Archive for January, 2007

Call for Participation for Ubuntu Live 2007

Monday, January 29th, 2007

After six developer summits, many more sprints and countless informal meetings amongst our developers, maybe it’s time to invite our users, customers and partners to the party? Together with O’Reilly we are thrilled to be inviting the WHOLE community, individual and corporate, technical and social, from small businesses and global giants, to join us in our first annual business conference – Ubuntu Live 2007. Planned to mesh well with the schedule for OSCON, there’s now another powerful reason to travel to Portland for the week of July 22!

If you’d like to make a presentation, there’s a call for participation that begs your attention. We’d like to here more about how you are using Ubuntu today and how it fits into your future plans, what’s working well and where we need to invest to smooth things out, what functionality is critical in future releases and what you think is overdone.

Quoting from the announcement today:

“The three-day event will aim to give participants all the knowledge they need to explore and set inmotion the powerful features in Ubuntu and related applications. Program chairs are building an event that will offer expert-led tutorials,big-pictureplenary gatherings, focused sessions, and a lively “hallway track” tobring participants face to face with the worldwide Ubuntu community. UbuntuLiveis happening July 22-24, 2007 in Portland, Oregon, right alongside theO’Reilly 2007 Open Source Convention (OSCON). Proposals are due byFebruary 14, 2007.”

Yup, Valentines Day.

The initial list of areas of interest include:

  • High performance computing
  • Ubuntu in small and medium businesses
  • Thin client deployments with Ubuntu
  • Building Ubuntu derivatives
  • Ubuntu in education
  • Building Ubuntu-based appliances/products
  • Point of sale, mobile, scientific research, banking, and other verticals
  • Performance optimization in large enterprise
  • Community contributions
  • Ubuntu in the NGO/non-profit sector

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Secure IM in Gaim with OTR

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I just learned about off-the-record, a plugin for Gaim which “Just Works”. apt-get install gaim-otr should do the trick on Ubuntu or Debian, then go into the plugin configuration list in Gaim and generate keys for the accounts you want to use it with. Voila!

One needs to do an out-of-band (voice, typically) verification of someone’s key if you want to be sure to make life hard for the man in the middle. I suspect that we’ll soon have voice chats in Gaim too, so that will be even easier to arrange. Very classy work.

Anybody care to file a main inclusion report?

#1: Keeping it FREE

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.

We have to work together to keep free software freely available. It will be a failure if the world moves from paying for shrink-wrapped Windows to paying for shrink-wrapped Linux.

As free software becomes more successful and more pervasive there will be an increasing desire on the part of companies to make it more proprietary. We’ve already seen that with Red Hat and Novell, which essentially offer free software on proprietary terms – their “really free” editions are not certified, carry no support and receive no systematic security patching. In other words – they’re beta or test versions. If you want the best that free software can deliver, a rock solid, widely certified, secure platform, from either of those companies then you have to pay, and you pay the same price whether you are Goldman Sachs or a startup in Rio de Janeiro.

That’s not the vision we all share of what free software can achieve.

With Ubuntu, our vision is to make the very best of free software freely available, globally. To the extent we make short-term compromises, for drivers or firmware along the way, we see those as bugs, and ones that will be closed over time.

The dream for me is to be able to keep free software free of charge for the people who want it on those terms. To have people sharing the same high quality base and innovating on top of it – from Beijing to Buenos Aires – will create something that we’ve never had before, which is a completely level software playing field for every young aspiring IT practitioner, and every aspiring entrepreneur. I believe that’s how we will really change the world, and how we will deliver the full benefit of the movement started more than two decades ago by Richard Stallman.

This is a personal challenge – I benefited hugely from the existence of Linux in 1996, it was what made it possible (together with SSLeay, now OpenSSL) to get into the crypto game and ultimately found Thawte. Now my goal is to make Ubuntu sustainable so that it can continue to grow while at the same time making all of that opportunity, all of those tools, freely available to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I’m glad to say our commercial support operation in Montreal is growing and that users are turning into customers, so the ball is rolling. As Ubuntu moves into the enterprise, with some of the world’s largest companies deploying it, I think we’re starting to show that it really is possible to have a platform that is both free and self-sustaining. We’ve come a long, long way from that first meeting in April 2004.

If this is a dream that inspires you too then get involved and contribute! We’ll take whatever time and input you can give – from documentation and advocacy to local training and support. Art, energy, code… it takes all sorts to build something as complete as Ubuntu can be.

#2: Granny’s new camera

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.

Power users love Linux.  It’s fast, customizable, personal, tweakable, and they can make just about anything work. Most peripherals can be made to work with Linux, it’s just that you normally need to wait a little while or know how to write the appropriate drivers or glue.

Office productivity workers love Linux too if all they do is web, email and a bit of office. They love it because it doesn’t go down for maintenance, it’s not subject to the same barrage of viruses and other defects for which Windows is sadly notorious. You can configure it as a thin client system and greatly reduce the total cost of ownership in these scenarios.

So the ends of the spectrum – the power users and the don’t-mess-with-my-system users, are already well serviced by Linux, and it’s getting better for them every six months. It’s the middle crowd – the guys who have a computer which they personally modify, attach new hardware to, and expect to interact with a variety of gadgets – that struggle. The problem, in a nutshell, is Granny’s new camera.

You gave Granny the PC last Christmas and set it up with Ubuntu because it Just Works. Everything’s peachy, no viruses or spyware, you can administer it remotely whenever you think it needs a bit of polish, and as far as you’re concerned it’s great. But then your brother gives Granny a new digital camera… and it only has drivers for Windows.

Solving this requires work at two levels – first there are possibly some drivers, and second there need to be relevant applications to manage the gadget’s content (music, photos, videos, GPS tracks, etc) and administer the gadget (firmware updates etc).  As Eric Raymond has said – kid’s just want their iPod to work.

My own feeling here is that it’s all about critical mass. Once 5-10% of the people who buy these gadgets are running Linux (actually, a single brand of Linux), only then will the gadget manufacturers themselves start to care about it as a consumer platform for which their stuff should work. That goes for everything from cell phones, PDA’s, and smart phones to some of the more weird and wonderful things that people like to drive from a PC, like laser cutters and 3D printing machines. It’s partly just a matter of time, but then it’s also partly a question of how we communicate the state of Linux today (just like the issues in “pervasive support” (challenge #9).

The situation is definitely improving. To the extent that Apple continues to use free software components like CUPS, we benefit in the Linux world because printers that want to Just Work with MacOS will also Just Work with Linux. That’s a nice boost.

#3: The Extra Dimension

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.

Apple calls it Quartz. Microsoft calls it something else but it’s most visible in Aero Glass – the transparent theme in Vista. In the free software world we have Xgl and AIGLX (Ubuntu is going down the AIGLX road). In essence these technologies all do the same thing – they introduce a level of malleability to the once-rigid world of windowing systems.

This is of course a recipe for eye-wateringly poor user interface decisions – windows that wobble being my current favourite, fun as they are. But it’s also an opportunity to rethink and improve on many areas of user interface at the system and app level which have been stagnant for a decade or more. The proprietary guys have a head start – but we have the edge of being able to try lots of interesting ideas simultaneously across the full colourful spectrum of the free software universe.

We’ll be adopting a lot of these ideas in Feisty – I hope that some of them will stick and demonstrate real usability or productivity enhancements.