A Canonical Controversy

Remember these past few months where Ubuntu/Canonical’s contribution to Gnome (or lack thereof) was called into question and the topic was on the tip of every Linux news website tongue (see closing thoughts for info links)?  Let’s throw some gasoline on that fire for your Friday!!  It’s time for a Barbecue!

Today, Mark Shuttleworth’s blog was added into Planet Gnome after he made a request for it to be added.  Why is this a controversy?  Mainly because some people want blogs that are featured on Planet Gnome to be from authors that are active in the Gnome community and to actually blog about Gnome as a topic.  If Canonical’s contributions to Gnome are being called into question (as evident from the links in closing thoughts below) then what results is a controversial decision for Mark’s blog to be added in.

If you read the comments on the buglist issue, you will see that there are quite a few people in opposition to this move.  According to the Planet Gnome FAQ, there are criteria for being added.  Does Mark’s blog fit the criteria?  A close examination will result in a resounding NO.

Examining the Evidence

The evidence?  Mark has only one, single post on the topic of Gnome on his entire blog.  Is it recent?  If 2008 is recent, then yes, it’s recent.  If that’s not recent enough for you then no, it fails horribly on being recent.

Up next, let’s pull from the Planet Gnome FAQ, “It generally helps to write a few words about you and your contributions to GNOME, or why you think your blog should appear on Planet GNOME”.  Looking at the bug that was filed we find no explanation as to why it should be added other than “I contribute via Canonical”.  This phrase is going to be flogged by those people that were/are irked with Canonicals level of contributions upstream.

Lastly, since Mark is the face of his company, does this mean Gnome supports his company more than say…CEO of Red Hat or Novell since those CEO’s are not added on Planet Gnome?  Does this constitute a conflict of interest?  Does it signal favoritism?  If one person believes it to be this way, everyone loses…because there will be a debate about it and it WILL divide people and not unite them.

To be honest, I can’t believe Mark even asked to be on Planet Gnome as the CEO of Canonical.  He should know right out of the gate that it would look bad if he was added in…if it were me, I’d remove myself immediately.

Closing Thoughts

I said that this would be gasoline on a fire because of the firestorm debate surrounding how much Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth’s company, gives back to upstream projects like Gnome.  For more on that debate [1] [2] [3].

This is just the icing on top of the cake in my opinion.  Whoever decides what goes on Gnome and what doesn’t should really evaluate their processes and stop looking at a persons stature or bling factor and instead on the merit for them to be there.  In this instance, Marks blog provides little to merit its presence on Planet Gnome.

Please note, I’m not saying Mark hasn’t done anything at all for Gnome…just saying he doesn’t blog about it (and the evidence supports me on this claim)…and before a blog is added to Planet Gnome it should have more than one post in the past 7 years (yes, he started blogging in 2003) to be considered as a good candidate to be there.

What do you think?  Should Mark be on Planet Gnome?  Whether you agree or disagree, please state your reasons in a comment below!

Is Usability Really Simplicity?

I prefer using KDE or Openbox as my main desktop when using Linux.  I’ve used Gnome quite a bit too when working for rPath last year (Foresight is THE Gnome distro).  Still, I prefer KDE…I really like the direction that 4.x is going also.  Sure, they’re not there yet, but I trust they will be because I haven’t been let down in the past :)  I have a little faith (Plus I’ve run snapshots of 4.2).

The thing that boggles my mind is that everyone says Gnome is better for a Windows convert taking his/her Linux steps for the first time.  I have to disagree based on the experience I’ve had with conversions of new users from Windows.  I think KDE gives the best experience for a new Windows user…it’s familiar or at least feels familiar…things are in similar places to Windows.

I’d say that 80-90% of the users I convert across to using Linux prefer KDE to Gnome.  I always wonder why people think Gnome is so new user friendly.  Since I’ve always wondered, perhaps some Gnome users can tell me, what usability reasons do you have for using Gnome vs. KDE?  I’ve often heard that Gnome has integration and simplicity as the main reason…but could I not argue the same for KDE?  I’m looking for usability issues here and not specific bugs that cause you to drop one on its head.  Bugs can be fixed.  I’m talking about hard features that lack from one environment to the other.  What makes you use it in Ubuntu versus KDE?  Remember, not bugs…features!  Please let me know which desktop you prefer below and don’t forget to let me know the reason in the comments section below.

[poll id=”1″]

Thoughts on Package Management

The Change in Distro-Land

Distros have changed. In the past, they were made up of a small, tightly knit group collaborators working toward a common goal. With distributions today we now have an informal, large group of collaborators…some of which may not even be aware of the main goal of the distro. That informal collaborator may just want package foo version 2.2 included in his/her distribution so that he/she can use it on their desktop. How does that informal collaborator become empowered? How can the developers reap what that collaborator sows and harness the collective collaboration of thousands of informal contributors? The answer for many software projects is version control. But how can this system benefit package management?

What If?

What if you could combine SVN/CVS/git behavior and packages? What if when you build the package properly, it is checked into the software development tree. You’d be eliminating an entire step in the process (i.e. working more efficiently) and you’d reap all the benefits of version control (diff, merge, shadow, exports, rollbacks, tags, logs) with the actual software packages without losing the benefit of working with source or binaries. Thousands of contributions could be made in the form of ready to install packages that are CERTIFIED (see how this is possible later in this post) to work on the distribution. The contributions would come in on a version control branch designed by the distribution developers…say 1-contribs (much like a contribs rpm server would be)…but unlike most distributions, they would be certified to run on your distro before they even hit the contribs server/branch. Imagine the impact that this would have for bug testing alone.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. It’s Conary and it is getting ready to go to version 2.0. Let’s take a look at some advantages that conary has over traditional package management and how it can empower the end user.

Read more

Alltray in Foresight

I’ve recently packaged up Alltray, a handy tool for keeping items minimized to the gnome task bar, in Foresight Linux. For those of you who new to my blog…I’ve recently switched jobs to from the state of Virginia (project management) to work for rPath, Inc. rPath is responsible for some innovative software development tools centered around the Conary package manager and also creates a minimalistic linux distribution that serves as source for Foresight Linux. I’ve recently become active in helping develop the KDE Version of Foresight Linux.

I’m by no means a programmer. I’ve been hired on as a documentation specialist. Yet, Conary is simplistic enough that I can roll my own packages. I’m quite impressed by it’s simplicity and power. If you’d like to help out or are curious about KDE Foresight or the Conary package manager, visit us on freenode #foresight-kde

For those of you wanting alltray goodness…update via Packagekit by searching for alltray OR:

sudo conary update alltray