Raring community skunkworks

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Mapping out the road to 13.04, there are a few items with high “tada!” value that would be great candidates for folk who want to work on something that will get attention when unveiled. While we won’t talk about them until we think they are ready to celebrate, we’re happy to engage with contributing community members that have established credibility (membership, or close to it) in Ubuntu, who want to be part of the action.

This would provide early community input and review, without spoiling the surprise when we think the piece is ready. It would allow community members to work on something that will be widely covered at release (at least, on OMG ;-))

The skunkworks approach has its detractors. We’ve tried it both ways, and in the end, figured out that critics will be critics whether you discuss an idea with them in advance or not. Working on something in a way that lets you refine it till it feels ready to go has advantages: you can take time to craft something, you can be judged when you’re ready, you get a lot more punch when you tell your story, and you get your name in lights (though not every headline is one you necessarily want ;)).

So, we thought we would extend the invitation to people who trust us and in whom we have reason to trust, to work together on some sexy 13.04 surprises. The projects range from webby (javascript, css, html5) to artistic (do you obsess about kerning and banding) to scientific (are you a framerate addict) to glitzy (pixel shader sherpas wanted) to privacy-enhancing (how is your crypto?) to analytical (big daddy, big brother, pick your pejorative). But they all make the Ubuntu experience better for millions of users, they are all groundbreaking in free software, they will all result in code under the GPL (or an existing upstream license if they are extensions to existing projects). No NDA’s needed but we will need to trust you not to talk in your sleep ;). We’ll also need to trust you to write code that is thorough and tested, stuff you’ll be as proud of as we are of the rest of the Ubuntu experience. Of course.

There’s also plenty going on that doesn’t warrant the magician’s reveal. But if you are game for a bit of the spotlight, bring some teflon and ping Michael Hall at mhall119 on Freenode.

45 Responses to “Raring community skunkworks”

  1. Antony Williams Says:

    There’s no question that 16.04 will switch from upstart to systemd.
    The question on everyone’s minds is, will systemd make it into 14.04. If so, that would require switching over now (13.04). I hope so 🙂

  2. Shahar Or Says:

    Niiiiiiice! That is very welcoming, inviting and tempting!

    Thank you, Mark!

  3. obrowny Says:

    Is it the end of ubuntu for android and the beginning of ubuntu for mobile?
    cool !

  4. James Hunt Says:

    @Antony – What rationale would you give for changing such a fundamental piece of proven infrastructure now? What compelling feature do you think Upstart is lacking? Please feel free to raise a bug with your views so we can consider them.

  5. Xubuntu 12.10, Copenhagen and codenames « It's free. Says:

    […] see the blog article by Mark about the codename for R: Raring Ringtail. Though I really think that Roaring Rabbit would have been better. I wonder if flavors can have […]

  6. Mark Russell Says:

    Antony, that’s some juicy news on 16.04, who or what is your source? 😉

  7. Jimbo Says:

    Am I right in thinking Ubuntu still has no Anti-aliasing on window corners? Please for the love of all that is holy fix this in the next cycle. Its been bugging me for 6 years now.

  8. Bernardo Says:

    I am truly sad that guys at Ubuntu seem to forget Kant’s categorical imperative. This move weakens all other distros around, which will have to rush to get the new features from *buntu, instead of keeping upgrades in parallel to the more natural development in the “wild world”. Imagine what would happen if everyone in the ecosystem did the same! Kernel features, Graphical Toolkits, userspace utilities… all kept protected and secret until their flamboyant release. I don’t think this is a “community” spirit, when it starts having “privileged members”. It’s a happy day for 12.10, but this made me sad.

  9. Benjamin Kerensa Says:

    I would be interested in being involved in some of the cool behind the scenes projects.

  10. gokul Says:

    One of the enjoyable things was to watch the evolution of the work and see some of the interactions on launchpad … the whole process.

    How about making the changes available but ignoring the comments/criticisms from those who are not contributing, until it is OK?

