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Debian Linux Business Space

Mark Shuttleworth Answers At Length 171

A long, long time ago, you asked questions of Mark Shuttleworth -- astronaut, entrepreneur, activist, and now chief of Debian-and-GNOME based distribution Ubuntu Linux. Mark's been understandably busy running the world of Ubuntu, especially considering the imminent release of the group's newest version, Hoary Hedgehog. He's answered below questions on everything from what makes it worth paying for a trip to space to how software offered with source, for free, and under a liberal license (aka Free software) can sustain itself and its creators. Read on for his answers.

Ubuntu target is... ?
by ewanrg (446949)

I'm curious who you see as the Ubuntu target user/audience. It seems that from the ease of use, and "price", that you are trying to target the audience that doesn't care for Microsoft, or that is trying to do things and can't afford Microsoft.

With that, I'm a little curious as to why Ubuntu has chosen Gnome as the desktop? On older machines (such as my HP Kayak), Ubuntu runs passingly well, but simply having an option that probes the machine and then picks a desktop like XFCE or IceWM using a similar theme to the Gnome one would help refurbished/recycled machines really shine.

Similarly, it would seem that there are some software choices that could be tuned as well. As much as I like to use Open Office on my newer machines, selecting a more modest office offering for lower specification machines seems like a reasonable option.

Interested in your thoughts on this...

Mark Shuttleworth: The Ubuntu project is all about creating a free, high quality OS for everybody -- home, office and data center. So we've tried to choose the best mix of desktop apps in terms of functionality and compatibility rather than optimising for low-end hardware. So, off the single install CD, you get a Gnome desktop with Firefox, OpenOffice, Gstreamer for multimedia and other well-known favourites. We include some other favourites on the ISO, like Thunderbird, as well as the most popular server apps (Apache, Samba etc) so that they are all available without having to go to the network during the install.

Pretty much everything else in the known universe is available off the network archives, so you can apt-get anything that would also be in Debian or an many of the other independent repositories that have .deb packages, we bring them all together in our network repository so it's easy to find and install almost anything that won't send you to jail.

It's hard to pick favourites, but as Thom May blogged this week, it's not something one can avoid. One of the nice consequences of working in the open source world is that people have taken matters into their own hands, have picked their own favourites and are working on Kubuntu (Ubuntu but with a KDE desktop default install). It should be released with KDE 3.4 on April 6, the same day we release Ubuntu with Gnome 2.10, and will rock.

I'm keen to see an XFCE-buntu too, so come along to #ubuntu-devel or #kubuntu on if you'd like to work on that. I'm also keen to see flavours of Ubuntu that are tuned for LTSP or embedded environments. And some folks were talking about Enlightenment E17 on Ubuntu too, so we may see a bunch of these flavours emerge for our next release, its up to the Ubuntu community. Ubuntu is, and always will be, entirely FREE in every sense, so it's a perfect playground for people to build on and innovate with.

What's so special about Ubuntu?
by Fished (574624)

This is a question that's sure to come up in many different ways, but I'd really like to know what is so special about Ubuntu that its purposes could not be as well served by contributing to the Debian tree? I'm assuming you have your reasons -- is it about having control of the packaging, more frequent releases, what? Do you see Ubunutu supplanting Debian someday, or will it just be a branded form of the more open Debian (akin to Fedora/Redhat)?

Also, becoming aware of your financial resources, I can't help but wonder whether Ubuntu is intended to be a money maker, or it seen as a gift to the community?

(My new Athlon 64 system is coming any day now, and I've decided to try Ubuntu first. So far, it looks very nice from afar.)

MS: Well, I hope your Ubuntu amd64 system has been working very well since you posed the question, and you're ready to update to Hoary Hedgehog after it releases [this] month :-)

Ubuntu won't replace Debian. If people love it's Ubuntu, it's because it's built on such great engineering. Debian/sid is an awesome asset to the world of free software, even if it is the boy that breaks your toys.

The Ubuntu team takes Sid, every six months, and makes a secure, tested, and supported release of it. Hopefully many of the patches (published continuously at but don't let Scott tell you he personally made all of those patches :-) we make in the process are adopted by the Debian maintainers, so Sid gets better as a result of Ubuntu, it is designed to be a two-way street.

Then, hopefully, people take that regular, predictable release and do awesome things like Kubuntu and GuadaLinex with it.

Over time there may be some ongoing areas where we take a different route to Debian because of different priorities and scheduling, like, Gnome 2.10 and possibly OpenOffice.org2 in Hoary, and that's why we are investing in Bazaar and baz-ng, the free/libre revision control system that I hope will make it easy for us to share code with upstream and other distros in a sane fashion.

