A recent post in Planet Gnome about moving away from Arch into Ubuntu got me thinking, because I just did the same thing a few weeks ago, when Ubuntu 10.10 was released. But I didn’t really liked the reasons I did so.
First, I love Arch Linux. It’s simplicity and speed are amazing. It’s clearly focused on power users, which is great for me. It’s package manager (Pacman) is very fast and powerful, while still easy to use. I love how I can search and query packages both installed and from the cache with concise commands that usually do what you want at the first time. Compared to Ubuntu’s apt-cache and apt-get, which I usually have to read the man page to remember a few commands and to Fedora’s yum, which I’m never comfortable with, Pacman is always the winner. If that was not enough, you can create useful packages in under 10 minutes. Better yet if you can find a pre-made PKGBUILD in AUR, which contains thousands of recipes to build packages. The binary packages are usually enough for a desktop, but sometimes you do need to dig into Yaourt, which automatically downloads and compiles recipes. It is time-consuming sometimes, but comparing to finding a PPA with a decent enough version of a package that you can’t find in Ubuntu, it’s not much different.
That leads to the first reason I switched away from Arch, is that Ubuntu usually has recent enough versions when it’s released. But six months afterwards, I really want to try new versions of packages. If I can find a good and well-maintained PPA, then it’s ok. If I can’t, there are a thousand other things I would like to do then to create my own packages for new upstream releases. So, this time of the year, a few weeks after Ubuntu was released, I can actually enjoy it for a while (actually, Rhythmbox is just out with a new version, which I will probably never get on this version of Ubuntu).
The second reason and one that is a hot topic right now, but this is mostly a user perspective, I got locked into the Gnome modifications that Ubuntu did. Honestly, I like the modifications, I like the Indicator applet, I’m using the Indicator Applet Menu (despite a few bugs) and I love the Notify OSD. And I miss those on Arch. I tried building some components of Ayatana Project in Arch, but didn’t had much luck (understandable actually). The Arch way is to use as much as upstream as possible without modifications, which is usually very good. You can find a few bugs which are corrected already on other distros, but you get releases faster and you get to see how upstream really is. And that is a big issue for Ubuntu, because no matter how much they talk about not forking Gnome, it’s just not upstream anymore. If I would move to Fedora or OpenSuse from Arch, I would get a very close experience. Not because they don’t improve Gnome or add their own modifications, but because all their modifications are upstream. So even on Arch, I can enjoy all the great investment these guys made to Gnome. But now I can’t use Ubuntu’s investment outside Ubuntu (I could actually if I spend enough time porting it, but it’s just not worth).
And now, I’m locked in to Ubuntu, I’m locked to the Ubuntu OS to use Ubuntu Software, which are both actually very high quality, but I’d prefer a different OS. Some other OS vendors work the same tactics to get more users and I definitely don’t want to use their software, no matter how great they are. Of course Ubuntu is miles away from these vendors, but it’s going through a similar and very dangerous path. Again, this is only a user perspective and a user that Ubuntu is not focused in (and I’m glad they have a very strong focus on other users). I just wished Ubuntu would give a bit more back to a community it takes so much from.