This is a long one that I’ve been meaning to write for a while, I’ve had a chance to play around with both lately and despite them both being early in development I can see them both going in different directions.

Ghost v0.4.2

To begin with Ghost is trying to create simple and beautiful looking blogs, the platform is one that you just think ‘duh, why didn’t I think of that?’, although wordpress is the 500 pound gorilla in the room and has set the standard very high, which is probably why no one has touched the space in a long time.

Ghost is convoluted as hell to install, just like all of the new webapp/node.js stuff, it’s no longer good enough to just have apache and mysql installed, along with a nice web page ‘installer’ that sets up the databases and files, it now involves that fantastic new piece of software that clashes with apache called nginx and node.js, so I have to install both of these on a separate web server (or more likely a VM) because of the clashing while all of my other sites happily sit on apache+mysql.

After you get Ghost installed you have to start it up (like it’s an app), but that’s not enough, next you need to get it to run all the time, why this wasn’t thought of when they were working on node.js I’ll never know but you need a separate app called Forever, and then run that on your ghost install to get it to run… until reboot.

Full instructions on:

http://docs.ghost.org/installation/deploy/

As far as I’m concerned that page shouldn’t exist, it should just install and run like a web server app, because that’s what it is.

Moving on from the 3/10 install to the 9/10 site looks I was very happy indeed:

Ghost

Access to the core site code is also very easy to get into and modify, given I spent days on the borders, the fonts, the shadow, the hover colours, on this site I wanted the Ghost equivalent to look just as good if not better, and in the few hours I had playing around with Ghost and the “Whisper” theme I was able to make some significant improvements to make the site feel more like my own… and then I went to setup a separate static page for the About and LIUM pages.

Turns out the Whisper theme didn’t have this feature or any of the other themes I tried, or was even a feature until 1 version ago, and with my limitations in creating menus that look awesome thoroughly exposed I headed back to Jekyll with my tail between my legs.

Don’t get me wrong, Jekyll is great, but it’s hard to put off a responsive, great looking, typography and content focused blogging platform like Ghost for long, I imagine in a few versions I’ll check back in again to see if Whisper has been updated to include a great looking menu and I’ll be sold once and for all, with the exception of the install and the missing features that are due in time Ghost is going to truly be a great blogging platform, I can see it going far.

Ubuntu Touch v14.04

Ubuntu Touch on the other hand is not where I would expect it to be by now.

In 2 years the Ubuntu team took Unity from looking like a poorly ported piece of software that the developers didn’t care if it worked or not, a buggy, laggy, ugly, difficult to use, piece of interface that was a joke and hard to defend, my only defense against those who would attack it was “they tried using gnome2 and kde and it didn’t make a dent in windows marketshare, so why not let them try to forge their own way?”.

It’s been 4 years now and the thing has never looked so polished, it does have decent sized bugs, and the dash is still 99% completely worthless, but there’s good things coming I hear with the release of Unity 8 and Mir.

On the other hand I’ve followed Ubuntu Touch quite closely, not in the least because it’s so easy to follow, unlike /r/android, the Ubuntu Phone subreddit /r/UbuntuPhone/ has hardly any new posts, the Ubuntu Phone mailing list is packed full of updates and discussions, but not much movement.

My critiques of Ubuntu Touch are obvious, the things that will stand out to the average user are punching me in the head:

  • I don’t like the look of the apps, they look basic and uninspired.
  • The visible lack of ‘app store’ makes me unhappy.
  • All the problems that came with Android 5 years ago on immature hardware (it’s slow) are evident even on the decently speced Nexus 4 that I own.
  • It frequently glitches (slide across, nothing, side across, nothing, side across, launcher pops out, tap home, nothing, repeat same thing, phone crashes).
  • It is not a pleasure to use, it is the opposite, it is frustrating to use (the launcher alone is a massive problem).

This means I don’t see it going far. I used the 2nd Android phone to come out in Australia, the HTC Hero with Android 1.5, cost me $600, it was covered with the HTC Sense software which made it decently usable, it had many core features, it had an App Store, it didn’t have all the apps in the world, but it had enough despite being laggy and terrible, I could see a future.

I was always looking out for the next big thing. Android 2.3 was it, I had to have it, and when I did I was happy for a short time, and then I was frustrated as hell due to the hardware the HTC Hero had, new apps were taking advantage of new hardware, but when 4.0 came out the hardware had reached a peak and Android was beautiful. Android 4.1 with Project Butter and the Nexus 4’s decent price left me in a position I couldn’t stand, I had to have it. I put up with 3-4 years of laggy frustrating hell partly because a better experience was always around the corner.

Partly.

It’s not enough to just exist anymore, if I wanted the basic experience I’d go for Firefox OS or Tizen or any number of other OS’s.

Android came at a time when I had an ipod for music and a motorolla razr for phone calls. The HTC Hero was the first Android phone with a 3.5mm jack, it meant I could get rid of my ipod and just have a phone, saving me time and energy. So my requirements were not massive, play songs and make phone calls.

