Beta Ubuntu Vs. Beta Windows: Good Experience?

Beta Ubuntu Vs. Beta Windows: Good Experience?Is the nature of human interaction with the manufacturer a valid parameter when selecting an operating system?

Before Windows 7 was officially released, I accepted Microsoft’s invitation to download and install the beta release version. The computer I put it on was a home built one that still exists. The installation went easily, but I got the expected number of error messages which were duly reported back to Microsoft. Eventually the formal release version was available, but I declined to update on that machine. Instead, I kept it as a test bed for various things. Eventually I installed Ubuntu on it, which went through several iterations up to version 11. I only installed release copies of Ubuntu, not betas.

Last week I decided to download and install the beta version of Ubuntu 12.04 on the same machine. It hiccuped a bit over the fact that there was already a valid installation, but I told it to go ahead and overwrite everything. The results were similar to installing the beta version from Microsoft with one very interesting difference.

Setting up dual monitors in Ubuntu is not the same as doing it in Windows; sometimes there is a problem with graphics drivers, and sometimes there is a problem with me. This time a different problem arose. The beta system booted correctly to the master monitor, but ignored the secondary one. Not to worry; I opened the Nvidia graphics application and started to ponder over the various settings. It was quickly determined that I could drive both monitors with the same display — similar to what you would do if you wanted to have a laptop display what you see on its monitor and simultaneously on a projector for a presentation. That is not what I wanted. I simply wanted to extend to first screen onto the second. Those of you familiar with Ubuntu know there is a couple of ways to do this. Nothing worked. I got screens that would have blocky kaleidoscope colors and screens where the secondary monitor was black, but with cursor enabled.

This was not good. I was obviously not understanding something. But finally it became clear that beta means just that and I had bumped into some type of bug associated with dual monitors. It was not my fault. So just as I did with Windows 7 beta, I sent a bug report on Ubuntu 12.04. The process of submission is a bit more complex than with Microsoft, but as it turns out, well worth it.

Within minutes I received an email acknowledging the bug report submission. That was nice. But the real surprise came about an hour later when I checked my email inbox again. There was a nice note saying that my reported failure mode was identical to one that had already been reported and was being fixed. This was surprising because I had scanned through the reports involving dual monitor bugs before hitting the send button on my report, and none of them seemed to be identical. I must have missed it. But is was heartening to realize that I was behind the power curve and that the team was already working to fix the problem.

The next surprise came later that day when, on a whim, I decided to look for updates to 12.04. Since I had just installed the latest version, it seemed unlikely there would be anything significant, but indeed there was, and when the updates were completed, I had dual monitors working the way I wanted!

A half hour later, the system had Stellarium, Audacity, InkScape, and several other old friends installed in addition to the latest release of LibreOffice.

I cannot claim everything is fine yet — the system occasionally still does some weird things — but this is a beta version, and the remaining bugs do not seem to be significant. I look forward to the formal release version.

Although I voluntarily performed the same service for both Window and Ubuntu, my interactions with the providers were very different. I came away from Microsoft with the feeling that it had agreed to give me a preview look as a special favor, and, by the way, it wanted the bug reports. That is, it was doing me a favor by letting me have a sneak peak at its new baby.

With Ubuntu, I felt like my input was more valued as part of the vetting process. That is not to say that I am putting Microsoft down in any way. On the contrary, I think the company did a great job with Windows 7, and Windows 8 will be even better. I am saying that when you enlist the public to help you debug a beta version, it is good PR to have excellent feedback communications. The letter I received from the Ubuntu team telling me that it already knew about my report could have been computer-generated or the result of a human looking at it. Either way, any response is better than no response.

We could even speculate that Ubuntu is destined to remain at a few percent or even less of the PC installations. Will they be able to field a version that does not depend on a keyboard? Touch screens are rapidly becoming a requirement. Maybe.

But whether or not Ubuntu continues to advance, I appreciate the effort and the way I was treated as a volunteer tester of the beta release. It is unlikely I will do the same for Microsoft again unless it is for my own enjoyment — like wanting to be the first kid on the block to test drive Windows n where n > 8.

