As we informed previously, Ubuntu Open Week is going on. Tuesday and Wednesday saw - among other meetings - a Q&A session with Mark Shuttleworth. For those of you who don't have a full hour to read the logs, I prepared the most interesting pieces below. Ubuntu Wiki has full logs from all Open Week sessions. Please note that besides skipping most questions, I edited the rest slightly (purely formatting-related edits).
JLP: Does Ubuntu have any plans to join forces with other Linux distributions, vendors and companies and together put some pressure on software companies and and offer them help so that they would port some of the most popular applications (like Photoshop, AutoCAD, ...) to Linux?
We do already meet with ISV's, and encourage them to port to Linux. they always take a business view of the market opportunity. that's a factor of two things. the raw number of users, and the willingness of those users to pay for software. on the raw number, linux is doing very well. so hardware folks are starting to take notice. but on the ISV front, it's more challenging. many folks are on free software in part because they do not have to pay. there are some niche markets where that's not true - mostly places where Linux was a lower-cost (but not free) alternative to UNIX like workstations, graphics, CAD, movie animation and effects etc. but for raw consumers, i think the free software community should assume that we are going to have to build our own leaders in each of the major software categories. because, unless something changes and linux users start to be willing to pay for apps, the ISV's are unlikely to port
kwah:: Mark, what do you think about the latest MS 3$ initiative?
clever move. http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business6_april24_2007. he gets it. free software is a far better platform for education than the $3 offer.
- far more applications, means you can teach many more things with technology, not just word processing and spreadsheets. for example, databases, programming languages, art apps, music, astronomy, statistics... you name it
- source code, means you can learn far more about how that technology works, important for super-star students who will rocket ahead of even their teachers
- localisations, means you can teach in your n indigenous languages
in short, education departments that really care about education have lots of reasons to choose free software rather than the cheap (and usage-limited) windows offer
stuart_: Kubuntu is a great distro but (IMHO) lacks polish and features compared to Ubuntu. Are there any plans to bring in more paid Kubuntu developers now or in the future?
yes, the kubuntu team will expand, but i think kubuntu will always be more independent of canonical, which is in many was a good thing. somethings happen first in ubuntu, because that's where we focus our resources for new releases, other things happen first in kubuntu, because the decisions there are more bottom-up
kwah: What do you think about use of proprietary software in education? Shouldn't it be just a _privilege_ for software developers to provide SW for education without having any direct profits?
no. there's nothing wrong with the profit motive, unless society lets it run amok. regulation is supposed to ensure that every business has checks and balances. competition does the same. i think it's naive to disregard the value of self-motivated investment. i have no problem with proprietary software - microsoft has every reason to charge me to use software they wrote. but i think the free software community can produce better software. and i choose to use that instead
pointwood: Any rough numbers on how many *buntu machines there are running in the world currently?
4-16 million, my best guess including derivatives is around 10 million.
ryuujin_: why is launchpad a proprietary software?
several reasons. first, it's worth pointing out that we fund a huge amount of GPL software development. so LP is not non-free because we don't know any better in general. we've thought about it very carefully. the major reason is that LP is explicitly a short-term, WRONG solution to the problem. the problem is a lack of information flow between projects. the right solution, from an engineering perspective, is a federated, distributed, standards-based approach. where data from bugzilla flows to LP, and into debbugs, and into roundup, and into sourceforge. then everyone uses their preferred tools, and the data just migrates as needed. but, we couldn't wait for that to happen, so we wrote a tool for ubuntu that new how to link to other tools. now, if there were MULTIPLE tools like that, it would divide the eyeballs interested in agregating this information. so, imaging you have a bug, reported in ubuntu, debian, upstream and gentoo. with LP, someone from each community just has to annotate it once, saying "our bug tracker knows about that issue, and we are tracking it as #324342". if there were multiple LP's, people would have to do that work multiple times. the result would be a mess. you would not have 1 bug number for 1 problem. no more Bug #1! so that's the major issue. we have released bits of code that we thought WOULD be useful to other communities. either infrastructure stuff (Zope, SQLObject, translation bits etc). or app stuff. we do have a plan to get to a point where we can GPL it. but that involves a lot of work, and i think it will take time, i don't want anyone to expect it to be free in 2-3 years even. but we're working to that roadmap, and will hopefully get there
joebaker: Do you have any opinions you'd like to share about the progress of GPL v3.0?
