OK, so there’s something that always disturbs me when release time comes around. Here’s a rough chronology of every Ubuntu release (at least since I’ve been involved, so that goes back to Breezy Badger) and what the “buzz” around the internet says:
- Alphas come out: buzz says, “not much to see here folks, move along.”
- Beta comes out: buzz says, “wow, great release, but where’s the new artwork?” and I’m thinking “How on earth can the pull this off?”
- RC rolls around: buzz says, “new awesomeness right around the corner!” and I’m thinking “darn it, there’s a lot more to do.”
- Release day: buzz says, “OMG I have to download this” and I’m thinking “phew, that’s over, I’m glad I rsync’d/zsync’d yesterday”
- The week after a release: buzz says, “Noooooo, this is the worst Ubuntu release EVER!” and I’m thinking “wow, they really did pull it off”
- Rinse and Repeat
Now, with that rough release chronology, I want to look at #5 a little bit more. I don’t consider myself particularly a diehard Ubuntu fanboy. I’ve been an Ubuntu developer for a few years, but I’ve mostly had to step back due to time constraints. I’ve gotten (much to my dismay and consternation) a bit of a reputation as being the “Devil’s Advocate” and a vocal critic of Canonical. This is mostly due to intense burn out, but that’s a subject for another post. My point here is that I’m not just blindly in love with everything Canonical and Ubuntu does.
I’m quite convinced, having participated in every Ubuntu release since Breezy Badger, that the “This Ubuntu release is the worst ever. <some previous release> was so much better!” sentiment stems from two factors:
- it’s “true” because people say it is. If you read 20 “I’m not happy with this release because …” or “Argg, I’m going back to release X because Y is broken!” you’d get the impression that things are really in bad shape. The problem is that you don’t see the 20,000 people for whom the new release is just fine. People naturally expend more effort complaining than they do praising. This is similar to watching the news on TV. You get more ratings for telling people how awful the world is than talking about the good things that happen.
- the same software affects different people differently. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people say a new Ubuntu release is trash because one particular piece of hardware now doesn’t work right or behaves differently. What in fact is most likely occurring is that the absolute number of people having problems doesn’t change dramatically, but the parts of the user population that experience these “critical FAIL” moments shifts as code changes. I’m willing to bet for every person that has more problems with Karmic Koala than Jaunty Jackalope, there is another who has the opposite experience. I know that for me and my Intel video card, Karmic is a blessing. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that in a release or two people will be looking back at Karmic Koala as one of the best Ubuntu (and Linux) releases.
So my conclusion, for what it’s worth, is that while some Ubuntu releases are a bit better than others, this periodic buzz around the internet that the latest Ubuntu release is an epic FAIL is a self-perpetuating myth, mostly caused by people needing something to complain or write about.