  11. ubuntuuser Says:

    Hi Mark
    I think you are a great person and Ubuntu is awesome, the Previews are great

    I hope you are aware that there are other Ubuntu blogs in the world and I hope you won’t close the Ubuntu development on launchpad, allowing only OMG to see the new things and other blogers to be forced to quote from omg, rather than work hard, but working having fresh informations from launchpad

    you may be brilliant, but personally (I am just a regular person) I don’t believe in open projects based on closed communication

    bottom line, what is now with chinstrap/sabdfl is fine, but the main point that I kindly suggest is that what is open to be open for every blog, regardless of the number of visitors per day

  12. Richard Raseley Says:

    Mark, I have to say that this all seems a bit odd. I can understand not wanting to be defined by your detractors (or career naysayers) but this secretive approach seems somewhat contrary to both the explicit and implicit goals and values of Ubuntu (and Linux in general).

    What can you say in response to that? Are you worried that this will have a somewhat chilling effect on the larger Ubuntu community?

  13. Abdul Says:

    Arabic language in Ubuntu is not that good, I mean the interface, it’s unusable if I switched to Arabic, is there any plans to take interface languages seriously like make it supervised by college that teach Arabic for example!

    thanx for the beautiful OS.

  14. Jo-Erlend Schinstad Says:

    What is success? Some will measure in market share. I do not. I’ve seen enough systems to know what good is. 12.04 was almost. There were a few major flaws that should’ve been fixed in time for release, but all of them were done well in time for .1. 12.04 is a great success and 12.10 is not something you desperately need, which is a very good thing. I can’t focus much on 12.10, R or even S. But if I’m still around for it, I’ll spend all my time on the T-cycle, because that’s when XP-users are going to have to choose between Windows and Ubuntu. And that’s the fight we are going to win. That also means that the next two cycles must be compacted, because we’ll have no time to wait for first dot with the next LTS. That one must be _finished_ in early April. I hope we’ll be able to adjust to the platform stability of 12.04 and stop promoting tweens to newbies.

    I strongly object to Ubuntu.com advertising 12.10. It makes _everything_ more difficult and gains nothing. It is, quite simply, wrong.

  15. Richard Says:

    Ground-breaking new features! Buttons moved back and unity dock actually usable!

  16. lz83 Says:

    Sad. I prefer an open development process. That’s what got me interested in open source.

  17. Aaron Christianson Says:

    It seems like this mean that the “wow” factor features will have fewer testers. This doesn’t seem wise. Is it?

    I want to say ‘wow’ in a good way…

  18. Bart willemsen Says:

    Sounds exciting! Really wonder what these projects will be. I hope it also has something to do with the icon theme (Rumours about changing them go with every cycle since 11.04..), the sound theme (Wasn’t there a competition not too long ago where the winner’s sounds would make it to Ubuntu?).

    @richard: The Unity dock is quiet usable already (at least, I don’t really miss any features in 12.10..) and the buttons on the left thingie didn’t botter me at all since I started Ubuntu with the 10.04 release.

  19. Jasna Benčić Says:


    You wrote that “there’s also plenty going on that doesn’t warrant the magician’s reveal.”

    What will stay open? Will people be able to join in Ubuntu segments like now (mailing list, asking how they can get involved etc…)?

    Which segments will be closed if I click on the following link http://www.ubuntu.com/community/

    Sorry for bothering you, but I would like to know 🙂

  20. Jasna Benčić Says:

    Just now I saw your new post. Got it (hopefully right). It’s becoming even more transparent which is extremly cool, especially for the people who want to gain more experience 🙂 (I include myself into that group)..

    Would also recommend others to join to the Ubuntu project as a volunteer. New experience one baby step at the time, new people, new projects. In one word AWESOME. I’ve been with UWN team for around 5 months and it has been and still is quite an experiencing journey. (If Elizabeth sees this -> Thanks Lyz million times for the opportunity to join you 🙂

    And of course – thanks Mark for Ubuntu and such a great community you’ve managed to gather around.

