Appreciation for Daniel Holbach

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Today, since it’s impossible to thank everyone individually who helps make Ubuntu such a wonderful project, I want to express public appreciation for Daniel Holbach’s amazing contribution to our community.

A smooth-running community is not a miracle, it’s the result of dedication, energy, organisation and empathy. Daniel has all of those gifts and qualities in abundance, and the impact he’s had on the governance of Ubuntu is profound.

We pride ourselves on being a meritocracy and a do-ocracy. Those who have the capacity and the will and the commitment and the values and the energy to lead, and who are recognised as leaders by their peers in the project, get the opportunity to take on responsibilities in one of the many parts of the project, or overall in the CC or TB. But it takes insight and effort to recognise those with that potential, and it takes leadership to encourage them to step forward to shine, and it takes organisation to coordinate diverse efforts so as to ensure a harmonious result. For all of the work and play he brings to that, I thank him.

In a galaxy of many stars, it’s perhaps impolite to single out one in particular. So please counterbalance that impertinence by picking your own star to thank; in our community, the depth and strength don’t come from the headline acts so much as the diversity of contributions from an enormous number of people. Thank you all.

Caption competition

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

I’ve donated my face to charity. It’s not a tattoo, but it’s nevertheless a commitment. Really.

118 118?

"It will only take me a minute to fetch the lube."

You can contribute to the cause (male health, grin and bare it etc) via the excellent Movember and if you do it as a result of my embarrassment then I’ll match it up to a somewhat unreasonable figure. I think they take plastic, and for the globally challenged $1 is about R8, so your donation will look much more impressive than it is. Just like my tache. Think big ;-)

If however you would like to substitute wit for cash, and this is a rare occasion when that is a possibility, add your caption for this 70′s throwback to the comments below.

Community growth and development

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Martin’s chart showing the pattern of growth in Ubuntu project membership supports a view of deepening and strengthening participation in Ubuntu, globally. A second data point for me is the number and caliber of nominations we’ve seen to community governance boards, not just at the most senior levels (community council and technical board) but also in the breadth of community activities.

In the past year we’ve had to refine our thinking about a number of issues. The question about whether contributions outside the project, with a specific emphasis on Ubuntu, should be considered on a par with contributions directly to the project was resolved inclusively. So we are delighted to welcome members who do work in Debian to ensure that Ubuntu and Debian stay on rails together, and we are delighted to welcome members who contribute to projects elsewhere with the aim of improving the experience for Ubuntu users.

It remains true that there is no aspect of Ubuntu that a community participant cannot influence. At UDS this week it was impossible to tell, across hundreds of sessions, which voices were from Canonical, or Dell, or ARM, or Linaro, or from folk who have no corporate affiliation but have a passion for getting things done, and getting them in front of millions of users, and getting them right. From the artwork we ship, to the way we evaluate contributions, and the versions of software we include by default, to the toolchain and kernel and infrastructure that makes it happen, the degree of diverse participation is something we can be proud of. So thank you to everyone, whether participating for personal or corporate interests, for your engagement with Ubuntu.

It was a pleasure to meet the (mostly) new Community Council, and to have a session in person. And it was wonderful to see the vibrancy of the Community Leadership Track at UDS, and the participation in those discussions by leaders of other communities like GNOME and Debian. We have a lot to learn, and a lot to teach.

As a community, we will flourish if two things remain true:

