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Google Talks About Its Ubuntu Experience 230

dartttt writes "There was a very interesting session at the Ubuntu Developer Summit by Google developer Thomas Bushnell. He talked about how Ubuntu, its derivatives and Goobuntu (Google's customized Ubuntu based distro) are used by Google developers. He starts by saying 'Precise Rocks,' and that many Google employees use Ubuntu — including managers, software engineers, translators, people who wrote the original Unix, and people who have no clue about Unix. Many developers working on Chrome and Android use Ubuntu. Ubuntu systems at Google are upgraded every LTS release. The entire process of upgrading can take as much as four months, and it is also quite expensive, as one reboot or a small change can cost them as much as a million dollars across the company." Bushnell also mentions that Google Drive will soon be available for Linux. Other news out of UDS: there was discussion of a GNOME flavor of 12.10, Electronic Arts reaffirmed that they "won't delay their Windows work for Linux," and Unity 2D is likely to disappear in 12.10.

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Google Talks About Its Ubuntu Experience

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  • Upgrades do suck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GeneralTurgidson ( 2464452 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:15PM (#39982043)
    With Linux desktops, it's almost better to reimage them then do a mass roll out of dist-upgrade and pray it works. Even with custom package management, it seems the upgrade scripts can be very buggy.
  • Re:Unity 2D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ACS Solver ( 1068112 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:44PM (#39982207)

    I just had a new bit of Unity experience yesterday. I had tried the early horribly unstable versions but switched away very quickly. Yesterday, I did a long-overdue update of Ubuntu on girlfriend's netbook to 12.04. Here's how it went after the upgrade.

    She logs in, the computer seems a tad slow (yea, Unity 3D on a netbook). Figures out the icons for launching apps are on the left panel, wants to add GIMP there. Types gimp in the search bar thing, its icon appears. Right-clicks it hoping for a context menu, instead GIMP launches. Tries again, left-click, it launches. Tries again, drags the icon to the panel, it works. Sort of - the panel gets a button for the GIMP, but there's no icon on it, it just appears blank. Next she wants to run Chrome. As she types "chro", the UI freezes and shortly thereafter there's a message that Compiz crashed. It restarts, now GIMP's button shows the icon, too. She browses the Web for a bit, then I take the computer to see if I can turn some stuff off to speed it up. I open a terminal, check performance data there, try alt-tab, doesn't work. Okay. I open the control center, go to Appearance, Compiz crashes again. Then I find online that, to change Compiz-related config, I have to separately install a settings plugin for it. It's not available by default even through Unity is the default DE. At least then I found you can switch to Unity 2D.

    I was pretty open to seeing how Unity would perform now. After all, I had only used the early versions. But this experience was horrible - 2 crashes within the first 15 minutes, definite slowness, and I'm pretty sure my gf will soon be asking to switch to a different interface, she's really uncomfortable with Unity so far.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:45PM (#39982219)

    Ubuntu LTS to LTS is typically a longer life cycle than Debian Stable to Debian Stable. And both are derived from Debian Testing. Both these facts make me question your reasoning and your conclusion that Ubuntu is somehow "more bug-ridden". Sounds like typical Debian fanboism to me.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:49PM (#39982233)
    Is iceweasel still version 2.5?
  • Re:Unity 2D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ACS Solver ( 1068112 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @08:03PM (#39982291)
    Yes, Unity 2D is what she's currently trying. Switched to that from 3D quickly because 3D simply isn't suitable for a netbook. I'm surprised some post-install scripts don't switch the default environment to 2D for computers with weak graphics cards.
  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @08:14PM (#39982335)

    is that EA has even noticed Linux.

    They noticed that the browser based games they are pushing happen to work fine in Linux systems without any work at all. That's the only sort of game they are enabling. They aren't doing anything with their 3D game engine sort of stuff. Basically, Linux is a side-effect of pursuing the casual gamer market through browsers.

    but you guys hand pick your hardware, you're in the minority.

