Friday, April 30, 2010

The Bugs In Ubuntu 10.04

Now that Ubuntu 10.04 ("Lucid Lynx") has been released, I can spend some time talking about my experience testing it.

I was really hoping that 10.04, being a LTS (Long Term Support) release, would have focused on supreme reliability and stability.  A sort of "9.10 without the bugs."  Unfortunately this was not the case.  10.04 introduces a host of new features and technologies, some of which are still rather "green."

In the comments to follow, I was to vent some of my frustrations over the quality of the 10.04 release.  I don't want to disparage the work of the people in the Ubuntu community nor the staff at Canonical.  I'm sure they worked very hard getting this version out.  Many of the problems are rooted in the upstream projects from which Ubuntu is derived.

A Pet Peeve

If you go to the bug tracking site for Ubuntu, the first thing you see is a long list of open "Critical" bugs.  Looking at the list you notice that some of these bugs are very old.  Discounting the symbolic bug number 1, the "We don't have as much market share as Microsoft" bug, you see that some of these open, critical bugs are years old.

Now, I used to administer a bug database (albeit a much smaller one than the one at Ubuntu), and to my eye this just looks terrible.  It leaves a bad impression.  If the bug is really "Critical," then it should get addressed either by marking it no longer relevant due to its age, or it should get fixed.

Overt Cosmetic Problems

While a lot of attention was given to the look of Ubuntu 10.04, serious cosmetic problems appear on many machines.  Neither of my test systems could take full advantage of the visual "improvements" during boot up.  There are a lot of distracting flashes and, on my laptop, it displays the image you see at the top of this post.

Not very impressive.

O.K. so maybe I have weird hardware of something, but how do you explain this:  click on the help icon on the top panel and wait for Ubuntu Help Center to come up.  Select "Advanced Topics" from the topics list then "Terminal Commands References [sic]" and look at the result:


Connectivity Issues

I'm sure that the folks at Canonical are very interested in corporate adoption of their product.  This means, of course that it has got to play well with Windows file shares.  Unfortunately, here too, 10.04 falls down.  Throughout the beta test phase there were numerous problems with gvfs and gnome-keyring.  As it stands now, many of these of these problems have been worked out, but as of today, you still cannot mount a password protected Windows share if you store the password.  It seems to work at first, but if you reboot your machine and try it again you get something like this:

X Problems Galore

While I  encountered some important problems with my desktop test system, they were nothing compared to the problems I have with my laptop.

A few words about my laptop.  Yeah it's old.  It's an IBM ThinkPad T41 circa 2004.  I bought it from EmperorLinux pre-installed with Fedora Core 1.  Since then, I have run numerous Linux distributions on it without problems.  In fact, the T41 was a favorite of Linux users since it ran Linux so easily.  This is, until 10.04.

Various things will just crash the X server, such as using the NoScript Firefox extension, or the remote desktop viewer.  Suspend and resume don't work (the display never comes back).  You can work around these problems if you add the kernel parameter nomodeset to grub, but then all of your videos in totem look like this:

Not exactly what I had in mind.
A Release Too Far?

I am still looking forward to upgrading to 10.04.  I'm hopeful that, in time, the issues I have with 10.04 will be addressed.  But what about in the meantime, with thousands of possibly new users trying out the live CD only to find issues like the ones I found?  That's not good.

Admittedly, I got spoiled by 8.04.  It has served me very well for the last two years.  It got me through the production of my book without crashing once and frankly I'm willing to wait a few seconds more for my system to boot and willing to give up a lot of CPU-sucking, memory-hogging eye candy to have a system that stays up and can do the basic things right.

Further Reading
[UPDATE] I'm not the only one with concerns about 10.04: