Ex Unum, Pluribus

Sometimes the greatest of delusions get collapsed into reality. 

A few moments ago I was reading my eMail – a note from Full Circle – that announced this article [Link] entitled “Growing Ubuntu for Cloud and IoT, rather than Phone and convergence”

The article is a bit of an apologea from Mark Shuttleworth and can be mostly captured by a quote:

“I’m writing to let you know that we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell. We will shift our default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.”

What he doesn’t really talk about is the reality that intruded. But that’s OK. 

Convergence in this instance is the idea that one can have the same OS and desktop interface on all devices regardless of size. It’s not unique to Shuttleworth and Ubuntu. MegaHard is also afflicted with the delusion. Happily, Shuttleworth has demonstrated his intelligence and rationality are greater than MegaHard’s. For that I give him kudos.

Now I want to elaborate. 

First of all, I have never liked the idea of convergence. The reason for this can be captured in another name: Per Bak; and a book he wrote “The Way Nature Works.” It’s an outreach book on complexity and emergence. That latter is why I don’t care for convergence; it denies that size matters, that beyond a certain size the nature of the beast changes: Emergence. 

The idea of convergence, that the same OS and desktop interface worked on anything from a cellular telephone to a workstation, is flawed. In simplest terms, the operations and tasks I want to do on a cellular telephone are different from the operations and tasks I want to do on a work station and that means – directly – that I need different OS characteristics and different desktop interface functionality.

In language that I have blathered on incessantly, a cellular telephone is appliance-like while a work station is tool-like. I ain’t gonna use LaTeX to write equations on the former and I ain’t gonna place phone calls on the latter. 

It’s an alluring idea, what one might call a MacGyverism, but it fails. MacGyver and Alton Brown aside, the multi-purpose tool fails to be effective at some point. One I get beyond the urgency of an emergency make-do, a Swiss army knife fails at some degree of complication and difficulty.

Second of all, I need to natter a bit about Ubuntu. Like a lot of neubs, I early on used Ubuntu (in different flavors) as my Linux distribution of choice. Nowadays, I only use Ubuntu (in one of its flavors) for those boxes whose UEFI implementation won’t let even an unlocked secure boot work with anything that doesn’t have a strong certificate. In my case, that’s an el cheapo HP lapbox that I paid $100 for, burned off the W8 install, and because of the whacko SSDD in it, have Kubuntu installed on because it’s either Ubuntu or Fedora for the certification. Which is OK because the hardware implementation is so shoddy and flimsy that I only use it when I need a lightweight throwaway box.

But it’s still a good distro for neubs, mostly because of the richness of the community. Despite Shuttleworth trying very hard in his berserker rage to kill that community off. Neubs need lots of references and hand holding and the Ubuntu community does that. Kudos.

But I want something different. For one thing, I don’t like Unity. It’s the Winders Ate interface of the Linux world. Along with Gnome 3, which is way better. But both are more suited to touch screens than keyboards and mouses. 

But the real reason I don’t use Ubuntu by choice is that it will only do upgrades – any more – live via internet and living out here in boondockia, doing a version upgrade is a 50-50 random sample of getting to do a clean install after the upgrade fails catastrophically.

And I have statistical significance of that.

Add in that there’s a 0.33 chance that an LTS install will rot away after 18 months of a 24 month interval between upgrades. Another chance for a clean install.

But I dislike the demise of the Ubuntu cellular telephone. Unity would be OK on it and it would give me a nice alternative to Android or Apple OS. So I shall sit about.

Meantime, I can hope this redirection of Ubuntu may make it not just a distro for neubs but also a distro for all of us.