The comings and goings of the partner repo

The comments in the previous post raised an interesting question about the Ubuntu/Canonical partner repository. What exactly is in it for the various releases? Did Zimbra ever get in? Well the repos are all publicly available so we can go see. Here are the contents of the partner repo from Dapper to Lucid. Caveats are that there could have been stuff in at a point in time that have subsequently been removed and Lucid is not released yet so the list there is rather more suspect than the others. I also don’t know when things were added to each distro, it could be that packages have been incrementally added to Hardy as it is the current Long Term Support release, maybe the Lucid list will grow over time, maybe a bunch of those Hardy packages will go in to Lucid as it is the next LTS release. What does it all mean? I don’t know. What do you think?

The Zimbra story is interesting. It isn’t in the list below, but as Jef Spaleta points out, the Zimbra desktop package for Hardy is in the pool. I, for one, am puzzled by this.

Dapper 6.06
Edgy 6.10
nothing at all
Feisty 7.04
nothing at all
Gutsy 7.10
nothing at all
Hardy 8.04
Intrepid 8.10
Jaunty 9.04
Karmic 9.10
Lucid 10.04

Dear Matt Asay,

It is great that you are now COO of the worlds leading Free Software company. We look forward to Canonical growing and changing over the next few years. Canonical has a world class management team, an epic engineering staff and the support of a huge and amazing community.

LONDON, February 5, 2010 – Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, announced today that open source industry veteran Matt Asay has joined the company as chief operating officer (COO) — responsible for aligning strategic goals and operational activities, the optimization of day-to-day operations, and leadership of Canonical marketing and back-office functions.

Part of your role appears to be figuring out how to help a Free Software company make money (monetise is not a great word). We don’t think “Open Core” is the right way. That might work for a proprietary company that just wants to leverage a community to do free marketing for them. We would like Canonical to be a Free Software company – and for it to make money.

Here are some ideas we think offer good potential for a reasonably quick return on investment.

Please take a long hard look at the partner ecosystem and programmes. There has been staggering amounts of effort put into community building around Ubuntu, but really not much of this has been directed at companies who want to support and participate in Ubuntu. There is no Launchpad group for partners. No mailing list. No IRC channel. There are just three other partners apart from ourselves in the UK. We would like to see lots of UK partners, and we would like to see them talking to each other; doing joint marketing events, subbing business out to each other as they run out of capacity to meet the growing market demands, you know the kind of thing. Creating a community of partners is one sure way to get your messages across faster and more consistently.

We’d like Canonical to produce more business-focussed events where you show off some of the cool things you and your customers are doing with Ubuntu like Landscape and the Eucalyptus private enterprise cloud. Talk about some of the amazing business-centric applications that run on Ubuntu like OpenERP, Asterisk, Alfresco etc. With a strong partner network getting bums-on-seats is less of a chore and you are more likely to get quality delegates too.

Please encourage and promote the whole “opportunistic developer” thing that is going on with Quickly, Launchpad and Ground Control. This is really fantastic stuff and could be a big differentiator. Our opportunity is to show businesses how:

  • They can use Quickly to develop internal applications hosted on launchpad and then with Ground Control they can empower all their staff to improve the tools they work with.
  • Quickly and Launchpad and the Ubuntu One CouchDB back end can be used to develop internal applications that work online and offline and share information between desktopcouchdb instances.
  • Quickly and CouchDB have all the security and authentication and workflow of Lotus Notes without the clunky UI widgets and general user interface direness. Couchdb can do that at the back end and Quickly/GTK can take care of the UI.

One last thing, get Alfresco back in the repositories. It was in the partner repo for 9.04 and was nearly great, just a few minor issues. In 9.10 and 10.04 it isn’t present. Simply not there. As it is in the partner repo and not one of the Canonical or community maintained repos there is very little we can do to help, much as we would like to. You know how great Alfresco is, you know how great Ubuntu is. They belong together. Jump up and down until it happens. If Canonical/Alfresco will commit to not putting it in the partner repo that is a perfectly acceptable alternative, it is GPL licensed Free Software, we will work with others in the community to get it in the Universe repo and maintain it there.

Good luck Matt, we very much look forward to working with you and Canonical over the coming years,

Alan Bell & Alan Lord
The Open Learning Centre

Sam Varghese Got It Wrong?

On the 10th of February I updated my original “Is Canonical becoming the new Microsoft?” post to make it clearer that what I was actually asking was about whether the company is becoming the next organisation that we love to hate because of the increasing level of criticism aimed at it and it’s flagship product Ubuntu.