  21. nowardev Says:

    mark your point of view could have some good things but i guess you should realize that a good ui and a good kernel is nothing if you don’t get this stuff :

    nice video software
    nice audio software
    nice photo software
    nice syncronization software for multidevice
    nice contact \ addressbook software
    Nice tv software

    what is there ?

    we have not a good very good video editor with plugins
    we have not a very good photo editor , gimp is a joke in usability i mean
    audio editor well here the situation is better
    syncronization is a joke in ubuntu
    ubuntu tv was a good things , (sadly they have switched to some horrible toolkit instead to be with qt )

    so you can create what you want Ui launcher but still you have a system that users will not use. because today people are video editors and photo sharers they want share photos they have multiple devices so they need syncro-softwares and finally they are gamers.

    UNTILL there is no games and good software ubuntu will not gain user.

    so why you don’t focus on those softwares ? for example ubuntu-tv was a good step

    i will tell you i use kde , why? because i am free to use the software like i want I do not have to adapt to the system but the system suits me, otherwise i would buy a mac

    and i will tell you that i use kde in windows 🙂 and if i will use mac i guess i will install kde even in mac because i am used to kde software i like its features and mainly i want use the same sofware in every device i have

    my 2 cents!

  22. FreeRangeRadical Says:

    I really have to agree with nowardev that until there are seamless video and photo programs, Ubuntu will lag behind OS X and Windows. I keep seeing people reference Windows as a goal, but I think that’s backwards thinking; I believe that Ubuntu should target OS X – the Apple-experience in general – rather than Windows. That said, Windows 8 may be a game changer for them.

    I love Ubuntu. I’m a relative newbie having come to Ubuntu from Vista at the Maverick distro. I have faith that Ubuntu can be a much bigger player than it is right now, but I also believe that its success hinges on keeping an eye on the competition as a gauge of its own progress. I have a Macbook Air. I have a Samsung Series 9. The machines are comparable, but the user experience of OS X is superior to that of Windows, and I know I’m preaching to the choir in saying that. So my point is to look at market share before anything else and in that regard, OS X is Ubuntu’s real competition. Trying to grab a piece of the 94%-Windows pie before eating a slice of OS X seems counterintuitive. Shooting for the Apple brand first also means that you’re shooting for the better operating system and user experience first.

    I’ve heard, and have seen, that Windows 8 will be a vastly different OS. But how many times have we heard that the newest Windows OS was going to be a game changer?

  23. mark Says:

    @Jasna – of course, there is no change to what we have always done, which is entirely transparent. I’m simply inviting trusted community members to participate in work that traditionally would NOT have been open till it was ready. This is, I think, arguably a very good thing, and more than one gets at any other Linux company.

  24. mark Says:


    The process is becoming more open, not less. There are always things people work on in private and land before feature freeze. I’m inviting trusted members of the community to participate in some of the things *we* do that way. The rest is unchanged.

  25. Jasna Benčić Says:


    Thanks for the answer 🙂

    This is getting way more cool than I’m even aware of it 🙂

    Thanks 🙂

  26. IndianArt Says:

    Great job Mark!

    Thanks 🙂

  27. faycel Says:

    Good thinking mark Linux needs more professional looking software.
    Thanks and great job 🙂

  28. mark Says:

    @gokul, I was referring only to work that was in the past done without any external engagement at all. Your enjoyment of Ubuntu’s development will be undiminished, and if anything, some folk will get to be on the inside on things they would not previously have been able to consult on.

  29. mark Says:


    I am proposing *less* secrecy, not more. We will invite community members in to discuss and consider and shape things that we would previously have done internally only. I trust you’ll agree that’s a good thing.

  30. Mike Braniff Says:

    Normally I am very open to change, I also believe ‘he pays the piper calls the tune’. I accept that Mark has the right to do with Ubuntu as he sees best fits his aims.

    However, I cannot help thinking that future changes and initiatives will only reach the wider audience when they are a fait accompli. This will take Ubuntu in a new direction the success of which, time will tell. My only hope that in the end reviews of process are done and if the direction needs altering ego does not prevent this.

    Times that are interesting are times worth watching and participating in.

  31. Richard Raseley Says:


    Thank you for the clarification – it wasn’t immediately clear to me that you were talking about moving things out from behind the “wall” vs. putting things that were open behind it.

  32. Aleve Sicofante Says:

    Since it seems everybody understood exactly the opposite you were trying to say, why not rewrite this confusing post?

