Is Shuttleworth Crazy, Brave, or Smart?

by Susan Linton - Nov. 05, 2010Comments (49)

UbuntuLast week Mark Shuttleworth dropped the bomb that the next release of Ubuntu, 11.04, would ship with Unity as the default window manager. This caused a lot of concern throughout the community, but most were getting used to the idea, appeased by the knowledge that GNOME Shell would be but a few clicks away. But yesterday he went even further - he announced that Ubuntu would be moving to the Wayland graphical server as well. Has Shuttleworth lost his mind? Or does he know something we don't?

One of the biggest problems with Unity is that it requires graphical hardware acceleration in order to function properly, but then Ubuntu ships with open source drivers and provides easy access to proprietary graphical drivers that provide this functionality. So, most early concerns on this topic again were appeased for the most part. But with yesterday's announcement, this becomes a very serious issue among others.

The first issue to note is how young the Wayland project is compared to what it is actually designed to do. Wayland is a bold idea that everything is direct rendered and composited while passing most of the work on to the kernel and graphic libraries (such as Cairo or Freetype). The results should be a simpler, lighter weight graphical server that can serve up several desktops without excessive additional overhead. All exciting prospects, but the technology is not ready to ship with only MeeGo OS signed up to actually ship it.

Up until yesterday MeeGo was the only future user because Wayland is still quite limited in terms of compatible hardware and software as well as the lack of 3D acceleration demanded by Unity. Fortunately, the move to Wayland isn't slated for 11.04 and may not even be ready for 11.10. In fact, it may have to be pushed back even further. It will have to be until this major conflict is resolved.

Folks are standing around the halls and water coolers with their jaws dragging the floor as the prospect begins to sink in with the media coverage. What is he thinking?

Sure, some speculate his goal is to provide a common look and feel across the many devices in use today such as laptops, netbooks, smartphones, tablet PCs, and the old dinosaur desktop PCs. The corporate world has been trying to find a way to make money off this "Internet thing" especially since the price of computer hardware fell. Software as a Service and its ilk never wildly caught on. The latest trend is cloud computing, which is essentially SaaS and storage combined, and expensive mobile devices. That's probably where Mark's ambitions lie. Ubuntu One, the music store, and paid applications were rolled out to introduce the idea of paying and remote services to Ubuntu users. But there's little call for cloud computing with desktops users. It's the mobile customer that can really use the cloud storage capacity. And those eying a profit are looking upward.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But Shuttleworth and company need to be prepared for the backlash coming from their previously targeted audience - the desktop user. And it is coming. Blogs and mainstream media are still lamenting the move to Unity and the fallout from the Wayland announcement will reverberate for months to come. Few kid themselves that Shuttleworth cares. He's an entrepreneur who wants a return on his investment. Again, nothing wrong with that, but Canonical should grow tougher skin.

Jono Bacon posted another blog entry this morning trying to smooth over the controversies created by the direction Ubuntu is being taken by basically stating that anyone disagreeing hasn't bothered to research the topic on which they speak. And if they are going to speak out, be nice about it. That tack isn't going to win any supporters. Desktop users want to know the Ubuntu they've always loved and propelled to the top, and do not doubt it was the loyal masses who did this for Ubuntu, will always be available and workable on their hardware. Unity and Wayland can not guarantee this and, in all likelihood, won't ever.

What Shuttleworth and most of the cloud proponents fail to realize is no one will ever trust their livelihood (or even their porn collection) to some remote server with unknown employees and affiliations. The cloud is not going to rule the world no matter how many articles are written, how often the word is buzzed around, or how many new providers emerge.

There's little doubt that Mark Shuttleworth is just a very brave man. It takes a brave man to exit the Earth's atmosphere and stake his future financial security on open source software. But sometimes bravado kills the cat too.

Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Not crazy, just bored.

0 Votes

How about arrogant? He reminds me of character in the Woody Allen movie, Bananas, where when Woody Allen becomes the dictator, which is a puppet to this guy, they guy declares that from now on, everyone will wear their pants on the outside... Yeah, he's fruity...