Today, the 15th February, Sam Varghese has written about a conversation iTWire have had with Mark Shuttleworth regarding my original post. Unfortunately not only does he seem to have missed the point of that original post, but he also writes as though I was making an accusation or statement rather than asking a question:

“He was responding to queries from iTWire about a recent blog post that has claimed Canonical is becoming the new Microsoft.”

He goes on to list some of the points I made:

The blog post had listed a number of reasons why the writer thought Ubuntu was allegedly becoming the new Microsoft: the inclusion of Mono as a default; the creation of Ubuntu One, a proprietary software repository; removing the GIMP and other applications from Ubuntu; changing the default search engine to Yahoo!; discussion about what proprietary applications should be included in the Ubuntu repositories; and the appointment of Matt Asay as chief operating officer.

Please, let’s get this straight. I have noteworthy opinions on one or two of the points I mentioned, but that was not the point of the post. They were supposed to be taken as examples of a collection of decisions that are apparently, in various quarters, providing the fuel for an increase of criticism overall.

Personally I really am not bothered about the Gimp being removed (it is easy to install), nor from the UNR (I actually install the desktop edition on my netbook anyway), nor am I upset about Ubuntu One; it’s an interesting solution, I use it sometimes myself and I’m sure a Windows version will be most welcome by many around the globe. Neither am I bothered about the Yahoo search thing (If Canonical can get money from Microsoft then that’s just funny IMHO), and I was actually pleased about Matt Asay’s appointment; he will bring a wealth of commercial experience, a good dose of much needed sales & marketing skills to the operation and I’m sure much more besides.

Sam also didn’t mention any of this from my original post:

I really like Ubuntu. I use it everywhere, I help in the Ubuntu-uk irc channel when I can and we [our company] promote Ubuntu to our customers and I [as an individual] to friends and family.

What concerns me is not any particular item in the list above: some I care about, others I do not; as I am sure many of you will do too. It is the increasing volume of criticism and vitriol as a whole. It is getting louder. This, I believe, is indicative of a turning tide that, if we are not careful, will result in Ubuntu losing popularity and more of the FOSS community exercising it’s freedom.

I did not claim Canonical was becoming the new Microsoft. I asked if it might be. I also (admittedly not very clearly on my first pass) was interested in the reasons why Canonical/Ubuntu is getting more criticism directed at it at a time when it is becoming more successful and more important and was hoping to solicit some ideas and opinion as to how we could stop that increasing criticism and prevent what seems to be a fairly common occurrence with big and successful companies; we are even seeing it with Google now. Ubuntu/Canonical is built on very different principles to traditional commercial enterprises, so could we, as the community, come up with any ideas to prevent the “love-to-hate” syndrome?

I don’t read iTWire much. I only noticed this post from Sam as I had a couple of referred clicks to this blog today and was interested in where they were coming from.

Sam, your article paints me with a brush which I do not believe to be fair or accurate.

Follow-up post to Canonical Microsoft

Oh dear.

It seems as though I completely failed to make the point I was trying to make. Sorry.

With the question “Is Canonical becoming the new Microsoft?”, I was trying to ask if the overall level of “bad-karma” that is being directed toward Ubuntu/Canonical was potentially making it into the next entity that the world loves to hate? I wasn’t (as I did actually try to say) interested in the individual issues I listed, but the cumulative level of criticism which, as we all know, Microsoft gets in spades; even though they still manage to sell $20bn of crap software in a quarter.

Nor was I trying to ascertain if Canonical were becoming a global monopoly or an evil empire lead by a sad fat bastard called Steve. I really was just interested in the increasing level of criticism and if there is any likely parallel with firms like Microsoft who are successful (on a financial level at any rate) and yet are hated around the globe by almost everyone I ever speak to.

On a secondary note though, the overall quality of comments was great! The vast majority were well considered and articulated and didn’t turn me into a quivering wreck nor require me to don asbestos pants. Thanks!

Is Canonical Becoming The New Microsoft? [Updated]

[Update: It seems I made my point very badly. Please read this follow-up post where I try to explain what I was asking].

Whoah! Hold on everyone. Let me don my asbestos suit first will you.


Right then. I have been thinking about this post for some time and I think the time is probably right for pressing the old “publish” button.

I am not trying to incite riots or wars in the halls of residence or corridors of power but Canonical/Ubuntu is starting to catch more “bad karma” than is healthy for it IMHO.

  • Let’s start with Mono. Yep. It’s been a prickly thorn for many and the concerns expressed are not going away. There’s no point in raking over the old ground; it is just one of the bad-karma attractants in a growing list.
  • Then we have Ubuntu One. Proprietary, closed, caused much debate and friction when announced and now the possibility of a Windows version too.
  • Next comes dumping GIMP, OOo and other much-loved applications from the default installation of versions of the forthcoming distribution.
  • Then the discussion about what closed/proprietary applications should be made available in the Ubuntu repositories.
  • Then we have the change of the default search engine from Google to Microsoft Yahoo.
  • Then Matt Asay joins as COO which should be, and probably is, good news. Matt is well known, respected and experienced, yet some of his prodigious public commentary tugs at the heartstrings of many a Freedom Fighter.

