In this age of convergence Ubuntu isn’t what it used to be.
‘Ubuntu is far less Ubuntu-y than it used to be’
Sure, it’s super stable, far more compatible, and less buggy than it was a few years back. The polish and professionalism mirrors Canonical’s own transition from scrappy startup to server-ruling stalwart.
But Ubuntu is also far less…Ubuntu-y than it used to be.
The open-source OS has lost a little bit of its magic, diluting its personality to placate and appease critics.
So here, with my tongue firmly wedged in my cheek, are five things I think we all secretly miss about Ubuntu of old.
1. The Ubuntu Login Sound
The rhythmic melody of Ubuntu’s exotic signature login sound was, at one time, a sure-fire way to
wake up the dead band announce your operating system choice to your entire class.
It was also a fantastic way to learn that your computer had randomly rebooted itself.
Ubuntu disabled the login sound back around the time of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS — and while I don’t miss having to dive for the mute key at login, I am still incredibly fond of the chime.
2. The Mascot Wallpapers
Mascot wallpapers appeared in just two releases of Ubuntu — Ubuntu 8.04 and Ubuntu 8.10. Funny how synonymous the Ubuntu mascot wallpapers are considering they shipped for just two releases.
The Hardy Heron wallpaper is the best loved (and most well remembered) wallpaper the distro ever shipped with. The follow up Intrepid Ibex design was also striking (and not just because it looked like a set of coffee ring stains).
Few wallpapers since 8.04 LTS ever proved as popular, so maybe Ubuntu should just revert back to it. I don’t think many of us would mind!
3. The Lurid Color Scheme
Ahh, Ubuntu’s old colour scheme was a thing of beauty. Seriously! More orange than a tank filled with Fanta.
Ubuntu’s use of orange (and brown) lives on through the Ambiance theme, but part of me misses the luridly glossy orange excess of old. There’s something about it, and the earthy, natural browns it was used with, that felt unique.
Ubuntu is far better designed today than it was back in the late 00s, but in polishing the rough edges it has, I think, lost a little touch of its scrappy malleable charm.
4. The Wi-Fi that never worked
It’s easy to take for granted that Ubuntu just works these days.
Back when I first started using Ubuntu the single biggest battle (after you got Grub 1 to install correctly) was getting your Wi-Fi drivers to work on Ubuntu.
Most Wi-Fi cards of the time relied on proprietary drivers (cheers Broadcom!) with few OEMs offering open source or native Linux alternatives.
The open-source community loves a challenge, and nifty tools like NDISwrapper (and its invaluable GTK front-end) popped up to let you use Windows drivers on Linux. Chuck in the advance of Linux Netbooks, improved kernel releases, and plenty of reverse-engineered after-class projects, and a slate of ever-better open-source alternatives emerged.
But the smug satisfaction in getting a poorly supported Wi-Fi card to work was worth it, even if it did take 5 hours, 4 forum threads, 1 random runtime, and a whole bunch of copy and pasted commands to achieve it!
5. The Bustle of the Ubuntu Forums
In the late 2000s, the Ubuntu Forums was the place to be. Most of us had a link to the Ubuntu Forums pinned on our Firefox browser toolbar.
The Newbies and Help sections were always overflowing with questions (and bumped threads for the impatient); while the community sections were a hive of activity, debate, banter and inevitable KDE vs. GNOME polls.
The Ubuntu Forums are still around today and still ticking over nicely, but it’s clear their heyday has passed.
The forums have, to my eyes, been sidelined and marginalised in favour of shiny new avenues, like the austere Ask Ubuntu, subreddits, and social media.
Let us know the things you miss about Ubuntu of yore in the comments section.