    PS: I’m with nowardev too. Sure Unity and the whole UX has to be refined and developed forever, but isn’t it about time to have some proper basic apps to make the base system actually useful? Besides what others have mentioned, I’m talking about a single user-wide contacts app that can be used across every app that needs contacts (mail, social, etc.), a proper calendar, a better designed e-mail client (put some money on Yorba, for instance). However, the most important app in these days of mobile computing: S-Y-N-C-I-N-G. Proper syncing to everything: Symbian, Android, iOS, WP, Meego, WebOS, the cloud of course. Just everything. There are already standards out there. Use them. Make the connection between the Ubuntu desktop and the mobile world happen AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

  33. Jasna Benčić Says:

    No need to rewrite it, there’s another post where everything is clear 🙂

    I’m speculating what confused people… Here’s what confused me when I first read it…

    “So, we thought we would extend the invitation to people who trust us and in whom we have reason to *trust*”

    “No NDA’s needed but we will need to *trust* you not to talk in your sleep. We’ll also need to *trust* you to write code that is thorough and tested, stuff you’ll be as proud of as we are of the rest of the Ubuntu experience.”

    So word *trust* got me, and I’m speculating, others into trouble called misunderstanding 🙁

    You see, you can’t *trust* a complete stranger but people you already work with… I know I wouldn’t… So there you go 🙂

    Sorry 🙂

    And the last sentences..

    “Of course. There’s also plenty going on that doesn’t warrant the magician’s reveal.”

    This really sounded like it is closing.

    Ah well… That’s the magic of writing… People will understand post as they will…Internet is even harder place to write because everything can be misunderstood even easier than when you are writing something on a piece of a paper…

  34. MattiK Says:

    @Jasna and Mark:

    “I strongly object to Ubuntu.com advertising 12.10. It makes _everything_ more difficult and gains nothing. It is, quite simply, wrong”

    I do agree. If I understand right, resources are limited and advertising lower quality limited support software doesn’t make sense. And what about ISVs? They want clear target. If people download the 12.10 version and use that, it is difficult to ISVs to support every version.

    And how about end users? How they perceive these 6 months upgrades? Well, those versions are buggy, and they change the system behaviour. In fact, they break stuff. End user perceive that guys just break their own product.

    Software should work predictable. It should work as expected or promised, and what worked before works should now. On release, the system should contain minimal software bugs, requiring a limited number of predictable updates.

    I wish that LTS releases are targetted to end users and production, and rest of the releases are named something like “preview” releases. These should not advertised suitable to end users, and it is ok to cut of the support of these “preview” releases after new release is done. Now there is 3 years of extra parallel support for those buggy and crappy “preview” versions between LTS releases while that resource can be used to maintenance applications used in LTS releases.

    The truth is that software quality, I mean the quality of the software what people use every day, increases all the time. This also directly affects expectations to the software quality. While peoples upgrade 12.04 LTS to 12.10 “preview” release, they easily perceive quality drop and that is not good.

    Mark, please don’t get me wrong. I like Ubuntu, and think that while Apple falls its own impossibility and Microsoft falls its own stupidity, I see Ubuntu to be left one of those rare OS products which are good in end user desktop use. So, use the opportunity to roll open platform to more widespread use!

    I really like to see Ubuntu in operating system market something like what Wikipedia is in encyclopedias. That preview release advertising and supporting is something which seems to be too much targetted for those who have propel in their cap.

  35. Jasna Benčić Says:


    I agree about end users till some point – they can be blown away because they just want that it works and nothing less, nothing more. (Not all of them 😉

    There’s more… at least that’s how I see it..

    If Canonical doesn’t *point out* a normal/test release then tell me how much of a feedback (which is cruical) would they get?

