Before I begin my rant you should know that I'm a big fan of Linux. I use it on all my desktop and laptop computers. But I have known for a long while now that the Achilles Heel for most Linux distributions is the update process.
Always with big updates, but even with average or even small updates, one must pray to whatever God they believe in, check to make sure the stars are aligned, watch for dire omens, and simply cross their fingers hoping that the latest update will not screw up their system.
Ubuntu has not been my favorite operating system, but I have found it useful for things like automatically installing needed drivers and for being the one Linux system that usually works with printers and sdcard readers and other things out of the box. Despite some frustrations with Unity, Ubuntu has grown on me a bit, and Ubuntu can be a good go-to distribution for Linux newbies.
Ubuntu is not the only Linux distribution that has caused me grief regarding updates, just the latest. I have Ubuntu 12.04 installed on one of my laptops. I've been keeping it updated and using it regularly. This afternoon I found there were about 34 mb worth of updates, and since this is supposed to be a more stable LTS release I was not too worried about updating it, so I went to the terminal and ran: sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade. It finished with no issues, so I restarted the computer. When it booted back up I noticed there was no wallpaper, only a black screen and Unity's icons looked wrong. So I restarted it and once again things still looked wrong. I got no results from trying to launch several apps and a window popped up telling me something was wrong with the system. I found myself fracked by yet another Linux update.
I could not get Ubuntu 12.04 to work properly, but I finally got synaptic package manager to launch and as a last ditch effort to save the install I installed Kubuntu Desktop. This saved the install and now everything is working fine under Kubuntu.
If this kind of thing happened to Ubuntu alone it would be easy to dismiss, but I have had this issue with numerous Linux distributions, you have a fine operating system that you update and then all hell breaks loose after the update. A couple examples, I had a Fedora 17 install working very well, but after a few updates it damn near burned up one of my laptops shooting the temperature up to 90c. That was the end of my interest in Fedora. I had a Debian install that was made useless by an update that broke Dolphin, causing it to crash every time I tried to launch the file manager. Those are just two recent episodes.
When I think of newcomers to Linux running into these update problems it does not surprise me that they go running back to Windows or Mac. Most people simply want a working system, something they don't have to constantly fix.
Being well aware of these sort of update issues has caused me to shun the Rolling Release Linux distributions. It has made me gravitate toward the Long Term Support (LTS) and Stable Linux release distributions, but as I mention in this article--even they are not completely immune from update breakage.
I think I'm about one screwed up Linux experience away from taking some stable Linux release, shutting down everything except security updates and a browser update, and saying to hell with the other updates. I know I'm not alone with these frustrations. Any given hour on the Ubuntu Forum shows numerous people who have simply run updates and found their operating system broke or otherwise unusable.
I think that the person who comes out with an almost update free Linux version will get much love for their distribution, for no matter how many months a distribution runs well, when Linux is made unusable by an update, that's another black eye for Linux, and another user who may be lost to the Linux community.
Yes, updates are the bane of Linux, and until a system is found that severely reduces breakage from updates, it will be difficult for Linux to become fully mainstream. Rant over...for now....