What is your experience with either provider?

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  1. Rohit R says:

     What you experienced there with Ubuntu is the great feeling of being part of a community !! :)

  2. Sdeforest says:

     Exactly.  What is the community of Windows?  Windows is a great product, but that is something different.

  3. Jonathan Wakeman says:

    The bug are always expected and Ubuntu in my opinion has a better community.

  4. Sdeforest says:


  5. Michael says:

    Linux then Mac then (if i have to) Windows.

  6. infinityLinuxGeek says:

    I’ve never tested windows on beta before. 12.04 has been my first beta install and I’m impressed with the whole bugs reporting activities, the experience is just good when you know some people are working on a bug that you reported, and the best part is how it adds up to karma in launchpad, as a software engineering student it just means a lot….!! Thanks Ubuntu and the community

  7. 'Tis Moi says:

    Linux Mint is my main system- has been for quite some time now (starting with 9 & now up to 12). As with Ubuntu, the community support is fantastic. I generally get a response to a query very quickly, too. On their IRC, I’ve been fortunate to get immediate help with some minor, tweaking issues- ditto, help within Second Life, as well…Yep, you definitely feel “let down” with MS’s meagre “attempt” at consumer support…

  8. i tried latest version of ubuntu and it is clean, it does hav a slight learning curve but the overall OS is quite fun to use, linux getting better

  9. Sdeforest says:

     I have tried several distros of Linux including Mint.  I was first attracted to it by the way they handled proprietary drivers.  Since most of my clients use Windows, that is life.

  10. Sdeforest says:

     Depends.  Choice might be determined for external factors.  Working in a business, on your own, hobby, gaming etc.

  11. The reason why I use Ubuntu is to be free (free as in freedom) :)

  12. KevinE says:

    Of the two, Ubuntu is the clear winner as Windows 8 just causes a lot of head scratching from new users while Ubuntu is more obvious and runs smoothly. Ubuntu the winner.

  13. Joe_HTH says:

    Oh please! Linux is crap and a nightmare from a usability standpoint. It’s market share is 1% and it’s never going to do better than that.

  14. Joe_HTH says:

     Please! The Linux community is a community of nerdy assholes who continually proclaim the rise of Linux, and every that proclamation fails. Nobody outside of tech nerds who like to have to fiddle with their shit to keep it running, wants Linux. That’s why it’s forever stuck at 1%.

  15. Obvious troll is obvious.

  16. Joe_HTH says:

    LOL! Only you would think 60,000 views on youtube is huge. The laughing baby is over 170 million views. As for Microsoft not changing anything, why should they base decisions on an idiotic video posted by a Microsoft hating Apple fanboy. You have a very inflated opinion of yourself. Get over yourself.

  17. I love Microsoft. Are you delusional? :)

  18. lucas says:

     Sounds like you have been reading about stallman….
    anyway, my family uses Ubuntu and trust me, they are no “tech nerds who like to have to fiddle with their shit to keep it running”
    You seem to be out of date…

  19. symbolset says:

    Android uses the Linux kernel.  It’s currently at over 300 million units sold, just over 50 percent of smart mobile devices worldwide – on course to hit 600 million units by the end of the year.  That’s a lot of tech nerds.  Growing at 250 percent per year, too. Those devices are also hugely profitable for their OEMs – far more profitable than the entire PC client OEM industry.

    So how’s that Windows Phone thing doing?  Has Nokia folded yet?   Have PC sales picked up, or are they still flat?  I heard operating margin in the PC OEM space tops out at like 7 percent in a good year unless you’re Apple, and the bottom end in a bad year is significant losses.  Isn’t that sad?

  20. Ubuntu 12.04 beta better than Window$ 8

  21. MHazell says:

    The server market is much higher.

  22. MHazell says:

    Hey Chris, you should cover Linux more often.

  23. Eric says:

    Windows 8 Beta feels ….. incomplete. Ubuntu Beta feels more complete. Less missing/buggy/incomplete features.