    I suggest that you watch some of the UDS videos (ones where Mark has his keynotes) and you will see why it is so important to push normal releases as well … for example this video might help http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjyNTCHVyxs

    I would do the same what Mark is doing because if I want to perfect something and if I want to see how my target users see it then I have to give them that product to test it…

    I can relate that with the project that I’m working on…I am creating educating materials in the field of Informatics and when they’ll be done, I have to give them to students to test them, to review them, to try to study from them…That feedback is cruical for me so I could improve materials so students could learn from them with ease one day…. and this also is an endless job because there is always a place for improvement…

    Same thing is with Ubuntu.. Canonical has to give test releases out so they could get feedback from users and then they can really improve it…I think that’s what really brings people to Ubuntu because everything is open…Now it will be even more open…Yes it will be more demanding for Canonical, risky, challenging. From the other side it is a brave and a good approach..Everything for the better product because end users are still main target of Canonical..

    It’s just like you would do a research… the bigger sample of people, the better picture you have…

  36. MattiK Says:


    “If Canonical doesn’t *point out* a normal/test release then tell me how much of a feedback (which is cruical) would they get?”

    “I would do the same what Mark is doing because if I want to perfect something and if I want to see how my target users see it then I have to give them that product to test it…”

    Well, I understand very well that there is large community of users to give feedback and they like to use bleeding edge technology. Ubuntu’s roots are in this community.

    However, proportion of the population who like to use this kind of technology are however small, less than 10%. It maybe even less than 5%. Those people who doesn’t like to use bleeding edge technology, will get scabs to their asses if they do mistake and use it. On third of the people don’t even understand what we discuss.

    So, if they are giving then feedback, it is something like “this peace of s*it doesn’t work!”. It is much easier if next to download button there is some warning text and picture like this http://www.displaycostume.com/store/files/images/large/007345.jpg and put in the desktop some feedback button and other similar utilities that it is clear to everyone what is the purpose of these releases.

    Red Hat has one solution to the problem. They use different branding in their bleeding edge releases. I think that was good decision, ISVs know where to target their software and developers know where to get latest toys and IT managers can test what is coming near future.

    In Ubuntu, separation of these releases should be more clear. While it is fun to develop new stuff, most of the people use old software versions and for them, it is important that these continue work because they are invested time (and usually money) for computer systems.

    “I think that’s what really brings people to Ubuntu because everything is open…”

    Yes, this aspect brings me to Ubuntu user.

    Mark talks in his keynotes that he like to see stronger community based open source ecosystem, and I like too. What it needs that this dream come true, is to change those things that prevent this to happen. I see that the major obstacles are that there are isn’t enough clear assurances to backward compatibility and the main interfaces are not defined clearly. “Developer freedom” is great thing but ISVs like to know when their software is expected to break. Other obstacle is that end users and probably some IT managers and developers too doesn’t know what is their target.

    After these are done right, it is time to think that is there any legal obstacles to use open platfrom in some specific systems. Good example is something like medical devices, or even devices that stores medical data. You just can’t put any software there you like. Fixing obstacles like that gives credibility to platform (and attract more developers!) and put software development to right track, which is that improving development process and assurances is the thing what gives better quality.

  37. Dag Wieers Says:

    So what if you don’t like the critical voice that is distracting your followers ? Just get rid of it during development by closing development and release when “it is done”. Sounds nice, like proprietary products are nice. Either they work perfectly well, or more often, they suck and won’t sell. Since Ubuntu is not selling anything, this will work out great !

    Another job well done for Ubuntu ! Booh to all you cynics…

  38. MattiK Says:

    “Just get rid of it during development by closing development and release when “it is done”.”

    While there is large community doing work, it needs coordination and time based releases are ok for that. However, approach what OpenBSD folks are using may be better. I’m not sure what disadvantages they have.

    Ubuntu’s approach disadvantage is that there is a lot of bugs in release time. I’ve done 12.04 LTS installations and used it but I avoid 10.04 LTS upgrades until there is 12.04.2 LTS image available for that reason.

  39. Jasna Benčić Says:


    This discussion is great…so far 😉

    Considering your thoughts…. Now I have a lot of questions in my head 🙂

    1. If they strongly point out on a download page *this release is for testing this release is for usage* what changes would this bring?