Gnome 3 is in the works and could use all the help it can get. KDE 4 is awesome as a desktop. What works on netbooks and tabs do not work on the desktop. Shuttleworth is downright self-centered and selfish. He's long been accused of not working with the upstream. Now, its becoming more and more clear he's not and only cares about what's best for Ubuntu, not Linux.

I'll never have Ubuntu on my desktop again. It's already been awhile since I used it full time, but this crap puts the nail in the proverbial coffin. I'm done.

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Why is it people keep complaining about Unity when the fact of the matter is that Unity as it is now will not even be using the same window manager now that it will be in 6 months? The fact of the matter is that anyone complaining is doing so very prematurely.

Yes Unity has its rough edges, but so did the first UNR/UNE interfaces on the first couple releases. Yet no one clamored against it as there is now against Unity, despite the fact that Mark even said that the desktop version and netbook version would be different, but with Unity as a platform.

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Mark Shuttleworth didn't get where he is by following anyone. He is a trail blazer. I feel sorry for him hearing all the noise that people make as they follow him.

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Why is it people keep complaining about Unity when the fact of the matter is that Unity as it is now will not even be using the same window manager now that it will be in 6 months? The fact of the matter is that anyone complaining is doing so very prematurely.

Yes Unity has its rough edges, but so did the first UNR/UNE interfaces on the first couple releases. Yet no one clamored against it as there is now against Unity, despite the fact that Mark even said that the desktop version and netbook version would be different, but with Unity as a platform.

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I agree. Shuttleworth isn't crazy - he needs a draw card to pit against Windows 7 and OS X. Once Unity becomes more mature (and bear in mind that it may not even look like it does on netbooks) it could be the unique, usable and cool look that Linux may need for people to migrate.

We already have Linux Mint if you want a Windows lookalike. What's wrong with something pretty and unique like Unity? (Although please let it support Wobbly Windows ...)

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It is this gutsy move that I applaud. Linux needs these kind of people. The vocal Linux crowd are very conservative and resistant to change, so I expect opinions like these to be coming.

This vocal Linux crowd have very little vision, if any, for the future and get flustered when someone comes and wants to change the status quo.

I hope Mark continues to have a thick skin and gets more support from gutsy and innovative people.

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The author of this article thinks that gnome shell is a better option, but is not. Unity is immature but at least have some usability notion.

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Something that impresses me about Canonical is that they seem to be working hard to throw away everything that makes GNU and "Linux" be GNU and "Linux". In this case the ability to install on older and less powerful hardware. ( Remember that demo of Compiz on a 7 year old computer running smoother then Vista on brand new hardware? )

Worse they seem to be collecting a bunch of adherents second in nastiness only to Microsoft fanboys. They treat GNU people like the first panel of this comic: .

My feeling is that Canonical will keep eschewing the "GNU/Linux/Foss philosophy " till in a few years there will be serious malware released which only runs on Canonical based versions of Linux ( and the Mint will be glad for LMDE ) because other Linuxs simply will not have the needed holes.

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I couldn't agree with you more about adoption of the cloud. It's never going to happen.

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Who cares for some alfa/beta quality linux crap when we have Windows 7?

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If there's any display server that's guilty of encouraging the cloud, it's X. Wayland is designed to operate on a local machine, X is network transparent.

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I think Shuttleworth is consistent. He has no interest in being just one of eight interchangeable Linux flavors. He wants to out-cool Apple. All of us tag-alongs who "demand" he serve us instead are going get a wild ride.

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Is the author crazy, brave or smart? definitely crazy and definitely NOT brave or smart!

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Innovate or die.

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Wayland will not work with Nvidia proprietary drivers. A vote Wayland is a vote for substandard video and poor wine compatibility.

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Ubuntu started as a debian based linux distribution, but is becoming its own thing. So what. I wish them the best. I will continue to use debian. No big deal...

1 Votes

This post does not make sense.