    Except that most people who even kind of care stick with brand names like 'Radeon' and 'nVidia' that do 'just work' in windows and linux distributions that are practical about helping with binary blobs (e.g. fedora isn't 'just work' until you add fusion, but ubuntu just works). Intel integrated as of *late* also just works (in more places) though it's unimpressively slow. In theory you can get non-AMD, non-nVidia, non-Intel graphics, but I'm hard pressed to think of a *consumer* product that does that anymore.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2012 @08:15PM (#39982337)

    Ubuntu/Precise is awesome. It really shows how much effort went into this release. I am extremely happy with how little I needed to customize or fix after installing it on my laptop (suspend/resume, encrypted file systems, unusual hardware drivers ... all the things that usually cause problems worked out of the box).

    On the other hand, despite trying to get used to Unity, the new UI just does not work for me. I can even (almost) understand the design choices. It certainly looks shiny and discoverability of most UI features is pretty good. A lot of the UI has been simplified to make it easier to use for casual users.

    Unfortunately, almost every single one of these changes really gets in the way of my day to day productivity. I spend so much time every day using my computer, I need a window manager that gets out of the way most of the time. And that defaults to doing the right thing, when I need it to do something for me.

    I am sure, as a power user with very specific requirements, I am not in the primary target group for Unity. But fortunately, after installing GNOME Panel and the Awesome [] window manager, I found a solution for my UI needs. I am now as happy as can be. This is by far the nicest Linux distribution I have used.

  • Re:Unity 2D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <> on Saturday May 12, 2012 @11:48PM (#39983143) Journal
    Meh, ignore the FUD and try it. The world won't end, your computer won't explode. Like most DEs, Unity does what it's supposed to do and generally works well. Try it, if it's not to your taste then use another one.

    It's not like it's a big deal just to use a different DE.

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @11:50PM (#39983153)

    With Linux desktops, it's almost better to reimage them then do a mass roll out of dist-upgrade and pray it works.

    Your opinion has been colored by the crap Ubuntu puts out. Try it on Debian, it works. My home server started as Debian Potato with kernel 2.2 and has been upgraded continuously all the way to Wheezy. For most of its life it was my desktop as well as my server. And yes, I run my server on Debian unstable. Just don't let anybody tell you you that re-imaging is a fact of life. Just because Canonical has trouble with it (and Google has major major trouble with it because of certain idiocy I won't get into) doesn't mean it can't be done. And even Canonical has managed to pull off a fairly reliable cross-release upgrade the last couple of releases.

    Re-imaging is something that happens to Windows users. Linux users generally don't need to put up with it.

  • Ubuntu Sucks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ilikenwf ( 1139495 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @12:03AM (#39983189)

    Just because Google uses it doesn't mean it's any good. I'm not being a troll here - if you'd try a distro other than Ubuntu, you'd find that Ubuntu isy really, really bad, bloated, and slow. Yes, there are other distros that are equally as bad or worse, but there is an abundance of distros that far exceed what Ubuntu provides.

    I'd suggest Archlinux myself, or plain old Debian if you want something that's stable and easy. Arch has rolling updates meaning you don't have milestones - packages just get updated as they get changed by their developers, so no real upgrade hell there. Debian is rock solid (more than Ubuntu), and is great for servers and everything in between - it's the right balance of coddling/ease of use and stability, without the bloat and crap.

    The real issue with Ubuntu's serious suckage is that it's been made too corporate, and has been hijacked by a corp. While other distros are funded and run by corps, they tend to keep the spirit of open, nonintrusive, non ad-based OS'es going instead of forcing changes, ads, and other BS (like Unity) on their users without any real notice. They also don't make people so unable to fix their own problems by coddling them with a GUI for everything.

  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @12:35AM (#39983309)
    How does "significantly slower" == "still be usable"?
  • by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:02AM (#39984985)

    I have been using computers for about 15 years now and here are my thoughts concerning OS updates and (to a lesser degree) updates in general:

    I try to avoid updates like hell.

    More often than not, an upgrade will tend to make the system slower, influence your user experience by changing the way you do stuff (for no apparent reason), and break things. So unless we are talking about an update that adds important functionality that is worth the risk it comes with, it just won't come anywhere near my system(s). Obviously, this way of filtering updates lets (most) security updates pass for machines that are online. I put really important systems on an air-gap network.

