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Ubuntu chief wants Linux "beyond the Mac"

updated 12:10 pm EDT, Wed July 23, 2008

Ubuntu Head Asks Mac Rival

Canonical head and chief architect of Ubuntu Linux Mark Shuttleworth late Tuesday told developers at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention that Linux should go "beyond the Mac" in terms of its software experience. While not specific, he notes that the open source operating system should be at least as "crisp and clean" as Mac OS X while still offering the community benefits that come with fully opened code.

Developing such a consistent experience may be difficult, according to Joint Astronomy Center engineer Brad Cavanagh. The collaborative nature of free, open source software often means a clash of ideas, preventing the unified concepts that often guide Mac OS X and other commercial operating systems.

"So many people have so many different opinions," he says. "That's not to say you can't get good things out of open source. Obviously, you can but it's going to be tough."

Shuttleworth notes, however, that free software development for Linux and apps could be helped by insisting on a regular release schedule, which not only ensures that development doesn't slip but potentially sparks developers to achieve more than when there's no fixed deadline. Mozilla often pushes its team to complete updates of the Firefox web browser within a certain timeframe, preventing the multi-year delays for their original Mozilla 1.0 browser.

The Ubuntu co-creator also notes that Linux developers also have to learn to accept Windows compatibility and support these outside standards even if they put their hope in Linux.

Shuttleworth does believe that Linux is already "equally relevant" versus Apple and others for mobile devices. Most Linux-based phones often have streamlined interfaces that overcome the complexity of the platform, while Google's upcoming Android is also Linux-based and promises many iPhone-like features while still keeping much more open development.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    step one...

    ...agree on a font! If you can't agree on that, there's precious little hope of agreement on anything else!

  1. jameshays

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I'd like to make over a million dollars a year, own my own jet, live in a 12,000 square foot house and have my toughest decision be what car I should drive today, depending on the weather...

    But, there are certain 'core' aspects of my life and associations that don't lend itself to that lifestyle. ...Yet.

    Now, if Linux figures out this analogy, maybe then they'll be able to move past their development rut.

  1. loudpedal

    Joined: Dec 1969



    He wasn't specific because he's just dreaming. It's just an amorphous goal, not a direction.

  1. Gee4orce

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Yeah...good luck with that one....

  1. chefpastry

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Menu bar

    I'd like all versions of Ubuntu to have the menu bar anchored to the top of the screen rather than on each window.

  1. dliup

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not going to happen

    Unfortunately, most programmers are not great graphic designers nor interface designers.

  1. nativeNYer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    As someone who has used Ubuntu, arguably the most "user friendly" of the Linux crowd, I can say that this guy will be long dead and buried and turned to dust before Linux goes "beyond' the Mac. Not that its a horrible OS, because it isn't, but they've got a long way to go.

  1. jimothy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Won't happen

    I applaud the recognition of a problem, and the eventual effort, but they're never going to do it. When Linux zealots (or Freetards, as Fake Steve Jobs calls them) put down Mac OS X, they tout the "configurability" of Linux, and how they can "tweak" things. Well, you're not going to get both the usability and the ability to tweak every damn thing.

    I use Ubuntu at work, because I find Windows painful, and we're not allowed to use Macs. Compix attempts to bring some Mac like features to Linux, like shadows for windows, Exposť functionality, etc. I can pick one of half a dozen window/application switchers (command/alt-tab), and I can configure the h*** out of them. Whoopity do, I'm so glad I can configure the "Minimum Brightness Factor" of my "Ring Switcher" to four decimal places.

    But you know what? I don't want a billion combinations of application switchers and configurations that each exhibit different bugs with my video card. I want one that works.

    Until Linux users and developers realize that extreme configurability is a liability and not an asset, Linux will never approach the usability of Mac OS X. And that's never going to happen, because a hoard of open source developers are going to add, not remove, configuration options.

    It's just not in the mindset, and they don't have a single leader with the authority and personality to push this forward.

  1. resuna

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Stop copying Windows UI?

    How about starting by dropping the mindless copying of bad Windows UI elements (like the increasingly garish start menu on recent versions of both Linux desktops)?

    But don't start mindlessly copying Apple's bad UI elements instead.

  1. dimmer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The Mac experience has always been guided (pardon the repetition) by the User Interface Guidelines (a telephone directory tome that specifies things down to how many pixels should be between buttons) -- MS made their own effort after XP was introduced, but by then the cat was already out of the bag and shitting everywhere.)

    Linux apps suffer badly from allowing developers to make and break their own UI "standards", following the MS model. Programmers should never be allowed to design or define a UI, it just fails. See GIMP.

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