An Ode to Ubuntu: Open Source as it Should Be

Ubuntu: Linux That Works

For years, I dreamed of going Windows-free. I admit it, I was a technology hipster, confident that the mainstream software companies were lame and that independent, open-source developers were awesome. None of this was based in any way on fact, only a gut sense that I was right and nearly everyone else was wrong.

Once I bought my first laptop in 2005 (yes, this laptop), the first thing I did was partition the hard drive into two halves, one for Windows XP and one for SUSE Linux – the stablest distribution I could find. However, SUSE soon ran into the same problems that I’d always experienced when trying Linux – instability. After a few updates, I spent hours searching forum after tutorial after update note just to get the thing to boot to the desktop instead of the command line. I kept SUSE around for a few years, but it did not help me fulfill my goal of doing my work using a viable Windows alternative.

Around 2007 I decided to give Linux another try. I had been reading about Ubuntu, and I figured I had nothing to lose by running it in a Virtual Machine just to check it out. I am not exaggerating when I say that Ubuntu is open-source perfection because it just works. There’s no need to mess with command line, no need to fix updates, no need to be intimately familiar with the inner workings of the OS. The last two years of my laptop’s life, I used Ubuntu exclusively.

Still Not Mobile

There’s more than a little sadness when I think about Ubuntu’s current state. Its publisher, Canonical, has done a great job promoting Ubuntu, to the point where it is now the world’s most popular free OS. However, Ubuntu is undeniably getting left behind in the touch revolution, and that is a tragedy. I have long believed that its interface is particularly well-suited to touchscreens and would make a heck of a mobile OS.

Ubuntu Tablet

An Ubuntu Tablet Concept. From Ubuntu.com

But the writing is on the wall for the Ubuntu Edge, a crowdfunded attempt at an Ubuntu-powered smartphone. Still over $20 million shy of its lofty $32 million goal, it’s just not going to happen right now. And that makes me sad because as a potential customer, I would seriously consider a stable Ubuntu smart phone over a Windows 8 or even iOS phone.

The Future of Ubuntu

None of this is to say that Ubuntu is leaving us any time soon; despite the fact that it hasn’t made him any money, the creator continues to finance it because he believes in it. And that kind of stubborn persistence might be what attracts me to Ubuntu more than anything else. Who wouldn’t want to use a product that is made with devotion to an ideal rather than pure profits? Ubuntu may someday combine visionary idealism with pragmatic capitalism and give us the best of both worlds: a free, working OS and a robust profitable company. When that day arrives, I may very well trade in my iPad for an Ubuntu tablet.

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