Debian packages
by renelicious (450403)

I read that you guys are rebuilding your own version of all the debian packages you use instead of using vanilla debian. Apparently this means that Ubuntu will not work with general debian apt repositories. Is this true? If so, what is the reasoning behind this and will you in the future be considering changing this policy?

MS: Yes, we import every package from Debian as well as .deb packages from a lot of other sources that you can find on So if you enable the "universe" and "multiverse" repositories in your /etc/apt/sources.list file on an Ubuntu system you immediately see everything that you would find in Sid, and most anything else in deb format too, in one shot.

This allows us to reduce the time people spend looking for backports and packages, and to ensure that they actually all build from source at release time. it also allows us, if we get time, to create some sanity in library version dependencies across all 16,000 packages.

Our core team focuses its attention on the server and core desktop apps (in "main"), and then a separate team called the Masters of the Universe (an inside joke) manages everything in universe and multiverse. That team's work on KDE packages resulted in KDE being moved into main, and the creation of Kubuntu for our next release in April. If you're interested in bringing even more packages into universe or multiverse, join #ubuntu-motu.

by Daengbo (523424)

After I installed your distro recently, I was impressed by the attention to graphical detail. The gdm login screen, the default theme and the wallpapers chosen for the desktop were all very nice.

One thing that stood out was the choice to eliminate desktop icons and change the required trash icon into a panel applet. Why was this choice made?

MS: Because I'm the SABDFL -- and a Virgo? It just seemed like the Right Thing to do, in keeping with the Ubuntu philosophy of keeping it simple and making it Just Work. A user is free to clutter up her own desktop as much as she likes, we shouldn't be doing that for her :-)

That doesn't mean it wasn't quite a debate at our Oxford conference last year... and I guess we'll be having similar debates at our Sydney community conf in late April, where we'll be laying out the roadmap for Breezy Badger, our October release.

Making the desktop efficient and great to use is a lot of fun. If you have stong thoughts on the subject, come along to Sydney or another Ubuntu conf and join the debate.

Corporate Usage
by TheFlu (213162)

I've been a Red Hat/Fedora user for years now, but I decided to give Ubuntu a try, as it had some of the most recent packages included (Gnome 2.8 and Evolution 2.0) by default. Needless to say, I was very impressed by the polish of a pre-release version, and I have switched my workstations at work, and my Linux boxes at home over to Ubuntu.

I was, however, disappointed by the lack of "corporate" tools currently included with Ubuntu. All of our client machines here are currently running Fedora with a customized install script written using kickstart, so when a machine dies,I can pop in the custom install CD and have a blank machine back on the network in 5 or 10 minutes. Are there are plans to include kickstart-like features and NIS support inside of Ubuntu's installation routines? I would switch our entire company over to Ubuntu in a flash if that were the case. I'm sure other companies would enjoy seeing the addition of such features as well.

MS: Hoary Hedgehog, due April 6th, will have kickstart support thanks to the great work of Colin Watson. I can't speak to NIS, if it's something we could integrate cleanly and elegantly then put a specification together on the Ubuntu wiki at and link to it from the BOF planning page at -- then we'll discuss implementing it for Breezy Badger.

Ubuntu should be great in a corporate environment. We will never include proprietary tools like CodeWeavers, but it's just a matter of time before someone creates an Ubuntu derivative that includes those too.

How do you get support for the less popular work?
by cheros (223479)

Hi Mark, as with any (F)OSS project you're almost entirely depending on volunteers. That's OK for popular projects, but to work on, say, an admin or accounting back-end someone still needs to do the heavy lifting without the promise of the kind of glamour and street cred that the likes of Firefox offer.

Have you found a way to get support for the less sexy projects and if so, how?

MS: I wish there was a good answer to this. There are so many wonderful things that open source could achieve in the world if we could draw talent to less sexy projects.

For example, I've been funding work on SchoolTool for two years now, and we're only JUST starting to see a community forming around it. I think the answer is that open source depends on having some core working product to work with in the first place -- it's very difficult to sustain a community unless the tool is already in widespread production use.

To get from the concept to that point requires either an individual with the skills and passion and energy and time to build it, singlehandedly, or funding from philanthropy or commercial interests.

Another thing I'd like to see are open source administration systems for government -- local councils all around the world have the same problems, they should be using the same tools and sharing them freely. Then Kinshasa and Paris could both benefit from open source. But YOU try motivate someone to hack on a sewerage management system in their spare time.

