[ubuntu-uk] What's In A Name?

Grant Sewell dcglug at thymox.co.uk
Sun Jun 12 22:56:15 UTC 2011

On Sun, 12 Jun 2011 23:15:57 +0100
Nigel Verity wrote:

> Hi Guys
> It's been very interesting to read all the different takes on the
> Ubuntu name. Whatever the wisdom of its original selection,
> everyone's familiar with it, and to change now would probably be a
> retrograde step. However, the individual release names must seem a
> bit odd to non-Linux users. What's wrong with, for example, just
> calling the versions Ubuntu 11, Ubuntu 12, etc? That would describe
> the sequence, which is all that really matters. Whether the version
> is released in April or October shouldn't impact on the numbering
> convention.

I suppose there would be no problems calling it 11.1 and 11.2, but then
it feels more like "version numbers" than "release numbers" - where
release indicates (or at least it should) when something was released.

> Anything that helps to give Ubuntu the image of being "mainstream"
> can only be of help. Quirky release names suggest that Ubuntu is
> perhaps intended only for people "in the know".

Remember that they are "codenames".  Are they necessarily any
"quirkier" than the "codenames" use by other parties?  Does anyone
really refer to running "Windows Blackcomb"?  Or "Mac Tiger"?

> Other recent threads have pointed out that the vast majority of
> Windows and Mac users have never installed an operating system and
> would be extremely reluctant ever to do so. Until Ubuntu, or any
> other Linux distro for that matter, is widely available pre-installed
> on new hardware in high street shops, we're never going to make that
> all important big step.

There is, however, a big problem with that approach.  It is a chicken
vs. egg scenario:
10. Ubuntu won't be "widely" available pre-installed until the market
demands it.
20. The wider market won't demand it until they see it in use in the
wider market already.
30. GOTO 10.

> As things stand at the moment, if MS ever
> release a really flawed version of Windows or suffer a huge security
> embarrassment, it will be Mac OS that people turn to as the
> alternative, not Linux.

I would dispute this.  Not the part that says that people won't turn to
Linux - I agree (at the moment) with that wholesale.  I disagree that
people will turn to Mac.  For the most part, the general public are
lazy.  If there is a Windows release that really grates hard, the
public will still roll over and take it.  Look what happened with
Vista.  An absolute smorgasbord of problems with very few people
actually enjoying the Vista experience compared to the XP experience...
and yet, in the overwhelming majority of cases, they just put up with

And you can't say that Mac didn't have the exposure... 10.x was
released at around the same time as XP.  10.5 was released around the
same time as Vista.  People knew about Mac.

> The diversity of distros which is such a strength of Linux is also a
> major barrier to its mass-market adoption. Consider the position of,
> say, PC World. If they took a policy decision to offer Linux
> pre-installed, how would they decide which distro to use, when there
> are so many and the relative merits of each change from month to
> month. At least with Windows you get the same very narrow version
> options wherever you buy your computer.

Never forget the incentives given to include a given operating system
with the hardware.  PC World, using your example, do not choose Windows
as the operating system out of either laziness or out of some level of
perceived altruism towards the customer.  They are in business to make
money by whatever means they can... that is the very nature of
business.  If you want Ubuntu to compete with Windows, in the same
manner as Windows and on Windows' own turf, then we would have to find
some way of incentivising (I really hate that word) retailers and OEMs
to choose Ubuntu over Windows, or indeed over some other Linux distro.

> Don't get me wrong, I want Linux to go mainstream. It is better than
> Windows in practically every respect but, for all that, we appear to
> be unable to literally give it away as far as general desktop users
> are concerned.

That all depends on what front you are looking.  I have had *some*
successes, as have many on this list and further.

> This indicates the strength of the MS marketing
> machine as much as anything.

It is not all down to marketing.

> Since we can't hope to match that in
> financial terms we have to take every opportunity to broaden the
> appeal of Ubuntu. Ditching daft release names could be one step in
> the right direction.

What would your suggestion be?  And I realise that sentence can be read
in a retaliatory and inflammatory way, but I am genuinely asking you
what your suggestions would be.

Personally I think that it might be an idea to give more thought to the
adjective part of the codenaming convention - it seems to be getting
more and more obscure.  I quite like the animal names part of the
convention.  And I realise that the codename is not part of the
official title of the released product - it is called "Ubuntu 11.04",
it is *not* officially called "Ubuntu Natty Narwhal".  But then Windows
was called "Windows Blackcomb" until it was officially released,
where-upon it became "Windows 7".  Mac was codenamed "Snow Leopard"
until it was officially released, where-upon it became "OSX 10.6".

I am mostly happy with the codenames, but perhaps toning down the
adjective part a little.


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