64-bit vs. i386 and Ubuntu vs. Kubuntu CDs

EDIT: Søren points out that the server CDs are in fact 64 bit. However I think the point made below is still valid for the desktop CDs.

There were a few comments to my latest blog post about the lack of 64-bit CDs in the LoCo CD box, and the reduced number of Kubuntu CDs compared to the number of Ubuntu CDs.

I don’t agree with this critique. As I see it, the CDs are for handing out and passing on to people who are completely new to the Linux / (K)Ubuntu game. These people don’t necessarily know what hardware is in their computer and a question like “Do you have at 64 bit processor?” won’t make sense to them. Worst case scenario the question will make the user feel stupid (not a good starting point for a great user experience with the new software) or the user will answer incorrectly, and will end up with a CD that doesn’t work with their hardware.
Sure, support for huge amounts of ram is nice, but I still think it is rare that the average user has and needs this (yet). And the user who does need it will be aware of the difficulties, and know to either ask the person who hands out the CD or do the research of how to get 64 bit support.

As to the number of Kubuntu vs. Ubuntu CDs I know this is a issue that a lot of people feel very strongly about. But the fact is that the average user who has never used anything else than Microsoft Windows doesn’t know the difference between Gnome and KDE (or the difference between Thunderbird and Evolution or the difference between Emacs and Vi…). The big strength of FOSS is the choices. But that is also one of the weaknesses. When you come along as a new user you are in no way qualified to make the choice between several different software packages, if you have no idea what the differences is. So you need someone else to make that choice for you. And if you find out you prefer another program than the one installed by default, the solution is often not further away than Synaptic or a link on the web: install kubuntu-desktop
(This link installs kde on a Ubuntu system. If I remember correctly it needs to fetch 100MB or more and will make KDE your default desktop environment. If you don’t know what that means, you don’t need to do it.)

That is why I think it is fine that Canonical has chosen to ship more plain Ubuntu CDs than Kubuntu and no 64-bit CDs at all. It limits the number of choices that the use can’t be expected to make anyway. And if you are well informed enough to make the choice you should also be expected to know what to do to get the system you want.

9 thoughts on “64-bit vs. i386 and Ubuntu vs. Kubuntu CDs”

  1. Regarding “support for huge amounts of ram”: it would be nice if the default desktop kernel would just support PAE – that would allow to use 4GB and more (instead of a max of 3.3GB) out of the box, with 32 bit kernel. So far I haven’t found any conclusive reason why this is not done for Ubuntu.

  2. At what point though does amd64 become the default? Every Dell laptop my companies buys runs a 64-bit processor the Intel Centrino 2 supports 64-bit and in fact Ubuntu/Kubuntu 9.04 runs great on it. Most people soon will be able to run amd64 without even knowing it.

    While I would love to see more Kubuntu cds being shipped I think you are right that it doesn’t matter to newbiews what version of a desktop you are running. Get them started and then let them decide

  3. Regarding Kubuntu and Ubuntu, you could say the opposite. Ship Kubuntu and provide a link to install ubuntu-desktop… Beginners use GNOME only because of the marketing campaign of Canonical. If Kubuntu was shipped by default, everyone would use KDE and no one would complain, especially beginners as KDE can be configured to mimic Windows.

    Anyway, I know that someday Ubuntu will have to switch to KDE as default, because it is the future of the desktop. I just do not understand why the promote their GNOME version more. “People want GNOME”… no, you give GNOME by default, and you do not promote the choice, of course people will ask for what they know. Promote KDE as much as GNOME, and I’m sure that Ubuntu and Kubuntu would get 50% of downloads each !

  4. Cypher, the main reason why I stayed on Windows for so long is that my first tries were all with KDE, and it got me so disturbed that after a month I still couldn’t use my computer decently.

    It took me 2 days to adapt myself to GNOME. 2 days for XFCE too.

    Also, the original project is, afaik, Ubuntu. Kubuntu is a flavour. I really don’t understand how so many Kubuntu users can complain about not being considered by Canonical. Do you see any Xubuntu CD out there ? Do you see Xubuntu on Ubuntu’s “official” mirrors ? And yet, Xubuntu’s fully usable and the best choice for old hardware.

  5. I agree with the argument that simplicity comes first, and giving Joe Average an amd64 version may not be a good idea. However, surely the Server CD is not meant for Joe Average, and surely it should be amd64?

    > it would be nice if the default desktop kernel would just support PAE

    I guess the problem is the same as on Windows: many drivers do not support 36bit addresses. And if you have to rewrite the drivers for 36bit, you may just as well go 64bit.

    > Do you see any Xubuntu CD out there ?

    Good point. Xubuntu is amazing on older laptops, and it can give them a whole new lease of life. Although I would go with Xubuntu 08.04 LTS, if I have the choice.

  6. @Steve Dodier:
    On the other hand I could argue that KDE setup with one taskbar at the bottom and one menu with applications is a lot more familiar for Windows users then Gnomes two panel/three menu thing.
    BTW KDE4 takes a middle road and really tries to be less confusing then kde3 was while still giving configurability and options.

    Marketshare of GNOME and KDE is similiar. Those are two main Linux desktops. Xfce while a nice environment doesn’t have as big community/userbase …. One would argue then that KDE and Gnome should receive the same treatment, marketing and care from distos.

    about other things… It was promised to us that KDE/Kubuntu will be first grade citizen in ubuntu family. The promises aren’t fulfiled so you get complains. It’s only natural. Sadly it’s not only the number of CDs that makes this promises not fulfiled.

    [i]When you come along as a new user you are in no way qualified to make the choice between several different software packages, if you have no idea what the differences is. So you need someone else to make that choice for you[/i]
    For normal user Operating System is the GUI … You should give him both ubuntu and kubuntu Cds so he/she can check them up and decide which he/she likes better… I mean for normal people it’s not GNU/Linux it’s KDE/Linux or GNOME/Linux ;) … The big advantage here is if the new user does not like Gnome there is still chance that he will like KDE, and in the end Linux… Isn’t it what meters? . I don’t see him playing with OS he doesn’t like just to find he can download kubuntu-desktop … I mean he doesn’t even know what it is doesn’t he.? I can bet he doesn’t even know this “Ubuntu thing” can have different desktop environments.

    The best thing that should be done is going away with Cds and providing one Ubuntu DVD with KDE, Gnome and Xfce with short descriptions and giving people the choice they should have.

  7. I’m always surprised to see people so positive about KDE.

    It always feels and looks like a usability car crash.

  8. For me that’s how Gnome looks and feels … Nevertheless posting about is just pointless. It’s your own or mine opinion, and other people are free to have their own and should be allowed to be given a choice.

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