Users of Kubuntu, the Ubuntu-based KDE distribution, underwent an
anxious few months in early 2012 when Canonical announced its decision to
pull paid employees off the project and reclassify it as a
community-managed variant. Any concern over potential problems for the
subsided in late April, when not one but two developers announced that
they had found full-time employment to continue working on the
distribution. Exactly who they will be working for remains a bit more
mysterious, since the company involved gives out little information about
its make-up or its plans.
Canonical and Kubuntu
Kubuntu is one of the oldest variants of Ubuntu; it debuted with the
second-ever Ubuntu release, Hoary Hedgehog, in 2005. It differed from the
purely community-built derivatives in two respects, however: first,
Canonical offered commercial support services for it (thus making it an
"official" Canonical product), and second, a Canonical staffer was paid to
work on it (as one might expect for a commercial product). That employee
was Jonathan Riddell, who described his duties as:
a combination of
packaging, coding, bug fixing, testing and community management. As a
community project I tend to put the community management part first, if we
can find interesting areas for someone to help out with that's one less
are for me to spend time on, it has worked well and we have a great
friendly community as a result.
Kubuntu was not Riddell's only responsibility while at Canonical, though,
and in February 2012 the company decided to stop offering Kubuntu support
services, and move Riddell to other projects. The Kubuntu community heard
the news through a message to the kubuntu-devel list by
Riddell. According to that message, the now-released 12.04 would be the
last Kubuntu version to receive support from Canonical. Riddell said that
still be able to participate in Kubuntu-related projects on work time,
such as the Qt framework, but said that the community would need to pick
up slack in several areas, including the "long, slow, thankless
task" of ISO testing. He also encouraged community members to apply
for support to attend the Ubuntu Developer Summits and continue to
Despite the cutback, the announcement did not signal the end of all
investment in Kubuntu by Canonical. It moved the distribution to the
ranks of "recognized Ubuntu flavors," a list of derivatives that also includes
Edubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Mythbuntu, and several
localized-language flavors. These projects all use Ubuntu's official
infrastructure, including the package repositories, build system, ISO
distribution, security updates, and various community tools. Furthermore,
in spite of the source of Riddell's paychecks, Kubuntu had always been
managed as a community project, with an annually-elected council leading
the decision-making process.
Still, the announcement struck many in the Kubuntu community hard, to the
point where some worried that it meant the end of the project. Harald
Sitter (among others) posted
a message in support of Kubuntu, noting
that the other recognized flavors were doing just fine, and had done so
for years without any paid developers.
The Return of the developer(s)
Had the story ended there, the distribution perhaps would have continued
on its own as a purely community-developed offering. But on April 2,
Riddell joined the Ubuntu Technical Board for one of its scheduled
meetings, and inquired whether the board would object to another company
financially supporting Kubuntu. The board ruled that it had no objection, and on April 10,
Riddell announced that he had
accepted a job offer to work full time on Kubuntu. The next day, Kubuntu
contributor (and Canonical employee) Aurélien Gâteau announced that he,
too, had been hired away for Kubuntu work.
The company that hired both Riddell and Gâteau was Blue Systems, and the news was well-received among
Kubuntu fans, not just for the continuity of Riddell's continued
participation, but for doubling the number of full-time developers.
But one piece of the puzzle was frustratingly absent: exactly who
Blue Systems was, and what business it was in. The Blue Systems web site
is spartan, containing only a list of other projects supported financially
by the company, all of which are either KDE- or Qt-related. The H Online
was one of the first to observe the mysterious lack of information when it
reported Blue Systems' support
of Linux Mint back in January 2012. The H article pointed to a Linux Mint
blog post that said the company
was based in Germany, but that was about it.
