Snaps: Good or Bad?

On older hardware – BAD. Snaps gobble up scarce resources on older hardware. On newer hardware with a zillion and twelve terrabyres of RAM and storage space, not that big a deal, but still a lot less efficient than good ol’ tried-and-true .deb or .rpm packages on Linux.

So why would Ubuntu make snap packaging the default in their distro and it’s flavors? Because it relieves them of the burden of having to maintain all those modified .debs in huge repositories with multiple packagers and maintainers. The burden shifts to the writers and vendors of the software instead of maintainers at Canonical / the Ubuntu family. Saving lots of work and lots of money.

The problem is, though, that updates to software for the operating system can mess up the snap applications, and vice versa! With repositories and maintainers, those problems are avoided most of the time. That’s prob’ly why Linux Mint said “no freaking way” to snaps as the default on Linux Mint. It’s a distro for newcomers to Linux, and having it break all the time because one independent package out of thousands of them borks the system is enough to drive users back to proprietary OSes and imagine, as before, that Linux is “just for geeks and for servers.”

This video is kinda long, but it’s good! More info about snaps, and why they’re unpopular with developers of even Ubuntu-based derivative distros:

Yup, they’re bad.

The Future of Ubuntu (and Ubuntu-based distros)

There are Pros and Cons for everything, but when a distro’s development team makes big changes in policy towards users, there’s always a reason for it, and it’s not always a reasonable choice. Such may be the case with Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution. There’s a big discussion about it going on in their forums (clicky here to have a look). Yes, this matters a lot because it affects every flavor of Ubuntu and every “downstream” project derived from Ubuntu (Linux Mint, Linux Lite, ElementaryOS, and one zillion and twelve others).

Snaps and Flatpaks and such are probably the future anyway, but the vetting of software by a bunch of testers before distribution to users should never go away. But unless you build your own OS from scratch (and some people do), you have to live with whatever the distribution developers decide.

That would be most of us. This “apparent” decision by Ubuntu developers, while probably relieving them of the burden of maintaining packages for their users (and making their job a lot easier and not having to keep package maintainers on the job getting updates to testers and then to users), it also means that we ordinary desktop users could end up as unwitting software testers, trying to find workarounds for broken software. We’re already finding that in instances where the Snap version of a software won’t work but the .deb version from the repository works fine, or vice versa. And that, more than anything else, has been my chief complaint with Ubuntu for years: Making unwitting testers out of novices and newbies without their knowledge (let alone consent).

Read the linked discussion and offer some comments! I’d love to know what some of my Linuxer readers think of this new trend.