Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Kaola, launched earlier this week. One of the key new features in this release is Ubuntu One. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, this new feature/product launch has been anything but smooth.
Ubuntu One is one of the new ways that Canonical, the creators of Ubuntu, is trying to generate some revenue based on their distro. Ubuntu One is a hosted file storage solution that allows users to keep a folder and all of its content synced between multiple computers. All users get 2GB of storage for free with the option of increasing the store to 50GB for $10/month.
Since this new offering has many Ubuntu users very excited, I thought I’d give it a try as soon as I installed the new release. However, I was instantly met with a very big message telling me that something was wrong.
Launch Day: Problem 1
When I first started Ubuntu One, the following notification appeared:
There was a capabilities mismatch while attempting to connect to the Ubuntu One server. You may have installed a newer version of the client, for which the server does not yet provide support. A new version of the server should be accessible soon. Please be patient while we update.
Ubuntu is supposed to be a Linux distro designed for the average computer user. Since this large message appears for a short period of time and it isn’t easily understood, I think that this message could very easily give users a very bad first experience. I believe it would be much more simple to simply say the following:
Server Connection Failed
Please ensure that you have installed all software updates and try again at a later time.
The reason why I believe the software update portion should be included is because the problem wasn’t the server, it was the client. This morning my system told me some updates were available, and a few of these updates got rid of the “Capabilities Mismatch” problem and allowed the software to connect properly.
The packages that fixed this are the following:
Each of these were updated to version 1.0.2-0ubuntu2. After the update, I closed the Ubuntu One software, restarted it, and the folder sync worked as expected. However, this is when another problem became clear.
Houston, We Have a Problem… Again
There are two parts to the Ubuntu One system. The first is the server/client connection that actively syncs the Ubuntu One folder between the computer and the Ubuntu One server. The second is an online system you can access through the browser. This online system allows you to manage folders and files from inside your browser.
When I first started to play with Ubuntu One, even though the folder sync didn’t function, the web access system did. Using this method allowed me to get a feel for what Canonical was aiming to offer its users. As soon as the server/client issue was fixed, I decided to play around with syncing files and then looking at them on the online system. This is when I found Ubuntu One’s second problem.
Disappointingly, as soon as Ubuntu One’s client started to work properly, their online system failed. So, is this out of the kettle and into the fire?
Again, this failed in a manner that is difficult to understand. You set up a Ubuntu One account by using a Launchpad account. I went to one.ubuntu.com, the Ubuntu One site, clicked “Sign In”, input my login details, and was redirected to the home page again with no feedback message. So, I clicked “Sign In” again, and I was once again redirected back to the homepage. Seems like some authentication issues were going on between the Ubuntu One and Launchpad systems.
As with the previous issue, my problem isn’t how the system failed — I’m a programmer, I know how things can go wrong — it’s with the fact that no feedback was given to the user. It simply didn’t work.
As I finish up this post, I see that Ubuntu One’s online system is functional again. However, as I’ve tested this throughout the day, it seems like it was down for at least a few hours. Overall, this is not a bad downtime, but it does tarnish the launch.
To be frank, I feel a bit bad being so harsh to software and services that I am getting access to for free; however, as per Canonical’s own press release, they are extremely-focused on the user experience. As a user, I have to say that my experience with the new Ubuntu One service was less than good.
I know that Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, believes that Ubuntu can take on Microsoft’s Windows head on. I also believe that Ubuntu has this potential; however, launch experiences like this aren’t going to win any new fans. One of the biggest disappointments that many people have with Microsoft is that many of their products, Windows included, feel like they were rushed out of development just to get a release.
Considering that Ubuntu One and Ubuntu are both Canonical creations, it looks really bad when Canonical can’t even get their own products to work together properly.