What do you think of this idea?
by xutopia (469129)

I switch from distro to distro whenever I find one that is better than the current one. I just moved from Slackware (with dropline gnome) to Ubuntu because of the latest gnome and kernel. My brother is so impressed with Ubuntu that he's switching from Windows. Well he's also partly unimpressed with Windows security. He's currently backing everything up and the transfer of files and all is rather tedious. We thought of an idea to make the process faster and would like your opinion on it.

Would it be possible to have an Ubuntu install CD which checks a Windows or Linux installation, migrates its users/files and "converts" their system to Ubuntu? I realize there are some hurdles to overcome this in the Windows world but it seems feasible from one distro to the next. What do you think of the idea?

Thanks in advance.

MS: I think that's a great idea! With Gnu Parted reaching the point where I might trust it to resize my Grandma's NTFS partition and create a new ext3 partition for Ubuntu, the next step will be to move as much of her data into the new Linux partition in a sane way, as possible.

There's low-hanging fruit that you could pick, like desktop backgrounds, fonts, home directories and other useful stuff which could be moved across to preserve her working environment and keep it as familiar as possible.

Good luck!

Everything free -- what's the business plan?
by HoserHead (599)

How does Canonical plan on making money? Ubuntu seems to be completely and utterly free, in both senses of the word. In my mind at least, the 'services will pay for development' business plan for Free Software went out of style when the dot-com bubble burst. How will your company be different?

MS: You're right that the "services pay for development" model is unlikely to work very well for single applications. An entire distribution, though, is slightly different, because the number of users is potentially much, much greater than the number of users for, say, a web server or database app.

Canonical provides support for Ubuntu, but more importantly we provide support for companies that provide support for Ubuntu. The idea is to create an ecosystem of people who collaborate on the free software. You can see the beginnings of that ecosystem on this page of Ubuntu service providers, and I hope it will continue grow as fast as it has since Warty hit the streets.

Part of being sustainable is keeping the costs down, so we focus resources on development and support, not marketing or office waste. The guys will tell you I'm a cheap bastard when it comes to the frills (Canonical One doesn't *actually* belong to Canonical :-).

I'd very much like to make the distro project sustainable, because I've never had the privilege to work with such talented guys who work as hard as this team, and they deserve to be rewarded and to know that people appreciate the value they add every day. If it doesn't work utthat way, though, I'm honoured to consider it a gift back to the open source world, which played such a critical role in helping me build Thawte. So I hope it's commerce, though it may turn out to be philanthropy. Either way, it's still cheaper than going back to space, or hooking up with fast planes/boats/women, which I supposed would be Plan B.

my question for Mark
by Recovery1 (217499)\

I'm curious to know how business and individuals have responded to the open source campaign you started. Has there been any interesting success or failures that have encouraged/discouraged your campaign?

I'd also be curious to hear from fellow slashdotters who may be from South Africa. How has his push for open source made inroads in the computer community?

I am interested because I recently find myself in a situation where I will be promoting open source in my own community.

MS: The Go Open Source campaign, which the Shuttleworth Foundation funds together with HP, the CSIR and Canonical, has had a great response in South Africa. I hope it's gone some way towards helping put South Africa at the front of the open source revolution, in terms of getting everyday computer users interested in open source.

Perhaps other countries will run their own Go Open Source campaigns -- they would be welcome to use the TV show we put together, or any of the other ideas like the Freedom League and the Freedom Toaster, or maybe they'll make a bigger deal of Software Freedom Day in September.

I get tons of people stopping me in the street in Cape Town again, but instead of asking "what's weightlessness like" they want to know about Open Source. The answer to both questions? "Liberating" :-)

Was it worth it?
by jmichaelg (148257)

Two questions:

1) Asking you "was it worth it?" is going to get an affirmative answer regardless of how you really feel so let me ask you, what happened on the flight that made the trip worth $20 million?

2) How much would you pay to go up a second time?

MS: I don't know how much space and spaceflight interest you, but for me they've always been areas of great fascination and imagination. Even if you're a believer in reincarnation you have to admit that it makes sense to make the most of this life, and for me that means tackling the biggest and scariest and most audacious projects I can.

Space was like that.

I remember flying into Russia for the first time, into a stunning sunset, and wondering why on earth anyone would want to spend months on a Russian military base fighting bureaucracy and physics to get into orbit. It seemed silly to take a life of certain luxury and put it at risk. But at the same time, I knew that if I didn't make a real effort to do it, I would spend the rest of my life wondering what it's like to feel the power of an orbital launch, see the exquisite beauty of the earth floating in space, and experience the violence of capsule re-entry.