only that i think it's important work, and a good transparent process, and I really hope they come to a result that the community embraces wholeheartedly, even Linus. from the drafts, we're not there yet. i do trust both rms and eben moglen. when v3 is out, we'll take a decision about the code we have copyright in. ultimately, though ubuntu is an aggregated work of hundreds of items under many licences. so that will remain true :-)
[doctor]: Mark, what do you think about interaction at a level of the governments (Russia & East Europe) for distribution edubuntu. Any plans?
well, Georgia has already done a large program like that. i think Armenia is looking at the same. i do expect others to follow. and we will work with any government that wants consulting and customisation help
adamant1988: I think we all recognize Canonical ltd.'s importance to the Ubuntu project's continued growth and prosperity, however Canonical remains a mysterious figure to Ubuntu users because it is a private corporation. I'm sure many users of Ubuntu are concerned with Canonical's financials (profit, etc.) and would like to invest (read: buy stock) in the company. Are there any plans to 'go public', if not why?
no plans to go public at this stage, though it's nice to have lots of VC's expressing interest. i don't want to take a short-term view, and the markets ultimately force you into that. it's rare to find public companies that don't have that pressure, or even VC-funded private companies, and right now we have the luxury of having plenty of funding and a long-term mandate to change the economics of the software industry in a profound, philanthropic and commercial way. we are slowly building up a revenue stream in canonical, all of which gets reinvested in ubuntu. my dream is to build something unique: a genuinely free platform, that PAYS FOR ITSELF. that has never existed before, but i believe it can exist, and our goal is to find out. at the same time, canonical and ubuntu are separate entities. other companies are starting to invest in ubuntu too. sometimes via canonical (contracts for development, ports etc). and sometimes directly (hiring developers and getting them to spend time on ubuntu or kubuntu). ubuntu is bigger than canonical, and that's a very good thing. it would be nice to have more non-canonical people in the CC and techboard. nobody can buy their way onto those, but as more companies devote full-time engineers to ubuntu, it's more likely that they will be able to build the necessary experience and credibility to hold a seat their on their own merits.
fql: Several ubuntu pages and also bug #1 in launchpad note that ubuntu is entirely free (as in free speech), however in the default install this is not true (drivers etc.), are there plans on making this more transparant to the user?
we should always qualify that as "only free applications". at least, i fix it that way in the wiki when i run into it. we have had the driver exception in place since the beginning, so it's not as though this has changed. hopefully, the new flavour will also carry the "pure free" flag
McKinney: i read an interview with andreas barth criticizing ubuntu. what do you think, in which way can ubuntu and debian profit from each other in future? http://www.golem.de/showhigh2.php?file=/0704/51531.html&wort=andreas&wort=barth
again, hard for me to respond, i can't read the german. however, i think debian and ubuntu already benefit hugely from one another. we have brought debian millions of new users, in a category that it was never previously taken seriously in, the desktop. in addition, many new DD's come through Ubuntu, or first discover debian through Ubuntu. we are expanding the debian universe, which is very good for debian. we lead a lot of very useful work, which eventually gets included in debian. they are considering upstart, for example and also considering our live cd infrastructure. perhaps even the ubuntu installer. they largely depend on work we do on the toolchain, on python, on java etc. the flip side is also true. we benefit hugely from debian's depth and breadth. we consider ourselves to be part of the debian family. it's sad for me, that when ubuntu releases there are 2 messages about it on debian planet - one of celebration from a person who contributes to both, and one a bug report, but i'm happy that, when debian releases, there are tons of congratulations to debian on planet ubuntu. i would like to see better collaboration. many dd's routinely read patches that we automatically mail to them when a package is modified in ubuntu. others just ignore them. it would be nice to have debian recognise the contribution ubuntu makes. we get twice the volume of bug reports now, not because we are more buggy, but because we reach a wider audience. debian would benefit if they took an interest in ensuring that their packages are getting that wider exposure
spr0k3t: I've seen some of the estimated numbers for *buntu, but I'm curious... how many unique IP addresses did the canonical servers see on th 19th of April?
