I want Gnome: Arch or Ubuntu?

A couple of days ago I came to a realisation: I run so many gnome applications I might as well try to use Gnome again, instead of Openbox. It’s not that I think Metacity is a better window manager than Openbox, because it isn’t, but configuration is (a bit) easier, and I’ve had so many trouble lately with burning software, I wanted to check if the desktop environment makes a difference. It doesn’t, but that’s another matter.

I was a bit tired that day, and I had a copy of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) lying around, so I thought, why not? I love Arch, but it can be a bit time- and energy consuming to set everything up. I decided to keep my old Arch+Openbox partition, and install Ubuntu on the partition I normally use to test distributions.
Before I go on, I want to stress that I like Ubuntu very much. I think it provides a high-quality solution for people who want an OS that isn’t Windows or Apple. I’m not one of those Linux users who have to be elite and snub Ubuntu for being to noobish. Yes, it’s aimed at people who don’t want to tinker with their OS. That’s just fine. Most people are like that.

The Ubuntu-CD I found was an alternate-install CD (instead of a Live CD), so I just fired up the installer. Install took longer than Arch, which didn’t surprise me, but also seemed to take longer than previous Ubuntu installs. All in all, I guess it took 25 to 30 minutes. Anyway, it may have been slow, but it did the job just fine, and after rebooting the familiar desktop was visible in all its glory.
Okay, it was a bit slow, but not much compared to Arch with Gnome. And yes, it’s brown, but I guess I’m one of the only people who doesn’t mind that. I do prefer the Human-Murrine to the normal Human theme, but the difference is minimal. I liked how my fonts looked out of the box (I can make Arch fonts look better, but it needs some configuration, because without it, Arch fonts look horrible), I liked the easy installation of things like restricted drivers (nvidia), codecs when trying to play an mp3, and flash from within Firefox when visiting a site that needs it. Those little details really add up to a great user experience. Last but not least, I LOVED how adding the printer was just a matter of switching it on. I had just tried and succeeded to get that printer to work in Arch plus Openbox, but this was a lot easier.


Ubuntu is fragile. As soon as you start messing around with the settings, things can go wrong. It’s just that sometimes I have to mess around. When I check out all the processes that a default Ubuntu installation starts, I get shivers down my spine. I don’t need bluetooth support. I have no bluetooth using hardware anywhere. I don’t have wireless either, so I don’t need that. I opened System > Preferences > Sessions, unchecking everything I thought I didn’t need, including gnome-power-manager. Next thing I know, clicking the Shutdown-button doesn’t do anything for ages, and then pops up the wrong window. Understand, at the time I didn’t link my actions with the sudden weird behaviour. How could I? What does gnome-power-manager have to do with showing the logout options?
Well, apparently, it’s a known bug. There are quite a few threads about it on ubuntuforums.org, but it took me some time to find the bug report. By that time, I had already installed Arch again, with Gnome, and made it look like KDE4, just because I could.

I just don’t dare to mess around in Ubuntu like I can in Arch. In Arch, I know what I did when I installed it. In Ubuntu, I don’t, because everything has been taken care of for me. Which is great if it actually works.
Another thing is that the people on ubuntuforums.org are, sometimes, less knowledgeable than those on the Arch forums. There are a lot of Ubuntu users who know very well what they’re talking about, but they are outnumbered by the enthusiasts, who can give you some very bad, or outdated, or dangerous advice indeed. I think Ubuntu is the victim of its own success here. It was inevitable, but I think Canonical should put some serious thought into managing the forums and the wiki a bit more strictly.
And if you want an idiot-proof OS, the ideal number of bugs would be zero. Of course it’s impossible, but I can dream… . By the way, this bug has been around since July 2007, has 13 duplicates, is well documented, graded Medium, and is still around.

So for me it’s still Arch. And yes, the Brasero habit of crashing and spitting out coasters is still there, even in Gnome. So I’ll just use Serpentine for audio-cds and nautilus cd-burner for isos. Whatever works.



9 Responses to I want Gnome: Arch or Ubuntu?

  1. Sandesh Sadhale says:

    Well, I would like to recommend that you take Sabayon linux for a spin….its the only distro I see the potential in, to kick ubuntu’s from its enviable position. The desktop renders beautifully – art work is descent. The fonts appear exceptionally sharp. Right from mp3 to flash – everything just works out of the box and guess what the installation is like arch – but much better – in the sense that everything is custom compiled on your machine(Sabayon is gentoo based) – thus every line executed on ur processor is customized/ optimized for it and the whole architecture of your machine. The installer is graphical and painless. In terms of speed – it beats not only ubuntu but most of the distros around hands down! Try out the Live DVD – as it comes with tons of software – i havent ever needed to install anything additionally.

  2. Mic says:

    Below is a generalization :

    Gnome = Ubuntu

    Arch = KDE


  3. QUASAR says:

    Arch for everything ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. mads says:

    You make a good point: If you go with ubuntu, pray that it works and don’t tinker. The ubuntu system and documentation seem really user-unfriendly as sson as you start messing with the configuration. Having had Arch for at little over a week, I already understand more of what’s going on under the hood than I did with ubuntu in over a year.

  5. nongeekboy says:

    Ubuntu is a “ready to use” distro; if you don’t want to have any problems with it, play only with the look and nothing else. I alaways recommend Ubuntu (and PCLinux) to those who want just to listen music, watch movies and surf the net. If they want to learn linux, then Ubuntu it’s not the right distro. Arch is ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. AmblestonDack says:

    I agree that Ubuntu is not designed to be tinkered with. I use both Arch and Ubuntu and I have to say that my PC is where I just listen to MP3’s, watch DVD’s read my e-mail and surf the net, but my Arch laptop is where I do all the serious stuff ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As for Sabayon, I have never got it to work, ever! I managed to get Gentoo to install and I spend a month trying to keep it up to date, but I binned it in the end in favour of Arch. Please don’t tell me that Sabayon is as much of a pain to keep up to date as Gentoo :/

  7. celettu says:


    actually the size of Sabayon is the reason I never tried it out before. I’m on bandwith limit, and downloading an entire DVD is a bit much.
    But I’m curious now, so I’ll probably try out the next release.


    No. Just…no ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. DarkBaboon says:

    I know the two burning applications in Archlinux, GnomeBaker and Brasero both sucks (only K3B does a good job but it is a KDE application)…

    But I heard about a simple GTK+ disc burner which may concern you : http://code.google.com/p/recorder/ this is a project specifically for Archlinux made by an Archer who’s bored about the recorders available for our choice distribution.

    And I agree with you, people at Archlinux forums are conversant with Linux a bit more than Ubuntu and company. :oP

  9. I always had problems with Brasero in Arch so I just used K3b. It does not bother to me that is is a KDE app. If it is a good application, use it ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am using Gnome in Gentoo right now and quite happy. It runs much more stable than KDE under Gentoo.

    Best of luck with Arch.

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