  • We continue to attract and empower motivated and energetic participants
  • We defend our core values and the tone of our discussions
Given that our mission is profound and meaningful, I have no concerns on the former front. Brilliant and energetic people continue to join the project. It’s up to us to clear the way for them to do what they do best, whether it’s translation, motivation, leadership, organisation, software development, quality assurance, art, or cooking for a loco event.
More challenging is the need to recognise that the success of Ubuntu will attract voices that are more interested in influence than participation; now that Ubuntu is a conduit to millions of users, it is an effective way to broadcast to all of them. When we started, the only people who showed up were those attracted to our values and our mission, now we will attract folk who are interested in our users. That’s why we should weigh the voices of those who have actually contributed much more heavily than those who seek to influence the project without doing any work. And it’s why we need to make sure that the tone of conversation stays true to the Ubuntu code of conduct, and the goals of the project – to serve the needs of others rather than ourselves – maintain primacy.
Growth brings challenges; it is no longer possible to show up and immediately define the rules, we are a large and complex and fast-moving institution. We will see many contributors come, and thrive, and move on. We will celebrate their successes and their highs, but also share their sadnesses and lows. We were all saddened to hear of the death of Andre Godim, a champion of Ubuntu and free software in Brazil, this week. We are a real and complex and human society.
In a big and established community like ours, it takes some patience to figure out how to get things done, how to exert influence, how to create change. It takes the sort of discipline and effort that separates doers from talkers, the constructive from the merely present, the energetic from the lethargic. And that’s a good thing: in order to make a big change, we need depth and quality as an institution. This is no longer a chaotic revolution, it is about balanced governance and effective, constructive change.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jono and his horsemen for the way they lead Canonical’s thinking on our relationship with Ubuntu and other participants in the project. It takes a huge amount of work, first and foremost, to bring together a community of such intensity, diversity and depth. And we similarly owe a debt of gratitude to those who take tough decisions; it’s their willingness to make commitments on behalf of parts of the project, and your willingness to stand by those commitments, that makes Ubuntu wonderful and impactful.

By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud.

Unity, the desktop interface in today’s Ubuntu 11.10, was designed with this specific vision in mind. While the interface for each form factor is shaped appropriately, Unity’s core elements are arranged in exactly the way we need to create coherence across all of those devices. This was the origin of the name Unity – a single core interface framework, that scales across all screens, and supports all toolkits.

Canonical and the Ubuntu community have established Ubuntu’s place in desktop, server and cloud deployments. We have also invested in the design and engineering of Unity, motivated by the belief that desktop interfaces would merge with mobile, touch interfaces into a seamless personal computing platform in the future. Today we are inviting the whole Ubuntu community – both commercial and personal – to shape that possibility and design that future; a world where Ubuntu runs on mobile phones, tablets, televisions and traditional PC’s, creating a world where content is instantly available on all devices, in a form that is delightful to use.

A constantly changing world

The way we access the Internet, connect to our friends, listen to music, watch films and go about our daily lives is rapidly evolving. We now use a diverse set of devices with an array of operating systems, which have a range of connectivity. Few people are exclusively loyal to a single technology provider.

Consider this quote from Paul Maritz of VMWare:

“Three years ago over 95 percent of the devices connected to the Internet were personal computers. Three years from now that number will probably be less than 20 percent. More than 80 percent of the devices connected to the Internet will not be Windows-based personal computers.” Paul Maritz, 29 August 2011 VM World Keynote.

Make no mistake – just as the world is changing for manufacturers so is it changing for Linux distributions. Today, 70% of people in Egypt access the Internet solely via the phone. Even in the US that figure is a startling 25%.

Ubuntu is well positioned

Ubuntu will thrive in this new reality.

Our established collaboration with the silicon vendors that are driving this converging market are critical. Intel, ARM and AMD will make the chip-sets that will power this future and Ubuntu works with all of them on all technologies.

Our engagement with the PC market will help bring the results of this work to a huge audience – partnerships with the likes of Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo, Acer, IBM, Vodafone and more are a gateway to users who want continuous, connected, cross-device computing.

We are determined to bring more free software to more people around the world, and building that future hand in hand with device manufacturers is the best way to do it. There is no winner in place yet. This opportunity remains wide open, but only to products that deliver excellent experiences for users, across a full range of device categories.

The investment we have already made in the interface accommodates the touch scenarios required in some form factors and, with a little love and attention, will work equally well in mouse, keyboard or stylus-driven environments. Ubuntu will not be restricted to small screen or large screen environments but encompasses both and all the form factors in between. We will see our work on the Ubuntu platform land in a variety of formats current and yet to be invented. It is without doubt the most exciting phase in the history of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu One and the software centre

Ubuntu’s personal cloud and app centre services are appropriate for all these environments. They deliver the required storage, syncing and sharing capabilities that are not just a convenience but a requirement as we move to a universe where content is increasingly shared but the devices that access them become more diverse. Ubuntu One’s support for other OSes show the ability of Ubuntu to play nice with others, recognising that the divergence is strength.  It allows users to choose the devices they prefer but still delivering the benefits of Ubuntu-centred strategy.

