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A Gut Check On Gutsy Gibbon 390

Posted by kdawson
from the who-you-callin-windows-like dept.
jammag writes "Linux pundit Bruce Byfield looked inside the pre-release of Gutsy Gibbon and found what he calls 'Windows thinking.' His article, Divining from the Entrails of Ubuntu's Gutsy Gibbon, notes that Ubuntu is the dominant distro, having achieved a level of success that might be leading to complacency. He opines: 'Only once or twice did I find a balance between accessibility to newcomers and a feature set for advanced users. At times, I wondered whether the popularity might be preventing Ubuntu from finishing some rough edges.'"
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A Gut Check On Gutsy Gibbon

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  • Name? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by azav (469988) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:32AM (#20681539) Homepage Journal
    I hope this is not flamebait but what is it with these continually lame names of the releases? Gutsy Gibbon? Um, WTF? How does this say "Reliable, Trusted Operating System" to the user who is outside the geek circles?
  • by saterdaies (842986) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:35AM (#20681583)
    Sometimes, one has to make choices:

    After all, you can hardly secure a system if you do not know what is going on it.
    So, I should manually pick each and every package that is installed on my computer. Wait, that won't do it. I need to read and audit the source and then compile that source to be completely sure! I understand where the author is going here, but that's one of the great things about GNU/Linux. I can have my Ubuntu that gives me a good system in 15 minutes and he can use Gentoo, Slackware, or Linux From Scratch to create a system where he can account for everything on it. One distribution doesn't have to be everything to everyone. Lucky for us, because of the nature of open-source, a plurality of distributions is easy which closer meet the needs of our diverse uses. Many users don't want or care about a lot of the choices offered (heck, most of the world uses Windows). Thankfully, Linux is open-source and allows us to choose as much or as little configuration, selection, and customization as we want to deal with.
  • by HartDev (1155203) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:36AM (#20681607) Homepage
    So Ubuntu is the closest thing to a Linux distro that can fight off the Windows, Mac OS X will do okay but it will still be fan boys who get that. So unless we all want to run windows for another decade or two, we gotta respect what Ubuntu is doing for Linux distros........(sniff and a tear)......all over the world!
  • Re:Wait for next (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Braino420 (896819) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:45AM (#20681755)
    The author has some very interesting ideas about "security"
    TFA:

    This [not being able to choose additional packages at installation] lack is not only frustrating, but violates a main principle of security. After all, you can hardly secure a system if you do not know what is going on it.

    it [sudo] means that an intruder only needs one often-used password instead of two to gain control of the system.
    Ok, not being able to install additional packages at installation is a big deal, but calling it a "security issue" is a little silly. No ports are listening on a default Ubuntu install. It doesn't need to be "secured".

    I don't understand how not having sudo means the attacker has to gain control of two passwords. Does that even make any sense? They only need ONE password either time, the root password, or the password for a user that has sudo privs.

    I'm glad someone is really giving a critical eye towards Ubuntu (which can only result in further improvements), but talking out of your ass isn't going to get anything done.
  • duhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:47AM (#20681771)
    Ubuntu isn't successful because it's an operating system for advanced users only (like Gentoo). It's successful due to being user friendly to people who are Windows users who are curious about Linux.

    With Linux I've noticed that user control is inversely proportional to user-friendliness. Operating systems like Ubuntu are made with user-friendliness in mind and that comes at the price of user control. It's quick and easy to set-up and use which garners alot of favor from the Windows crowd.

    Similarly, Gentoo gives the user complete control over what applications, drivers, daemons are installed but is by no means user-friendly.

    The writer of TFA really did a whole lot of whining about how little control he had over the installation and initial software packages. What did he expect? It's Ubuntu.
  • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:50AM (#20681839) Homepage
    I think the main problem the reviewer is having is that he wants thinks to be like linux used to be. The reason I like Ubuntu is that it tries to escape from that. For example:

    - By default, the user never has to select any partitioning options, or even know what it is.
    Well, most people don't know what partitioning is.

    - Want to choose which software to install.
    Once again, new linux users won't know the names of all the programs they might want. Ubuntu installs what I consider a reasonable selection. Talk of knowing exactly what is installed sounds more like server talk, for which you probably want Ubuntu server, which does install a much smaller selection of packages by default

    - Doesn't send hundreds of confusing messages past at high speed on boot-up (me paraphrasing)
    Well good, particularly because most start-ups have at least one thing which looks to the untrained eye like a failure

    Other problems, including fonts, are possibly more valid. I'd be interested to know what an Ubuntu expert's opinion is on them.
  • Re:Name? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) * on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:52AM (#20681867) Homepage
    Even as a developer codename, the Ubuntu names border on the ridiculous. Most larger companies try to maintain some semblance of professionalism even with codenames (naming things after cities, rivers, catchy names that start with "z" or "x", etc). Codenames for upcoming releases are often referred to in press releases and the like, so it pays to avoid using overly silly names.

