LinuxCon: Let's Get Together: Coordinated Software Releases, The Linux Ecosystem and the Impact on the Global Marketplace (liveblog)

Keynote – Mark Shuttleworth

* Open Source has the power to “end up defining the experience that the average person has when they turn on their computer”
* For every 1 Ubuntu alpha user there are about 10 beta users and then about 100 final release users.
* There’s a disdain about marketing for some in Open Source… but if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t be seen as “marketing”, but talking about something you’re passionate about.
* We’ve seen many high profile projects move to time based releases – Mark calls this project cadence.
* For an enterprise Linux distro, Ubuntu research seems to indicate that a 2 year release cycle makes the most people happy.
* It turns out that for the most part, distro’s do not compete on which has the latest version of product $X. I can see some major exceptions here though.
* Automated testing should be seen as critical. Mark sees a clear difference in projects that fully support a make check and those that don’t.
* There are at times a huge chasm in Open Source projects between in the inside “cabal” of trusted contributors and people who are new and interesting in contributing code. Mark sees automated test suites as a potential way to mitigate this.
* As Open Source becomes more mainstream, the gap between “users” and “developers” is going to continually widen. Automated crash reporting integrated into source management can help here.
* We have to ensure the software we create can compete with the best of breed solutions, proprietary or otherwise.
* Note: The Linux sound subsystem has really been taken a beating at LinuxCon
* Cadence, Quality and Design are the points Mark wanted to drive home.

This keynote wraps up the event. I’ve really enjoyed LinuxCon and look forward to attending the event again next year (in Boston). Kudos to the Linux Foundation.


Panel: Measuring Community Contributions (Liveblog)

Joe Brockmeier – OpenSUSE
Jono Bacon – Ubuntu
James Bottomley – Novell
Dan Frye – IBM
Karsten Wade – Fedora

* Don’t always associated “contribution” with “code”.
* People tend to contribute things that are of value to them – they are scratching their own itch.
* Measuring community is very new and is not an exact science. There’s still a lot to learn and we’re still making mistakes.
* Having a clear answer to “how do I get involved” is very important.
* The first mistake companies often make when they try to enter the Linux community is an attempt to push things upstream as-is and in a way that only benefit the company.
* Audience question: It seems most mainline kernel development comes from the developed world. Why isn’t more coming from India, China and other developing countries?
– Dan indicated that some IBM’ers are actually effectively contributing from BRIC countries, but admits that we can do a much better job here.
– Some of this is an infrastructure problem, which is already being worked on.
* Audience question: Is there a way to objectively measure contribution?
– Intuition is our starting point, but we’re moving toward reverse intuition.
– Fedora is using EKG –
– Every project focuses on different aspects and different items are important to them.
– Measuring community started out very informally, but as we mature we’re being much more rigorous and scientific in our measurements.
– Deciding _what_ to measure can be difficult.
– Measuring for the sake of measuring is senseless. Getting data that is useful is very important.
Audience question: is anyone measuring the way people are mentoring?
– Generally yes, but it’s vastly different for each project/community.


End Runs Around Vista?

BusinessWeek recently ran an article that indicated that HP may be working on a version of Linux to ship on its hardware:

The ecosystem that Microsoft (MSFT) has built up around its Windows operating system is showing signs of strain. In one of several recent moves by partners that sell or support the company’s software, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), the world’s No. 1 PC maker, has quietly assembled a group of engineers to develop software that will let customers bypass certain features of Vista, the latest version of Windows. Employees on a separate skunk works team are even angling to replace Windows with an HP-assembled operating system, say three sources close to the company.

HP acknowledges the first effort. The company formed the “customer experience” group nine months ago and put at its helm Susie Wee, a former director in the company’s research labs. Her team is developing touchscreen technology and other software that allows users to circumvent Microsoft’s operating system to watch movies or view photos more easily than they can with Vista. “Our customers are looking for insanely simple technology where they don’t have to fight with the technology to get the task done,” says Phil McKinney, chief technology officer in HP’s PC division. After Vista was introduced last year, it drew criticism for slowing down computers and not working smoothly for certain tasks.

McKinney says any discussions about building an operating system to rival Windows are happening below senior-management levels. He doesn’t deny some employees may have had such conversations, but he says HP isn’t devoting substantial resources to such projects. “Is HP funding a huge R&D team to go off and create an operating system? [That] makes no sense,” he says. “For us it’s about innovating on top of Vista.”

Still, the sources say employees in HP’s PC division are exploring the possibility of building a mass-market operating system. HP’s software would be based on Linux, the open-source operating system that is already widely available, but it would be simpler and easier for mainstream users, the sources say. The goal may be to make HP less dependent on Windows and to strengthen HP’s hand against Apple (AAPL), which has gained market share in recent years by offering easy-to-use computers with its own operating system.

HP’s moves come as several of Microsoft’s closest partners are stepping up their support for Windows alternatives.