The next steps

We are describing this at UDS to energize the entire Ubuntu ecosystem around this challenge. Canonical will provide the heavy lifting needed to put us in the ball park, but there are opportunities for participation, contribution and engagement by all elements of the broader Ubuntu community, both corporate and individual.

Our developers, our partners’ developers and the broader open source development community share this opportunity. There is a great deal to discuss, and an array of strands we need to pull together at UDS. But the direction is clear and the prize is great – to bring more free software to more people in more delightful ways than ever before.

Automated deployment of Ubuntu with Orchestra

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

 

Orchestra is one of the most exciting new capabilities in 11.10. It provides automated installation of Ubuntu across sets of machines. Typically, it’s used by people bringing up a cluster or farm of servers, but the way it’s designed makes it very easy to bring up rich services, where there may be a variety of different kinds of nodes that all need to be installed together.

There’s a long history of tools that have been popular at one time or another for automated installation. FAI is the one I knew best before Orchestra came along and I was interested in the rationale for a new tool, and the ways in which it would enhance the experience of people building clusters, clouds and other services at scale. Dustin provided some of that in his introduction to Orchestra, but the short answer is that Orchestra is savvy to the service orchestration model of Juju, which means that the intelligence distilled in Juju charms can easily be harnessed in any deployment that uses Orchestra on bare metal.

What’s particularly cool about THAT is that it unifies the new world of private cloud with the old approach of Linux deployment in a cluster. So, for example, Orchestra can be used to deploy Hadoop across 3,000 servers on bare metal, and that same Juju charm can also deploy Hadoop on AWS or an OpenStack cloud. And soon it should be possible to deploy Hadoop across n physical machines with automatic bursting to your private or favourite public cloud, all automatically built in. Brilliant. Kudos to the conductor :-)

Private cloud is very exciting – and with Ubuntu 11.10 it’s really easy to set up a small cloud to kick the tires, then scale that up as needed for production. But there are still lots of reasons why you might want to deploy a service onto bare metal, and Orchestra is a neat way to do that while at the same time preparing for a cloud-oriented future, because the work done to codify policies or practices in the physical environment should be useful immediately in the cloud, too.

For 12.04 LTS, where supporting larger-scale deployments will be a key goal, Orchestra becomes a tool that every Ubuntu administrator will find useful. I bet it will be the focus of a lot of discussion at UDS next week, and a lot of work in this cycle.

Cloudy prognosis for mainframes

Monday, October 24th, 2011

The death of the mainframe is about as elusive as the year of the Linux desktop. But cloud computing might finally present a terminal opportunity, so to speak, to those stalwarts of big business computing, by providing a compelling answer to the twin stories of reliability and throughput that have always been highlights of the big iron pitch.

Advocates of big iron talk about reliability. But with public clouds, we’re learning how to build services that achieve very high levels of reliability despite having low individual node reliability. It doesn’t matter if a single node in the cloud fails – cloud-style architectures route around that damage and keep the overall service available. Just as we dial storage reliability up or down by designing RAID arrays for the right balance of performance and resilience to failure, you can dial service reliability up or down in the cloud by allowing for redundancy. That comes at a price, of course, but the price of an extra 9 is substantially lower when you tackle it cloud-style than when you try and achieve it on a single piece of hardware.

The other big strength of big iron was always throughput. Customers will pay for it, so mainframe vendors were always happy to oblige them. But again, it’s hard to beat the throughput of a Hadoop cluster, and even harder to scale the throughput of a mainframe as cost-effectively as one can scale a private cloud infrastructure underneath Hadoop.

I’m not suggesting insurance companies will throw away their mainframes. They’re working, they’re paid for, so they’ll stick around. But the rapid adoption of cloud-based architectures is going to make it very difficult to consolidate future IT onto mainframes (something that happened in every prior generation) and is also going to reduce the incentive for doing so in the first place. After 20 years of imminent irrelevance, there’s finally a real reason to think their time is up.