My bare minimum is no longer bare. I have many of my favourite apps on Android including Pocket Weather, Spotify, the official F1 app, Duolingo, MyFitnessPal, Slack, Alarm by DoubleTwist, Flow and more.

I can show people the official F1 app, the 3d race track looks amazing, I no longer want to settle for less, I want something that I can proudly show off and use.

I really want to get behind Ubuntu Touch and the bigger game plan that Canonical are playing at is nothing short of brilliant.

The bigger picture:

The idea is that one big reason why Linux and Ubuntu aren’t gaining massive traction with users is because of a lack of apps. It’s easy to see why, imagine if Facebook and Twitter didn’t work on Linux, take away your favourite site and pretend it only works on Windows and Mac, instantly you’re put off by the platform, in turn that creates a chicken and egg situation, people won’t use Linux because their favourite programs don’t work and no developers want to develop for Linux because no one uses it.

However what if there was a way to get people to write their apps for linux without even knowing it? That’s where Ubuntu Touch comes in, you write an app for it and what do you know it also works on Ubuntu! It’s a subtle way of introducing major new apps to the linux ecosystem without putting linux front and centre, similar to how Android runs on tablets and phones, Linux just becomes another device with a bigger screen.

It’s a brilliant plan and one I am 100% behind, but in reality the mobile phone business is go big or go home, developers are reluctant to make apps for Android despite the larger market share! If Ubuntu Touch is another niche market it will suffer the same thing as the Windows Phone, a lack of apps… which is the same thing Ubuntu/Linux currently suffers from, and you go full circle.

I can see they are pushing hard for developers:

Announcing Ubuntu Pioneers

Firstly, we have created http://developer.ubuntu.com/pioneers which displays all of these developers and lists the apps that they have created. This will provide a permanent record of those who were there right at the beginning.

Secondly, we have designed a custom, limited-edition Ubuntu Pioneers t-shirt that we want to send to all of our pioneers.

http://discourse.ubuntu.com/t/announcing-ubuntu-pioneers/1679

I’m genuinely drawn between the two operating systems, I switched from Windows because it had major drawbacks, my app requirements were mostly covered in Ubuntu, it took Ubuntu 10 years to go from being an uninspired windows 95 copy to the soft and gorgeous looking design it has today (props to http://numixproject.org/ for further improving the launchers looks), it took Android 5 years to go from an ugly duckling iphone users could bawk at, to their current holo inspired design. Just by simply existing Ubuntu Touch is behind, it needs to be smooth as silk and beautiful by default in order to draw a crowd.

Another reason why Apple is king for developers is due to monetisation

The link is old but relevent for Ubuntu Touch because it faces the exact same issue:

Flurry’s latest figures show that developer interest in Apple’s ecosystem has been consistently higher than that for the Android platform. The primary reason for this is not Android fragmentation, but app monetization.

http://www.tech-thoughts.net/2012/06/androids-monetization-problem-app.html#.U4JGunWSzCI

How big a problem is this?

Is Sketch available for Windows or Linux?

Sketch relies on a lot of technology that is exclusive to OS X and the fact that no other OS provide a clear business model for software development, we’re not considering supporting it.

http://bohemiancoding.com/sketch/support/faq/02-general/5-windows.html

I didn’t believe them, after all Sublime Text has a similar product which costs $70, I paid the full amount and I’m using it to type this right now, so why couldn’t the developers of sketch do the same?

I emailed them:

“the fact that no other OS provide a clear business model for software development, we’re not considering supporting it.”

I don’t understand what you mean by clear business model for software development?

Does sublimetext not offer a similar software product with the same buy once use forever sales model?

The main issue with porting to linux is that sketch uses cocoa pretty heavily right?

They responded:

No, it’s really that there’s not an environment like the Mac App Store that provides us tools for an effective way of distribution. - E

It hit me, they don’t think of Linux as just Ubuntu but as all of Linux, and since there’s no easy way to monetise and distribute to all of Linux they don’t even think twice, funnily enough despite Windows having only 2 or 3 versions (Vista, 7 and 8) that are supported only Windows 8 has an App Store, so 2 out of 3 versions of Windows can’t easily be monetised and be used to distribute software (compared to the Mac App Store), so they are also left out in the cold. It becomes clear from things like this why Apple is as succesful as it is.

Android today is a mature, beautiful, inspired, app loaded, heavyweight boxer of an OS, how long will it take Ubuntu Touch to reach the same point? Will it ever reach that point?

These are the differences, I can see Ghost going far, it doesn’t do much but what it does it does so well that I want it, the future prospects leave me continuing to refresh the ‘what’s new!’ section on the ghost.org homepage.

Ubuntu Touch does very little, the little that it does it does poorly, I have no intention of making Ubuntu Touch my default phone OS for a very long time, my interest in it wanes because I don’t see a future in it, despite this I still really want it to succeed, which is why I wrote this.