    Will it hamper Ubuntu's growth? Who knows. It doesn't seem to be doing a whole lot of harm yet, but then Ubuntu still hasn't really broken through in any major way into the business world yet either.
  • Re:Name? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dfdashh (1060546) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:53AM (#20681883)

    Who's to say that any name is lame or not? More importantly, who cares? A cursory glance beyond whatever moniker a distribution has is really needed before a decision is made to adopt it. If you judge based on a name, you probably shouldn't be in a position to decide anyway!

    If you are really worried about the name as it relates to non-geek circles, use their numbering scheme instead. Gutsy Gibbon is Ubuntu 7.10 (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/GutsyGibbon).
    Personally, as long as the Ubuntu guys continue to churn out an excellent product, I could not care less about the name.

  • Re:Wait for next (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2007 @10:55AM (#20681927)
    Presumably you don't allow the root user to login at all. The only way to get to root would be with su. His statement, I'm guessing, is based on that premise along with having to break into a normal user account first, before being able to su to root. Of course, that doesn't take into consideration the numerous possible attach vectors that do not require first breaking a normal user and then breaking root.

    For years I've never installed sudo because I liked the forced separation of privileges with different passwords. However, in an environment where numerous users need escalated privileges for different things, I have revised my thinking and enjoy the ability to provide fairly fine-grained controls on who/what people are able to access when raising privileges for specific tasks. Short of implementing SELinux, sudo gives me what I need for right now. I can see a day where SELinux will be more appropriate for some things, but until then...
  • by somersault (912633) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:00AM (#20682001) Homepage Journal
    More importantly, how do you find a trusted CPU? Is there some sequence of floating point operations that will disable page checking (or whatever) in an Intel processor? :P
  • Re:evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kebes (861706) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:02AM (#20682043) Journal

    random adjective and animal generator
    You think the names are chosen randomly? Heck no! These are geeks we're talking about... they plan, discuss, make lists, and debate such minutia endlessly.

    Don't believe me? Check out the "Ubuntu Development Code Names Wiki [ubuntu.com]", from which future codenames will be chosen!
  • ya... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:06AM (#20682081) Homepage Journal
    ...sorta like that goofy startup with the weird name, what was it called again, oh ya, "google". WTH is "google", my boss will never go for that!

    PHBs, and the companies they run, who fixate on names instead of the engineering aspects of a product will suffer long term, as always, because they probably also make weird decisions based on completely unimportant stuff. Like, what's a "linux", like a big bobcat, right? Can't be any good. They give it away free? Can't be worth much...and so on.

    With that said, of course gutsy gibbon is too weird, I prefer "randy rhino", the power tie of names! ;)
  • by drx (123393) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:09AM (#20682123) Homepage
    I actually wonder why there is still this big iron thinking about root and "unprivileged users", especially around a desktop distro like Ubuntu. I am the only user of my system. If someone breaks into my normal user account and deletes all files there it is the worst possible scenario. If it is done from root, there is not much of a difference. And unprivileged users can also serve as spam bots, they have all the access to a heap of scripting languages and whatnot -- so really, what is the difference?

    Just because it happens to be Unix, some people seem to have a sysadmin reflex that tells them root is more worthy than others.
  • Gah! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by unfunk (804468) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:15AM (#20682217) Journal
    This guy is obviously writing the review from the angle of a Linux Geek. A newcomer to the world of Linux will just be intimidated by all the shell commands this guy is talking about. I mean, really... is "apt-get update install xasd fdsix ikispkg mnfklsad --v" really that simple to remember? All those incredibly cryptic CLI commands are quite intimidating for the noob, and even intermediate users like myself tend to keep away from them.

    Ubuntu is doing wonders for Linux in the popular mindset... users can cut their teeth on it first, then if they want, they can move on to more advanced distros. Don't be recommending that they cut their teeth on Gentoo first, please.
  • by hondamankev (1000186) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:17AM (#20682253)
    RH brought the linux desktop to the masses. it was roundly criticized for it being too newbie friendly. PEOPLE WONT LEARN LINUX! they all said. Later, the same allegations were leveled at mandrake(iva) and Lindows/spire. IT HURTS LINUX MORE THAN IT HELPS they all cried. Well now that ubuntu is taking the desktop maturity to new levels of easeness, its now completely acceptable, and welcomed by all. Ease of use is in.

