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Dividing the Linux desktop
LWN.net Weekly Edition for June 13, 2013
A report from pgCon 2013
Little things that matter in language design
(Full disclosure: I have been an Ubuntu user since 2004 and sit on the Community Council)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 1:06 UTC (Thu) by corbet (editor, #1)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 1:52 UTC (Thu) by jengelh (subscriber, #33263)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 2:00 UTC (Thu) by willy (subscriber, #9762)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 2:03 UTC (Thu) by tseaver (subscriber, #1544)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 7:30 UTC (Thu) by alex (subscriber, #1355)
Posted Sep 21, 2008 0:27 UTC (Sun) by frazier (guest, #3060)
Posted Sep 22, 2008 0:50 UTC (Mon) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 2:03 UTC (Thu) by mmcgrath (guest, #44906)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 11:40 UTC (Thu) by mkflint (guest, #50223)
Yes they do! But so does artwork, integration, innovation, documentation, marketing, blah blah blah.
The primary goals, as I see them, are to create a great quality product and to increase usage of Free Software. And the kernel is just one part of that whole experience.
While each individual kernel developer has a preferred distro, the project as a whole should be distro-agnostic. I hope Greg KH made it clear that he was speaking as "Greg KH", and not as "Linux Kernel Representative".
Posted Sep 24, 2008 0:02 UTC (Wed) by daniel (subscriber, #3181)
Posted Sep 24, 2008 1:46 UTC (Wed) by mmcgrath (guest, #44906)
Posted Sep 24, 2008 3:46 UTC (Wed) by daniel (subscriber, #3181)
Posted Sep 25, 2008 14:05 UTC (Thu) by SEMW (guest, #52697)
True, but I do wonder how many patches Canonical GregKH feels would speak loud enough.
Canonical has ~130 employees; Novell has ~4100. So, considering the table for kernel contributions at the top, this works out at ~0.77 patches per employee for Canonical, and ~1.77 for Novell; a touch under 2.5 times as many.
But now consider that SuSE Linux has been around since 1994*, and Ubuntu, since 2004. That's around... Well, 2.5 times as long.
So it seems to me that Canonical doesn't actually do too badly out of the comparison.
* I am assuming that the table at the top doesn't distinguish between contributions from Novell SUSE and S.u.S.E.
(I admit that that's a slightly dodgy calculation, in that neither Novell nor S.u.S.E will have had anything like 4100 employees in 1994 -- but then, neither will Canonical have had 130 in 2004. I'm not aiming for a scientific comparison, only pointing out that presenting the raw numbers with no context of company size, as Greg did, is rather disingenuous).
Posted Feb 1, 2011 14:09 UTC (Tue) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164)
Disclaimer: I work for SUSE/Novell.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 3:31 UTC (Thu) by Burgundavia (guest, #25172)
And for the record, I don't work for Canonical.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 6:51 UTC (Thu) by email@example.com (subscriber, #14112)
Posted Sep 19, 2008 6:15 UTC (Fri) by nealmcb (subscriber, #20740)
Posted Sep 19, 2008 16:52 UTC (Fri) by firstname.lastname@example.org (subscriber, #14112)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 15:41 UTC (Thu) by frazier (guest, #3060)
I completely agree with another response to your comment, that it should have been obvious that the speaker works for a different distribution. In the future, please note who they're working for!
Also, I don't know if they were available at the time of article publication, but a link to presentation slides would be handy and appreciated:
LPC: Fitting into the kernel ecosystem
Posted Sep 18, 2008 3:36 UTC (Thu) by mcopple (guest, #2920)
"Canonical is primarily a consumer of the Linux kernel. It is one of the building blocks we need in order to fulfill our primary mission, which is to provide an operating system that end users want to use. It is, on the whole, a good piece of software which meets our needs well. We routinely backport patches from newer kernels, and fix bugs which are particularly relevant to us, but our kernel consists almost entirely of code we receive from upstream."
The Linux "ecosystem," whether that contains just a few pieces or every piece of software ever made for Linux, only works if everyone contributes. Eric Raymond spent quite a bit of time making this point in Cathedral and Bazaar. We know that in practice, only a small proportion of the user base actually contributes back to the community; therefore, it is even more critical that major distributors, of which Canonical is undeniably one, need to do their part to give as much back to the community as they take away from it.
Greg is saying, with a lot of justification, that Canonical is letting other distributors, especially RedHat and Novell, carry its water. The referenced blog post admits as much, but then goes on to try to cast it as a virtue, to opine that Ubuntu is about the whole operating system, not the kernel alone. Fair enough. But RedHat and Novell are in the business of putting together operating systems that "...end users want to use..." as well. What happens if, on Monday morning, they decide to follow the Canonical model, and become "...primarily a consumer of the Linux kernel...?"
