OA - Ubuntu
A blog about Ubuntu, mobile GIS and archaeology

Evolution is better than revolution

Mar 03, 2009 by Chris Puttick

I originally posted a version of this as a comment on this ZDNet article, but it seemed something that deserved wider exposure than a ZDNet comment... ;)

In so many things. Life. Cultures. Political systems. Motorcycles. And of course operating systems and the applications that run on them. In all these and others, evolution is almost always better than revolution.

Desktop and server alike, actually we (the users, both home and professional) don't want change that is big enough to be unsettling and difficult to deal with. We want improvements. We want the niggles ironed out.[1] We want things to just get a little bit better over time and each upgrade. And like evolutionary pressures everywhere, what is seen as better will tend to change over time.

We want upgrades to be something you just do in your own time without any major concerns, without trepidation. Particularly in an organisational context; evolutionary change between software versions means no huge planning overheads, far less rigorous testing requirements and far less stress for all concerned. Upgrades should be regular and be more like patches rolled into service packs bundled up together, but with no new features held back for nefarious marketing purposes.

In short, we want the development cycle of Ubuntu and OpenOffice, Firefox and (now it seems) KDE. All of us would prefer it, even those still stuck with legacy systems that don't follow such comforting behaviour.

New versions of software and operating systems being revolutionary, a big step-change, is a mindset from the legacy proprietary thinking. We (who have moved to the new way) don't need to be "sold" the upgrade because we don't have to pay for it. Incremental change, more often, is far more comfortable for all involved.

So in fact open source is more people-friendly and better for organisations, even in its development paradigm...

[1] Like why does the shell in Ubuntu still not default to using Page Up pattern matching from history on partial commands? Costs nothing to put it in AFAIK as it is just a config setting. But is incredibly useful.

Edit: markup fixed



Comments:

And then they broke Pulseaudio and then they fixed Pulseaudio. And then they broke Pulseaudio and then they fixed Pulseaudio.
And then they broke Pulseaudio and then they fixed Pulseaudio.
And then they broke Pulseaudio and then they fixed Pulseaudio.
And then they broke Pulseaudio and then they fixed Pulseaudio.
And then they broke Pulseaudio and then they fixed Pulseaudio.
And then they broke Pulseaudio and then they fixed Pulseaudio.

...so basically they didn't have time for anything else?

Posted by martin on March 03, 2009 at 07:47 AM GMT+00:00 #

New versions of software and operating systems being revolutionary, a big step-change, is a mindset from the legacy proprietary thinking. We (who have moved to the new way) don't need to be "sold" the upgrade because we don't have to pay for it.

Very well said!

Posted by Gregor on March 03, 2009 at 10:57 AM GMT+00:00 #

I thought you meant Evolution, the mail client, at first!

Posted by Flimm on March 03, 2009 at 01:56 PM GMT+00:00 #

...but gmail, mail.app, and thunderbird are be-
oh.
Actually, revolution is what happens when you have a gaping hole, and you fill it. OS X doesn't have many revolutions because it doesn't have many gaping holes.

PulseAudio, KMS, Gallium, these are leaps and bounds taken in playing catchup, to some degree. Once we have caught up, we won't need revolutions like we do now.

Posted by ethana2 on March 03, 2009 at 02:31 PM GMT+00:00 #

@ [1]: Exactly my wish, i always have to change that in my configs, as I think ctrl-r history searching is in many ways much inferior to using pageup to match from the start.

The problem is IMHO, terminal usage in ubuntu is very neglected anyway, at least when coming from gentoo, who has all sorts of colors, completions, commands, etc. to do things nicely on a console. I really hate it, that apt can't even (optionally) use colors like ls/grep. It's a pain in the ass to look through the output quickly.

Posted by maxauthority on March 03, 2009 at 03:26 PM GMT+00:00 #

Damn straight! And why is the console boot this gigantic 80x25 resolution that's black and white. In Gentoo, it's nice and colored and there is an emerge to make it high-resolution console.

I also find myself constantly checking the apt commands to see if I'm missing a --color option. You'd think that the program and description would be at least different colored or for God sakes, bold the program name. And why doesn't it show you the version you have installed and the version in the repository. The Gentoo emerge and 'eix' tools are amazing compared to lame-ass 'apt'

I also never liked how you have to use "apt-get install" but to search it's "apt-cache search". WTF aren't they just the same command: how about "apt search foo" and "apt install foo". Duh. silly.

(I used Gentoo for 3+ years, after switching from RedHat, and now I've switched to Ubuntu as I'm tired of compiling on my P4 Dell i8200 notebooks and VMWare images)

Posted by Daevid Vincent on March 03, 2009 at 11:05 PM GMT+00:00 #

One more thing... the most missed feature from Gentoo... etc-update. You simply set "meld" as your diff editor and away you go. In ubuntu, I can't for the life of me figure out how to auto-launch meld whenever an install/upgrade requires /etc/ file diffs. It's either "use the package one, use yours, or view diffs (useless)"

Posted by Daevid Vincent on March 03, 2009 at 11:08 PM GMT+00:00 #

Oh, the irony...

And still Ubuntu is one of the major forces pushing for six month release cycles. If installing a new operating system every six months is incremental change, you have missed something. And of course each Ubuntu release is trying to represent itself as "revolutionary". And finally, each Ubuntu release is indeed marketed and "sold" with massive PR-engine.

I also doubt how stress-free the Ubuntu release engineer team really is. But one thing is evident: with each release, Ubuntu has indeed followed the "far less rigorous testing" -principle. That being also a comment which I find more than odd, given that it is coming from a QA blog.

(Sorry for trolling, but sometimes the reality and sunset paintings are in too stark contrast within the Ubuntu community.)

Posted by anonymous on March 04, 2009 at 06:37 PM GMT+00:00 #

anonymous - this post came from an OA blog, not a QA blog ;-)

Posted by Joseph on March 05, 2009 at 10:59 AM GMT+00:00 #

@anonymous

For you the difference between new versions of Ubuntu is not incremental enough? Then stick to the LTS and 3 year cycles, intensive internal planning and testing (all invariably wasted in the reality of the user experience and feedback). For most the difference (in management overhead, in dependencies, in user experience) is as small as, say, service packs in Windows and Office, something that are routinely applied in organisations around the world.

Each new release is indeed announced with a rather overdone degree of fanfare, following with some necessity, the expectations in the masses, that a new release is some great leap forward. But it isn't, and it shouldn't be.

Sure the upgrade experience is not so smooth yet, although I've noticed that those systems with no custom repositories, no backports or proposed, etc., actually upgrade pretty flawlessly; but compare this upgrade experience to going, say, from Windows XP SP3 to Windows 7...

Posted by Chris Puttick on March 08, 2009 at 09:58 AM GMT+00:00 #

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