Kubuntu forum users dug around to
try and find more information, tracking the domain name registration to a
privately-owned German IT services company, but achieving little else. For
his part, Riddell said via email that Blue Systems was "best thought
of as a trust fund rather than a commercial company" that simply
has an interest in KDE's continued success. He also told Muktware that Blue Systems' involvement would cause
"no changes" in the way the Kubuntu project functions — in
particular, it will remain part of Ubuntu, rather than venturing off on
David Wonderly from the Kubuntu Community Council also noticed the concern
of Kubuntu users about the lack of information surrounding Blue Systems,
and told the kubuntu-users mailing list that he would
be meeting with Blue Systems near the end of April. On May 1, he posted a brief note to his blog providing some
more information about the company. Somewhat disappointingly from a news
standpoint, there is nothing exotic about Blue Systems (e.g., a front for
organized crime, Dan Brown-style secret society, etc.). Instead, Blue
Systems is simply the company name chosen by Netrunner founder Clemens Toennies.
Netrunner is based on Kubuntu, albeit with the added emphasis of
out-of-the-box GNOME and WINE functionality, so the Netrunner team has a
stake in the continued health of Kubuntu as a whole. Toennies also
reiterated to Wonderly that he had no intention of changing the way the
Kubuntu project functions. Regarding the perhaps-unintentional air of
mystery about the company, Riddell said that he had met with Blue Systems
at CeBIT, and that although the founder was "a pretty reserved
chap" he also met the "Kubuntu criteria" of being friendly and
wanting to improve the world.
Understanding who Blue Systems is answers some other lingering questions
about the present state and future of Kubuntu. For example, there was
speculation in April that Canonical's trademark policy would result in
difficulty for the new source of funding. The issue is that Canonical
holds the trademark on the name "Kubuntu" (as it also does for Edubuntu and Xubuntu, but not for
all of the official Ubuntu flavors). Muktware speculated in the
previously linked article that the distribution might have to change its
name now that a different company was financing development. But that
reading of the policy does not gel with Blue Systems' involvement.
Specifically it states that commercial use of the name requires
getting a trademark license from Canonical. As the comments by Riddell
and Toennies indicate, Blue Systems is only funding developer time, not
basing a product or service around using the Kubuntu name.
But it's still an open question whether any other third-party will
offer its own commercial support for Kubuntu, since
Canonical's departure leaves a gap. After all, there are businesses who
purchased support contracts from Canonical while Kubuntu was a product;
presumably those contracts have a fixed end date. Even though
non-commercial Kubuntu installations will continue to receive package
updates (via the official Ubuntu repositories), a real support contract
entails more: deployment assistance, incident response, legal aid,
and so on. Whether Canonical decided that the support business
was losing money or simply decided to focus on other areas is unknown.
The Kubuntu project may not need such commercial support contracts to fund
developer time, but there seems to be at least some demand for it. Blue
appears not to be chasing it — so perhaps someone else will seize
Comments (4 posted)
Ubuntu's six-month release cycle makes it a bit wearying to maintain the
appropriate level of excitement. I use it as a reminder to clean my furnace
(by way of Linux.com)
A few years ago, when I received private mail from somebody about
sponsorship, my reply would result in either a longer thread where to
discuss something or in a short acknowledgement and work move into
the review request. Nowadays, private mail mentions the wish to be
sponsored, but communication stops at that point because pointing
at the PackageMaintainers Wiki entry page apparently is considered
too much homework for the people who mail me.
-- Michael Schwendt
And how pray are you going to tip a spherical cow ?
-- Alan Cox
Comments (6 posted)
OpenBSD 5.1 has been released. There are plenty of improvements and new
features in this release. The announcement (click below) has some
details. The song for this release is Bug Busters!
Full Story (comments: none)
The Tails Project has announced the release of Tails 0.11, The Amnesic
Incognito Live System. Tails is a live system (DVD or USB) aimed at
preserving privacy and anonymity. "'The new 0.11 release is an
important milestone in the Tails history, and a big step towards Tails 1.0,
that is scheduled for release later this year,' said one Tails
developer. 'No one should have to become computer experts to protect their
privacy and online activities. Our recent focus on ‘persistent’ files and
settings finally enables human rights workers and freedom activists, among
others, to focus on important work instead of technical details.'