    The ubuntu cheerleaders, which is allegedly now ~30% of all linux desktop users, defend their darling distro till death. I would wager that many of these same people are the very same people who publicly smacked RH around, mocking those who used it.

    My question is, where are those people now?

    I grew up on RH, and use Fedora today. I was one of those who, back in the day, would get lol'd at in efnets #linux channels when I asked for help. Perhaps I am the kid who got virtually beat up too many times in my linux childhood, but it seems to me the hypocrisy level is in overdrive in regards to ubuntu.
  • Re:Wait for next (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spagetti_code (773137) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:17AM (#20682263)

    Ok, not being able to install additional packages at installation is a big deal, but calling it a "security issue" is a little silly. No ports are listening on a default Ubuntu install. It doesn't need to be "secured".

    No!

    Not having to make choices at install time is EXACTLY the reason that ubuntu is good. After a couple of simple questions, you are up and running with a very well configured system with the best one of each type of app installed that most people want. You dont have a huge stack of apps installed that you dont need.

    If that idea doesn't suit you, then I think you need a different distro. Dont go raining on ubuntu because its executing its plan well. (And by the way, that plan is exactly what the general population want/need).

  • by walt-sjc (145127) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:21AM (#20682331)
    The difference is that OS X has achieved the "it just works" holy grail that Ubuntu reaches for (albeit by "cheating" - limiting hardware configs)

    Yes, because OS X isn't limited at ALL in the hardware it can run on, right? Please.
  • Re:Wait for next (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc,paradise&gmail,com> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:26AM (#20682427) Homepage Journal

    I'm just curious. I see this phenomenon where folks reply to an unrelated first post... this usually happens when there are already several replies to the article itself. Why does this occur?
    Let's not be disingenuous. We all know why it happens -- too many people saw that this was successful in getting their comments modded up in places like digg, and started doing it here too. And the mods encourage it -- they /should/ be getting marked offtopic, but that never seems to happen anymore. Before anyone objects - yes, I know that this practice did not originate with digg; but there is no denying that it has started happening a /lot/ more frequently since digg became popular. While that's not direct evidence of causation, it's still a pretty compelling circumstantial case.
  • by roemcke (612429) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:26AM (#20682437)
    The real difference is when you want to remove said spambot and be sure it hasn't left any backdors into your system. If root has been compromised, you need to reformat and reinstall everything (including the MBR and BIOS for the paranoid!!). If only a single user has been compromised a spambot is much easier to remove and detect, and it cannot bypass the firewall or hide funny processes.
  • by simong (32944) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:33AM (#20682567) Homepage
    Because Windows also makes those choices for the desktop user, and the idea at this stage is to get users away from Windows and on to Linux without them having to think about partitioning disks, one password for them and another for whatever root is, and having to look for a instant messenger app, so they can chat to their sister in Spain. It has to just work as much as possible: to that end the model seems more like OS X, which of course also uses a single user and sudo (and with the rise in popularity of Beryl and Compiz, Ubuntu is starting to look like OS X).

    I can see the author's point to an extent, but Ubuntu isn't aimed at him, and he won't be able to approach it from the target user'sperspective.
  • by dfgchgfxrjtdhgh.jjhv (951946) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:34AM (#20682577) Homepage
    root gives them full control over your system, they can set daemons to run at startup, mess with system files, delete/modify every users files & any other file they want, run services on privileged ports (1024), install trojans, rootkits, delete/modify log files, and anything else they want.

    a root compromised means a full system rebuild. reformatting all drives & reinstalling from trusted media & the last known good backups. you cant trust anything on the system, or any backups taken since the hack. you might not even know the date of the hack, nevermind how they got in, or what they did, if they cleaned the logs.

    if a normal user account gets hacked & you're sure root hasnt been compromised, you could just delete the user, fix the vulnerability & restore the files from backups. you still have the log files, which will help give clues to how & when you were hacked.

    having your user account hacked is obviously very bad, but if they get root, its as bad as it gets, even on a single user system.

    btw, if your personal files mean a lot to you, you should take regular backups.
  • Re:Name? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:34AM (#20682583)
    I think Shakespeare covered this with that whole rose thing.
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:49AM (#20682909)

    I actually wonder why there is still this big iron thinking about root and "unprivileged users", especially around a desktop distro like Ubuntu.


