Saturday, 5 January 2013

I wanna tell you why I dislike Ubuntu

I'm sure this post will cause commotion ... but I don't like Ubuntu. Let me explain why.

At a certain point in my life, I've decided that it was time to throw away Windows definitely. Linux was sufficiently mature, there was sufficiently good office productivity tools, which was the biggest concern to me at that point. I'm user of Unix systems since 1986, including several Linux distributions since 1994.  I've banned Windows from my life in 2004 and I'm using Linux all the time on all computers I own ever since. Apparently to me, Ubuntu was the best option for a Linux distribution at that point, once it had recent good enough versions of office productivity tools, browsers and mail readers.

I remember that, in 2005, I did a system upgrade. Well, after that I was not able to connect to the Internet anymore. Pretty bad! After spending a couple of days researching what the problem was (thanks to a laptop at hand!), I've finally discovered that my network card was not supported by the Linux kernel anymore. Actually, it was a bug, a regression. After evaluating available options and effort involved for each option, I've decided that I should simply buy and install a supported network card.

A couple of months later and another system upgrade. This time the printer stopped working. Long story short, two more days wasted trying to find a way to circumvent the difficulty. I don't remember anymore what the solution was, but I remember that my wife complained a lot because the printer was not working anymore.

I certainly recognize the importance of Ubuntu for popularity of Linux. Thanks to Canonical, Linux gained a lot of momentum and became a relatively popular operating system to non-initiated end-users. Before, Linux was only intended to nerds.

Because Ubuntu evolves quickly, many times I've installed it again, in particular on laptops which I can quickly reinstall everything if needed, without taking the risk of losing important stuff. At the moment I have Ubuntu installed on a workstation too, so that I can do some software development work on GPUs which specifically depend on Ubuntu, among some other distributions. Evolution and innovation demand an operating system (or a distribution) which also evolves quickly.

But I had bitter experiences. Not only those two I've described above, but several others. The "upgrade-and-break-stuff" thing happened many, many times. The last time was just two months ago, when I was playing with XBMC on a laptop, taking TV feed from my workstation: after the upgrade, it became impossible to watch TV again over the network.

I definitely prefer Debian. I use it on production systems. Debian is rock-solid stable, secure and reliable. In 7 years I'm using Debian everyday, I've never had a single problem of regression. I can blindly upgrade packages or even the entire version of Debian without any trouble: Debian simply works.

Update:  I've got rid of Ubuntu, definitely. I'm now using Debian Wheezy and compiling from sources some tools I need in order to go ahead with software development work on GPUs.


  1. Interesting post. I am a first-year Web development student and we are working with Debian. I have installed Ubuntu on my personal computer just to check it out. I wasn't aware Ubuntu has so many compatibility problems; I generally put off applying upgrades as long as possible because something always stops working.

  2. What is the exact relationship between Debian and Ubuntu? Does Debian offer support like Red Hat? Does it cost money? I know Ubuntu sits under the Debian umbrella - or at least used to.

    1. Debian started in 1993 and grew to a large number of individuals around the globe.

      There are no paid support services like offered by RedHat or Canonical.
      But it does not mean that you are completely on your own.

      If you are seeking stability with paid support, I think that a relatively old distribution of Ubuntu or some other distribution would fit, since a great number of patches had chance to be applied and be extensively by users.

  3. I've never had any of these problems and surprised that if you find Debian so rock solid that you dont attribute that to Ubuntu either. Ubuntu is created from each Debian release with a few extra additions to make it quicker and easier to use. The upgrade process is exactly the same as Debian (as they both use the same upgrade process).

    For people new to Linux, then Ubuntu has much less of a learning curve than Debian. There is also a lot of help with Ubuntu from the community with sites such as OMG Ubuntu and a Stack Exchange site.

    If you are looking for commercial grade stability then you can install the Long Term Support release of Ubuntu which come out every 18 months. These are supported for many years with bug fixes and security patches.


  4. Debian started in 1993. Canonical was founded in 2004 and later created Ubuntu. So, I understand that Canonical took advantage of stability of Debian in order to create Ubuntu, and not the other way round as you defended. Yes... I understand that the community around Ubuntu is currently feeding the community around Debian with bugfixes, etc.

    The point I'm defending is: if one is aiming stability, regular updates from the latest version of Ubuntu does not seem the way to go. The same way, regular updates from Debian Sid (the development version of Debian) is neither a good choice.

    Another important point is that most developers asking advice on mailing lists are newbies on Linux. Most of them are not interested on paying support Canonical. So, for the benefit of this kind of audience, I find Debian one of the best ones to point out.

    Cheers :)