I wanted to see what was new in Xubuntu 20.4. I read the release notes, then downloaded and installed Xubuntu. Xubuntu still loads slower than other distributions as has been its signature for several years, but on an SSD drive the delay is bearable.
Nothing wrong with the Xubuntu install and update. I loaded my few favorite programs and life was good. Everything worked as expected. I had not noticed any Snap Packages when Xubuntu installed, and I was curious if any were hiding and I missed them.
I found some Snap commands on the website, How To Geek. The article, “What You Need to Know About Snaps on Ubuntu 20.04” was my answer. The article is informative and interesting. I had previously looked through the Xubuntu file system, and I was fairly sure there were no Snap Packages initially installed by Xubuntu.
I ran the two commands listed in the article and they verified there were no Snap Packages installed. I thought Ubuntu was finally doing it right. I manually checked for updates a day later. The system showed me there were some security updates that needed to be installed.
Not wanting to slack off on system security, I did the upgrade. The upgrade contained several Snap Packages! Important packages, but Snap Packages all the same. If you are not familiar with Snap Packages, here is my unofficial explanation of a Snap Package:
A Snap Package is a software bundle where the application itself and its dependencies are packaged together in a bundle. When Snap Packages are used, you are downloading and installing another persons idea of how your software should perform. You can’t make any real changes to Snap Packages, as major settings were determined by the Snap Package maker, taking control away from you.
At a high level, this may not seem to be much of an issue. Using Firefox for example, as a Snap Package looks and operates pretty much the same as a normal Firefox install. That is until you modify how Firefox looks and operates.
The result of changing settings in Firefox Snap Package does not always lead to a pleasant result other places. Snap Package settings define the real limits of any end user changes. It becomes a bigger problem when Firefox as an example syncs itself across different platforms. What may look okay in the Firefox Snap Package install, can trash Firefox on other platforms, once Firefox syncs. I know this from experience.
If you only use one distribution of Linux, and not Windows, a smart phone or a second Linux distribution (not an Ubuntu flavor), you may never notice or care what application is a Snap Package and what application is not. For myself, Snap Packages are taking away my freedom to change settings – as in Snap Package Firefox as an example. Snap Package Firefox adversely effected all my Firefox installs when Firefox Snap Package sync’d with them.
As I see it, this was a hidden process, installing Snap Packages after install and initial upgrade. There is no mention of after install and upgrade containing Snap Packages. If there are going to be Snap Packages installed, mention them in the release notes, and/or put them in the .iso. Do not sneak them in after the fact.
Xubuntu and other ‘Buntus are banned from my computer for the near future at least, as Ubuntu chooses to use end user restrictive Snap Packages for its convenience. I should not need to run a check for newly installed Snap Packages every upgrade.
Choice, end user control and openness is what makes Linux a great platform. Uninvited Snap Packages or any uninvited software takes away from end user choice and wastes everyone’s time.