Monday, June 12, 2006

Comments on Dapper Drake

There is a not-so-nice review of Dapper Drake, Ubuntu's new release, over at Tectonic. A few comments - I'm typing this on my laptop running Dapper as we speak, and it has been pretty stable for me, once I got it installed. One complaint I did share was the mysterious removal of some packages during my dist-upgrade from Breezy, like Evolution, Openoffice.org and Gaim. It wasn't that big of a deal, I just re-installed any missing packages afterwards, but it was still rather odd. I also did try to upgrade using the live CD, but found the installer horribly slow and the partitioning tool almost unusable - I actually rebooted into my old system to do the command-line dist-upgrade, which worked with a few missing packages. While the live-CD installer is a nice feature, I much prefer something like Debian's text-based installer, which is much more responsive. Text-based installers are underrated.

I do share some of their concerns about stability:

The first mistake, I think, was its desire to be a bleeding edge distribution, rather than a leading edge distro. Basing itself on Etch, Debian's unstable release, could be a problem. When the early versions of Ubuntu used the then-unstable Sarge as their foundations, it wasn't a risk -- Sarge was on the cusp of being released. Etch, on the other hand, is brand-new, and far from getting a thumbs-up as a stable distribution.

I think it's important to specify desktop vs. server here, I see a lot of reviews that make assumptions about how a system is being used. Debian Etch makes a fine desktop, even without the Ubuntu touch. I do wonder how Canonical can keep their server and desktop variants in synch with one another, however - the two have different goals. Desktop users tend to value applications and bleeding-edge hardware support, while server admins value stability. It's difficult to reconcile the two under the same codebase. Debian has been dealing with this issue for years ('Stable' is out of date, etc.), and has dealt with it pretty decently, I think (you run Debian testing or unstable if you want an up-to-date desktop). It seems difficult, if not impossible, to produce a well-tested and stable server distribution if key components of it like the compiler, kernel and C library are less than six months old. I've always thought of Ubuntu as a polished Debian meant for desktops, anyway, and reserve Debian stable for production servers. In the end, Ubuntu is still a rather new distribution, and I think it still remains to be seen if they can break into the enterprise server space in a meaningful way.

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2 comments:

Marc said...

Interesting point. Ubuntu has historically been geared towards the desktop so that's probably it's strength. I've certainly used it more as a desktop OS than a server OS, since I have web hosting (which incidentally, uses Debian).

-Marc

Anonymous said...

Have upgraded to Dapper on 4 systems now, and although I had some issues with every upgrade (conflicting packages), I have got everything working stably on each machine (all x86 though).

The loss of some of the desktop programs during the update was due to a conflict between the old ubuntu-desktop package and one of the new libraries. This caused a point where an 'apt-get -f install' was needed, which removed ubuntu-desktop in order to repair the issue. As ubuntu-desktop was responsible for the install of packages like open-office, this caused them to be removed as well.

To resolve, just 'apt-get install ubuntu-desktop' again after the upgrade, and all the missing programs return :)