Precision Planning; Prepping for 12.04 LTS

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

In just over a week, quite a large cross-section of the Ubuntu community and representatives from many free software projects and companies will gather in Orlando to map out the Precise Pangolin. Now’s the time to prepare for the event, with 11.10 out (well done everybody!) and the key infrastructure slotting into place.

Figuring out the optimal balance of goals is the work of the summit, but we can lay out some over-arching themes that have been in progress during this meta-cycle and come to their full fruition in the LTS release. We can also remind ourselves of the ways in which an LTS is different, and the impact that will have on our choices in Orlando.

Being an LTS

As Dustin pointed out, this is the fourth Ubuntu LTS release, and as such it needs to carry on, and entrench, the reputation of the LTS as a carrier-grade platform for mission-critical server deployments and large scale desktop deployments. That means:

  • Adjusting the cycle to allocate more time for resolving issues
  • Introducing minimal new infrastructure or platform-visible change
  • Goal-driven and continuously benchmarked programs of action around performance
  • First-class accessibility for those with special interaction needs
  • Enablement and certification of the sorts of hardware people will deploy at scale and in the datacenter
Rick Spencer and his team have put some thought into one of the critical challenges that LTS releases face, which is the need to support newer hardware over a longer period of time. Traditionally, Linux distributions have tried to prioritize items to backport, but that puts the stability of known-good configurations very much at risk. Rick will outline the strategy we’ll adopt for this at UDS, which I think makes the most out of the work done for every release of Ubuntu.

Carrier-grade Cloud Infrastructure and Guest

Ubuntu is the #1 OS for cloud computing, whether you measure it by the number of instances running on all the major public clouds, the number of Ubuntu-based cloud appliances, the number of public and private clouds running on Ubuntu host OS. The extraordinary diversity of the Ubuntu community, the calibre of collaboration between Ubuntu and OpenStack, and the focused efforts of Canonical to make Ubuntu useful in the cloud have all contributed to that position. In 12.04 LTS we must deliver:

  • world’s best cloud infrastructure powered by OpenStack’s corresponding major release
  • perfect support for cloud-oriented hardware from Canonical’s partner IHV’s
  • a great hybrid-cloud story, for those using a mixture of private and public clouds
  • world’s best guest OS on AWS, Rackspace and other public cloud infrastructures
A key focus is making it easy to bootstrap and manage services across public, private and hybrid clouds, and Juju charms are the magic by which we’re flattening all those cloud substrates and bringing devops practices into the Ubuntu administrator toolbox. Those who attended the recent OpenStack Summit will have caught the buzz around Juju, which brings APT-like semantics to cloud service deployments. There’s a rapidly growing collection of Juju charms which define common services and allow you to get started immediately on all the major public and private cloud infrastructures; I keep hearing how clean and easy it is to charm a new piece of software for cloud deployment so I’m sure both the number of charms and charmers will grow exponentially.
Right now Juju charms can be deployed on bare-metal farms of hardware with no virtualisation, such as Hadoop or Condor compute clusters, Amazon’s public cloud infrastructure, Ubuntu’s OpenStack-based cloud infrastructure, and on the developer workstation using LXC containers so developers can use charms locally which are then re-used by administrators deploying to the cloud. I think there are Juju contributors working on support for a few other cloud infrastructures too, it will be interesting to see what lands by 12.04.

Pangolin-worthy Server Release

We have a proud heritage from Debian which 12.04 LTS needs to celebrate and maintain; although we have some key advantages for enterprises deploying Ubuntu over Debian in our ability to enable some additional security features in the Linux kernel and toolchain, as well as support, certification and assurance, the lean-mean-green-machine nature of the Ubuntu Server experience owes much to Debian’s focus on quality and precision.

12.04 will be the first LTS to support the ARM architecture on selected ARM SoC parts. In a world where computational density is increasingly prioritized over single-thread performance, the entry of ARM to the server market is a very interesting shift. Ubuntu has established a very strong competence in ARM and I think the 12.04 LTS release will power a new generation of power-focused hardware for the data centre.

Pixel-perfect desktop

The nail-biting transitions to Unity and Gnome 3 are behind us, so this cycle is an opportunity to put perfection front and center. We have a gorgeous typeface that was designed for readability, which is now available in Light and Medium as well as Regular and Bold, and has a Mono variant as well. That’s an opportunity to work through the whole desktop interface and make sure we’re using exactly the right weight in each place, bringing the work we’ve been doing for several cycles fully into focus.

We also need to do justice to the fact that 12.04 LTS will be the preferred desktop for many of the world’s biggest Linux desktop deployments, in some cases exceeding half a million desktops in a single institution. So 12.04 is also an opportunity to ensure that our desktop is manageable at scale, that it can be locked down in the ways institutions need, and that it can be upgraded from 10.04 LTS smoothly as promised. Support for multiple monitors will improve, since that’s a common workplace requirement.

During UDS we’ll build out the list of areas for refinement, polish and ‘precisioneering’, but the theme for all of this work is one of continuous improvement; no new major infrastructure, no work on pieces which are not design-complete at the conclusion of the summit.

While there are some remaining areas we’d like to tweak the user experience, they will probably be put on hold so we can focus on polish, performance and predictability. I’d like to improve the user experience around Workspaces for power users, and we’ll publish our design work for that, but I think it would be wisest for us to defer that unless we get an early and effective contribution of that code.

It’s going to be a blast in Orlando, as UDS always manages to bring together a fantastic crowd. And it’s going to be a beautiful, memorable release of Ubuntu in April 2012!

Welcoming the new Community Council

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Congratulations to those elected to the 2011-2013 CC, and thanks both to those who were willing to serve and all of those who participated in the poll. We’ll use the results of the poll should we need to fill in for any members who cannot for any reason complete their two year term.

This is an important CC, as I think there is an opportunity to develop a response to the challenge thrown down recently, which is to give *purpose* to community leadership in the project.

Every role has purpose in its own context; those who set out to achieve a goal, like producing complete server documentation, or moderating a difficult mailing list (you know who you are ;-)) or translating a work into a new language, have no trouble identifying their purpose. And there are essentially no limits on the goals one can set for oneself in the project; we have community members engaged in pretty much everything we do.

Nevertheless, there has been a shift in the nature of the project, and that shift is not yet fully reflected in community leadership. Specifically, our mission has shifted from being defined by integration-and-delivery, to one that includes design and development as well as integration and delivery.

When we started, we said we would deliver the world’s free software, on a tightly integrated and free basis, on a cadence. We made some choices about defaults, but broadly left it up to others to define what ‘the software’ would do.

After doing that for several years, it became clear to me that limiting ourselves to that pattern meant we were leaving it to others to decide if we could really deliver an alternative to proprietary platforms for modern computing. We were doing a lot of work, which was not recognised by some of the projects we were supporting heavily, and still treading water when it came to the real fight for hearts and minds, against Windows, against MacOS, and against Android. So, even though it was clearly going to be a difficult choice, we set out to grow the contribution Canonical makes directly to the body of open source. We said we’d be design-led, and we’d focus on the areas that matter most to pioneer adopters; the free software desktop, mobile computing, and the cloud.

The result is work like Unity, uTouch, and Juju. I’m proud of all three, I think they are worthy bannermen in our effort to bring free software to a much wider audience, and I think without them we would have no chance of fixing bug #1.

At the same time, we’ve now created a whole new dimension to Ubuntu: the design and definition of products, essentially. And that begs the question: what’s the community role in defining and designing those products.

We haven’t taken a step backwards. It’s not as though there are responsibilities that have been taken away from anybody. It’s just that we’ve taken on some bolder, bigger challenges, and community folk rightly say “how can we be part of that?” And that’s an interesting question, which the new CC will be in a good position to discuss with me and Jono.

It’s not healthy to offer the ability to vote for money. Nobody should feel they have a right to decide how someone else spends their time or money. But I do think the relationship between Canonical and community is as important now as ever, and there is an opportunity to break new ground. Ubuntu represents the best chance GNU/Linux has to bring free software to the foreground of everyday computing. I have no doubt of that. After us, it’s Android, and that’s not quite the same. So our interests are all very aligned; there is a huge opportunity, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to use what we know and love in a way that changes millions of lives for the better.

Community Council nominations and poll

Friday, October 7th, 2011

It’s governance season here at Ubuntu. Next up, we’re polling all Ubuntu project members for a view on preferred candidates for the Community Council, our most senior board responsible for all community governance. The CC delegates their authority on membership and leadership to a whole range of boards, so electing a team which understands the diversity of the project is very important, and electing a team which can in turn pick good leaders for key aspects of the project is vital to our long term health.

The following folk have expressed a willingness to serve on the Council, and are nominated by me to do so. Daniel Holbach has kindly setup a CIVS poll and all Ubuntu members should have received an invitation to cast their ballot. For interest, the candidates are:

The poll will run for only a week, so please do head over there and make your preferences known!

P is for…

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

It’s a perennial pleasure to pick pertinent and/or pithy placeholder names for Ubuntu releases. At least, I like to think of them as pertinent and/or pithy. I’ve had diverse feedback, shall we say. Nevertheless, it’s now a tradition, and it’s a pressing priority as we approach the release of Oneiric.

So, what will be our mascot for 12.04 LTS?

The letter P is pretty perfect. It’s also plentiful – my inbox has been rather full of suggestions – and we have options ranging from pacific to purposeful, via puckish and prudent. We’ll steer clear of the posh and the poncey, much as some would revel in the Portentious Palomino or the Principled Paca, those aren’t the winning names. Having spent the last six months elucidating the meaning of “oneiric” I think it might also be worth skipping the parenthetical or paralogical options too; so sadly I had to exclude the Perspicacious Panda and Porangi Packhorse (though being an LTS, that Packhorse was a near thing).

Being generally of a cheerful nature, I thought we’d avoid the Predatory Panther and Primeval Possum. Neither sounds like great company for a seven year journey, really. Same goes for the Peccable Peccary, Pawky Python and Perfidious Puku. So many bullets to dodge round here!

We’re looking for something phonetic, something plausible and something peaceful too. We’ll avoid the petulant, the pestilent, the phlegmy (phooey!), the parochial, the palliative and the psychotic. We’re aiming for mildly prophetic, and somewhat potent, without wanting to be all pedantic and particular. Phew.

So, what might work?

There are lots of lovely candidates. I have a fondness for phat. The Phat Platypus has a can-do kind of ring to it, but I don’t think it’ll fly.

I also like punchy and perky (the Perky Penguin is a nice nostalgic option) and persistent (better than permanent, peerless or penultimate) and playful and plucky and poised. Others like prescient and peaceable and pervasive (!) and pivotal. Pukka rings a nice old-world bell, but it’s possibly pejorative.

As you can see, it’s been something of a challenge to get this right.

Let’s ask the question differently – what are we trying to convey? 12.04 is an LTS. So we want it to be tough and long-lasting, reliable, solid as a rock and well defended. It’s also going to be the face of Ubuntu for large deployments for a long time, so we want it to have no loose ends, we want it to be coherent, neat.

We’ve told the story of the cloud in previous releases, and that comes to fruition in 12.04 with the first LTS that supports both the cloud guest, and cloud infrastructure, across ARM and x86 architectures. We’ve also told the story of Unity in previous releases, and that comes to fruition in a fast, lean interface that works well across clients both thick and thin. 12.04 is going to be a lot more than all that, but for the full reveal, you’ll need to wait till UDS! Nevertheless, we can take reliability, precision, and polish as a given.

Balancing all of those options, I think we have just the right mix in our designated mascot for 12.04 LTS. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Precise Pangolin.

Now, I’ve recently spent a few hours tracking a pangolin through the Kalahari. I can vouch for their precision – there wasn’t an ant hill in the valley that he missed. Their scales are a wonder of detail and quite the fashion statement. I can also vouch for their toughness; pangolin’s regularly survive encounters with lions. All in all, a perfect fit. There’s no sassier character, and no more cheerful digger, anywhere in those desert plains. If you want a plucky partner, the pangolin’s your match. Let’s pack light for a wonderful adventure together. See you in Orlando!