    Because "desktop" computers are often multiuser machines for, e.g., families, and may even be used to perform server roles on a home network as well as a desktop functions. Its not "big iron" thinking, its "multiuser environment" thinking.

    Yes, compromising any user account is a Bad Thing, but compromising one that provides root access (whether root itself or one that can use sudo) is still, in many cases, substantially more significant than compromising one that does not.
  • Re:Wait for next (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThJ (641955) <thj@thj.no> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:51AM (#20682959) Homepage
    If I understand you right, my thesis on that is: posts that are further down are less likely to be read. It gets you more exposure to hook onto an existing thread near the top of the page.
  • by Bluesman (104513) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @11:53AM (#20683005) Homepage
    The thing is, you can do most of this from a user account. Users have access to a lot of stuff that can be just as bad, and once you have access to a user account, it's fairly easy to get root.

    Once someone with malicious intent can access your machine, you can pretty much kiss it goodbye. You can never really be sure that root wasn't compromised without an extensive investigation.
  • Re:Wait for next (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tolan-b (230077) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @12:08PM (#20683305)
    > but isn't that Windows mentality?

    No it's pre-release software...
  • Gentoo binaries (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HotBBQ (714130) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @12:14PM (#20683437)
    I just want to say that in *my* four years of using Gentoo I have never had anyone on the Gentoo forums, irc channels, or any of my colleages (academia or private sector) ever say that Gentoo compiled code is necessarily any faster than delivered binaries. I never had anyone recommend anything but -02 and -pipe for compiler options. What Gentoo does give you is the ability to easily get exactly the system you want. Nothing more, nothing less. Whether any particular piece of binary code is faster on Gentoo is purely on a case by base basis. People use Gentoo for choice, configurability, and on occasion performance.

    From the Gentoo home page:

    Thanks to a technology called Portage, Gentoo can become an ideal secure server, development workstation, professional desktop, gaming system, embedded solution or something else -- whatever you need it to be.
  • PCLinuxOS (Score:1, Insightful)

    by magadass (234992) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @12:59PM (#20684493) Homepage
    Ubuntu has so many things it can learn from PCLinuxOS, for one the Hardware Detection in PCLOS is the best I have have ever seen in any Linux distro, it is the single only Linux distro that worked on all my machines.
  • by norminator (784674) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @01:29PM (#20685127)

    TFA discusses needing to find the balance between "simplicity for beginners" and "power for advanced users."

    The funny thing about that is that he complains when Ubuntu provides tools for people with different levels of Linux familiarity. Like here, where he complains about package managers:

    The trouble is, Add/Remove Applications remains basic. Even its help suggests that you use Synaptic "for more advanced needs." Yet even Synaptic is less flexible than the basic apt-get command, and not much easier to use. And, for all the care given to the layout of Synaptic, the updater, and Add/Remove applications, I have to wonder: does any distro really need three or four desktop applications for the same function? After all, apt-get serves the same purpose as all of them. For some reason, the thinking of Ubuntu's planners seems uncharacteristically muddy here.

    If he doesn't think Synaptic is less flexible that apt-get, what are the reasons? Is he arguing that we should just have apt-get and not Synaptic or Add/Remove Applications? Of course Add/Remove Applications is basic. If I was going to hand Ubuntu over to my mom, I would be happy that there is a basic Add/Remove Applications menu item she can click on to see what's available. It is easy to see what it does, and it can get the job done for someone who wouldn't even know what to do with the flexibility of more advanced commands. I prefer Synaptic, because it lets me see all of the packages, categorized in several different ways, and gives me clear, easy to see information about each of them. I'm not scared of the CLI, but how is apt-get easier to use than Synaptic? Maybe if you already know the exact name of the package you want to install, but if you need any information about the packages available, I think Synaptic is very easy to use. The author seems to only like apt-get, but if that's all Ubuntu included, how would my mom install or remove apps?

    It sounds like he really wants Ubuntu to be less tailored for the average home user... He seems to be upset that the distro that home users would prefer is geared towards not confusing them.
  • Paradox of choice. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday September 20, 2007 @01:38PM (#20685299) Journal
    If there's the option to do more stuff, you have to be very careful to design a UI which will lead ordinary users away from choosing that option. Worse are the "power users", who will try to explore every single option, whether or not they understand it.