    The above also means that UI (or similar) updates are straight out. No UI is flawless. No OS comes complete with the functionality you wished for. Once you set up a system and adjust it so that it won't (badly) suck, then chances are that you will be finding ways to add functionality using 3rd party software, learn how to do things someone decided you are not supposed to (also known as "hacks" for you youngsters) and in general bring it to a state that you are more or less happy with.

    They why, oh why, do you have to go and mess it up?

    I'm not saying that I don't use the new stuff, but usually such new experiences also come with new machines that (in general) get fresh installations of the latest versions of everything that is needed. I found this to minimize the pain and time wasted, and most importantly, it puts you in control. If you perform a casual update and things go awry, then it is highly probable that you will be wasting time on trying to fix it, while you should be paying attention on more important things.

  • by DuckDodgers ( 541817 ) <> on Sunday May 13, 2012 @11:22AM (#39986123)
    Anecdotes don't make for good statistical evidence, but I've been using Ubuntu since 10.04 and the four upgrades since then all ran flawlessly.

    Then late last month I was rearranging hardware and ripped the damn SATA connector on my primary hard drive in half, so I had to reinstall from scratch. I had backups, so no data was lost, but when I bought a replacement disk I decided to give Linux Mint a spin.

    I find all this venom between the different distributions disturbing. The free software community makes some amazing cool stuff, and I love Linux and enjoy using it. But it's not hard to understand why corporations with tens of billions of dollars in the bank can invest more in bug-testing upgrade processes than projects backed almost entirely by volunteers (Debian), funded by a relatively small business (Ubuntu), or funded by a slightly larger business (Red Hat). If Microsoft still has upgrade bugs galore, and they have complete control over the operating system stack and are the primary customer of all the PC hardware vendors, it should be no surprise that the free software community does too.
  • by inglorion_on_the_net ( 1965514 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @12:51PM (#39986681) Homepage

    What makes them so different? The package management system? Or maybe just the love and care given it?

    I think it's the care and love. It's not just the upgrades to new major versions of the distro, it's also updates within the same major version, and how well things work to begin with.

    Debian and Ubuntu use the same packaging system, and I have had great experiences and terrible experiences with both of them. Ubuntu made a name for itself by providing a very polished, complete experience out of the box. Since then, they seem to have been chasing new features at the expense of quality. I haven't had an Ubuntu install work completely right since 2008 or so. And that's clean installs, I'm not even talking about upgrades.

    Debian stable, for all that their long release cycles are ridiculed, really care about quality control. Basically, the new release goes out only once it has been extensively tested and either all known critical bugs have been fixed, or at least the known bug count for the new release is substantially lower than that for the existing release. Almost as a bonus, their upgrades usually work perfectly, they support a huge number of packages, and they support a great number of architectures. On the other hand, Debian is more a "build your own experience" distro than a "get a polished, complete experience out of the box" distro. I like this, but I certainly see the value of having a complete, polished system out of the box, too.

    Alas, even though Debian has done better for me than any other system I have ever used, even with Debian I have had problems; once, a system wouldn't come back up after a kernel upgrade. Another time, the Exim configuration was broken by an upgrade. Ok, so it's only two issues in over 10 years and hundreds of upgrades, but still, it means Debian is not perfect.

    In terms of packaging systems, I believe Debian was the first to really make automatic dependency resolution and single command distro upgrades work, at least for binary packages. However, the rest of the world has mostly caught up now; some distros use the tools developed by Debian, some use others, like Yum, and as far as I know, they all work. So I really think the difference is in the quality control and the priority it gets. What is the top priority for the people behind the distribution? Is it quality? Is it shipping the new release on schedule? Is it including the latest software? You have to do all of those to an extent to be relevant, but when push comes to shove, I think Debian is one of the few distros that will sacrifice everything to quality: they will delay their release and they will throw out packages that are not adequately maintained. If a distro has different priorities, it is not surprising that quality suffers somewhat.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling