Linked by John Mills on Tue 13th Feb 2007 21:49 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu "The Ubuntu Technical Board has made two technical decisions of which we would like to inform the Ubuntu community. Both of these decisions concern the upcoming 7.04 release of Ubuntu, scheduled for mid-April." Ubuntu 7.04 will not activate binary video drivers by default, essentially meaning nothing will change from the previous releases. The second change is a major blow to the PowerPC architecture and thus owners of Apple PPC hardware: "The PowerPC edition of Ubuntu will be reclassified as unofficial. The PowerPC software itself and supporting infrastructure will continue to be available, and supported by a community team." Translation: Ubuntu PPC can shake hands with the dodo.
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RE: A sad day for PPC
by mjg59 on Wed 14th Feb 2007 00:11 UTC in reply to "A sad day for PPC"
mjg59
Member since:
2005-10-17

Brief introduction - my name's Matthew Garrett, and I'm a member of the Ubuntu technical board. I'm a community member, not employed by Canonical. I was involved in making both of these decisions, and while neither has been resolved in entirely the way I would have preferred, I wholeheartedly agree with the basic conclusions in both cases.

One thing that's important to understand about the PPC version of Ubuntu is that almost nobody was using it. Download figures were tiny for dapper, and even smaller for edgy. The PS3 is an obvious market, except that with only 256MB of RAM (and the currently entirely unaccelerated 2D graphics, let alone the lack of hardware accelerated 3D) it's not really a good fit for Ubuntu[1].

In reality, developers aren't going to simply start ignoring PPC bugs. We've got too much pride for that. Bugs get fixed for IA64 even though it's never been a release architecture, and Sparc spent a long time as an unofficial version before we made a release for Niagara. Several Ubuntu developers (me not included) still use PPC systems as their primary development environments, and there's an obvious incentive for them to ensure that it still works.

Realistically, the single biggest obstacle to high quality PPC support has been hardware support - Apple hardware is generally a good deal weirder than a lot of x86 stuff, and that's really saying something. Now that there's no more of it appearing, support is likely to stabalise. I've always felt that the PPC version of Ubuntu was rough around the edges compared to the x86 release, with edgy finally getting to the point where I didn't feel faintly embarrassed about the entire thing. If PPC support genuinely degrades to the point where it's significantly worse than it is now, you're free to swear at me at length. I'll apologise profusely and make sure that something's done about it.

[1] Yes, I agree that it's insane that Ubuntu doesn't work well in 256MB of RAM. I'm really, wholeheartedly sorry.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: A sad day for PPC
by butters on Wed 14th Feb 2007 03:46 in reply to "RE: A sad day for PPC"
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

Thanks for joining the discussion. Although I agree that the decline of PPC as a desktop architecture forces the Ubuntu project's hands as a primarily desktop-oriented distribution, what about the server releases? My understanding is that Canonical hopes to expand Ubuntu's prevalence in the server market, and PPC-based hardware is very much alive and well in this space.

For example, this year IBM will be standardizing on POWER6 across three of their four lines of server systems, including the System Z mainframe (formerly based on the S/390 architecture). The mainstream System I is targeted at the Linux market, and supports both Red Hat and Novell. Doesn't Canonical want to challenge the big guys in this market?

[Note I'm an IBM employee, but I do not represent IBM in any way. These opinions are purely my own.]

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[3]: A sad day for PPC
by mjg59 on Wed 14th Feb 2007 04:42 in reply to "RE[2]: A sad day for PPC"
mjg59 Member since:
2005-10-17

At the moment, we really haven't made a decision on the future of long-term supported PPC releases. It's likely to be heavily influenced by demand, and if the POWER-based hardware is popular, then there's likely to be demand. The Niagara release of 6.06 was based off the community SPARC release from earlier versions, and I think we were still the first distribution to be offering a commercially supported release on that hardware[1]. So, if someone wants it, we can provide full support in a very short space of time. Right now, as far as I know, nobody[2] is really telling us that they want it.

[1] To an extent because the release cycle just worked out that way, but still.

[2] Well, I'm not privy to Canonical's commercial interactions. It's quite possible that there are negotiations surrounding this sort of thing, and I'm just not being told about them. But there's no sense in refusing to supply what people want.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: A sad day for PPC
by Kokopelli on Wed 14th Feb 2007 05:55 in reply to "RE[2]: A sad day for PPC"
Kokopelli Member since:
2005-07-06

Well right now Server space is not the focus for Ubuntu, though they definitely want into the space. So let's look at the IBM Power based lineup:

P-Series: Here is the attractive one of the bunch from an Ubuntu perspective. The blade servers in particular are supportable for the most part. However, from what I have seen the rest of the P's lineup come with RHEL/SLES only drivers not yet in the main Kernel tree. IBM seems to not be in any rush to add another target Linux distro, though I dearly wish they would. The other half of the coin is that if you are getting a P chances are you are doing DB intensive work, for that AIX is still better.

I-Series: Can you run Linux (any flavor) in a supported fashion directly on an I? That is an LPAR install only I think (though I could be wrong) which would need support and assistance from IBM to get working.

Z-Series: Profitable for IBM, but honestly why would it be a target for Ubuntu unless they charged for support on a per LPAR basis. Even then, the manpower it would take to get it running and certified for Z would probably outweigh the profit, though I suppose it would be good press. Existing Linux on Z customers are not going to shift from RHEL. And new Linux on Z customers are far more likely to go with the conservative distro. Put simply too much on the line to go with an unknown risk.

So really you have one of three lines with a somewhat strong case for Ubuntu, but even there the target audience might be better off with AIX. Not to mention the need for support from IBM to make it worth the effort for Canonical. IBM is not showing any indication or willingness to target anything but RHEL and SLES though.

On the other hand by putting PPC on the backburner Canonical can concentrate on getting into the x86 server space, where they are much more likely to have success. Only if/when Ubuntu starts to get traction in the server space and IBM shows an interest in making Canonical a strategic partner would it make sense for Canonical to start targeting PPC server space.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: A sad day for PPC
by ThunderBug on Wed 21st Feb 2007 20:23 in reply to "RE: A sad day for PPC"
ThunderBug Member since:
2006-03-05

Matthew, thank you for your candor. Knowing makes understanding easier.

FWIW, I use a fair number of machines but one is fast becoming an all-time favorite, a PPC G4 miniMac (loaded) running 6.10. Super quiet in a home office, fast enough for most uses, and I regard being non-Intel as an advantage when exposed to the net. (not anti-Intel, just like making worms and viruses even harder and less frequent.)

Count me in for as long as I can hang on... ;-)

Reply Parent Score: 1