Full Story (comments: none)
was formed from the MeeGo and
LiMo projects to create mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
The project has announced
the 1.0 release
of its Software Development Kit (SDK) and the platform
source code. The release notes
for the SDK
and the source
contain the details.
Comments (3 posted)
Ubuntu has announced the release of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Long-Term Support),
which is code named "Precise Pangolin". For desktop users, 12.04
introduces the "heads-up display" (HUD) in Unity, a switch to Rhythmbox as
the default music player, a 3.2.14 kernel, LibreOffice 3.5.2, and lots
. The server release has the latest OpenStack release, updates to
Java, an officially supported Xen, and more
has links to information for other editions as well. "To be a bit more precise about what we're releasing today...
There are 54 product images and 2 cloud images being shipped with
this 12.04 LTS release, with translations available in 41 languages.
The Ubuntu project's 12.04 archive currently has 39,226 binary packages
in it, built from 19,179 source packages, so lots of good starting points
for your imagination!
Full Story (comments: 49)
Version 1.2 of the Yocto Project embedded distribution builder is available. New
features include a new version of the HOB tool (used to customize and build
embedded Linux images), a 3.2.11 kernel, better license compliance tools,
and this interesting addition: "Implementation of the MSG (Magic
Smoke Generator) which enables the on board generation of 'magic smoke' to
enhance the longevity of embedded device components.
Full Story (comments: 4)
The votes are in. The Fedora 18 release name is Spherical Cow.
Full Story (comments: none)
Fedora elections are coming up soon. People are currently invited to
submit questions for the candidates. Questions must be in by May 8.
Nominations begin May 9. There are three seats open on the advisory board,
five seats on the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee (FESCo), and all
seven seats open on the Fedora Ambassadors Steering Committee (FAmSCo).
FAmSCo has announced new election
which have prompted the current vacancies on all seats.
Full Story (comments: none)
Ubuntu's Quantal Quetzal (12.10) is open for development. "The
development version starts with updated versions of GCC and OpenJDK, some
soname changes (boost, hdf5), and some changes with setting the build flags
for package builds. We are finally targeting Python3 as the only Python
version on the ISO/installation images.
Full Story (comments: none)
Newsletters and articles of interest
Comments (none posted)
Plenty of reviews have followed last week's release of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.
one at Linux.com
by Carla Schroder cuts through the debates to talk
about what you actually get in this release. "So I am going to ignore Unity, and I am not tell you how to download, install, or upgrade Precise Pangolin. I'm not going to take a passionate stand on the default color scheme or string together random screenshots and call it a day. I'm not going to breathlessly adore/loathe Mark Shuttleworth. Instead, just to break tradition and be weird for the fun of it, let's talk about the myriad other aspects of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin, the many features that distinguish Ubuntu from the rest of the great thundering Linux distro herd.
Comments (23 posted)
Lennart Poettering writes about the Fedora
17 multiseat feature
. "With this code in Fedora 17 we cover the
big use cases of multi-seat already: internet cafes, class rooms and
similar installations can provide PC workplaces cheaply and easily without
any manual configuration. Later on we want to build on this and make this
useful for different uses too: for example, the ability to get a login
screen as easily as plugging in a USB connector makes this not useful only
for saving money in setups for many people, but also in embedded
environments (consider monitoring/debugging screens made available via this
hotplug logic) or servers (get trivially quick local access to your
otherwise head-less server).
Comments (60 posted)
IEEE Spectrum has a
lengthy overview of the Haiku OS project
which is working to create an
open-source reimplementation of BeOS. "One of the first things
people notice about it is that it doesn’t feel anything like Windows or OS
X or Linux. It’s unique. Linux, for instance, is based around a core—called
a kernel—that was originally designed for use in servers and only later
modified for desktop systems. As a consequence, the kernel sometimes gives
short shrift to the user interface, which Linux users experience as
annoying delays when their computers are doing especially taxing things,
like burning a DVD or compiling code. Haiku’s kernel has always been for a
desktop system, and so it always gives priority to whatever is happening by
way of its graphical user interface.
Comments (72 posted)
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