wow, not sure i have that number, but there were 53 mirrors before we announced, and 130 by the end of the day, that we know of. so hits on canonical.com are a small fraction of total. i think we were serving 12 gigabits / second from ourselves and top 5 mirrors :-). probably 20 gbits/s in total. 3 cd's per second for 12 hours. pretty amazing. if you were in #ubuntu-release-party, you know it was quite a rush :-)
darich: are there any plans for large scale marketing campaigns a la Firefox for Ubuntu(full page adds etc..)
you mean bigger than the billboards? that was a fun campaign. all in good time. first we have to crack the corporate market, and be sustainable. we are taking a very unconventional approach, but we are on good track. next week you will see two big announcements, one of which will probably dominate the media, but both are really nice steps towards sustainability for the project. our goal is to be sustainable and completely free. we are neither right now, but we are moving towards that goal very steadily
sampbar: Mark, do you feel that open office is in the right direction to becoming as good as word and excel?
tough question. i'm getting worried about their developer approach. it still feels like a closed community. i know they WANT to fix that. the head of that group at Sun has the right ideas, but it's hard to move a big ship. oo.o has been a huge boost for free software, because it is cross platform. i had lunch with an interesting lawyer today, and he was telling me that he installed oo.o and was "really impressed that it worked so well". he was amazed that it just opened word docs nicely, and he could find his way around easily. great! but it doesn't have the rapid evolution that we see in other Gnome or KDE projects. i think AbiWord, and KOffice would be slicker, faster, lighter if they had more developer time, but because OO.o is the 800 pound gorilla, it's hard to get a lot of developers on those others. 63,000 unique IP's hit releases.ubuntu.com on 19 april, not bad for half a day's work :-). so i would like to see oo.o get "more open." it took mozilla long time to gestate and produce firefox. we need the same thing from oo.o
Daviey: Why is 'ubuntu' a trademark of Canonical and not the Ubuntu foundation?
Canonical is the funder of the brand. The Ubuntu Foundation is a trust that exists in the event that Canonical can no longer support Ubuntu. so, when we made a long term support commitment, i figured out how much money we needed in the bank to meet that commitment and setup the Ubuntu foundation and gave them that amount of money. no matter what happens to Canonical, the money is there to meet the support commitment. you can safely deploy Dapper and you will not suddenly find yourself unsupported, but we don't touch that money, it's an insurance balance. so, in that light, it makes more sense to have Canonical manage the brands. it invests in the marketing, and also makes decisions about the ways in which people can use the brand. so far, it's working well. http://www.ubuntu.com/aboutus/trademarkpolicy
pwnedd: For a large number of people, the number one reason for getting a pc is for gaming. Right now however there are few mainstream games written for or even compatable with linux. Do you think there is anything the ubuntu team can do to change that, and open up linux to a larger population?
i agree this is a big, important question. gaming developers are like other ISV's. they write software to sell software, so they want to see (a) how many people use a platform, and (b) what percentage of them WOULD PAY to use their software on that platform. that gives them a market size. they then compare that to the cost of the port and the lost time in making the port (while their competition works on new products). and then take a decision
popey_: Please buy transgaming, and package cedega for us :(
they key is not who owns cedega, the key is the business model that supports it. no point in buying it and changing the model if that means it becomes unsustainable
Armagon: What steps would you advise an experienced programmer (who lacks F/OSS development experience) to take in order to quickly become a valuable contributor to the community?
find something you are personally really interested in! preferably a smaller component. that's written in a language you know. then climb in! a good community will welcome you. if you don't feel welcome, look elsewhere. so WELCOME!