I have been com­plete­ly floored by Ubun­tu’s new Migra­tion Assis­tant. It’s cer­tain­ly some­thing that we have need­ed in the FLOSS world for a long time. Any­thing we can do to reduce migra­to­ry hur­dles is by all means wel­come.

To play dev­il’s advo­cate, how­ev­er, I’d like to point out a defi­cien­cy of such migra­tion tools. To take an estab­lished exam­ple, wit­ness Mozil­la Fire­fox on Win­dows. When you first start it, you are greet­ed with a friend­ly wiz­ard to port set­tings and book­marks from Inter­net Explor­er. If, like most peo­ple, you allow it to pro­ceed, it will replace the care­ful­ly-select­ed default Fire­fox book­marks (not to men­tion the awe­some BBC Head­lines live book­mark) with those from IE. The result can be a clut­tered, adver­tis­ing-laden (Win­dows Mar­ket­place, any­one?) mon­stroc­i­ty that has lost the sim­plic­i­ty and orig­i­nal intent of the prod­uct being loaded.

The Ubun­tu Migra­tion Assis­tant poten­tial­ly rais­es this appli­ca­tion-lev­el mis­de­meanour to an OS-lev­el atroc­i­ty. As this review of the util­i­ty demon­strates, even the Tele­tub­bies wall­pa­per of Win­dows XP can be migrat­ed with ease, not to men­tion the afore­men­tioned book­marks. This can ruin the intend­ed look and feel of the OS, thus pre­vent­ing the user from expe­ri­enc­ing the OS in a clean, ‘pris­tine’ state.

Is this a good or a bad thing? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that the design­ers of this tool should be care­ful to select default set­tings which do not unnec­es­sar­i­ly alter the user expe­ri­ence. Tread care­ful­ly.

LotD: Lin­ux Gen­uine Advan­tage

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