The style is light, the software is …

While the Ubuntu rebranding is still at the forefront of everyone’s mind, I think I’ll throw in my meager opinion: It’s great. I love it. It’s clean, it’s fresh, it’s a new direction. It’s classy, it’s simple, it’s sharp and it’s light —

Waitaminute. Are we talking about the logo, or are we talking about the software? I understand that the theme is light; after all, the new typeface and the simplified icon are “lighter” than the past ones, in a visual-effect sense. I have worked in print media, and I can more or less see through the marketing jargon.

And the desktop is interesting, even if we seem to be transitioning between orange and brown and purple (my primary school art teacher is having a heart attack right now). We all know the default desktop is a completely pointless exercise anyway.

No, it’s lines like this that throw me into a painful 10-minute giggle fit.

Good software is “light” in the sense that it uses your resources efficiently, runs quickly, and can easily be reshaped as needed. Ubuntu represents a break with the bloatware of proprietary operating systems and an opportunity to delight to those who use computers for work and play.

The first sentence I have no qualms with; I can agree in principle. But the second is a slight derailment, in that it doesn’t really follow the idea of the first. Is this one of those clever marketing psychology gimmicks? Am I reading one of those advertising school ploys to keep me buying at a frenzy? or downloading at a frenzy, I should say? Is this a trick question?

I’ll cut to the chase. If the intent is to somehow assert that Ubuntu is light … well, I am bemused, to say the least. A default Ubuntu desktop — even with a K or an X at the front — wouldn’t know “light” if the idea jumped up and bit it on the ankle. You say “light” and the last thing I even consider beginning to get the urge to want to start debating thinking about … is Ubuntu.

And suggesting the idea is valid because Ubuntu is somehow lighter than Windows or Mac OSwhatever won’t work either. That’s like saying, “I’m not as fat as that girl,” and expecting people to applaud your waifishness. Please.

I have no problem with a facelift, especially since a new captain is in the chair, and there is always a trickle-down suggesting a change in command should be accompanied by a change in appearance. That much I almost expect.

But let’s not make suggestions, allusions or triple entendres. You want to tell me Ubuntu is solid, it’s dependable, it’s reliable or trustworthy, and I will accept that with the standard-issue “case-by-case” caveat. All of those things it may be, but light … no, no. Don’t make me laugh again, please. …

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7 Responses to “The style is light, the software is …”


  1. 1 reacocard 2010/03/08 at 3:08 AM

    “Ubuntu represents a break with the bloatware of proprietary operating systems…”

    Note what they say there – not OSes in general, just proprietary ones. On other words, they’re saying they are ‘light’ in comparison to Windows or OS X, which is certainly true (though Ubuntu vs XP is getting more debatable). They don’t say anything about Ubuntu vs. other Free OSes, of which there are many that would beat the crap out of Ubuntu in terms of ‘lightness’.

  2. 2 YankeeDDL 2010/03/08 at 4:38 AM

    I read this post just after writing a reply on the Ubuntu forum (http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=8931099#post8931099).

    I don’t want to forcefully drag you into another discussion, but I’m curious about how would you approach the search for the right distro.
    Come to think of it: given how often you jump from Crux to Arch, you may not be the best person to ask :)
    No seriously, I used Ubuntu (and briefly tried the “K” and the “X” cousins); now I am using Mint. I’d say none of them are light, at least to your standards, and I would not mind something a bit zippier, but (call me lazy if you wish) and I don’t want to give up the ‘comfort’ of a GUI.
    I tried Zenwalk (literally, the 1st distro mentioned in the latest issue of distrowatch) and I don’t mind it, but after getting use to Debian, I don’t see the advantages in terms of performance.
    Do I really need to go to something like PuppyLinux, DSL, or Arch, to get rid of the fat? (just to be clear, I don’t think I’m ready for those types of distros: my Linux expertise is … well, not at all an expertise).

    I’d appreciate your thoughts/suggestions.

    Oh, and thank you for the entertaining, informative … and fun blog.

    • 3 K.Mandla 2010/03/08 at 7:52 AM

      Thanks for the compliments; you are too kind. :oops: The answer to your question is both yes and no: Yes, you have to try things like Puppy or Slitaz if you want to avoid the fat. But at the same time no, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Arch is intimidating to some people but it’s not that much different from a command-line Ubuntu installation. If you can build up a graphical system in Ubuntu you can probably do it in Arch too.

      The nice thing about distros like Puppy and Slitaz (both of which I hold in very high regard), is that they are keyed to the same level of usability as Ubuntu, but use a fraction of the space. So things like automounting USB drives or network management are all easy as pie, and you still are running a system that’s exceptionally light.

      I use things like Arch and Crux because I use older machines, and I want the sense of low-level control that comes with those distros. At the same time there are some fantastic, full-featured distros out there that do everything cleanly and expertly, require no setup or effort, and weigh almost nothing. Don’t be afraid to experiment. ;)

      • 4 YankeeDDL 2010/03/08 at 8:35 PM

        Mmmmm. I did try Puppy on my old laptop, but I never tried it on my PC. Main reason? I could not get OpenOffice installed (I do use spreadsheets a lot and some degree of compatibility with Excel is a ‘must’). I found a guide in Puppy forums but I would have had to ‘fiddle’ with it more than I was willing to do at the time. I have Xubuntu on that laptop at the moment.
        In general, I did find Puppy a bit too “raw” for my taste (yes, I know that I can’t have it all …). Another reason, I guess, why I did not put the effort in it.

        I will give Slitaz a try: thank you.

  3. 5 Mikko 2010/03/08 at 5:15 AM

    Well, at least my wife doesn’t have a clue about how to change the desktop theme in KDE or GNOME. She’s just happy with whatever I chose when I installed the system.

    I suppose 99% of computer users in the world are similar to her. For those people the default desktop matters a lot – even if it does not matter at all for geeks like us.

  4. 6 Zoev 2010/03/09 at 11:46 AM

    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. I really enjoy the articles, it’s nice to have commentary from another minimalistic Linux user. I’m an old Arch user who has switched to Slitaz on my lone EEE PC 701 4G. Nethack can dominate any graphic game today!
    I’d have to agree with your statements on Ubuntu. It’s a great system, lots works OOTB and is really good for linux-newbies. That said branding it as a “light” distro is just going to breed ignorance. Educated Linux users know about distros such as Slitaz and Puppy and can choose accordingly. I’m not going to state that any distro is better than another it’s all a matter of choice. It’s just an interesting perspective that Windows users think the 1.44GB Ubuntu install is tiny, when we have distros such as TinyCore at 10MB. (Which I highly recommend as it has an Arch-like-install at a much smaller space and requirements.)
    Thanks for the great commentary about LINUX I look forward to future essays!


  1. 1 This guy gets it « Rusty Shackleford's Library Card Trackback on 2010/03/09 at 12:57 AM

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