The Ubuntu Rebranding

When I look back at my college days, the only two distros on which I can count on for simplicity was Fedora and Ubuntu. I used the latter just because it suited me and for exercising my right of freedom. Let me jot down the biggest problems I faced whenever I wanted to propagate Ubuntu in my college days under the LUG Manipal banner:

  • People disliked the dark brown theme
  • It didn’t look professional
  • The graphics card didn’t work (The ATI ones)
  • Atheros wireless driver has it’s own share of problems
  • It wasn’t windows
  • …..list continues

The change in branding

This is what I actually wanted from Ubuntu. Just making things doesn’t work. Normal people don’t want advanced things like GIMP or a desktop mail client. All they need is basic things should just work and an eye-candy. Everything should look cool and pleasant.

The new Ubuntu logo: Looks better

This font looks better and more professional than the earlier one. The one before this looked someone like Comic Sans.

Improvements

  • The re-branding brings in much needed boot-screen change. A simple boot-screen is a lot better than a constantly animating one. Remember, the blink tags and marquees for HTML. They do nothing more than distraction.
  • I liked the light theme more than the dark. The reason being that it looks better to my eyes and not because it remotely looks like Mac OSX.
  • Read Mark’s view on this whole saga. Orange will represent Community and Aubergine would represent Canonical. Every branding should be looked with three parameters: Community <=> Commercial, Consumer <=> Enterprise and End-User <=> Engineer. Aubergine with white dots means it is more Commercial and Enterprise based branding.
  • The newer website is a lot better than the previous one. Hope they are not moving away from Drupal.

New Proposed Ubuntu Website

The Roadblocks

Ubuntu has many roadblocks in becoming a major Operating System. Many of them are from within the Open Source community itself. Probably Ubuntu is growing quite fast, but when compared to overall OS market, it is stagnant.

  • Wireless driver problems need to be fixed. Many people just give up because they cannot make Wireless to work on it.
  • The graphics support is still quite weak. People with ATI cards report more problems with NVidia ones. This is one of the places where everyone has been bitten one or the other time. Since I have Intel 945GM graphics chipset on my laptop, those bad days have not struck on me yet.
  • Another roadblock is that Ubuntu has to face a lot of hate from within the OSS community itself. People bash it because it brings in non-technical people into the Linux worlds who don’t want to compile their drivers or don’t want to use the command line.  Some of them go even one step ahead and claim that Linux isn’t meant for people who can’t understand computers. My situation would be the same if I was asked to open the BMW engine(Linux kernel) and fix something deep inside by pulling some random wires(typing commands)
  • Linux in particular was designed to run on ever goddamn architecture on this world. Even though it is a good thing, the effort is split up.

Solution

  • OEM tie-ups: To me, this is the only left to fix the current mess. If you buy a system, the people supplying the hardware will make sure that everything works fine with the OS they provide.  In this case, graphics and wireless drivers can be pre-installed. Depending on patent jurisdictions, even codecs can be pre-installed.
  • Focus on Looks and Usability: Many of the GNOME apps have such horrible looks that I feel it was hacked overnight by devs in half-sleepy state. Some apps like gnome-system-monitor eat up 50% CPU and report the CPU usage to be 50%+.

Finally I am thinking of shifting to Lucid once it comes out.

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10 comments on “The Ubuntu Rebranding

  1. Sathya says:

    I’m not sure if its Ubuntu or Gnome, but every time I make an effort to try and like Ubuntu I give up. Not because of name (ie, point #3 in roadblock – but some serious memory leaks. Its practically impossible to go 2 days without bootup because of the damn memory leaks, which eat up my physical memory and even 2 gigs of swap allocated. Every release since Hardy its been the same – install, try few days get utterly frustrated with the damn memory leaks making me reboot my system every other day. And don’t even get me started with gnome-system-monitor. A process monitor is supposed to report processes taking up CPU, not suck up CPU by itself. I junked it and started using htop – but it was just too frustrating.

    I’m back on openSUSE. Call me whatever you want – I haven’t seen a distro as polished as openSUSE, esp for a KDE user

    • Kevin says:

      I actually got a PC mag with three distros, OpenSuse, Ubuntu and Mandriva.

      I tried all of them. And found that Ubuntu is the simplest to install and use.

      I do not know what memory leaks you talk about because I have been using my Ubuntu machine for 5 months without problems. Rather I had issues with my Vista installation which guzzled up my RAM and so switched to Ubuntu. Happy to have made the switch.