To be honest, I’m almost surprised that HP or Dell hasn’t done something like this already. It’s clear that consumers do not like Vista and Apple is making huge strides recently. Moving to an in house Linux variant would give an OEM more control over their own destiny, better integration with their own hardware, product differentiation and higher margins. That being said, it would also come with the potentially steep downside of annoying Microsoft, who has proven they are willing to punish OEM’s for seriously considering alternative desktop Operating Systems in the past. We may be reaching a turning point though. At some point soon I think you’ll see that Microsoft just may be more dependent on the OEM’s than the other way around.

So, that brings us to the following question: why is HP letting this news out in this way. It could be a couple of things. It could be testing the waters to see how Microsoft will react. However, it could just be using this as a barging chip to get a better OEM deal on Windows, or more co-marketing dollars out of Microsoft. I’m not sure which direction I’m leaning at the moment, but I think it’s clear that one of the major OEM’s are going to do this very soon. With the recent announcement by Ubuntu that it is going to try to refine the Linux desktop experience to be more inline with the Apple experience, things look to be coming together nicely. The first OEM that sincerely jumps in the water on this one is going to have a significant lead IMHO.


Ubuntu Live 2008 has been canceled

A heads up to those of you who were planning on attending Ubuntu Live 2008 in Portland this July. The event has officially been canceled. From the site:

The Ubuntu Live conference, which was scheduled to take place July 21-22 in Portland, OR has been cancelled. We are planning to include some Ubuntu content in the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON), also happening July 21-25 in Portland, Oregon. We invite those interested in future Ubuntu events and developments to watch For further inquiries, please contact

I was looking forward to the event and as a sponsor LQ had just given away a gratis pass. More information as it becomes available.


Gratis Ubuntu Live 2008 Conference Pass

Are you interested in attending the second Ubuntu Live conference? It’s my pleasure to inform you that LQ is able to give away one $895 full conference pass absolutely free of charge. I attended the event last year and it was a very good one. With all that’s happened in the Ubuntu community since, I’m looking forward to attending again this year. If you’re interested in the gratis pass, head over to this thread for more information. Good luck.


Some Novell Momentum

It looks like Novell might be quietly building up some momentum. First came news that Office Depot is consolidating onto the SLES platform:

In its latest significant victory, Novell announced that Office Depot has elected to consolidate its server infrastructure on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 Service Pack 1.

In the past, Office Depot, with offices in 43 countries, has used an eclectic collection of server operating systems. These include Solaris, Windows, IBM’s mainframe operating system z/OS, i5/OS (the newest version of IBM’s OS/400 midrange computer operating system) and several different kinds of Linux. According to Novell, moving to SLES on commodity hardware has already helped Office Depot reduce its hardware and power costs.

Now comes news that SAP is recommending Novell’s SUSE Linux as its preferred platform. Both announcements serve as good news for Novell, who may soon be announcing additional layoffs despite this growing momentum. Novell recently reported a loss, but its Linux revenue is up almost 70%. It’s clear that the Enterprise Linux market wants at least two solid vendors in play. Red Hat seemingly has one of those spots locked up. Canonical is now making an Enterprise push with Ubuntu, so if Novell wants to hold onto its current number two position it needs to take advantage of this traction. As usual, all of this should be quite good for consumers.


Linux Losing Market Share to Windows Server II

As a quick follow up to this post, it seems that Dell is not seeing the same trend. From the article:

Dell CEO: Linux server sales increasing

Claims made by Microsoft that Linux violates its software patent have not affected sales of Linux-based hardware, according to Dell’s CEO Michael Dell.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Dell said his company has seen Linux uptake for servers increase faster than Windows server products, despite Microsoft’s claims.

He said: “On the server side Linux continues to grow nicely, a bit faster than Windows. We’re seeing a move to Linux in critical applications, and Linux migration has not slowed down.”

Just another data point to keep in mind, like I said this stat is particularly hard to track with any real accuracy. While on the topic of Dell and Linux, it looks like Ubuntu desktop sales are tracking as expected. From a recent interview:

Can you give me an idea of what embracing Linux/Ubuntu for the home desktop and laptop has done for Dell? What has changed, what has stayed the same?

Embracing Ubuntu Linux on our desktops and laptops seems to have really raised Dell’s visibility within the Linux community. We have been supporting, testing, developing for, and selling Linux for 8+ years here at Dell, but before the Ubuntu announcement, a lot of people didn’t know that we did any of that. The announcement certainly opened people’s eyes, and there seems to be much more awareness now that Dell is serious about supporting Linux.

What has not changed is our overarching philosophy and trying to make Linux “just work” on all of Dell’s systems. Through our work with Linux on our servers and workstations, our goal has always been to push all device driver support and bug fixes into the respective upstream projects and to our Linux vendors. Our goal is to have customers be able to choose their Linux distro of choice, install it on whatever Dell system they buy, and have the OS install and run flawlessly. While this is very hard to accomplish, we have had a lot of success over the years doing this, and was an easy model to extend into the other Dell product lines for Linux.

