Ubuntu 20.04 LTS’ snap obsession has snapped me off of it

Like everyone else, I got excited about the latest Ubuntu LTS release and installed it on day one. A week in, I’m sorry to say that I leave disappointed. The amount of unready snap features being effectively forced onto users is affecting Ubuntu’s usability and user-friendliness.

Software center can’t install Flatpak apps

In 20.04 LTS, Ubuntu’s Software Center was switched from being a .deb version of GNOME Software to a snap app. The new snapped store can handle management of snap applications and traditional .deb ones, but it can’t install or remove Flatpak applications, like the previous .deb version could.

Users wanting to install Flatpak apps need to revert to using the .deb version. It’s not an ideal solution when previous Ubuntu Software releases could handle all three formats by default. In all, the latest Ubuntu Software is a step back.

Browsing the Snap Store sucks

Even without Flatpak apps, I was expecting the snap store to at least do well what it is supposed to. It turns out it prioritizes snap apps over .deb in search results at any cost! So you’ll see a long list of non relevant search results of snap apps above .deb ones, even if your search term exactly matches the latter. -_-

Needless to say this is a serious issue for discovering software, especially for new users. Given that app discovery is so central to consumer operating systems, I’m gonna say the new Ubuntu isn’t only a step back, but is borderline unreliable.

Slow and forced Chromium snap

On the latest Ubuntu, if you try to download the .deb version of Chromium using either the Software Store or command line, it acts as an alias to installing the snap version! Essentially, Chromium snap is shoved down your throat even if you explicitly asked for the .deb version. This is not cool Ubuntu – just because Chromium may be easier to maintain as a snap app doesn’t justify this forced behavior.

Besides, a typical user doesn’t care how the app is managed in the backend, all they care about is how it works – snap apps are slow. I hate that Chromium’s snap takes more than 10 seconds to load on cold boot on a freaking SSD, whereas .deb and Flatpak apps load in 1-2 seconds. Snaps are simply not fast enough to be default anything yet.

No control over updates

Snap applications auto-update and that’s fine if Ubuntu wants to keep systems secure. But it can’t even be turned off manually. Auto-updating of snaps can only be deferred at best, until at some point, like Windows, it auto-updates anyway. Even on metered connections, snaps auto-update anyway after some time.

This is a deal breaker for people on limited bandwidth connections or who want to know exactly what they’re updating and when they’d like to. I never hold off updating my system for more than seven days in the worst case, but this auto-update snap thing is causing me issues like slowing down my connection abruptly and using a major chunk of my limited data for the day. My discussion on the Ubuntu forums on the topic didn’t go well, read the full thread if interested.

Closing thoughts

Ubuntu was my first Linux-based operating system and is what attracted me to the ecosystem. I have a soft spot for it, especially the amazing Unity days. As such, it is disappointing to see this snap obsession that has taken over Ubuntu. An OS once lauded for its sane defaults and user friendliness is actively going against the user’s will. 

What’s especially concerning is that this is the Ubuntu version that millions of people will use for at least two years. I don’t hate snaps but being forced to use it when clearly in a premature state is forcing me to hate it. Snaps simply aren’t ready for system-wide daily usage and Ubuntu should’ve known better. Perhaps Ubuntu should’ve created a separate snap-based OS image, like Fedora’s Silverblue, and only swap the default when it’s ready.

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS’ snap obsession has snapped me off of it. I switched to elementary OS a year ago as my primary OS but Ubuntu is still the most used by newcomers and so it’s an issue. I installed Pop!_OS 20.04 LTS just yesterday, hoping to get a better out of the box experience. Let’s see how this one goes.

21 thoughts on “Ubuntu 20.04 LTS’ snap obsession has snapped me off of it

  1. Definitely reason to switch to Pop!. They’ve also removed that miserable magenta splash screen, and added github desktop to their repo.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Pop is amazing. It’s ubuntu but without all the canonical and snap nonsense. Even though it uses flatpak it’s not shoved down your throat. Try it out!

        Like

  2. I filed a bug a few years ago asking why Snap’s server implementation was closed source, why Canonical was reinventing the wheel versus Flatpak, and why Ubuntu didn’t want to support external repositories. That blew up, and Ubuntu’s developers were defending having only one repository supported and not working on supporting alternate repositories, which I found unbelievable.

    https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2017/08/bug-report-asks-why-snappy

    https://forum.snapcraft.io/t/external-repositories/1760/1

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The list of dumb decisions that Ubuntu keeps making only seems to increase in time. I’ve used Ubuntu for many years and I was looking forward to “upgrade” to 20.04. Not anymore. I’m gonna wait a while, see if they fix it. If they don’t, time to move.

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  4. The maintainers attitudes in the thread you link are why Ubuntu will never have the corporate presence that RedHat has. In my environment, “unattended upgrades” are treated as a virus. Patches roll when corporate security says they roll, not when some maintainer gets a wild hair up their butt.

    Ubuntu keeps adopting crap. I’m ready to abandon it. I’ve given up on it as a desktop environment, and it’s reaching the point where the amount of canned stuff I have to undo to get the server images to work are more effort than porting my systems over to Centos.

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  5. Wow. People leave Windows 10 because of its automatic updates, and now Canonical is adopting that methodology with Ubuntu? I guess it’s time to start looking for alternative Linux server and desktop distros.

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  6. Disappointed with software center not opening, some apps also not opening. Will try pop_os next week and see how it goes.

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  7. Well, i just install the deb based store with flatpack support enabled and removed that snap based store. Everything is like normal now 😌

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  8. I’m with you on this. One of the big reasons I use Linux is choice. And now here is Canonical taking away choices. Disappointing!

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  9. This whole snap thing is so misguided. I’ve been on Ubuntu for 12+ years and initially loved it as a replacement for my previous Solaris 10 desktop. However, in our corporate environment where we make extensive use of NFS for users’ home directories & other shared data, snap breaks everything! I prefer GNOME to Unity, so I was pleased with that move, but this poorly – planned snap decision is very frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I already expected what you mentioned about snaps, in 18.04 I manually installed packages to avoid snaps.
    But what you describe is even worse than I thought.
    I had Pop_OS once (until they removed the small theme) but I’m curious to hear what you think of it (and their tiling WM)

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  11. This also marks 6 months of copy paste being broken. To be fair it’s a bug in gnome mutter. But I’m supeiced they didn’t make sure to fix it before calling LTS ready for public use

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  12. You really hate Snaps if you used the undercooked and featureless ElementaryOS for a full year.

    I also hate snaps but I just purge the snapd package.

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  13. I’m not any kind of expert. I use to use Ubuntu and loved it. Then I had to use Windows for a few years. Now I’m back on Ubuntu, but I cant find anything in Software Boutique. There’s 4 apps under Education. Woo! And I don’t know where to find more. This has made it very difficult to really use Ubuntu. Hate to say it, but I want Linux. The one that presented me with options. I don’t have that with 20.04. So I’m probably going to replace it with a full featured version of Linux.

    Like

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