Ubuntu's weak points

12 July 2006

The first thing I'd like to say before I level criticism at Ubuntu is that I adore it and have been running it on my laptop since Hoary beta. It's a fantastic OS and is doing great things.

However, during my experience with it (having installed it on quite a few other machines) I have come across a few glaring failings that will hamper widespread adoption on the desktop and they are as follows:

  1. Wireless support

    -I know this isn't entirely the Ubuntu team's fault, but that doesn't change the fact that something must be done and that they are the best candidates for the job. Wireless support is better than it was, but it has a long way to go yet.

  2. Printer support
    -I was attempting to install a printer earlier this month and struggled terribly - printer support is a must for desktop adoption - people use printers a lot and so there has to be support. Lots of support.

  3. Webcam support
    -This may seem silly, but I know lots of people who use webcams on a regular basis and cannot really switch to Linux even if they wanted to due to the fact that their webcams won't work!
    I myself have an old logitech cam that I no longer use which works just fine with linux, however one of my more generic webcams (currently loaned to my girlfriend) has no support whatsoever. I was working on making a point about how my newest cam, a Creative Webcam Notebook was selected partially because it is supported by Linux. aMSN used to have issues with it, but now, using aMSN 0.96-Release candidate 1 it works straight away and I've no problems with it at all.
    Webcam support is pretty crucial to some people - it's the little things that often count a lot when trying to convert people.

  4. Simple, user-friendly video editing

    -Windows has Windows Movie Maker and I know a lot of medium-skilled home users (the sort who would consider moving to Linux if it was worth it) who like to edit their videos and upload them to YouTube or similar. The thing being, currently, it's pretty tricky to do that.
    Sure, we've got Cinelerra, but its menus are horribly clunky and awkward, it's overly complicated (from a home user's POV) and in my experience with it, doesn't really do that good a job!
    Kino is better, but I still needed to find a random variable in its scripts and change it to get it to import any video format other than .dv!
    I'm hoping Diva will fill this role if it comes to fruition, fingers-crossed.
  5. Generally, I feel Ubuntu is getting closer with every new release, however I'd like to see certain points addressed first.
    More generally, I think we need to focus on making menus more uniform, clean and user-understandable. What we often overlook is that just because a menu makes perfect sense to us doesn't mean it will to a home user.

I like Audacity a lot, but I do feel that it needs a Ubuntu version or otherwise optimising for Ubuntu as currently its menus feel a bit clunky and the colour scheme seems kind of out of place. It's a nice bit of software, but it needs some polish (Remember, users often will turn away from a package that is intimidating or that they don't like the look of without giving it a chance. Grab them straight off!).

Whilst on the subject of audio, I think Rhythmbox will soon be in suitable state for "prime time" as people seem to say. It didn't used to work with my iRiver but has come on in leaps and bounds and now finally can read music straight off it, which I'm very pleased with. My only current gripe with Rhythmbox is that it has issues with certain podcast feeds, such as the Ubuntu Podcast one, but I expect these will be resolved in the near future.

I'm also a bit of a Picasa fanboy and would like to see either it or something similar bundled with Ubuntu as it's a great bit of kit.

That reminds me actually - it'd be nice if OpenOffice had a little wizard that would run when one first uses it saying something along the lines of "Are you going to be working with people who use Microsoft Office, as if you are, we'd recommend you set the default file format to be Microsoft ones" although in simpler words designed to make it easy for home users.

The last application related matter I can think of right now is more regarding default application choices - wouldn't Thunderbird be a better choice than Evolution for a home user? (A serious question, perhaps Evolution has merits which I don't realize)

I'm sure there are more things which I will need to cover later, but those are the main points that spring to mind right now.

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