Ubuntu man Shuttleworth dissects Hardy Heron's arrival
Will bird's flight usher in Linux peace?
Interview On Thursday, the Ubuntu 8.04 magic happens. The operating system - called Hardy Heron at playgrounds around Silicon Valley - goes up for download in its various forms, most notably Server and Desktop.
Like most open source jobs, these Ubuntu OS releases are protracted affairs. Canonical, the corporate body behind Ubuntu, has already told everyone what to expect with the OS during the beta process. We covered most of the major new features last month and won't bore you with the details again.
Thankfully, we can move away from the marketing fluff and head to Shuttleworth country for the real meat behind 8.04 - Canonical's second Long Term Support release to date.
We caught up with Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth in London to talk software and whatever else came up. Shuttleworth, clad in Nike running gear, had jogged into work before our interview. He hardly smelled at all, which is unusual for your typical Linux developer let alone one who has known of exercise. [Can you still make lame jokes like that nowadays with Intel, IBM, Google and other corporate types funding most of the Linux work? - Ed.]
Anyway, Shuttleworth was in good spirits as usual and particularly proud that Canonical hit the LTS mark on schedule.
"We are now confident that we can narrow the window for the next LTS down to two years," he told us. "Previously, we had said 18 months to 36 months.
"We know when the next LTS will be probably with better confidence than we know when Windows 7 will ship. I would take that bet."
Now that Canonical has its own house in order, Shuttleworth would like to see all of the Linux heavies synchronize the major releases of their operating systems.
We would be quite willing to revisit the elements of our release schedule in order to make that synchronicity possible, if the fact that we happen to do April and October wouldn't work for the majority of the distros. We would be flexible in that regard.
Timing your releases drives a whole bunch of things. It means a greater ability to collaborate on bug fixes. If we are on the same versions of the Linux kernel, it is a lot easier for us to say, 'Hey, here is this patch to make this device work. Do you know any reason why we shouldn't put it in?'
You could just get so much more done at an engineering level between the teams. My engineers regularly collaborate with Novell and Red Hat and, of course, Debian. Barriers to that sort of collaboration are sometimes ideological but, in most cases, are just practical things. We are just on a different version so someone else's patch isn't going to apply. There's a bit of friction there.
You can understand the isolationist stance of Red Hat and Novell - well, at least of Red Hat. Why should the big daddy distro go to any lengths to help out an upstart like Canonical, even if it means saving a bit on bug patching and the like. But, hey, who are we to stop Shuttleworth from dreaming.
Don Mitchell is sitting on his shoulders...
or else he has its head where it should not be.
I was one of those that suffered the transition from Unix to NT as a kernel/driver developer.
Beloved MS pulled some beautiful bait and switch stunts on that one. For example, the provided "POSIX" and STREAMS driver support to ease the transition from Unix to NT. Many people were keen to make the transition because NT was approx a third the cost of a Unix.
Both the "POSIX" and STREAMS models were there only to lure developers. THey were both broken and inefficient and were dropped once people had converted.
So why did the switch work? Marketeers were pushing for NT-based systems because they could be cheaper and started selling the idea to cusomers. Engineering gave a token sign off (got POSIX and STREAMS: tick). Trainers got going with pre-training. Everyone on the bus!
By the time everyone figured the "POSIX" and STREAMS were broken, everyone was committed and had to go native NT. Bait and switch accomplished!
I worked in computer telephony: voice mail systems etc. The Unix based systems ran well on 16MHz 80386 SXs. To get the same function performing on an NT-based machine required moving to 100MHz 486s! Those savings to be had from NT were gone! Networking and other capabilities were severely diminished.
But the marketing people had talked of this fine new thing, and the corporate machine had built up momentum and could not back pedal to customers without looking foolish. They'd help customers craft clauses into tenders saying "Must run NT", trained up important customers etc. Pretty impossible to do a U turn from that.
Many companies in the server-type industry got burnt like this and and will do anything they can to get MS free.
Ubuntu version numbers aren't as you'd expect - rather than being "real" versions, they're based on the release date. Hardy is 8.04 because it's released in forth month of the 2008, not because it's version 8 of Ubuntu.
And on the subject of Hardy - I've been using it since the last beta, and it's fab.
I'm quite peed off that ndiswrapper doesn't work properly any more, though - my laptop's built-in wifi, which has worked perfectly with ndiswrapper since 6.06, is now useless for anything other than an unsecured network.
Hopefully they'll fix it soon...
Canonical's revenue and the "commercial" question
@Anonymous coward asked "How do they make their money"
This wiki article:
originally written by Mark Shuttleworth a couple of years back, should give you something to go on. I'm surprised this article isn't referred to more often by journalists and commentators as It addresses not only your question, but also many of those commonly asked about Ubuntu. It provides plenty of detail regarding the distribution's essential non-commercial nature, its organizational setup, its public pledges, motivations, funding arrangements, relationship with Debian, and quite a bit more besides, it's quite long!
Whether you're a friend or foe of the project, if you're going to publicly comment and engage in conjecture about Ubuntu, you should really read this first.
For the "commercialism" cynics out there, here's a snippet:
"Will Ubuntu ever demand licence fees or royalties?
No. Never. I have no interest in taking Ubuntu to join the proprietary software industry, it's a horrible business that is boring and difficult, and dying out rapidly anyway. My motivation and goal is to find a way to create a global desktop OS that is *free*, in every sense, as well as sustainable and of a quality comparable to anything you could pay for. That's what I'm trying to do, and if we fail, well then I will go and find some other project to pursue rather than get into the proprietary software business. I don't think any of the core Ubuntu developers, or much of the community, would stick around if I went loony and decided to try the latter, anyhow.
If that isn't enough for you, then you will be happy to know that Canonical has signed public undertakings with government offices to the extent that it will never introduce a "commercial" version of Ubuntu. There will never be a difference between the "commercial" product and the "free" product, as there is with Red Hat (RHEL and Fedora). Ubuntu releases will always be free."