      Where Ubuntu (and any other Linux distro) sucks is gaming. As Manish mentions, the problems with ATI. I am facing them. Playing games restricted to Windows for now.

      From the point of view of a common user and not a geek, I think Ubuntu is the best chance that Linux has got to reach the desktop of ordinary users.

      • Manish says:

        I never had problem with graphics since my laptop has Intel 945GM onboard chipset which has open driver. I have a desktop at home having NVidia chipset. I never had any experience with ATI. As I heard, it’s a big headache forever.

        Anyway it was Ubuntu and Fedora which we were able to provide in our college LUG (when I was in college) since these two distros were widely used by us all and are really polished. openSUSE didn’t find it’s way as none of the LUGies used it. Anyway, that doesn’t make it a bad distro.

      • Mildred says:

        Superior thinking deomnastrted above. Thanks!

    • Manish says:

      Really? The situation is so bad? Here I have used it for continuously for 21 days. (Never got a chance to exceed that).

      gnome-system-monitor is a facepalm for the GNOME project.

      Well, good luck with openSUSE. I have tried it, but I am more of Debian based distro guy who loves APT. RPM based systems are a bit complicated for me. I would run Debian if Ubuntu starts acting weird on me. I know Debian might not be as polished.

      • Sathya says:

        *shrugs* Not sure why I’m ( the only one !?) facing the problem. As for rpm v/s deb, well it depends on what you’re used to, and I’ve been an RPM & SUSE guy for quite sometime, and now from cli update point of view, zypper works well. Ah well.

  2. Troll says:

    Hi, Manish

    Really nice article. This is exactly what I had in mind about Ubuntu. You’ve shared the same thoughts that kept occuring to me since day 1. Writing as “Troll” just to let you know I’m the same “Troll”…. but that was just for kicks. I’m DO use Linux and DO admire the efforts people make in developing it. BTW is this graphic a mockup by you or for real? Because the ubuntu website still shows the old branding….

  3. KungFuMantis says:

    Well, Manish, you’ve listed some of the reasons why people have moved away from Linux as:
    * People disliked the dark brown theme
    * It didn’t look professional
    * The graphics card didn’t work (The ATI ones)
    * Atheros wireless driver has it’s own share of problems
    * It wasn’t windows

    Well, the thing is, as you correctly pointed out; the list goes on. In my opinion, people are trying a little too hard to convert others to Linux. The new look and ad-shots for ubuntu, though very Mac-like, won’t do much for the user unless the other problems are fixed. I know the developers are trying hard to identify these problems as all of them are unique to each user and it is difficult to unify them under a common grab; however, everywhere I see: the forums, brainstorm, etc. All people do there is flame Windows. Now I’m not spreading any FUD here, but VERY HONESTLY speaking, if you’ve got XP SP2 to Windows 7 with a cheap, free antivirus+firewall, there is a very rare chance that Windows will get infected. XP SP2 and above don’t even crash anymore and Memory management of Windows 7 is decent. I’m happy with my Windows 7 experience. At times, I get irritated that whenever somebody praises windows, Linux fans flame them by accusing them of spreading FUD. I was using Ubuntu 10 minutes ago…. I got up from my desk. By the time I came back, it was on sleep. I entered my password and then all I got was a black screen with a white box. Nothing then. This has happened twice on Karmic. With Hardy, I’ve had my computer POWERING OFF every 10 minutes. Now these aren’t minor problems such as WiFi not working or graphics card not being compatible. This is about the computer powering off and you losing all your work. Does canonical expect such an OS to be professional-grade? I’ve had such critical problems with MOST Ubuntu releases. Whenever I try telling Linux people that Ubunu is problematic, and I prefer Windows, they accuse me of spreading Linux-hate, although I REALLY WISH ubuntu comes out to be better than Windows some day. At times, I feel like telling the same people that they’re supporting FS and OSS just because it mostly comes without a price tag, and that they’re doing it under a false-veil of supporting software freedom. I don’t make such accusations because I know not everyone is like this. I think that more than OEM support is needed right now. The most important change needed is the mindset of the community…. to be able to accept its mistakes first…. a sign on wisdom. Only THEN, they’ll fix all these “paper-cuts” and “axe-blows”. Only THEN will OEMs support Ubuntu on a large scale, although this might not happen immediately with Microsoft threatening OEMs with blackmail of support-withdrawal. Well, I’ve said enough. You’ve got a nice blog. :D :D

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