How Ubuntu Ditched Me and Why I Ditched Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux is the most well-known Linux OS, and it's presented as the user-friendly, free alternative to Windows that doesn't need a powerhouse machine. It's the Linux that, they say, is supposed to provide a nice transition away from Windows and into the peace, love, and understanding of the Free Software world. Well no, Ubuntu. I'm done with you.

The number of people who still regularly use netbooks is probably tiny. They were a trendy item among early adopters, and I suspect those are the same people who've moved on to tablets for their small-mostly-entertainment-but-really-mostly-sitting-in-a-drawer-machine needs. But I like desktop machines, and I don't want to buy any more little computers. So I keep my netbook (which was already a low-end netbook when I reviewed it two years ago) running and up to date for when I want something I can move around.

It shipped with some commercial Linux on it that I didn't care for. I tried a few different Linux distributions before settling on Ubuntu (specifically the "netbook remix") for a long time. I don't really follow Linux versions—the constant upgrades to eight million different components, not all of which are in every distribution, are just too much for me to care about. So when Ubuntu gave me popups about upgrades, I said sure, do whatever you want. That worked fine at first, but the netbook's tiny (4GB) SSD was awfully full with nothing but Ubuntu installed, so eventually I had to delete some things (like OpenOffice, included in Ubuntu) to make room to let the updates finish. Then a couple of major version updates weren't even close to fitting, and I just did full OS installs of the new versions rather than bother with updates.

These reinstalls didn't take too long and weren't too much of a hassle, because all of my documents are stored on an SD card instead of the netbook's SSD. I just had to add a few programs and remove a few others. When the netbook asked me to upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04 last week then said I was over a gigabyte short of space, I figured I do that same again. I dutifully download the 650MB or so ISO and prepared my installation media. A few minutes into the installation, however, I was told that I needed 4.4GB of hard drive space to have a good Ubuntu experience. That was it. There was no apparent way to proceed, or to not install unnecessary applications, or anything else. So I gave up on Ubuntu.

My best guess as to why 4GB isn't enough anymore is that it has something to do with discontinuing a separate netbook version of Ubuntu. When I was trying to install 11.04, it was the full, real Ubuntu. And guess what? The full, real Ubuntu won't run on a machine that easily meets the installation requirements for what is still the world's most popular version of Windows. From the Microsoft page "System requirements for Windows XP operating systems" I see these requirements:

· Pentium 233-megahertz (MHz) processor or faster (300 MHz is recommended)

· At least 64 megabytes (MB) of RAM (128 MB is recommended)

· At least 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available space on the hard disk

And from the Ubuntu page "InstallationSystemRequirements":

· 1 GHz x86 processor

· 1 Gb of system memory (RAM)

· 8 Gb of hard-drive space

That latter page also says, "A good 'rule of thumb' is that machines that could run XP, Vista, Windows 7 or x86 OS X will almost always be a lot faster with Ubuntu even if they are lower-spec than described below." Good thing they say "almost always."

I think the clear lesson from my experience with Ubuntu is that someone who isn't interested in tinkering with a computer, who wants security updates, and who wants a simple, low-maintenance OS on a low-end machine should avoid Ubuntu, and probably Linux altogether—I'd have had a much more "it just works" experience over the years if I'd paid a few extra dollars for a Windows XP machine.

Luckily, I don't mind a little tinkering, and I grew up in the time when you had to know how to do some relatively complex stuff in DOS if you wanted to play computer games. So I can handle a command line, or command-line-like, experience. I've moved my netbook over to Crunchbang Linux. It's everything that I think Linux should be. It's small—I still have 1.5GB of free space on the netbook's SSD. It's lightweight—CPU usage by the OS is low and there's plenty of power left to do what little a netbook needs to do (web browsing and media playback mostly). I've had to dig into it a little bit—installing Java gave me a couple of weird problems—but I've finally got my netbook set up so that I have a regularly-updated OS that won't require regular reinstallations.

My point with this screed is that Ubuntu Linux doesn't seem to know what it is, and doesn't seem to fulfill a niche. It's not all that easy to use for those who aren't technically inclined—both Windows and Mac seem at least as intuitive to me. It's not especially technologically advanced—different Linux distributions provide much better bang for your hardware buck. Sure, it's free, but just try buying a new computer that doesn't come with a Windows license—you're paying for it anyway, might as well use it. So I guess the target audience for Ubuntu is people who have machines that are nearly, but not quite, powerful enough to run Windows 7, but who don't have a Windows license already, and who aren't comfortable enough tinkering with computers to use a different Linux OS. Seems like a tiny audience to me.

I'd love to be corrected—Canonical really does give the impression that it wants to give the world a beautiful computing experience and is trying its best. I just can't think of a situation where I'd recommend Ubuntu to anyone.

Discuss this Blog Entry 7

on May 15, 2011
For @ubuntu the author said that he switched to another distro of Linux-- not back to Windows. His only mention of Windows was to point out that Windows XP (note that it's NOT SP3) would fit on the netbook. I say not SP3, because if you install XP, and upgrade to SP3 on that netbook (I've tried on one with the same SSD in it), it doesn't have enough space either.

