Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of the world’s most popular GNU/Linux based operating system Ubuntu has won accolades by showing what the technology leaders need to understand today. He said that he prefers GNU GPL v3 over V2, as it has ‘a calming effect on software patents’. He hopes soon more and more FOSS companies and communities will realize the dangers of software patents and choose GNU GPL v3 over other licenses.
Mark was responding in an IRC chat question and answer session. Here are some important questions being asked.
Q: Why did you decide to make Ubuntu less customizable (in terms of how it looks, not the lenses, those are great)?
Mark: I think you mean Unity, rather than Ubuntu. Ubuntu itself is a superset, has a great deal of customize-ability and many faces – Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu etc.
With many options across all of the in Unity, we have a very tight set of option part of that is because it’s a 1.0, and we wanted to focus on the things people will most enjoy, and most need part of that is because we know every option has a high cost, and not every option is equally used.
We also know that the best people to discuss options with are often in a good position to implement them. It’s cheap for someone to show up and demand an option, but often they don’t stick around for the prototyping, evaluation, discussion, implementation, maintenance and we have to stick around 🙂
As a general meme in design, options are much more expensive than people realize. Each option divides the userbase into people who perhaps cannot talk to each other on the phone to help each other through an experience because they see and do different things.
As a developer, you have a LOT of options, some of which involve gconf or dconf or ccsm or patching the code as an end-user, you are dependent on developers decisions so, we priorities the needs of the people for whom we can make the biggest difference. I respect there are other approaches but i think it’s also reasonable to expect respect for the position we take.
We certainly have a good and growing community that appreciates those positions and we’ll work with them to make unity even better not always by adding options, but by testing and deciding what works best. It’s also a fallacy that “clever developers need options”. They need robust, usable software just like everyone else so Unity is as much for developers as end-users.
Q: Are you satisfied with Unity in the recent Ubuntu version ?
Mark: Yes, though I recognize there are issues, and I would not be satisfied unless we fixed many of them in 11.10. In the end, when we reviewed bug lists, stability and experience, Unity was the best option for the average user upgrading or installing.
There are LOTS of people for whom it isn’t the best but we had to choose a default position. I think we walked that line admirably, I appreciated the open discussion that was had, and it made me more confident in the final position that decision is best taken by the desktop team, and they were arguing in favor of unity, and they had my support for that.
Q: Will Lubuntu become official?
Mark: I would like it to, yes I think the Lubuntu team have done excellent work to make sure that it’s possible – integrating their processes and output into the main archive. There’s a thread on the TB list and I’m behind on mail, we’re waiting iirc for comment on tools, like iso testing from an experience and governance point of view. Lubuntu meets my personal requirements. It has solid leaders, a good track record of delivery, and works in the spirit of Ubuntu. We need to know if there are costs or work to be done on the tools front, but I expect they are manageable.
Q: What is Ubuntu doing to match rolling release model updates (like arch) ?
Mark: I think rolling releases are a very interesting concept. We should discuss this at UDS next week. I know a few distros are embracing the concept and perhaps it would be appropriate for us too. But I don’t have a view, and would be interested to hear opinions, especially the TB perhaps that will become a standard approach in future for all distros? I would not want us to be behind 🙂
Q: How much of a threat is the recent Google patent infringement suit to Canonical, Ubuntu and Linux in general? http://www.engadget.com/2011/04/21/google-ordered-to-pay-5-million-in-linux-patent-infringement-su/
Mark: interesting question just to clarify – it’s not Google that’s filing suit, it’s another company suing big users of Linux. The case has the hallmarks of a quick-and-dirty job, it was filed in a jurisdiction that very typically finds for patent plaintiffs without necessarily really understanding the issues.
There appear to be some obvious inconsistencies and problems in the suit, which will get addressed in appeal and there are related suits, which may undermine the basis of that suit at all.
Patents are a steaming mess that stifle innovation, rather than supporting it and in order to change the system, we need mainstream recognition of that. Right now, major tech companies all play both sides of this and they have enough patents in their armories to get by that way. But it’s getting crazy even for them. This is one reason why I prefer GPLv3 to v2, it has a nice “calming the waters” effect on patents which I think few people have really understood. When this really gets crazy, the majors will be pushing FOR v3, not against it 🙂 anyhow, I’m not worried about this particular judgment next!