You ramble about SaaS and cloud computing, and somehow tie this into what you think Mark Shuttleworth is planning by switching to Wayland from X. What? What he's "planning" to get a huge "return on his investment" is to make graphics on Ubuntu silky smooth and glitch/tear free. How did you manage to tie a change in the display system of Ubuntu to some over-arching plans to start milking the Ubuntu user base for money?

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"the cloud" used to be called "mainframe" just wanted to put it out there.

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Mark Shuttleworth seems to be willing to stand up for his vision of the future. It is what we call a visionary.

There are a lot of people who seem to be scared of change. Or have there little reason for disliking Ubuntu/Canonical/Mark but hold to there guns anyhow. But I am pro all of those, they are taking a stand for the future in an area where everyone else is looking to the past and saying what we have is good enough. Because of this quality one day Ubuntu will be amazing and people will be looking back in 10 years time saying I watched this happen.

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I like the Shuttleworth plan

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How come if someone else says "We want to do this and that" there's excitement and much speculation about how cool it will be... But when someone in the Linux camp decides to go their own path it's all boos and hisses?

Many call out fragmentation as a bad thing, but I actually think that it's quite the opposite. You see, who the bleep cares if Mark decides to go here or use this software or whatever he wants to decide? Just as long as there's a way to either opt-out whatever changes they made or there's someone else who does their own version of Linux based on Ubuntu, there will be plenty of choice for whoever wants to come on board.

Your comments about Jono and what he said in his blog are all wrong... This is something that's been long coming to the open source community at large! What gives someone the sense that they are somewhat entitled to deride, demean or insult someone just because they perceive that someone as an "enemy" and how someone finds it completely understandable is beyond my comprehension.

Finally I must add that it's good to see Linux making bold decisions, all distros do it, which is why all distros are different. What you or I can "perceive" from what others "think" about what someone said will be proven when, and if, this is rendered as truth... And I want to see you then and there.

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I think it's clear that the strategy for Ubuntu is to become the leading distribution supporting touch technology. This has to be Shuttleworth's vision for Canonical. He is making an all-in move like in Texas Hold-em. He is holding the touch interface and cloud computing in his hand. He is hoping that one of the two, if not both hit the board.

I see a significant market for touch devices, while cloud computing I'm not so convinced of. Do I want Google, or anyone else for that matter, harvesting the info out of my latest document that I created online, then two minutes later getting an email for a divorce attorney? I think not, that is why I go to the trouble to encrypt drives and files. There is constantly going to be an undercurrent of distrust when it comes to cloud computing. This alone is going to stifle its' acceptance, growth, and success.

No distribution can be everything to everyone. The question is, which direction is Ubuntu heading? Linux distributions always seemed to posited between the ultra stable (for servers and enterprise desktop/laptop use) and bleeding edge for the individual user. Now enter mobile devices and interfaces with touch. Looks like the strategy being employed is to be able to support those features natively. This leaves the average PC and laptop user in limbo, at least when it comes to Ubuntu.

Shuttleworth better handle this transition properly, and with a clear strategy for all current users of Ubuntu. Right now his communication strategy sucks. He has not outlined his vision for Ubuntu clearly. This is coming across like he is making it up as he goes along, with a big middle finger extended to anyone that questions his strategy. Well, I have an idea, explain your strategy and give people the chance to buy into what you are doing. Because, right now, I've fired up VMWare Workstation and am searching for a different distro. Cause, sure as hell, I'm not going to be the guinea pig that fires up 11.04 when it gets released.


Suwanee, GA USA

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grow up guys... whats wrong with this change? if you really wanna stick with current *untu settings and config (similar) go with Linux mint..

Its human nature (really a fact) to oppose the change. I think, canonical does have resources to bring the most out of Unity. Wayland is not yet fully matured, and thats why he is telling it will take some time to come to desktop.

I'm not a fanboy, but ubuntu is the sole reason for getting myself in to linux world.

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What in the world does Wayland have to do with cloud computing?