Greg made it clear that, whatever your opinion on RedHat et al vs. Canonical, the majority of kernel hackers are doing this for a paycheck. If RedHat and Novell decide to pay their hackers to do something else, then the kernel process gets a lot slower and probably, a lot less functional.
It is time for Canonical to step up. I see claims all over the 'net that ubuntu is the most popular Linux desktop; it is time for Canonical to put some money behind that reputation. Step up, or shut up.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 7:06 UTC (Thu) by gregwilkins (guest, #515)
Canonical has put a huge effort into ubuntu and have made it one of the most easily consumable distributions of a vast amount of open source software. This exposure to users is the lifeblood of many projects.
It would be a fool who would try argue that the open source eco system would be better off without Canonical and ubuntu. If we are better off with them, then they must be contributing in somehow! So is the criticism that they are obliged to contribute more because they benefit from support contracts with users?
All users of open source software benefit from using it. We don't demand payment in cash or kind from our users, so why should we hold those that contribute in other ways to a higher standard?
To say that anybody is obliged to contribute back just devalues the gift that all contributions (code or otherwise) are!
To say that canonical is under some moral obligation to contribute developer time, is paramount to saying that we license our software freely so long as you don't get too big a benefit from it, in which case you are obliged to give in cash or kind! This is like the old ext.js license which was LGPL (unless you mades lots of money or were competative to ext.js)
That's not the deal! it's free! FREE F R E E !
Free as in freedom and that includes being freedom from moral obligations or guilt trips at the hands of those that think that only the kernel commits counts!
Canonical do contribute and even if they didn't it is wrong to say that they should.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 7:44 UTC (Thu) by davidw (subscriber, #947)
Posted Sep 19, 2008 18:34 UTC (Fri) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954)
Clarification of the economic principle of comparative advantage: it isn't "concentrate on what you do best"; it's "concentrate on what you do most better (than others do it)"
So even if Canonical can submit kernel patches better than it can distribute Linux, and even if Canonical can submit kernel patches better than anyone else, and even if Canonical can't distribute Linux as well as others, it may still be best for everyone if Canonical concentrates on distributing Linux.
What you compare is the difference between Canonical's and others' patch-submitting ability and the difference between Canonical's and others Linux-distributing abilities.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 12:53 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
The Linux kernel and infrastructural stuff is very nice, but not everyone who uses it as a basis needs to enhance it, nor is there anything immoral or unethical about choosing to enhance non-infrastructural components instead.
RE: LPC: Fitting into the kernel ecosystem
Posted Sep 18, 2008 14:38 UTC (Thu) by mmcgrath (guest, #44906)
Yes, surely thats the ticket! Tell yourself whatever lies you have to, the work Ubuntu does, is for Ubuntu. If you think not... Go get the source and prove me wrong. Greg mentioned he looked at more then just the kernel but left it open enough that someone could tell themselves "Oh, they must just not work on the kernel."
I'd challenge anyone with Ubuntu/Canonical to post their own numbers _from an upstream repo_ and show where Ubuntu/Canonical commit count is at vs other distributions.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 16:43 UTC (Thu) by jschrod (subscriber, #1646)
But even I can see the value that Ubuntu (and Canonical, by paying the salaries of Ubuntu developers) provides to the Linux community: Packaging code into a coherent and *nice looking* whole, targeted towards desktop usage, that appeals to new users that have never used Linux before. And for that target audience their distribution is better than Debian or Red Hat, and arguably better than SUSE or Mandrake. In my book, this is a big win and a big contribution for the Linux community.
If they don't contribute code upstream to core infrastructure projects in addition, too bad. It mostly irks the developers in that projects; but other members of the rest of our community might see that providing packaging and user attraction (and also marketing) is a value in itself. At least, I do.
(To put that into context where I'm coming from: I use Debian, Red Hat, Slackware, and SUSE (in alphabetical order :), and almost all other Unix systems. As a developer, I belong to the TeX development community, and am active there since 1982.)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 19:14 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190)
I appreciate that your feelings are running strongly here, but after that little outburst I can't take you seriously.
Back on topic: Slackware contribution count, anyone? And unlike Canonical, Slackware sell copies of their distribution. Yet nobody's slagging off Pat Volkerding for freeloading (have they ever done so, even when Slackware was the most popular distro out there?).
This is "tall poppy syndrome" at its worst; if I'm alone in finding it kind of disgusting, then so be it, but I do.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 19:44 UTC (Thu) by mmcgrath (guest, #44906)
And why would you. I've asked for someone to provide numbers, facts. Why do that when they can just attack the person requesting them. ad hominem anyone?
Posted Sep 18, 2008 22:37 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190)
Maybe so, but the bit I quoted and responded to was
> Tell yourself whatever lies you have to
which is aggressive and rude, and makes your response of
> Why do that when they can just attack the person requesting them. ad hominem anyone?
amusingly ironic (although a little sad).
