly improved but grief is imposed by the hardware vendors since the OS platform developers have openly begged for minimal information to support hardware with. All I can do is vote with my wallet and favor hardware supported across multiple platforms (ain't no Winmodems in my house longer than it takes to fetch a hammer).

brian
brian

The NVidia drivers hadn't been integrated yet at that point so the direct download was the way to go. From other comments actual integration as a kernel module is unlikely because of IP concerns. (Would updates be easy as a module?) What's got me wondering is, how is it that in Windows we can install whatever drivers we like from simple EXE and MSI files, and Microsoft can update their code and everything's fine? Is it the Hardware Abstraction Layer? Does Linux not have that? (Should it? Can it?) I'm way over my head with all that stuff anyway, but IMO it still remains a stability concern. Seems like hardware manufacturers should have a stable way to release drivers without revealing the full source code, and without "balancing" the drivers on top of the Kernel.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My guess with your graphics being broken by updates is that you where using the Nvidia provided driver. When you got a new kernel update it didn't have that manually added third party driver. Rerunning the nvidia setup script should place the drivers into the newer kernel version and your all set. I have this issue currently with a Creative XFI soundcard. Creative provided drivers for Windows only. They did right by the non-Windows folks too though; when they lost interest in development, they handed the driver source off to Alsa Sound folks. Once the new alsa is included into distributions the X-FI soundcards will "just work". Until then, I do a quick extra step when I get a new kernel update and need to re-install the third party sound drivers. Once support is in the kernel, X.org or Alsa/Palsaudio drivers are a non-issue. I'm using the Debian packaged Nvidia driver so when I get a kernel or X.org update, it's already prepared to work with the Nvidia drivers. Download updates, reboot, tadaa.

brian
brian

And thanks for the clarifications! I have a sort of hobby interest in all these legal entanglements. I think the difficulty comes from the idea of intellectual property. I think we're right to allow people to have intellectual property, otherwise there's no incentive to develop anything new. But sometimes it makes things a bit more difficult than they could be, as in the third-party patent issue you mention. It sounds like the NVidia driver install has gotten easier over time, while I have migrated platforms over time, so I assumed the driver install got easier with the new platform. When I first installed the NVidia driver in Ubuntu (no idea what version), it took me two weeks to get it functional and NVidia's shell script did require me to obtain the dependencies. Sounds like NVidia has made the script smarter, but it also sounds like APT might not understand the kernel -> NV Driver dependency. (Though, the automatic method wasn't present back then, so I should give the benefit of the doubt.) Is this handled correctly now? (Also I misspoke earlier it was Ubuntu on my laptop when the NVidia driver got hosed by a security update.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

In Option A, a simply helper script could be provided. There is probably one already being that there was also a help script for ATI drivers. In Option B, the installer setup my build environment. It was no different than a Windows driver install based on comparing required steps; download driver, open .zip, run setup.exe, answer questions or go with defaults, reboot. I do like Mandriva's approach through Option C best though too. My point was more that it's not as hard as you make it sound nor is support completely barred from the distribution. Really, Nvidia is the one who should be questioned about this. The driver should be included by default through the kernel and X.org but Nvidia chooses to impose the grief on the user. I believe the excuse given is that the drivers contain firmware images and similar code with patents they don't own. It would be a simple matter to stuff the firmware into flash on the GPU board and other hardware has proven that firmware upgrades are dead simple. Option D is actually the platform default. If support is written into the kernel or X.org where applicable drivers belong then the system just detects at boot and carries on. You can even pull that drive and drop it in a different machine with minimal fuss since all those drivers are already available. Debian does not dictate terms to Cononical. Your grief should be with Cononical entirely if the problem is in Ubuntu. The drivers are available to Debian users through at least two easy options. Cononical has made a conscious choice to not include them; for whatever reasons.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I'd much rather the Mint or Mandriva method, Mandriva tells you its non free, Mint just downloads and installs it. Mint, its like kbuntu, but it works on your hardware.

brian
brian

Option A: Debian still has made the choice to make new users suffer poking around for an updated howto instead of handing the user the functionality. Sure if you know Debian's ways you can guess they may have stuffed the video drivers into a non-free repository, but my point is Debian makes anything that isn't open slightly harder to get to, and do it out of principle rather than usability concerns. option b: is not as easy as you make it sound. This option involves making sure you have set up a development environment including the correct headers for your Linux kernel. In fact, I'm convinced installing in this way was the reason my Debian laptop suddenly stopped working on a security update, making me virtual-terminal out of the locked-up GDM, remake a symlink, and restart GDM in order to boot the machine. A driver install that breaks the system on a kernel update is not okay. Option C is the way to do things for user comfort. Ubuntu does this. But back to my original point, we have option C because of Debian's mentality towards "free" vs. "open" software. I present Option D: Your system installs the correct driver and new users don't have to wonder if it's wise to install a "restricted" driver, or what that means. My point in what I wrote before, is Ubuntu COULD do this, but chooses option C and IMO the only reason for that is because Debian is so opinionated about openness. I'm not trying to imply that 100% open means nonfunctional, but you have to agree it means LESS functional. By virtue of having that requirement you are throwing out a lot of the best software for many essential daily tasks. You might still have alternatives, but choosing those alternatives usually is not the "best" choice or even the "fully functional" choice, it's only the "open" choice. If you've been following this for a long time you'll remember a controversial move in the Debian community where they actually removed a bunch of essential NIC drivers, not because any company complained, but because they disagreed with "magic numbers" in the drivers that represented machine-compiled code for the NIC's microcontroller. They yanked a LOT of NIC support in that move and only did it because of their philosophy on the matter. Nothing against Debian, it's my favorite distro and I think they do a good job, I'm just making a point that they're quite opinionated on open software and I think that is why the restricted drivers aren't automatic in Ubuntu.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Debian 32bit and 64bit where both dead simple. option a; Add the non-free repository categories. Update the package list. Install the non-free program of choice including Nvidia drivers. option b; Download Nvidia driver package from Nvidia directly. Run the setup.sh and answer some questions. Sure, it's not like Mandriva that provides option c; "There is a non-free driver available for your video card. Should we use it instead?" and you click the yes button. It's no harder than adding Nvidia drivers to a Windows install either though. I also wouldn't suggest that "100% open machines" automatically equates to "can't do anything with them" as you seem to emply. Granted, most machines will end up a blend of patent encumbered and open software but neither extreme results in "usable" or "unusable" inherently.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've heard Nokia is very good about delivering hardware that can sync with Evolution. (or the sync framework developers are very good about supporting Nokia hardware). Evolution stands the best chance of syncing with other systems though. You can also look at OpenSYNC if you want to get a little industrious.

brian
brian

I have a Ttreo and calendar sync is nice. Lets me arrange a complex schedule with a full keyboard and all that. Can you back up, restore, import contacts and old emails like you can by migrating an Outlook .PST? Not that that outweighs the hassle of Outlook licensing on multiple machines...

gsmorgansen
gsmorgansen

Man...brain fade! I meant the Evolution that comes default with Ubuntu 9.10 for calendar, etc., as in Outlook.

brian
brian

.. that consistently makes me forget it exists? I'll try it on my spare buntu-box and see if I can get it syncing with my Treo.

PCNetSpec
PCNetSpec

Which client for the Mac/iPhone has full MS Exchange 2007 functionality? There are clients that will up/down email, and some can display the calendar... Evolution for example (which is OSS) but AFAIK non, Linux or Mac that have ALL functionality, like calendar sharing etc. Except for the fact that you CAN get Office and therefore Outlook for the Mac ;-)

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