My recent experiments with installing Ubuntu on my little home server came to an end this weekend. I'm working hard to debug problems with my media streamer software, SqueezeCenter. After finding tons of forum posts and various problems with installing SqueezeCenter on Hardy Heron I decided to try another approach so I'm now running Fedora 9 at home instead. Both Hardy and Fedora 9 are supposed to be supported by Slim Devices for their Squeeze-stuff. However, it appears neither of these work but I'll save that rant for another day once I've worked out what's wrong (I have my suspicions about Slim Devices testing against Perl 5.10).
I'm actually quite relieved to be back in my comfort zone with Fedora at home again. I really enjoyed the experience of playing with Ubuntu but it's just not for me for various reasons...
I've met quite a few Canonical guys in my professional role and they've all been great; helpful, very approachable and in the case of some, such as Jono Bacon very decent techies too. That's not my experience with non-Canonical Ubuntu contributors though. I found if the Ubuntu documentation (which is excellent for pretty much everything before Hardy Heron right now) failed me, then talking to the community was not a good experience. I found I was met with an abrupt RTFM attitude in most instances, where the assumption of the community is that people asking questions are dumb. Personally, I blame this on the typical Ubuntu user being non-technical where Linux is concerned so I guess the community receive lots of silly questions which must get annoying at times. All that said, I still believe Ubuntu is really important and plays an extremely valuable role in trying to bring Linux to a more mass audience.
I also found Hardy to be down level in various instances compared with the packages available in Fedora 9. The big one for me here, on my little server, is the OpenChrome drivers for the graphics chipset. Fedora have the version that supports my chipset, but when I asked about inclusion in Ubuntu there was no interest in updating the down level version in their repositories. I also enquired about the broken Via proprietary driver in Ubuntu which resulted in the Via driver being marked for removal! So rather than update the open drivers or fix the package for the proprietary drivers, the response was to remove the proprietary one and not update the open driver which left me in a position of manually maintaining my own graphics driver until the next major Ubuntu release.
I've used RPM and yum way more than I have deb and apt so I sway towards the former simply through familiarity. Having the chance to play with debs again recently has been great too, there's some nice additional touches you don't get with RPM such as the suggested packages and the ability to remove dependencies installed with a certain package, etc. Ubuntu have done a nice job of packaging this all up with Synaptic too. Aside from those few nice-to-haves I don't really see any other advantages to the Ubuntu system, yum and RPM would do exactly the same job when fronted by Synaptic but as ever in the world of open source having choice and competition is good.
Hiding root from the general user is a decent idea too, no need for that confusion in a simple desktop environment, and makes it feel a little closer to what people expect from a Windows box.
Gnome is the desktop of choice for both mainstream Ubuntu and for Fedora so I've been going with that recently instead of my usual choice of KDE. I've been really impressed with Gnome too, for a simple desktop environment it's fantastic but I know if I were to use it every day there would be some features and tools I use regularly under KDE that I would dearly miss. However, I think I've been converted for home use over to Gnome, particularly as KDE is going through turbulent times with their version 4 releases right now. Having everything written in one toolkit is really nice, you can't avoid running GTK and QT apps under KDE but at least under Gnome you have the option of not running QT and sticking with the same look and feel everywhere.
I hope I managed to stabalise on one distribution soon so SqueezeCenter actually works, I get the feeling that will likely be Fedora 8 in the short term until Slim Devices get their act together for Perl 5.10 if my current thoughts are correct. So for now at least it's goodbye to Ubuntu until the next time I give it a run somewhere.