On the Evolution of Ubuntu

  1. Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal

I’m setting IPv6 aside for a moment to comment on Ubuntu 12.10.  Thanks.

Ubuntu 12.10, which is scheduled to be released later this month, is adding a feature that seems to have some fellow ‘nixers up in arms.  The Dash search bar which allows you to find pretty much anything on your computer is adding on-line search results to what you type.  The results are slated to come from Amazon.com (for starters).  To many people this smacks of commercialization and a sell-out by Canonical, the developer of Ubuntu.  While I can see their point, people who love Linux (Ubuntu in particular) need to realize that times are a-changin’.

Largely because of Ubuntu, Linux has moved out of the geek shadows and into the mainstream daily-desktop OS game.  Changes of this type are important for Linux to be viewed (increasingly) as a viable daily OS compared to OSX and Windows.  Both Microsoft and Apple continue to develop and refine their user interfaces and the ease of use of their systems.  Ubuntu, the most user-friendly of Linux distributions, needs to follow suit.  Changes such as the one being made to Dash are an important part of the evolution of Linux (in this arena).  If you don’t like that I would like to direct you to Slackware Linux (www.slackware.com).  Slackware is as “pure” a Linux distro as you will ever find and will satisfy your need for a ridiculously powerful OS that is exactly the way you want it.  And unless you are already a Linux expert, be prepared to spend a lot of time reading manuals.  Despite being as overwhelmed as anybody by the sheer volume of Linux distros out there (which is not always a good thing for the Linux community wanting to attract Apple and Microsoft converts) I am glad for them because I know there is one that will meet my specific needs.

Mark Shuttleworth is correct to support the development of a system that will allow me to ask my computer for anything and have it simply work.  I do it on the Google search bar every day, don’t I?  Yup.  But using a search engine and searching ‘on my computer’ are two different things; this new Dash functionality blurs those lines.  Here are a few things I will want to see from Dash’s new functionality.

  1. I want to be able to control it.  I would like to be able to limit the places from which it pulls its on-line results.  This should include the ability to have it pull NO on-line results.  My understanding is that this functionality will eventually happen.
  2. I don’t want it to track what I search for.  Google already does this so I can’t complain too much.  But when I go to Google I know that my searches are stored.  If I’m searching for a file on my local computer nobody needs to know that.  Moreso, the names of the files for which I am searching may reveal a little more about me than I care to share.  If those text strings are hitting on-line databases and being stored …I would have issue with that.  Mark says that this isn’t going to be an issue because the searches are being proxied to Amazon by Canonical.  But I don’t want Canonical to store my searches, either.  And as this feature grows to encompass more than just Amazon will Canonical eventually have to step out of the way and let the queries go directly to the vendors?  If so, control is lost.
  3. It needs to compartmentalize the search results.  On-line search results need to be clearly separated from my local search results (local as in my home network, not just my computer).  If I’m searching for a picture of Disney World I want it to be my pictures from Disney World, not the gazillion of them out on the Internet mixed in with mine.  Mixing my results in with those from the Internet won’t work for me.  My understanding is that this is already in place.

I’m a big fan of Ubuntu.  It’s my daily desktop on every computer I own (except my MacBook).  Some of its features (or lack thereof) frustrate me but I am able to look past them because it’s just so darned powerful and customizable.  Once you get over the shock of it not being exactly like Windows or exactly like OSX you’ll find that it’s an awesome OS, perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with the others.  I’m glad to see Ubuntu evolve in this direction but will be watching with cautious eyes to make sure Ubuntu stays true to Linux’s long-standing history of giving users control over how their systems function.

Cheers,

Colin Weaver

Colin Weaver is co-owner and lead instructor at ITdojo, Inc., a network security and information assurance training center and consulting firm located in Virginia Beach, VA. His passion for technology, networks, and security has led him to become enthralled with the idea of IPv6 and its implementation. In this blog he will share with you glimpses of what he has learned and a hint at what you’ll learn in his classes. Visit https://www.itdojo.com to learn more about ITdojo IPv6 course offerings.

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About the Author

Colin Weaver

Colin Weaver is co-owner and lead instructor at ITdojo, Inc., a network security and information assurance training center and consulting firm located in Virginia Beach, VA. His passion for technology, networks, and security has led him to become enthralled with the idea of IPv6 and its implementation. In this blog he will share with you glimpses of what he has learned and a hint at what you’ll learn in his classes.