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I've already switched over to Mint, and am running Mint-Debian on my test computer. Ubuntu is passe

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Unity and Wayland are and will be geared more towards mobile devices. Mobile device owners are the market to which perhaps cloud computing might appeal. There have been hints that Mark is very interested in the cloud craze. So, the theory I was submitting is: Unity + Wayland = Cloud computing.

There is no money in desktop Linux. So, I was just saying I think Ubuntu as a desktop system is probably being phased out for a mobile system tied to remote storage.

Sorry, if it wasn't clear.



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I'd like to see Ubuntu become so different from other Linux distro's that people no longer even consider it to be Linux. There's too much fragmentation in Linux already. This fragmentation is preventing successful adoption of Linux in the business world. I want to be able to use Linux at work, not just at home. But it ain't gonna happen until there is some consistency. This is where MS always wins. Windows is not the best OS. It's fact is pretty bad. But at least it's consistenly bad. Everybody knows it's strengths and weaknesses. They learn how to manage the problems. With Linux you can't plan on anything if you're a software developer.

I try using Ubuntu about once a year but I can't figure out why so many people like it. The Redhat based distro's (CentOS) are the winners in my book. Ubuntu's switch to Wayland means nothing to me.

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I'm not at all saying change is bad, but these strange decisions is what is making people jump off the Ubuntu ship. Ubuntu is not what got me into the Linux world, it was actually Fedora. Well, Fedora Core 1. So I feel like I owe Ubuntu nothing after abandoning their distribution after 10.04 came out. So you're wondering what I'm using now, right? Linux Mint? No thanks. How about what Ubuntu was at 4.10. It was Debian. You know how to use aptitude and dpkg after using Ubuntu, right? Why not get away from all this non sense and go to a mature distribution like Debian?

And by all means, I normally don't preach but there is a reason why Debian has so much respect in the Linux community.

But as far as answering the question to this article, I would say Mark is most down right brave. You would have to be to put all of your money is jeopardy like this!

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I don't care if it is still opensource, free and I can configure it to what I want.

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Mark Shuttleworth listen to us, this Unity and Wayland thing you envision is fine BUT this is only going to hit 1/10th if that of the Ubuntu community!! The rest of the 9/10ths of the community should not be forced to swallow the same pill from the bottle you took yours from. This is suicide if you think you can move the entire Ubuntu community like this! Your approach is very dictatorship like. Learning to listen to the community IS a very hard and humbling thing, The vail of your conciseness has been torn forever.

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Peoples who complain about both move should remember that if they want a classic Linux Gnome desktop running X they still have dozen of major Distro to get it from Debian, Fedora, and Open Suse just to name a few. They all look and feel pretty much the same and that the big problem too many distro doing the same damn things and not enough real innovation. Same goes for KDE, the problem is not that Ubuntu is doing something different the problem is that the Linux communities have been stuck in the Gnome/KDE/X status quo ante for years now! This will be a breath of fresh air let just try to enjoy it! And it not like any of these changes are happening tomorrow. Unity may well not be implemented fully for Natty and Wayland is at least two to three years away!

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Ah...the wonderful Linux community. Those intrepid souls responsible for making desktop Linux the 1% solution and who fight tooth and nail to keep it there.

I've seen the future of personal computing for the masses. Guess what? It looks a lot like an iPad. Maybe not Apple's particular implementation, but they've got the general idea. Seems Shuttleworth has seen one, too, and wants a Linux that's ready to play where all the action is going to be a few years (and not all that many) down the road. What's wrong with that?

The desktop PC may not be dead, but it is a dead end. Crawl out of your cubicle/classroom and see how the real world works.

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Not too long ago, people were bitching about how little Canonical was contributing to Linux. Pick a lane, guys!

Aqua is not an X server; know anyone who rues that decision? (Sure, they have an X server as well.) Nope, just concerned with how perty the screen looks.

Network transparency is a good feature, but I believe the majority of us use our X server on our desktop/laptop. Until the dynamic changes, and I have an S390 with several notebooks playing 'X thin client', network transparency is not THAT big an issue. And if it were, I'd fire up an xserver.

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Shuttleworth is smart. This is part of an on-going pattern of showing leadership and trying to make Ubuntu stand out from an otherwise boring crowd of GNOME desktops.