Looking back I can't believe how lucky I've been. That hard year in Russia, with it's on-again off-again negotiations, taught me a lot about patience and strategy. The physical demands of training, together with having to learn conversational and operational Russian as well as the job of being a cosmonaut are unique things for a geek like me to have experienced. I can't imagine another project that would have been as daunting and ultimately as rewarding. I was lucky to be in Star City at the same time as a great crop of cosmonauts and NASA/ESA astronauts were preparing for their own missions, making friends with people who's lives I would otherwise have envied for eternity. I still envy them, but that's because they get to go back regularly :-) I was lucky to get there in time to catch the last Soyuz TM, because the next generation Soyuz, the TMA, has very little hands on requirements from the guy in the right-hand seat. Flying the TM meant I had more opportunity to work with the crew and could take on more responsibility in-flight.

The actual flight itself is such a gift I can well imagine that people will be queuing for sub-orbital flights when they really come onto the market. The sight of the earth from space is breathtaking, and life changing. 3 minutes in space will change your perspective, I guarantee, on the way we treat one another and the world. So imagine ten days in orbit, the first few on the tiny Soyuz, which rotates end-over-end to maintain solar attitude thus giving you the entertaining experience of being both weightless and inside a tumble dryer on slow-motion. Imagine learning to live and work in an environment that is at once dangerous and peaceful. Imagine using a VOIP connection to call your best friends from orbit in between science experiments and time conducting earth observations. It was ten days, but it passed in a blur.

From a shake-your-bones point of view, the re-entry in a Soyuz can't really be beaten. You are coming in at mach 25 when the atmosphere first sucks you in. You see the blackness of space turning a dull red as the heat builds up around your vehicle. The Soyuz is designed to orient itself correctly for re-entry even if it's a dead craft with no attitude control, so you feel the craft swinging around to ensure that the heatshield will take the brunt of it. Then you watch your spacecraft disintegrate and burn up around you, and the G forces build up till you are in the middle of an inferno with the spare hard drives you brought back on your chest weighting a ton, and the Soyuz spinning like a top to try and spread the heat load out evenly on the shield. You watch bolts and other pieces of metal on the outside melt and run liquid across your window before it blisters and blackens. It's an unbelievable display of forces entirely outside of your control wil you, an ant, in the middle of the fireworks display. You know that your survival is totally dependent on the people who put this machine together, that there is nothing you personally can do if it comes apart. It's a hell of a ride.

How much would I pay to fly again? First, I wouldn't simply repeat what I've done before. I would want to take on new challenges, perhaps flying in a different vehicle or with different responsibilities in a Soyuz. And I'd likely want to take the vehicle through a different mission profile -- which would mean that it wouldn't be the sort of trip you can book on Expedia. Like everything, I'd negotiate the best price I could for the project, and deal with the best people for the job, whether that's Burt Rutan or RosAviaKosmos and Energia.

Is $20m affordable? It depends on what you can afford, and what your alternatives are.

Going to space or fixing Earth?
by gspr (602968)\

As an astronaut, you must been drawn to the mysteries of the universe outside our own planet. But as a South African, you must also feel drawn to the problems facing your home continent (I KNOW this sounds very ignorant and Western, and I'm not trying to say "Africa is a place full of problems", I'm just referring to the huge problems that exist for a large portion of the continent).

Do you think space exploration can be justified when so many people here on Earth suffer? And why? This is an important question to me, as I dream of space, and definitely think Mankind should explore all we can. However, I am having a moral problem (which I'm just ignoring at the moment, for the sake of continued dreaming) justifying spending huge amounts of resources when billions of people right here on Earth lack access to clean water, and millions are infected with HIV.

MS: I love Africa much as I think an American loves America -- despite her problems. And yes, there are plenty of problems, they are easier to see than those that face developed countries. But there's more to Africa than Darfur and Zimbabwe, much as there's more to America than McDonalds and Shock-and-Awe. And I can heartily recommend that you take the time to travel to Cape Town, or Zanzibar, or the Ruwenzori or Ethiopian Highlands, and find out for yourself.

What's interesting about Africa is that it presents tremendous opportunity. In 50 years time the 2 billion inhabitants of the continent will, I believe, be in a strong economic position, and geographical position. The continent has everything it needs to survive and thrive, given good leadership, fair treatment by the rest of the trading world, and time. So I'm pretty confident that we will see Africa shed it's image of tragedy and travesty in our lifetime, and replace it with an enviable mix of prosperity and soul.

