Ubuntu: Time to Take the Shot

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
It has been an eventful week in the world of Ubuntu. It started with a move to an online format for UDS, progressed through a discussion about the possibility of rolling releases and the announcement of Mir as a replacement for X windowing. That is a lot of change. I have waited until now to write about these changes because I wanted to take my time to reflect on each of them and Ubuntu as a project.

Today the Ubuntu Community Council had a discussion about these events with Mark Shuttleworth. There was one consistent theme; we all want Ubuntu to be successful. One thing Mark expressed is that for Ubuntu to be successful it must succeed with lots of people across all the platforms they use. I agree with him; I would not consider Ubuntu a success if it ends up being no more than the most popular linux distribution for desktops and laptops.

It is my opinion that the emergence of phones and tablets as personal computing devices presents an amazing opportunity for Ubuntu. The two major players, Android and iOS, are tablet and phone operating systems only. Apple has OS X and Google has chrome, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are working towards a convergence as well. The time for Ubuntu to take the lead is now. This would be a dramatic change for Linux in general and Ubuntu specifically. I have no doubt that the incredibly talented people at Canonical and in the Ubuntu Community have a real shot at taking the lead and getting their first. I imagine this process will involve periods of chaos and moments of pain that will require decisive and difficult decisions.

Technology moves rapidly so this opportunity needs to be seized quickly and will require the community and Canonical to be agile. With this in mind one can begin to understand the recent changes and announcements.

UDS Goes Online:
The first thing that has to be acknowledged is that this decision was poorly timed for members of the community. Many people, including myself, are not going to be able to attend sessions due to being at work. With less than a weeks notice there was simply not enough time to take time off from work. While my initial thoughts were focused on the lack of in-person time and the informal conversations that happen outside the sessions I realized today, after attending one session, that there were many things that would be better. Todays remote experience was a far better than my previous remote sessions. I was able to clearly understand what was being said by the people in the hangout compared to poor audio from the fish bowls of the past. I saw more people contributing to the pad and more attention paid to the IRC channel. When I attended sessions remotely in the past I felt like a person that got bad seats to a sporting event. Today I felt I had an excellent seat. I saw several familiar nicks, but I saw several nicks I had not seen in the past and that was exciting. People who could not attend UDS involving travel issues will now have the chance to attend.

With UDS happening every three months this will also allow Ubuntu to be more agile and will help us take advantage of the amazing opportunity while the window of opportunity is still open.

The Potential for Rolling Release:
I would like to stress that this is one possibility. While there is a definite need to be agile, a rolling release is just one way of meeting that need. From a non-developer point of view I like the idea of a rolling release, but I also understand that a great number of items would be impacted and the idea must be discussed to fully understand what that impact would mean. In short, while I like the idea I am not sure it is the right answer.

The Community Council was approached on February 14th and made aware that Rick Spencer had asked his team to come up with a straw man plan for a rolling release so that the the idea could be discussed. Rick wanted to take the idea to the community and we were asked what we felt the best way to do that was. I replied to this with a suggestion that the idea be presented to the community and that we use Google+ to have Rick explain the plan and take questions from the community. If anyone took issue with the Google+ hangout please blame me, and not Rick or his team. Here is the closing note from Rick’s post to the ubuntu-devel mailing list

Such a change needs to be discussed in the Ubuntu community. Therefore, Iasked my team to put together a strawman proposal for how such moving to amonthly cadence with rolling release might work. I will be discussing arough outline of  this proposal on Friday 27th Feb at 6pm UTC / 10amPacific / 1pm EST at http://www.ubuntuonair.com<http://www.ubuntuoneair.com&gt;.Then we can talk specifics next week at UDS. (full text)

If you have thoughts  about these changes please make them heard. Participate in UDS, blog and discuss the changes with the teams you are a part of.

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3 Responses to Ubuntu: Time to Take the Shot

  1. airurando says:

    A great balanced post.

  2. I’m glad to see you discuss the changes but honestly I feel like Lyz’s post summed up how I have felt about things but I hope you will work with other members of the Community Council to ensure that contributors still have a voice.

    I think the time to have a proper discussion on project and community direction is now.

  3. netblue30 says:

    A rolling release would break things far too often. You only have to look at Gentoo and Arch to see how bad it can get. Usually on such systems, before you update, you have to read Bugzilla pages to see where things are, otherwise you might blow your system up. They recommend to run the update on a separate system, and if it is successful move it to production. Keeping a spare machine and testing updates might work for some large shops, small shops will always prefer something more stable.

    In my opinion an LTS release is still needed, even if main Ubuntu becomes a rolling release.

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