Ubuntu made Mint what it is today. Mint was able to capitalise on the earlier Ubuntu mistake of relying on GNOME for innovation. Running a stock GNOME desktop is not in their best interest because more Mint's will come along. Ubuntu must evolve if it is to stay not only the most popular distribution, but appear to be a leader. You don't get that without risk.

Shuttleworth is therefore also a risk taker. Bravado implies pretension and there is no pretence here. He has a vision that goes beyond tweaking GNOME. Anybody can do that. Shuttleworth is saying that he wants Ubuntu to be the best and you can't fault him for trying.

Linux needs more like him. We need boldness, conviction, determination and innovation in an ever changing landscape where mediocrity is for losers.

Curiosity killed the cat, not bravado.

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It was very interesting to read this article, and also the posted links. What literally perplexed me was to read first the description of how Jono's blog post "Making our world more respectful" was intended to try to smooth the controversies by basically stating "that anyone disagreeing hasn't bothered to research the topic on which they speak. And if they are going to speak out, be nice about it."

That I see as a long stretch of reasoning. And that is because, after reading the article and the comments to the article of many developers also from Debian for example, thus not all directly associated to Ubuntu, that would contradict the reasoning that such a post is not going to win any supporters. It obviously will not win the rude and vocal people initially but eventually we might all become civilized and honest with ourselves and others.

Although i generally agree with the concerns expressed in this article regarding the state of the drivers, Unity or Wayland for that matter, it is very interesting to observe the vehemency of some of the statements about what Mark's intentions might be, and to see a sincere blog post about rudeness in disagreement or in feedback and communication, being transformed into an argument that just not fit too much. And that is because even though "Desktop users want to know the Ubuntu they've always loved and propelled to the top", they should not use any risky decisions on the "management" of any distro become an excuse to be rude in disagreement and communication.

0 Votes

I applaud Shuttleworth's foresight and willingness to innovate. I'm shocked at the negative, conservative and petulant response from the Linux community.

(1) You can always use a different distribution

(2) There's KUbuntu now, make a GUbuntu if you want

(3) Cannonical fund Ubuntu so they get to call the shots. If you dont' like it, see items 1 or 2 above.

(4) X is just a program like any other, you can still run an X-Server on your Ubuntu box if you want (duh!)

(5) Shuttleworth doesn't owe you anything (corrolary to 3)

(6) Wayland is designed to be able to support X apps.

(7) There are plenty of other remote desktop solutions

(8) Did I mention that you can still run an X-server on your machine anyway? For Christ's sake, I can make my work Windows box run a bloody x-server! It's not hard.

0 Votes

I think Mark is smart, Ubuntu / (Linux+ GNOME) currently seems doomed on new formats now dominated by iOS and Android.

Mark is in the software business, not hardware. To some extent Ubuntu is not needed on platforms like netbooks and pads. The hardware business is currently looking at the Android, Chrome OS and perhaps MeeGo platform.

Marks plan on these platforms is to be an alternative, without giving up all the general features of Linux. Does this make sense? Perhaps.

X is showing its age, and GNOME has not advanced much recent years from a visual experience point of view. You expect more these days.

It will be interesting to watch if there is room for yet another platform on formats like netbooks and pads.


0 Votes

He probably knows a lot you don't.

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People doesn't seem to understand what Wayland is in the first place. And X is going to still be there forever at least as a compatibility layer.

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I really don't get what's all this fuss about. Big f. deal. Is Ubuntu the air you breath?

I've been using Debian since '97. I've switched all my desktops (all 10 of them) and all my servers (100+) to Ubuntu. Why? Cause finally, someone, on the Debian-oriented side finally got a clue and vision. Of course, some decisions could be bad, but for the love of God, finally someone with a heart and mind to say 'We'll do it like this'. That simple fact makes everybody organized to achieve one goal at the time.

