Entries tagged ubuntu

Related tags: debconf7, debian, health, kernels, leith, make-kpkg, megan, pics.

I don't like it when people yell at me for no reason at all

Friday, 26 March 2010

Ubuntu always gets a lot of coverage in blogs, and the recent controvesy realisation that it isn't a 100% community-made distribution has triggered yet another round of this.

A lot of the controvesy, coverage, and attention can be laid at the feet of Canonical themselves; I think it is fair to say that the visibility, hype, advertising, and the goal of trying to be all things to all men means that even relatively trivial issues can easily get blown out of proportion, and to a certain extent this is a self-inflicted. Live by the sword media & etc ...

I think it is fair to say that Ubuntu has attracted a huge swathe of non-technical users. They want something "easy", "free", and "sexy", but more than that they want to use their computer, not develop the operating system.

When a particular bug report, with 400+ comments, hits the press we're primarily seeing a marketing-fail rather than technical-fail. The realisation that yes bugs are reported, but no the community (of users) doesn't get input into every single thing is as it should be. If you look back over "controvesy" in the past you'll see comments from the non-technical users which are tantamoint to blackmail:

This should be fixed ... or I'm gonna .. install .. gentoo. yeah. really.

(Similarly you see many comments of the form "I agree", "oh noes", or "Please revert ASAP", rather than technical arguments.)

This non-technical nature of the userbase is also readily apparent if you browse through the answers to problems posted in forums for example "Delete this file, I don't know why it works but it fixes it for me!!2!". (I've seen some truly horrific advice upon Ubuntu forums, even so far as chmodding various parts of the system to allow users to write binaries to /bin.)

Similarly you'll see that the launchpad is full of generic linux misunderstandings and bugs that aren't "real". The unfortunate fact is that the Ubuntu bug tracker is a wasteland in many places:

  • Lots and lots and lots of users reporting bugs.
  • Those bugs being ignored for huge periods of time
    • Except for "Hey is this still present in $pending-release?"
  • The issue isn't that Ubuntu developers don't care, the issue is one of manpower.

The tight timescale of releases combined with the sheer number of incoming bug reports means that often issues are overlooked. (For example one bug that bit a colleague is #402188 - on the one hand it is a trivial bug, on the other hand its readily apparent to users. If something like that can be missed it makes you wonder ..?) ObRandom: Ubuntu has 100 bugs open against its Vim package, some of which have been marked as NEW since 2009 (ie. untouched, ignored). By contrast the Debian vim package has way fewer bugs. I'm sure there are packages where the situation is reversed but I think is not an unusual comparison.

Finally in addition to sheer numbers of bugs, and tight timescales, it has to be noted that the relative number of developers to users is miniscule, and this in turn has lead to some interesting solutions. The Ubuntu PPA system (personal package archive) should be a good thing. It should allow people to submit new packages for testing, for bugfixes, and for more visibility. Instead downloading a PPA file is no different than going to download.com and downloading a random binary - sure it might be legit, but there's no oversight, no quality control, and most likely no future updates.

Ubuntu as a distribution is interesting, and I'm not trying to be overly critical - A year or two ago had somebody thrown money at me I might have been inclined to accept it.

I think most of the perceived problems stem from a single common source, which is largely the issue of scale. (e.g. bug reports to bug handlers. developer numbers to user numbers.)

There are many good things to be said about Ubuntu (& Canonical) in addition to the negative ones that we see in the press or that I've perceived and mentioned above. The truth is it works for a lot of people, and the growing pains will continue until it either dies or both its audience and itself matures.

Either way I don't hate Ubuntu, in the same way that I don't hate Microsoft, Oracle, Fedora, Gentoo, or other mass-entities. There are pros and cons to be made for most of them, (and of course Debian itself is no different).

However I will say that every time I see people write "If you want a sexy/shiny/easy to use Linux desktop then install Ubuntu" I glance over at my Debian Lenny desktop, marvel at how sexy, shiny and easy to use it is, and get a little bit disappointed at our own marketing failure(s).

ObFilm: Day of the Woman

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thinking everything's gonna be as sweet as pie

Thursday, 1 November 2007

I'm in a position where I need to rebuild a Linux kernel for a number of distributions and architectures. Currently the distributions are:

  • Debian Etch
  • Ubuntu Dapper
  • Ubuntu Edgy
  • Ubuntu Feisty
  • Ubuntu Gutsy

(For each distribution I need a collection of packages for both i386 and amd64.)

I've written a couple of scripts to automate the process - first of all running "make menuconfig" within a debootstrap-derived chroot of each arch & distribution pair. Then later using those stored .config files to actually produce the packages via make-kpkg.

This process, as you could imagine, takes several hours to complete. Then there's the testing ...

I'm sure there must be other people with this kind of need but I was suprised to see nothing in my search attempts.

ObRandom: I'm tempted to switch from song-lyrics to film names as post titles. Undecided as yet. I guess it doesn't really matter, just gives me a small amount of amusement. Even now.

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You and I in a little toyshop

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Surprisingly many local people seem to be catching icky-illnesses of death recently.

Both Megan and myself are under the weather recently. I managed to infect her with a nasty cough and cold on Wednesday and the pair of us have been mostly shivering indoors since then.

Today is the closing day of The Leith Festival (Leith being a district of Edinburgh. Where we live.) So we made it outside and consumed beer and pies for a while. Now we're back and I'm wishing I'd not left the house.

Still it could have been worse I could have been in the sun in a blurry suit and without any books! (Books visible and recognizable include the complete works of Terry Pratchett, minus two, the complete works of Steven Brust (Maybe Vlad will give me the edge in the assassins game!))

Steve in Leith Meg likes pies

All being well we'll be more recovered in time for the Debconf7 activities, although I expect Meg to be driving around Scotland for part of the time with a friend and not completely available. (A three-day roadtrip with Emma - a local girl who is hoping that somebody at Debconf will be able to fix her Ubuntu laptop..?)

Update: - Debconf7 game of Settlers of Catan..? (I have only the Zarahemla set myself, but it will suffice for four players in a pinch.)

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