Posted Sep 18, 2008 23:18 UTC (Thu) by JoeBuck (subscriber, #2330)
Posted Sep 18, 2008 23:48 UTC (Thu) by chromatic (guest, #26207)
In my mind, the question is *does* a project contribute upstream, not *how much* does a project contribute upstream.
Posted Sep 19, 2008 11:19 UTC (Fri) by hppnq (guest, #14462)
The difference between a company and a distribution is, well, key.
comes close to answering your question, maybe it is better to go here for the datamining
software, download the latest Gnome tarball and answer it yourself.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 8:18 UTC (Thu) by nim-nim (subscriber, #34454)
Thus, of course there is a backlash. Canonical is behaving like it had lots of credits to spend, while doing precious little to earn them.
PS. On the exact count subject please remember that all the volunteers loosely affiliated to Fedora or OpenSuse don't contribute to Red Hat's or Novell's numbers either.
Posted Sep 19, 2008 17:09 UTC (Fri) by talisein (subscriber, #31829)
Canonical's hubris has reached such ridiculous levels it seriously proposed that other distributions synch their releases with its own...
Posted Sep 22, 2008 8:17 UTC (Mon) by niner (subscriber, #26151)
"There’s one thing that could convince me to change the date of the next Ubuntu LTS:
the opportunity to collaborate with the other, large distributions on a coordinated major /
minor release cycle. If two out of three of Red Hat (RHEL), Novell (SLES) and Debian
are willing to agree in advance on a date to the nearest month, and thereby on a
combination of kernel, compiler toolchain, GNOME/KDE, X and OpenOffice versions,
and agree to a six-month and 2-3 year long term cycle, then I would happily realign
Ubuntu’s short and long-term cycles around that."
For me this sounds like: if the others do the coordination work of picking a date and the
corner stones of the distribution, Canonical may want to use the results. In other words:
offloading their core work. I wouldn't call that a nice offer.
Posted Sep 26, 2008 5:36 UTC (Fri) by turpie (guest, #5219)
It is fair enough to criticise the amount of code Ubunutu contribute to the wider community, but I dont think it is fair to twist Mark's words that way.
Posted Sep 18, 2008 8:23 UTC (Thu) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501)
In this article, he writes:
> our [Ubuntu's] kernel consists almost entirely of
> code we receive from upstream.
> Why, then, does Greg feel that Canonical should be
> expected to make more changes to the Linux kernel?
> Is it because Ubuntu is a very popular system, with a
> lot of users? It is that, but most people who use Linux
> arent kernel developers, so a large user population
> doesnt translate to a lot of Linux kernel patches.
(He goes on to list other potential reasons that he considers improbable)
I can't speak for Greg or anyone else. But I think that this reason is valid.
Ubuntu's users surely run into problems with, say, the kernel. They use some newer hardware, they do some unpredictable things. Being the "non-kernel-developers", they surely don't work out those problems directly with upstream. This is why you have a distribution. Some of them will report bugs. Ubuntu developers respond to those bugs and fix them. Some of them result in code fixes.
So if we see very few contributions from Ubuntu in the upstream kernel, what can it mean. I don't really know which of those is actually responsible for the problems.
(And note that Ubuntu != Cannonical)
1. Ubuntu's users run into relatively few bugs. Can't be. Where there are users, there are bugs :-)
2. Ubuntu's users don't report enough bugs. This would mean Ubuntu is very buggy. This is a problem for Ubuntu.
3. Users report issues, but the Ubuntu developers fail to solve most of them. If so, this is a problem of the level of support Ubuntu's users get from their developers.
4. Ubuntu's developers fix problems, but don't forward enough of the fixes upstream. If so, Ubuntu is not a good community member, and its developers create themselves maintenance issues.
We all agree on the impact of (1) and (2). We all do our best to increase the number of bugs (develop software) and help users report bugs. So let's focus on potential reasons (3) and (4).
If (3) is an issue, it impacts Ubuntu's name. Specifically, it impacts Cannonical's ability to provide professional support services on top of Ubuntu: if they do a bad job maintaining a distribution, why would I bother paying them for it?
(Note: that's an *if* there)
Posted Sep 21, 2008 9:40 UTC (Sun) by Jonno (subscriber, #49613)
5) Ubuntu users report bugs, the ubuntu developers wait for upstream to
solve them, and then backport the fixes to the ubuntu packages.
In this senario, bugs are reported and fixed, but few patches goes from
ubuntu to upstream.
Posted Sep 22, 2008 4:00 UTC (Mon) by vonbrand (subscriber, #4458)
That would just mean that they haven't got the manpower to give support to a "enterprise" distribution... You need engineers that know intimately what is going on upstream (i.e., are inmersed in its development) if you want to be able to fix problems in a reasonable timeframe (least of all, in the time your support contract promises).
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