Last week, during Ubuntu’s OpenWeek, Mark Shuttleworth joined in for a two hour Q&A session, where he answered a wide range of questions regarding Ubuntu and its parent company, Canonical. They ranged from questions regarding Canonical’s relationship with Dell, all the way up to Shuttleworth’s response to Greg Kroah-Hartman’s criticism of Canonical.
A common issue has to do with the open sourcing of LaunchPad, Canonical’s collaborative development platform, and when this is supposed to be complete. “It will be done by November 2009, Shuttleworth promises, “It may happen sooner, but you have a concrete commitment that it will be done by then.” Currently, the company is working on licensing checks, and ‘separating out pieces that are not related to the web service’.
Canonical is also very happy with its partnership with Dell, which now ships Ubuntu on the Vostro and Inispiron Mini lines, as an option on most “top range” desktops and laptops, and in China where you can choose Ubuntu across all of Dell’s product lines. Shuttleworth considers the partnership with Dell a success. “[Dell] clearly sees Linux users as thought leaders.”
The Q&A session also touched on the delicate subject of the two different major toolkits, and how that affects Ubuntu. Shuttleworth says that sometimes, he’s happy that there are two competing environments, while at other times, it drives him nuts because they have to write software twice. He hopes that QGtkStyle will make life a little bit easier, but at the same time, he’d really like to see “a real effort to bring the toolkits together.” He acknowledges that that sounds rather painful.
X.org is another constant source of discussion, with some citing it’s too heavy and complicated for the job it’s doing in most Linux distributions. Shuttleworth said he didn’t know enough about alternatives to X.org to make any substantiated claims, and praised the work being done by the X.org team. “I would hope that the X.org folks are continuing to make X leaner and meaner.”
Not too long ago, Phoronix published a set of benchmarks that showed that Ubuntu has been seeing degrading performance over the course of the last few releases. One of the questions asked to Shuttleworth was if Ubuntu will focus on improving performance in the next releases, much like Apple has done with some Mac OS X releases, and much like Microsoft is promising with Windows 7. “It’s easy to improve off a low base,” Shuttleworth jokes, “I hope we can rise to the challenge of really fast boot times in Jaunty. I know the Ubuntu team is very interested in the challenge.” With the benchmark focussing on actual performance, Shuttleworth adds: “As for broader performance, I don’t know that we are doing anything that makes the system slow, though there are more pieces running by default these days than there were a while ago.”
Not too long ago, Greg Kroah-Hartman criticised Ubuntu and Canonical for not contributing enough to “the Linux ecosystem”, but obviously, Shuttleworth disagreed heavily with this statement.
Greg was saying “the things I care about are the only things that matter”. Well, they may be the only things that matter to Greg, but they aren’t necessarily the things that matter most to me, or to other members of the Canonical team, or to other members of the Ubuntu community. In Ubuntu, we invest a vast amount of energy (time, money, love, attention, reputation) into free software, we care deeply about making sure that anybody anywhere can get it, use it legally, and use it safely and securely. Our users appreciate it – THEY know that this is a big investment and gift. In other words, the ecosystem is broader, deeper and richer than Greg was making out. […] I believe Ubuntu and Canonical are making a very big difference in free software, and that has little to do with how many patches in the kernel have an @canonical.com email address associated with them.
The entire log for the irc session can be found here.