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.
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. I’ll log back with thoughts about it next week.