    2. Would this change decrease number of potential users or decrease ?

    3. How would that change affect people if you are looking it from the psychology side?

    3. Is it possible that vendors are not aware what Canonical offers e.g. what types of a release?

    4. What is the real percentage of people that don’t use *latest technology*? (Really 10 % or this is just a speculation 🙂

    I don’t know answers on these questions because I don’t see the whole picture… There is still a lot for me to learn about Ubuntu and how Canonical is working that I would be in a position to suggest stuff… I can only speak my mind here..My thoughts/suggestions can be good or bad….

  40. Jasna Benčić Says:

    Sorry on a wrong numeration…pressed the submit button to fast 😀

  41. MattiK Says:

    “1. If they strongly point out on a download page *this release is for testing this release is for usage* what changes would this bring?”

    -Feedback is coming from people who are really intrested to give feedback.
    -ISVs can target their applications to LTS release without worrying middle versions
    -It is easier for support if majority of people are using same versions.
    -People don’t feel that they are tricked to be guinea pigs of unfinished product.

    “2. Would this change decrease number of potential users or decrease ?”

    Better reputation usually is a positive thing.

    “3. How would that change affect people if you are looking it from the psychology side?”

    I didn’t get what you mean.

    “3. Is it possible that vendors are not aware what Canonical offers e.g. what types of a release?”


    “4. What is the real percentage of people that don’t use *latest technology*? (Really 10 % or this is just a speculation :)”

    According to Microsoft survey, 90% of their customers don’t like to change default applications etc. modifications on their system environment. This gives an indication how people use computers.. I see at work how people use software which is written (and compiled!) two decades ago and I give support for them. They are invested lot of money and time to their computer systems and it is important that their system works. That is the product which is delivered to end user and that should work and supported.

    Of course they are looking how technology develops but it is second priority until they invest and start using it.

    So, 10% is propably overestimated who use latest bleeding edge technology. Maybe 5% is more accurate.

  42. Jasna Benčić Says:


    Thanks for your answers/aspect on my questions 🙂

    [My Question/Explanation]
    *3. How would that change affect people if you are looking it from the psychology side?*

    “I didn’t get what you mean.”

    What I meant is how would they feel or react if they see notification next to the download button about certain release ?

    You have to consider all possible users from regular to super users..Would that bother people? Would they decide not to run Ubuntu or run it? Would that make them go away or give it a try? Is it a distractor or not? Would they care really or not at all?

  43. MattiK Says:

    “What I meant is how would they feel or react if they see notification next to the download button about certain release ?”

    Well, if this is my decision, I put the LTS release download top of the page and advertise it, and then I put down to it other ad, something like “Testdrive 12.10 preview release, try it and give feedback! Your feedback is important, you are welcome join to build Ubuntu better.”

    Do not make things difficult to users. This way everyone knows what to get. Those who like to run those middle releases, they will anyway using latest release and upgrade almost same day when new release is out, so dont understand, why they need 18kk month support?

  44. Vladimir Paulino Says:

    I think that the infamous Bin Ladem, (excuseme for the comparison) made a big job changing the world with two hundred millions dollar..You sir, do have more than that.. You are doing great, but may be the structural way of thinking in the bussines of IT..its limitating you..You can do way more better..First you went to the space..now its time to take your project to the sky..but remember what Aistein said “we can’t expect different results doing the things in the SAME way”. This is not a calling to excentricity..but..to a more open creativity. The sources are not in the code, they are in common sense, elementary things..and philosofy.

    For me, Unity and Ubuntu are excellents work tools

  45. Chris Says:

    I hope these sexy surprises include making touchscreens work. I’ve been playing around with 12.10 on my new Samsung core i5 tablet, and I can tell you that Ubuntu (or any Linux distro) on a touch screen is an atrocious experience. No right clicking, left-clicking spontaneously stops working, screwy behaviour with OnBoard (especially with the Dash or with Firefox’s autocomplete dropdowns stealing focus), one-finger scrolling in Nautilus screws with the ability to select or open anything… I could fill up an entire new bug tracker for you!

    Windows 8 isn’t perfect, but Microsoft at least has the basics like these taken care of! It’s a much nicer experience despite being ripped between desktop and metro/tablet apps. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ubuntu and it’s the primary OS on my work machine, and I would love to call it the primary OS on my laptop/tablet. PLEASE make this a focus for 13.04.

    That is all.