It's very simple, be a decision maker or be a follower. There's no other option. If you can't make decisions on your own, STFU, and follow others. If you think Ubuntu is going in wrong direction, make a decision and move to something else. Calling people stupid just cause they don't see or agree on the future as you do, talks more about you than about the people you are talking about.

1 Votes

I'm not sure how well Wayland will work out, but if I can get a better composited desktop with it than with X+Compiz, I'd look into switching on my Debian desktop.

In fact, even if it doesn't, this seems like a Good Thing. Right now, you may have half-a-dozen desktop environments, ten irc clients, and any number of web browsers, media players etc.

But you only have -one- X-server. Having an alternative that allows x-based apps to run seems like a good idea: It'd probably be like using PulseAudio instead of ALSA for sound: It isn't a direct replacement, but for the end user it may seem that way.

Posted from my Linux, X-based, Nokia n900.

0 Votes

I think Susan has this about right; wayland+unity=cloud. Cloud in turn equals money.

What I think drives all of this is the ambition of developing a viable business model based on Gnu Linux. And that does mean moving away from the "free as in money" Linux community. It also means developing an interface which is unique, stylish and functional, with unique and stylish being every bit as important as functional.

A gutsy bet? Yes it is but the present Ubuntu does not work commercially however well it works functionally. Something else is called for and the dice have been rolled.

Can Canonical pull this off? Their chances have to be rated as good. These are talented people who know what they are about. If I must guess I'll say that the product may take several iterations but they will pull it off.

Will I use it? No, but I am not the 20 - 40 year old demographic at issue. Will they use it? Quite possibly. Many people in the target audience have absolutely no curiosity whatsoever how Unity+Wayland work. (In fact they have little technical curiosity about any of their appliances.) What the target demographic cares about is that The New Ubuntu facilitates what they want to do with their digital devices and that it is "very cool." Do not doubt that "very cool" is important. In fact it is a necessary condition for success.

If Canonical pulls this off there is money to be made, quite a lot of it. Do they have a chance? Indeed they do. Is success guaranteed? Of course not, but the chance for reward may be compelling.

This is what entrepreneurial behavior is about friends. Interesting show to watch.

0 Votes

XServer: Standardized Interface for Graphics similar to OpenGL!

0 Votes

Too much hand-wringing going on within the community. Mr. Shuttleworth and his team have determined to go a different way with Ubuntu. That's their right and I applaud that decision.

X is on it's last legs. Great while it was here but not up to the future I think. It really is time to stop and re-think 1) How people really use their computer, phone, tablet, etc. and 2) How remote access is done to support that use.

I personally don't think the cloud is the answer. Masses of people tend not to feel safe with all of their things out of their control. Although Facebook and others are a bit scary in that regard right now.

Think more of an approach to users accessing their personal computers @ home + remote access to their real local home desktop when they aren't there. That's really the key. Real access to everything they have either from a local desktop, smart-phone, laptop or tablet. All, of course, guarded by some security protocols.

Wayland may provide a start point for that or it may never flourish. But it's an interesting look at the world beyond X.

Anyway, just my 2 cents.

0 Votes

I have been using Ubuntu on my desktop for a few years now.

The main pull factors are that is free and open (and it has cool wobbly-explody-cube-y Windows).

My point is that Compiz aside I believe it's GUI concepts are at least 15years behind contemporary (proprietary products) and the reason I chose Ubuntu is that I believe that this distro is the only one that has the chutzpah to really make some big overdue changes to the GNU/Linux stack, we can't stay still with X11, bring it on this is gonna get exciting!

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"Too much hand-wringing going on within the community. Mr. Shuttleworth and his team have determined to go a different way with Ubuntu. That's their right and I applaud that decision."

Wayland just by the way it works could limit the software you run. If you are running software that you feel you could do without, I am happy for you, and others that feel the way you do.

But to be fair, we will have to wait a little longer to see just what software will come with the Wayland Linux distros. If they happen not to include the software you like, you find important to you, then maybe that applauded decision will get the questions for those answers that can't be found at this time.

0 Votes

To be smart you always have to be brave, even if some think you're crazy.

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Crazy, brave AND smart at the same time.

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