    It's a deliberate break from the "GNOME or KDE" question you get asked at install time. If you don't know and don't care, you get GNOME. If you know, there's always a way to get more choice -- you could download Kubuntu if you want KDE, for example.

    And if you really know what you're doing, you could download the Alternate or Server install CD, install from that (a more powerful installer anyway), and add packages as you need them. Or you can do a normal install, and remove packages, add other ones in later.

    In fact, I believe it's possible to "upgrade" a system between Ubuntu and Kubuntu and back.

    Now, granted, maybe it would be a good thing to have all of this power as a convenient GUI option. But the choice is there, if you know where to look.
  • Re:Wait for next (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poopie (35416) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @02:19PM (#20686125) Journal
    sudo is way better than su. Here's why:

    sudo allows fine grained access control for users, machines, and commands. There is a config file that lets you do all sorts of restricted access.

    su to root allows a user to do anything, lock anyone else out, change root password, etc.

    the benefits of sudo may seem opaque in the case of a single user on a laptop where there's no admin or IT team. When you think about real multiuser machines with an IT support group and users who need a variety of privilege levels, sudo it a great solution.
  • Re:Wait for next (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cloudmaster (10662) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @03:58PM (#20687815) Homepage Journal
    Get the "alternate install CD" or "Server install CD" or, at the boot menu, choose the non-GUI boot option. The installer is still basically the Debian installer, and you can do all sorts of things from the ncurses installer. The server install puts down a minimum system, upon which you can either then install the "ubuntu-desktop" package to get the default desktop, or install the individual packages you want (either for a secure server or secure desktop that you know all about)

    The "limited choice" installer is the one that runs in graphical mode after the end user has already chosen the *default* boot option - indicating that they're interested in defaults. People who want more options will examine the first menu they're presented with, or download something other than the "desktop live CD".

    Reporters who don't take the time to read "what's on the CD" before they download the .iso, IMHO, fall into the category of people who dhould be accepting default answers. Esp. if they're running a beta release of an OS.
  • by Karellen (104380) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @05:45PM (#20689401) Homepage
    "I am the only user of my system."

    I find that that just isn't the case much. Most computers I'm aware of are shared between a couple of users - owner + owner's partner, possibly + kids. And it's handy having your own account, just for simple stuff like desktop theme, recently used start-menu list, fonts, desktop icons, display resolution, etc... Then you've got email, web bookmarks + autocomplete, plugins, documents, preferred applications (e.g. juk vs. xmms), rss feed reader, calendar (surprise romantic restaurant booking, don't put on shared calendar!), etc.... It's not just for security (or hiding your pr0n :) but it's just /convenient/ for each person to have their own settings.

    If you do something dumb and someone hacks your account, yes, you might lose all your files and have to restore from backup. But at least your partner won't have the same problem. They don't lose that half-day's (or half-week's, or half-however-long-you-take-between-backups) work that they did between the backup being taken and your account being pwned.

    And that doesn't even take into consideration what other people have already mentioned, that you can merely restore your user files from backup instead of having to wipe the drive and reinstall & reconfigure all your system software *first* (did you remember to keep a backup of /etc?)
  • silly argument (Score:2, Insightful)

    by agendi (684385) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @06:57PM (#20690261)
    while I found some of his points posing some interesting opinion that I felt inclined to, the one that really stood out as rubbish to me was the package management point.

    The add/remove software is a great place for new users to browse.. it's simple to use and doesn't bombard you with libs and low level stuff. It doesn't claim to do everything (a point that he held against it) and lets the user know where to go to do the "harder" stuff. My younger sister was able to add software to her ubuntu system without any help or prompting from me and without knowing the names of project.. she browsed through categories that interested her (multimedia in this case) and then using their description (some of them weren't great, but most were pretty good to excellent), where two packages sounded very similar she looked at the bottom of the description where it says "this works well with (k)ubuntu desktops" and then if she couldn't decide she looked at the number of stars. She calls me the next day and tells me proudly that she has made the computer do what she wants without having to search the world - it was all there from the very beginning. My 16yo sister that has no interest at all in computers beyond getting her school work done and her music projects, became the best advertisement for ubuntu (and linux in general) for her peers.

    6 months on and she is eagerly awaiting Gusty and will be upgrading it by herself.

    There is nothing bad about having the choice between multiples tools especially if they engage with their audience at the appropriate level.

    After all we could all still (and many do) just use vi to do everything in - that is not enough reason to put down the various gui text editors and IDE's etc.

That does not compute.

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