Ubuntu colours: earthy or veggie?

Anyone even remotely interested in Linux these days can’t really go more than a few days without reading something, somewhere about Ubuntu. It’s easily the most popular distribution of Linux out irrespective of how you calculate this. Be it from distrowatchs‘ rankings or just running a google search for Linux and seeing how many results pertain to Ubuntu (usually most of them).

Currently the chatter surrounding Ubuntu is obviously focused on its next upcoming release 10.04 Lucid Lynx. However, most blog posts and news articles are all talking about the new artwork rather than any technological advances. Discussion (as ever with Ubuntu users and critics alike) seems to focus almost solely on colour. Yes that’s right. I said colour. This release will bring about quite a few changes in not only the colour scheme of the default desktop, it’s wallpaper and themes but also the ubuntu website, online shop, documentation cd covers (just mockups currently) and more besides. Which is nice. But how important is it?

The key word that so many people seem to miss here is default. It’s what the desktop arrives on your computer looking like after a fresh install or while trying out the livecd. I would happily agree that first impressions do mean a lot. Having a slick polished-looking desktop is seldom a bad thing. However, it really is the easiest thing to change whether you’ve never used Ubuntu or Linux before or you are a hoary old hedgehog like me.

What gets my goat is the extent to which the debate surrounding this tiny aspect of the OS takes such focus. The default theme released with Ubuntu has become more polished with each release but it never looked bad. As much as so many bemoan the brown, it made Ubuntu as successful as it has been. No other popular distro used quite such a distinctive and memorable scheme – most default to blues or greens and look entirely unexceptional. The proposed new colours, aubergine being amongst them (fantastic colour, shame about the taste) will hopefully still remain fairly unique to Ubuntu but time will tell.

If I were to point you in the direction of omgubuntu.co.uk and their recent post about the new wallpaper (thanks for the link mesanna!) you need only scroll down the page a few hundred lines to see all the same old arguements coming out about OS aesthetics (obviously being linked to anything even remotely OSX related as often as possible – grr macs..) Why is it impossible to create a nice looking system without being accused of stealing elements of its design from commercial alternatives? Sometimes there genuinely are only a few ways of accomplishing a particular UI successfully and once the best way has been tried and tested enough it is adopted. This is not theft. This is common sense.

Anyway.. what I’m slowly getting round to saying is that yes, re-style your site’s look, give the documentation a face-lift even create more themes and wallpapers. But don’t expect to be able to create a set of themes and wallpapers that will capture the hearts and minds of everyone. It can’t be done.

In my opinion, rather than spending all this time on the look of the thing just make is as obvious as is humanly possible that you can change how everything looks. Perhaps a notification bubble at boot with the words “You can change how I look! Click here to choose a style and find out more”. Shouldn’t be hard right? I’m thinking of adding a filter in firefox for the words “ubuntu + brown + ugly” I’m that tired of reading about this. Proof can be found again by looking at the post linked above and skimming through the comments. I will leave you with one comment which made me laugh, not because it’s right or bold or clever but because it is so fantastically idiotic.

are you serious? What the hell is wrong with ubuntu. I mean, I had a little sympathy for the whole brown thing, but honestly, you should have known everyone hates brown. Ask any girl with brown eyes and they go “eww! they look like poop!”

So, to further expand on your theory, do girls with blue eyes hate Fedora? Green eyes can’t stand openSUSE? Is this something limited only to the female of the species? Thank you Zach for sharing and bringing a smile back to my face!

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