Divining from the Entrails of Ubuntu's Gutsy Gibbon

According to the 2007 DesktopLinux.com survey, Ubuntu is the distribution of choice for 30% of GNU/Linux users. The exact figure is questionable, but Ubuntu's dominance is not. For an increasing number of people, Ubuntu is GNU/Linux. Yet, looking at the pre-releases of Gutsy Gibbon, Ubuntu 7.10, I found myself becoming disturbed by the degree to which this popularity has translated into uncritical acceptance.

Make no mistake -- due to the energy that the Ubuntu community and Canonical, its corporate arm, have put into improving the desktop, this popularity is well-deserved. Yet, at the same time, I find myself wondering whether user-friendliness must inevitably mean discouraging users from exploring their systems or taking firm control over them. This question keep nagging me each time I installed, went through the selection of preloaded software, explored the desktop, installed new software, or examined security. Only once or twice did I find a balance between accessibility to newcomers and a feature set for advanced users. At times, too, I wondered whether the popularity might be preventing Ubuntu from finishing some rough edges.