Archive for the 'Design' Category

The “Ubuntu Upgrade Process” Compared Unfavorably Against “A Pile of Trash”

Dear Ubuntu,

I am mad and ranting. This is flamebait because it’s been a major problem every single Ubuntu release since I got involved four versions ago. Four freaking versions! That’s two years.

A little over one year ago, I was using Ubuntu 6.06. It was a good release, and it served me well. Then I tried to upgrade to version 6.10, and it was the worst upgrade I have ever done in my entire life. The IRC channels were flooded with people who said their systems were broken, mine included. Based on what I was told, the fact I had once used an early version of Automatix to install the fglrx 3D acceleration drivers had somehow made significant changes to my machine that lurked deep within the system, waiting to resurface and bite my head off when I upgrade. In retrospect, this was BS. There were a lot of things gone wrong with the upgrade that Automatix had absolutely nothing to do with.
I ended up reverting to 6.06 until 7.04 came out, when I backed everything up and did a clean install. This is what was have been using up until about noon today.

At noon, I made the decision that I had waited long enough, and the time had come to check out 7.10. After all, two months after release, the upgrade should be a smooth process, right? This was a horrible, horrible mistake. First, I needed to download 1.1 gigs of packages. This took three hours. Then, they were installed. This ran until 9pm.
Yes, I repeat, this was a nine hour upgrade. During this period, I was instructed not to use any programs because of “data loss.”

Oh, but it’s not an unattended upgrade either. Periodically, a dialog box would appear asking if I wanted to replace X configuration file I didn’t know existed with Y configuration file provided by the new package. While this box was on the screen, the entire upgrade would grind to a halt. There were like six of these things, spaced about 45 minutes apart. What the heck? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is bad design. This is disrespectful to the user. This is stupid.

Right, so the install finally completes. I reboot, to be greeted with a blank black screen. This blank screen stayed for a very long time (blinking occasionally) until the login box appeared. I decided to chalk up the long boot time to first boot and the blank screen to… a bug or whatever.

I logged into Gnome. There was an absurdly long login period, which I also attributed to first run. My processor indicator instantly shoots up to 100%. The system becomes sluggish and unresponsive. Apparently that nifty new “Tracker Desktop Search” tool is preset to begin indexing aggressively the first time an existing user logs in. I kill the process.

My mouse and windows are still sluggish. Running glxinfo reveals that my previously working fglrx drivers no longer are providing 3D acceleration. A popup message randomly appears in the center of the desktop telling me that non-free drivers are available for my hardware. It appears that it has clipped off the edge of the taskbar and taken it with it. I click it and it vanishes. Nothing happens. I eventually locate the icon in the tray that the bubble was supposed to be attached to. I double click it and it vanishes. Nothing happens. I go to the restricted drivers control panel and discover that the alert was for my unused dial-up modem; fglrx is indeed enabled. Great.

I try unchecking and rechecking it my double clicking. The desktop disappears and I am presented with the login screen. I log in again. Very long wait again. I decide to get online to find out how to fix the graphics drivers. The upgrade has uninstalled my wifi program of choice, Wicd, so I try to use the network control panel manually. Nothing happens. I try to change the essid of the network to a nonexistant network. Whoops, didn’t like that. Now I can’t get the control panel to come up at all.

Before Wicd, I used NetworkManager. It used to be buggy and not able to connect to hidden WEP networks. I’ve updated the network since than to a hidden WAP network. It connects! Yay! I’m connected to the internet! Suddenly, almost all the plugins on my taskbar all crash at the same time. Then my mouse freezes. Then the screen goes black. I wait for three minutes. Nothing happens. I’ve had better experiences with Windows ME.

At this point, I’ve wasted like thirty minutes messing with the stupid thing, in addition to the nine hour upgrade where I was hovering nearby checking every 15 minutes for “Replace configuration file?” dialogs.

This is completely unacceptable. You know what, I’m not even gonna bother anymore. I’ll just back up my recent data, wipe the entire thing, and start from scratch. It’ll take two hours, tops. Am I overreacting? No. You just wasted my day.

The Ubuntu upgrade process is junk. I’ve never had a Debian or Windows upgrade that ended as horribly as either of the times I’ve used the Ubuntu major version updater. Windows is trash. QED: The Ubuntu upgrade process performs worse than a pile of trash.


Idea: The Download Box

Why, when the computer locks up or freezes, do all our network connections drop? Think about it. Everything stops. AIM, downloads, peer-to-peer transfers, etc. This can be a problem, since many download sites generate a unique, one-time use URL to prevent file leaching. If you’re 99% done and your computer locks up, the connection drops and you’ve gotta download the entire file again. Why must we even reconnect?

Idea: a “black box” approach. Just a little box that sits between your Ethernet port and the wall/wifi. It runs an extremely minimal embedded OS, highly stable, no moving parts, etc. When you init a download, it’s going thru the box. If your computer stops accepting bits, the box keeps the download running and caches it until you can reboot or whatever. Maybe noone would buy something like that. Combine the gadget with an external hard disk as a really neat extra feature.


Inspired by this post, I’ve been designing a simplified version of Defense of the Ancients. I call it “TinyDoTA.”


The goal: A simple, easy to learn, hard to master version of DoTA that can be played through in 15 minutes.

Disclaimer: I’m not actually any good at DoTA. I’ve probably missed some stuff.



Get a class system working. Ideally three classes, maybe five. Good, well balanced, etc. I’m thinking the classic Warrior, Archer, and Rogue system. Maybe a Mage class, too.



Smaller map. For LAN play, four people. The more people the game requires, the harder it is to lean and get into.


The Rich Get Richer

Corpse runs

The other player won’t get any gold from killing a PC. Actually, maybe something like the bonus system in allegiance. For each kill (regardless of PC or NPC), the player’s bonus multiplier goes up. When killed, they pop out as a ghost and must run to their ancient. The opposing team could attack the ghost, but doing so would cause the player to respawn instantly, loosing their XP bonus. Would have to be balanced so that this was controversial. (What fun is a game if you always know what the other side will do?)



If you get behind the leveling curve on DoTA, you’re pretty much worthless. Worse than worthless, since going out will likely result in your death, feeding the other team. Maybe each team sends out more powerful units in direct relation to the opposition. For example, if the other team has high level characters, send out big units that give little XP. If the other team has low level characters, send out little units that have high XP. Maybe this would be counterproductive, since it would make the game drag out too long.



Having everyone stay would be even more important with only four people. If one person left, their some of XP would have to be transferred to the other player to compensate. How much is too much? Either that, or an NPC would be called in to take over their unit. Would need to respond to the basic DoTA chat and take commands. Also, would have to be weak enough that a human player was always better.



Your items are your character in DoTA. There are a ton of them, too. I’m not entirely sure how to manage this aspect. There are far too many of them for quick access, in my humble opinion. An interesting game mechanic would be to make each enemy tower a store. The closer to the enemies base, the better items. You’d have to go right up next to a tower while being attacked by it to make your selection. Perhaps one would simply have to stand next to a tower for some period of time to unlock new items back at the store in one’s base.


So, yeah. That’s all I’ve got so far. Anyone else have ideas?

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