Q: How does Ubuntu plan to take advantage of the new offerings of GNOME 3, in terms of new approaches or new User Experience. Unity was huge, and that was before GNOME3. What potential improvements are waiting on GNOME3?
Mark: I’m looking forward to having all of GNOME 3 in Ubuntu and I think we’ll achieve that in Oneiric. It’s certainly a hot topic on the agenda for UDS next week.
I also think there continue to be lots of areas of collaboration between work done in GNOME, and Unity, and elsewhere. Our default position is to try and make that happen but also to be willing to go in the direction we think will give end users the best experience, based on evidence. You will certainly be able to have a close-to-vanilla GNOME 3 experience in 11.10, and the deltas will be for good reason contrary to popular belief. Even distros that claim to be vanilla, often carry a lot of patches. So I feel that gnome-in-ubuntu will be faithfully conveyed and there’s a great part of the Ubuntu community that cares about that and is invested in making it happen. That’s why we have a GNOME3 PPA today.
Q: how difficult will it be to get overlay scrollbars in 100% of the applications? right now, the implementation seems to be pretty spotty. Any guestimation on what release will see overlay scrollbars in all applications?
Mark: This depends on two things: broadening the overlay-scrollbar API, and hooking it into more toolkits. We’re seeing progress on both fronts. Part of the rationale for pressing GO in 11.04 was to make the gaps obvious to the audience of developers who can help close them. Cimi has already had quite a few emails from developers asking how they can make the scrollbars work in their apps so I think it will see active development. I was surprised that we got Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice working with the global menu in 11.04. It all came together because folk stepped up same is true of scrollbars so, help wanted and welcome!
Q: Are there any plans for more mainstream Ubuntu preinstalls from big name vendors? Currently, I believe only HP and Dell offer a small selection of Ubuntu laptops.
Mark: I would not be here today if I didn’t think we could get to a world where all the vendors sell free software based machines with Ubuntu on ’em. So yes, there are plans, and credible expectations.
Q: Hi Mr. Mark, When can we see Wayland in Ubuntu?
Mark: I think you mean “when will it be the default display system” and the answer is “green”. I think Wayland is the most likely basis for future displays across most Linux devices. I think it will take the longest of all to get that on the desktop or something like that before that, it will happen in particular form factors and devices maybe a specialised netbook here or there or ARM smartbook.
Q: ConnMan will replace network-manager-applet on 11.10?
Mark: this falls into the “I don’t have unilateral say on app selection” question, I think. I believe ConnMan has some really important capabilities and we should give it serious consideration. We would be the first to deploy it very widely, which means the first to run into lots of issues. Google are adopting a (fork/branch) of it for Chrome OS but it’s not ready YET, imo, to be the default I’d like it to be parallel installable easily, perhaps we can get there for 11.10 help wanted!
Q: Have there been any Unity design decisions that you think will be revisited now that users have had a chance to use it and respond?
Mark: Oh yes there’s lots to learn that can only be learned in reasonable time by getting code into a wide deployment. Some decisions I regret and we’ll evaluate alternatives, some we’ll tweak it’s by no means perfect, and it would be egotistical to suggest otherwise so everything is on the cards that said. I think the bulk of it has worked out fantastically both at an engineering level (compiz, nux) and in the user experience I’m proud of the guts required by quite a few people to commit to delivery, and the effort that went into it, and the support we’ve had from so many. It’s reassuring that others are following the broad design and we’ll work out the details in round two 🙂
Q: With the benefit of hindsight, if you could change one thing about Ubuntu since its inception, what would it be?
Mark: Great question of course, we can change anything, so this is not a meaningless question. I think I would have been clearer about the need for us to have the capacity to implement change. I think if we’d done that from the start, some things would be easier. People would have made fewer accusations of “not contributing”, because those who only measure that kind of contribution would have been able to see them from the start.
On the other hand, we would have established our willingness and ability to lead as well as follow at the start, which would feel like less of a change now and perhaps, folk would have been more willing to be collaborative, if that capacity had started before Ubuntu became such a substantial player. I fear that, today, many of these conversations are hugely influenced by competitive dynamics probably, both ways nevertheless, here we are.