Previous to our Ubuntu product announcement, it was much more difficult to extend this model to consumer desktop and laptop technologies. We would have a conversations with vendors about pushing Linux support for their hardware, but without a Linux product offering from Dell for that hardware, it was very difficult to convince them to release Linux drivers. That has certainly changed now that we offer Ubuntu Linux, and we are making much more progress in our vendor discussions.

Another area that has changed is our thinking around OS support models. Traditionally for enterprise Linux customers, if we sell them an OS on their system, they expect and demand a high level of operating system support. That is certainly not the case for our Ubuntu Linux customers, who have stated very loudly that, for the most part, they do not want to pay for OS support, and would rather get support from the community. That is a much different support model from what we have traditionally used, but is certainly one that we have embraced.

The original sales estimates for Ubuntu computers was around 1% of the total sales, or about 20,000 systems annually. Have the expectations been met so far? Will Dell ever release sales figures for Ubuntu systems?

The program so far is meeting expectations. Customers are certainly showing their interest and buying systems preloaded with Ubuntu, but it certainly won’t overtake Microsoft Windows anytime soon. Dell has a policy not to release sales numbers, so I don’t expect us to make Ubuntu sales figures available publicly.

A couple interesting tidbits in there. It’s absolutely great to see Dell pushing for more native vendor Linux drivers. They ship the kind of number needed to get vendors to listen. Kudos.


Lenovo X61 – Update

A quick update to this post. As of Tribe 5, both audio and wifi work flawlessly in the default configuration. With the manual installation of ThinkFinger for the biometric thumb scanner, absolutely everything on the machine is working as expected. I’m really liking the form factor of this laptop, it’s going to be great for conferences and travel.


Lenovo X61

The new laptop arrived today, just in time for my trip to LinuxWorld. I had an Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn disc laying around from Ubuntu Live, so figured I’d just go with that. I’ve not had Linux installation problems in a long time. I guess the X61 is just too new. First, the harddrive wasn’t detected by the installer. The fix for this was easy enough, simply enable Compatibility mode in the BIOS for the SATA controller (defaults to AHCI). Looks like this is also needed for some Windows installs, so not a big deal. After that the installer fired right up and the installation proceeded without incident. First boot up and everything looks good. That is until I realize that neither wifi or audio work. Poking around I see my X61 came with iwl4965 and AD1984, respectively. Feisty supports neither, but Gutsy Gibbon 7.10 at least supports 4965 for sure, so I decide to upgrade. I really like how easy a dist-upgrade is in Debian (and therefore Ubuntu) and Gutsy is on the laptop in under an hour. Wireless networking worked out of the box without so much as a configuration change needed. Audio, however, does not seem to work out of the box. The chipset is properly detected now, but I don’t get any output. I haven’t had a chance to actually look into this yet as audio just isn’t critical for me at this time. Overall the Ubuntu install experience is really impressive. For an alpha release, Gutsy has been quite stable so far. Certainly not without issue, but we’ve come a long long way. The out of the box support for a device this new in Gutsy has almost reached an acceptable level. My guess is with Dell and others now making a driver push, we’ll be all the way there in the very near future.


OSCON Executive Briefing II

(live blogging, so forgive the grammar and lack of proof reading)

Always Better

Matt Asay (Alfresco) and Mike Olson (Oracle via SleepyCat) discuss the value of source code. Mike argues that zero cost frictionless distribution is more disruptive than source access. A response from the crowd asked why he doesn’t close BerkleyDB. He didn’t get a chance to answer the question, but did give Matt a book.

The Path to IPO

Marten Mickos discusses how he hopes to grow MySQL AB to a billion in revenues. He covered how much the company has matured in the last few years (including items like: “we now invoice customers and have prices”). MySQL really aligns with PHP, but is “promiscuous when it comes to programming languages”. “Moore’s law will continues, but doesn’t apply to people” – MM. “The company you keep matters in Open Source” – TO. MySQL data seems to once again confirm that many people test OSS on Windows and deploy on Linux. Open Source will accelerate what is already happening to a product – bad ones will die quicker and good ones will get better faster.

Managing Linus Torvalds and other small challenges

Jim is covering the reasons that FSG and OSDL merged. He is also reflecting on what he sees as the future responsibility of the Linux Foundation, including what directions they should take and what pitfalls they should avoid.

Why Free Software values work for business

Mark discusses the relationship between the commercial Canonical and the non-commercial Ubuntu community. Mark sees collaboration as one of the key Open Source strengths. Launchpad is meant to take advantage of this and leverage collaboration as much as possible. Freedom of data is becoming increasingly important and Ubuntu/Canonical is committed to free data not only in launchpad (which will be Open Sourced soon), but throughout the project/company. “Driver support in Linux is probably one of the biggest reservations in Linux adoption” – MS. The following question was asked: “Can Ubuntu become bigger than Mark”. In essence, if Mark went away for whatever reason, would Ubuntu survive? This is clearly a question Mark has really thought about, up to and including Will provisions meant to ensure financial viability for the project.