I don’t really want to comment on the individual points above; the point is that this list is growing…

I really like Ubuntu. I use it everywhere, I help in the Ubuntu-uk irc channel when I can and we [our company] promote Ubuntu to our customers and I [as an individual] to friends and family.

What concerns me is not any particular item in the list above: some I care about, others I do not; as I am sure many of you will do too. It is the increasing volume of criticism and vitriol as a whole. It is getting louder. This, I believe, is indicative of a turning tide that, if we are not careful, will result in Ubuntu losing popularity and more of the FOSS community exercising it’s freedom.

I’m pretty thick-skinned (I think I will need to be with this post!) so if you think I am barking up the wrong tree, or just plain barking, then say so. But I am noticing increasing criticism and anti-Ubuntu rhetoric which is not just because it is becoming more popular, although that is certainly one factor.

Something is changing and I am not sure it is for the good of Ubuntu or our community.

BETT 2010 Review

It’s that time of year when around 30,000 educationalists from all over the world descend on Olympia in London for the annual edu-geek-out that is BETT.

I’ve been going to BETT now for 3 or 4 years as an exhibitor or just helping to promote Open Source and Free Software with other like minded members of our amazing community.

This year we helped our friends and colleagues at Open Source Schools and Open Forum Europe on the Open Source Café. The simple objective of the show was to inform the education sector about Open Source and where to find help, advice and common ground with peers who’ve “been there” and “done that” already.

This year was, frankly, quite exceptional.

The stand received financial sponsorship from Red Hat, Linux IT, University of London Computing Centre and The Learning
Machine (Ingots)
for which everyone is very grateful. Canonical, the commercial entity behind Ubuntu very kindly provided us with 600 Ubuntu 9.10 CDs (500 Desktop and 100 Server) to give away (thanks Larry) and there were a similar number of CDs containing a great collection of Education-centric Open Source desktop applications for Windows from Free Software for Students that was compiled and produced by Peter Kemp and David Wilmut. That’s around 1200 CDs in total full of completely Free goodness and fun. We encouraged all the recipients to copy, share and pass them on too! At the end of the show we had only a few (quite literally) of each remaining.

An interesting sum was carried out: The value of equivalent proprietary software was estimated to be over £4000 for the pair of CDs – I actually think that is rather low considering the volume of stuff in the Ubuntu repos including several real Enterprise grade applications such as OpenERP and Alfrescoso we have potentially delivered a net saving to the education sector of at least £2.5m. And of course this does not include all the free copies that will be made and passed around!

The Open Source Cafe at BETT2010

The Open Source Cafe at BETT2010

I noticed a real sea-change between this show and last year’s. I don’t actually recall speaking to one school or Local Authority this show that had no-idea of, or that wasn’t aware that they were using, Open Source Software. Most were really proud of their achievements, many were rolling out or had completed roll outs of rather than waste many thousands of pounds on unnecessary & proprietary Office Application Suite Licenses. Many more used and raved about Audacity – the ubiquitous audio capture and editing tool. No one I spoke with was reticent toward Open Source and many were keen to talk and share their experiences. This is what the Open Source Schools project is all about: using the principles of FOSS; of community, collaboration and sharing, and providing a location for this to happen. If you are involved in education and have any interest in Open Source, or even better are an expert, get involved and share your experience and knowledge gained.

We also found time to meet up with friends and colleagues from Sirius, Mark Taylor and John Spencer. Sirius has been very successful in the education sector, they are the only Open Source vendor to be on Becta’s “approved supplier list”, and were nominated for an award this year for the work they and North West Learning Grid put in to the National Digital Resource Bank.

The national digital resource bank will deliver a vast range of publicly funded resources under a creative commons licence and populate your learning platforms, preparing them for effective use.

It will also create a sharing community of educators who will identify, review and improve a common set of national digital assets.

The world is really changing very fast. I go to parties and find people in all walks of life (i.e. not IT professionals) who are aware of Open Source, Governments are (some faster than others admittedly) waking up to the reality that FOSS provides significant benefits over proprietary software in many ways more than just money, and Enterprises are adopting not just Open Source Software but the principles behind it too to make their own businesses better.

BETT 2010 confirmed this trend in spades. Roll on BETT 2011.

Miles from Open Source Schools and one of the organisers of the event has also posted a review of the show that you can read here.

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