Upgrading Apps: The Rub With Linux

I first tried Linux back in 1998. Back then, a friend installed Red Hat Linux on my computer. It wasn’t all that usable at the time, for my needs. Over the past decade, Linux has come a long way. I’ve tried many variations over the years, and each new distribution gets a little bit better.

Today, I am running Ubuntu 9.04. It isn’t my full-time OS, but I use Ubuntu on my laptop exclusively. Wireless networking used to be my biggest problem with Ubuntu in its earlier days, but since version 7.10 or so, it has been smooth sailing in that department. Fortunately, today that is no longer an issue.

However, my problem with Linux today is in the distribution of applications. Practically every application on my machine is acquired from Ubuntu’s servers. The only exception in my mind is the Adobe Flash Player. With Flash, you can actually visit Adobe’s website and click to install it. Why aren’t other applications working in a similar manner? That is the missing piece of the puzzle in order for Linux to act more like Windows or Mac OS. Novice users will expect it to work this way.

The two major applications that never upgrade are Firefox and OpenOffice. Every time there is a major update, Ubuntu does not offer an upgrade until the next entire OS release. Ubuntu is great about pushing security and point-release updates. I give them high marks for that. But not so for complete new versions of stuff.

For example, Firefox just updated to 3.0.12 on Ubuntu, but you still cannot get Firefox 3.5. I know they are probably waiting on the next OS, 9.10, to “include” the new Firefox. Why? OpenOffice behaves the same way. Version 3.x was out months before Ubuntu released a new OS version that included it. This is stupid and it gets on my nerves. I should be able to visit Mozilla.com and click to overwrite my installation of Firefox 3 with the new one.

I am aware that I can do this in a manual way and get Firefox 3.5 on my system. But it won’t overwrite the version that is tied to the OS. Plus I don’t want to jump through hoops to get the latest programs. The relationship between Linux the operating system, and its applications needs to change. This isn’t only true for Ubuntu, but also Fedora and SUSE, which have the same behavior.

In the long run, I would like a future Linux OS to handle applications in much the same way that Mac OS X currently does. Is that too much to ask?

Author: Craig Tisinger


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