@the author. If you did like what ubuntu offered, you should have tried Linux Mint instead. It's a scaled-down version of ubuntu. As for your comment about "having to purchase a Windows license with the computer, so you may as well use it", Canonical and ubuntu are trying to change this. Wouldn't it be more appropriate, that you could choose what operating system will be on that computer--rather than have to wipe and install your own?

Finally, you didn't have to upgrade. You could have stuck with 8.04 or 9.04 or even 10.04 or 10.10. It was your choice to upgrade. Most users won't upgrade. And rather than say "I can't recommend ubuntu to anyone" you would be doing more good by saying "If your laptop is of similar specs, I wouldn't recommend anything above 10.04 or 10.10 for anyone. You're not FORCED to upgrade."

Have a great day:)

on May 16, 2011
Sorry, but this article is so badly slanted, all of the common sense fell out.

Yes, OS requirements do increase over time. On an old system with a tiny SSD, you tried installing the very latest version of Ubuntu, which requires 1GHz / 1GB / 8GB. That would properly be compared to the latest version of Windows, which requires 1GHz / 1GB / 16GB. Yup, that's right, twice the hard drive space required by Ubuntu 11.04.

"What is still the world's most popular version of Windows" is not relevant to much of anything, especially as you do not have any info on the "most popular" version of Ubuntu. Instead, you could use the criteria of continued update support, since Windows XP updates continue to 4/2014. To compare to that, you could still be running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (long-term support) which will have updates through 4/2013.

In short, reasonable folks do not expect OS requirements to stay the same forever, nor do they make wild comparisons between apples and oranges. Next time, please think through your premise.

on May 14, 2011
This is buu....uuulshit! I have never read bigger shit than this, Did you try or #ubuntu on, probably not coz you aint one of us, we are a community you are a bunch of users who have chosen to be enslaved by some Company that has detected your computer into meaningless tools on production but meaningful for their income generation. Anyways you are back where you belong and no one has a problem with that, as yourself does the word "Windows community" ring a bell in you mind as much as the word "Linux community"? of course no, reason being that the community you tried to upgrade to started long before you chose to become a prisoner to what has been running on your machines. Our drive is totally different, we do it for love, we code for love , yea just for the love of it and companies like Google and Facebook can remind you that doesnt stop the dollar from coming our way, as for you "users", you are enslaved by money oriented programming, thats why viruses can still survive in your machinnes when their are technologies, file system implementations and other process management measures that would completely breath some security to those machines you run that have never know security without an anti virus or an anti malware. Yet why aren't this technologies implemented, simply because that would mean a loss to the companies behind anti-virus and anti-malware software that you implicitly sign a contract with, of course blind-folded, when you purchase that license that limits you to play by their rules, if you are wise like many are, you might have foregone that dollar-licence transition and walked a way with a pirated version to face the same risks listed above. Nice time man, have plenty of good time where you are, coz thats where you belong. If you've cared to read the news, we are growing as a community, enriching our minds with new ideas. If you care to listen, you are behind and dropping in technology,lacking in new ideas but of course enriching some individuals, you know them.
on Jun 23, 2011
Has JoeMonco weighed in on this at all? I can't form an opinion without help from JoeMonco.
on May 16, 2011
I find this story incomprehensible.
Windows IT Pro has a presumed technically savy audience and authors. Yet despite professions of skill and technical information Mr. Wiggy is blundering around whimsically. If his netbook was running (or even could) run some permutation of windows, would he be making systems choices this carelessly ?

As best as I can tell the author seems to wish Ubuntu was more like some other Linux distro. In the end he picked another distro. I do not wish the Statue of Liberty was the Mona Lisa, and I am not sure why Mr. Wiggy thinks that is a good idea. There is a plethora of Linux Distributions because one size does not fit all. Cannonical does endeavor to overshadow many of those. More power to them if they can succeed at that. Regardless, their success in other areas is indisputable. And an editorial ranting about the authors self inflicted wounds is unlikely to change that.

There is a place in the world for OS X, Windows, and Linux. Within the Linux community there is a place for Ubuntu. I welcome any and all efforts be each of these to expand their market - I benefit.
I choose to run Ubuntu despite significant unhappiness about many Cannoical decisions. I still choose Ubuntu - because it is still an excellent Linux Distro, and since it is Linux, I can change asset my preferences over those of Cannonical when the issue is important enough.

I will also point out that the Author was able to replace the factory installed Linux with Ubuntu and then later replace it with something else.
Even my 10 year old can manage an Ubuntu install. I am an MSCE and I often have a great deal of trouble getting Windows installed (or re-installed) on a machine if it did not come pre-installed.

on May 16, 2011
I was in fact able to install and boot Windows 2000 on a 200 MHz Pentium with 64 MB RAM and 1,5 GB hard disk space, but this is barely enough to run notepad or pinball.

You should compare the latest Ubuntu to a hardware configuration that will run Windows 7 and Office 2010, even though it is perfectly possible to run Linux on hardware that is leaner than the specs above, think of embedded systems like MontaVista Linux.

on May 16, 2011
I'm not a big Ubuntu fan, but comparing the install of the latest version of an OS onto a netbook that "was already a low-end netbook when I reviewed it two years ago" to requirements for a version of Windows released in 2001 seems a bit ridiculous.

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