Seven years ago, I knew what every process running on my computer was. I could -- with confidence -- tell users exactly how to solve a problem which was occurring. That's not really true anymore. Ubuntu has great stuff like HAL and D-Bus, and there are a million processe whose names I am familiar with but which I am clueless on how to fix. Long-time Linux users (if you consider 10 years a long time ...) like myself find that the system has grown increasingly complex and more difficult to manage (WRT to desktops). Applications crash more often than they ever used to, and my AMD64 system suffers from strange things like closing the session sometimes when I close an Epiphany tab.
This post is not a rant on how great the good ole' days used to be, though. Instead, it's a look at where Linux (and Ubuntu) used to be and where it's headed. The changes that are happening upset a fair number of older users, but I think that even the ancient among us can respect what's being accomplished. All right! That's enough of my yacking. Let's get started.
The Desktop: The Ubuntu desktop is moving toward Deskbar and possibly Gimmie. I can say this about Deskbar without a doubt. New users can expect to press ALT-F3 and do just about anything with their computers. Combined with Trackerd for indexing files, this offers a very powerful interface. I no longer need the Dictionary applet, a bookmark button, a browser history button, the "Recent documents" menu entry, and several other things. In fact, virtually the entire Gnome menu can be replaced by Deskbar if the user knows about it. (To Apple users -- Yes, I know it operates like OSX.) Geeks seem to like the million applets on the panel thing, though, so ...
The file structure is changing, too. .config and .local mean that many config files which used to live in your base home directory will be migrating. Your files will be kept in pre-named folders. You won't even browse to them, because you'll be searching. Boy, is that one pissing some people off!
Video: Totem-GStreamer is the future. MPlayer, the player everyone used five years ago, will never reign on the Ubuntu desktop. The GStreamer0.10 plugin architecture allows for all those ugly things like Windows DLLs. Totem will be more integrated into every Gnome application.
Of course, every application is now looking for the videos in ~/Videos.
Music: Whether you use Banshee, Amarok or the default Rhythmbox, you'll have to admit that XMMS (and now Beep) is no longer the player everyone wants.
The name of the new game is music management. There are new players which organize your music and find metadata automatically, storing it in databases for future use.
That music should, of course, be in the ~/Music folder. :P
Heck, Rhythmbox will even rip and write CDs for you.
Photos: GThumb is out, and F-Spot is in. Who knows where your photos are (except that they're under ~/Photos). The application handles all that. The point is, though, that you don't need to know. You just tag. The app could throw them all into one folder and it wouldn't matter to the user.
Your screensaver uses your photos tagged with Favorite as a slideshow.
Bittorrent: The standard client is out and Transmission is in. Even geeks shouted "hurray" at that one. It's a BT management program, though.
Management. That's the word for today. The apps and the desktop are taking the power away from the user and managing things for them. That makes a lot of control-freak geeks pretty upset. We remember hand tweaking everything ourselves.
The Unix mantra of small, specific tools isn't heard any more. It's more and more difficult to get under the hood of the Ubuntu desktop.
What you have to ask yourself is, "Are cars better off with computer chips and fuel injection than they were with springs and two or four barrels like when I was young?"
Well, I'm out of time for this post.
Edit: First of all, thanks to everyone for commenting. This post was a quick one-off and may have given the impression that I'm unhappy with Ubuntu. I'm not particularly angry about the changes I talk about, but I notice people mentioning these points regularly.
To clear up the point about photo organization in F-Spot -- Photos are actually organized in a three-tier directory by date (~/Photos/YYYY/MM/DD) and any tag data you use can optionally be embedded into the files, so I don't think that migration issues should be big on the list of troubles.
About control of the system: Ubuntu is completely customizable. Just like Debian, I can add or subtract almost any part of the system I want, so the issue is not REALLY control. The problem for most geeks is that modern Linux distros seem more interested in the average user and making everything "just work" without much thought, I guess. Geeks feel disenfranchised from an OS they started. Geez, Gentoo is almost dead. What does THAT tell you about the state of Linux? (And, yes, I've used Gentoo and LFS before, but no, I didn't stick with them.)
Specifically to Bad Wombat -- I'm not really that upset about where Ubuntu is going. I like F-Spot and Rhythmbox and Deskbar. I use them every day. I keep my files in the XDM locations. I think the "improved gas mileage" of the modern desktop with its fuel injectors is probably a good thing. It's just a lot different than what we grew up with. The problem isn't with HAL and D-Bus spcificlly: I was just pointing to the added complexity of the desktop.
Finally, about the Digg problem -- Hmm The individual pages work well and I'll look into it. No one has Dugg me in months.