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The latest release of Canonical's innovative open source operating system, Ubuntu 12.10, maintains its twice-annual upgrade pattern. Even though the last few releases have generated a steady chorus of cries for longer release schedules, Canonical's leadership stands by the schedule and the rationale behind it. Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth certainly does not think Ubuntu's every-six-month release schedule is part of any ill-perceived problem. During his recent Linuxcon keynote address, he praised that cycle for creating lots of excitement and keeping contributors motivated.
The first Unix I saw was AT&T UNIX Version 7 and BSD 4.2 in 1979. These came on 1-2 inch open reel tapes holding 140 MB each. So I know the shell and in those days had to compile from source. I worked for Sun later and supported sys admins, so I know what release cycles mean to customers who have the power to demand patches and back ports.
Many of the current Linux distros seem to be plagued by the limited vision of their designers or even a personality cult, rather than a real awareness of what kind of need is being fulfilled. This is why Microsoft in particular has a considerable advantage. I advocate Open Source with the belief that when something goes wrong I can get accurate information from the system and that I will have to do a little work to document and report a bug. I also trust that the vendor will be reasonable about stability and patching.
I know that Canonical has an engineering staff of limited size because I worked with a similar group at Sun. Someone has to decide what can be supported and not; but we had to stay in touch with our customer's needs and not change things that had a legacy.
I have figured out why Canonical went so fast for UNITY. It was to support a GUI design that would work on small screens, on tablets and smart phones. I know that it isn't practical to use an xterm on a small display, and it may be the case that most people won't have desktop systems in the future, but there will still be plenty of legacy systems and servers, many headless, for years to come, so in fact even just a text login with a shell may be important for some time to come. I know first-hand that even keeping a working FORTRAN compiler was significant revenue for Sun as late as 2004. In fact it may have yielded as much income as Java.
There are several Linux and Ubuntu trends I would like changed. First is that error logs of the type that are handled by the syslog must be supported by every application, secondly that documentation be consistant, that man pages be kept up to date.
The problem I have with Ubuntu's Update Manager is because it works like a similar tool at Microsoft and hides information from the user. The philosophy for Linux should be less information is bad, even if it is too much for the novice. Users must learn what it needed for a bug report: System version and error messages. At
Sun we had automatic tools that added the system logs to a bug submission,and quite often we could completely trouble shoot hardware failures from these alone.
Linux could take more market share on desktop systems from Microsoft but it has to be much more bulletproof than even Ubuntu is now. I would do things differently at Ubuntu. I would concentrate on a rigorous error and bug reporting system and concentrate less on sexy GUI stuff. And I wouldn't be so agressive about being bleeding edge. The mistakes at Canonical with GUI issues and the resulting bugs has hurt both Ubuntu and Linux.
I took the trouble to get an account here when I saw the article on Ubuntu release cycles and bug fix policy. First, I have been using Ubuntu since 8.10 and having tried to upgrade from 10.10 to 11.04 I am ready to change the distro I use. The reason is that I do find that the release cycle is too fast and installs fall out of support too fast, not only did I lose functionality due to the move to UNITY and the fail back to Gnome Classic with a change to the file manager but I filed a bug on the Upgrade Manager because it failed on unsupported packages it didn't identify, and the only feedback I've gotten is that my distro version is unsupported and no reply on the bug against the upgrade manager which prevents me from getting to a supported version. I feel the hype especially in the UK Linux Magazines like Linux Format is just that. I am quite angry with Canonical right now.
"Many eyes make all bugs shallow."
I can't believe anyone can really stand by this old and broken record. It's been debunked so many times that can only be believed as a matter of some sort of religious faith.
Moreover, it really doesn't matter how many eyes can see the bugs, when nobody is able or willing to fix them. Check some outstanding bugs at Launchpad and Shuttleworth's own attitude about them and see for yourself.