You ask whether we can justify spaceflight when the world still faces basic problems feeding and educating and employing billions of its people, and when we're busily destroying the homes of thousands of other species with which we share the planet. That's a tough question. The standard answer speaks to the way space exploration has changed our world for the better, in every field from materials engineering to food science and geography. But I think the more important answer lies in the fact that much of what's holding the world back is willpower, not resources.

I've seen schools in South Africa that have nothing, yet manage to turn out first class graduates year after year while the school down the road, which is equally poorly funded, doesn't get a single pass. It's the willpower of those staff members that makes the difference. And a big part of willpower is having something to aspire to, something to live for. Space, and man's exploration of the solar system and universe, are extraordinarily powerful motivators. I learned this first hand before I flew, when an old man who had experienced the worst of apartheid through his life hugged me and begged me to take him to space with me, then told me his kids were working extra hard on maths and science so that they too might one day have this opportunity. I hope they do, too.

Common Efforts?
by meggito (516763)

How are the nations of Africa working together to promote technological growth? Are there any common intiatives in place or will there be or are the nations still working independantly instead of building a common infrastructure? Are the current methods succeeding or do you beleive there should be change to the way the continent is approaching their technological challenges whether they are seperate or cooperative.

MS: Unfortunately, there is not enough being done within Africa to make the most of the extraordinary technological changes we've seen over the past few years. Nepad showed some promise, but that appears lost to bureaucracy. I think it will be up to the smaller countries to innovate and lead the way in regulation to attract investment in telecomms and innovation, especially with regard to VOIP, Wi-Max and other breakthrough technologies. I wish I had a more upbeat answer.

The Digital Divide
by Rico_za (702279)

Ubuntu, SchoolTool,, are some of the projects you support that seem to tackle the digital-divide head-on. Do you have any views or ideas on how to make Internet access cheaper so more people in developing countries can have access to it? More specific, any plans on convincing the South African government that not over-regulating the telecoms industry will be good for everyone?

MS: Whenever there is substantial change in an industry there are opportunities for new leaders to emerge. The global shift to open source is just such an opportunity. I'm really hopeful that South Africa will grab the chance to lead the in the open source revolution. There will be a big shift in IT skills requirements, and any country that takes the initiative now will benefit significantly, from investment, outsourcing and internal efficiencies.

I'll answer the telecoms part of your question along with the next one.

Internet Access in South Africa
by kobus (544780)

Hi Mark,

This is a question combo suggestion.

I'm a programmer from South Africa, working in the Bay Area.

I had dialup Internet in South Africa already in 1994. However since then not much has changed. In fact Internet access is appalling. Its very expensive compared to the average income of middle class, and ISDN or ADSL is just too expensive and at the same time pathetically slow.

Internet access is really holding our country back! I believe it is critical to schools and families to have access to better Internet.

As a South African entrepreneur and someone who is successful in the IT world, have you ever given this problem any thought, or considered starting an initiative to provide better access to the Internet?

MS: Clearly, with one of the world's most expensive and profitable telecom monopolies still firmly entrenched in South Africa, we need to act firmly. Last year the South African government took some big steps towards deregulation, then they de-fanged those initiatives at the last minute. I expect there is ongoing debate internally as to the right plan of action, and unfortunately it's taking a long time for those in favour of bold deregulatory moves to get their point across.

Critical issues in the coming year will be the pricing of international traffic on undersea cables, which continues to be a very secretive monopoly, as well as control and pricing of access to the last-mile copper currently entrusted to Telkom. I certainly hope that SATRA, the SA telecoms regulator, will allow new operators access to existing last-mile copper for a low price, as has been done very successfully in France, where I think the maximum line rental the incumbent operator can charge is around EUR 10.00 per month. In SA, it should be lower. In addition, I'd like to see SATRA selling off international bandwidth that is currently a monopoly in an annual open auction.

In addition, I'd like to see proactive work done on Wi-Max, WiFi and general spectrum liberation to stimulate investment in the possibilities of a wireless broadband world. The opportunity is there, whether or not the regulatory authorities have the skills and the willpower to lead is unknown.

Health care open source?
by mspohr (589790)

I do a lot of work in South Africa and other parts of Africa with health care information systems. There is a pressing need for open source information systems for AIDS treatment and also health system management. The existing proprietary solutions are expensive, not suitable, not customizable, and don't build local capacity.

Would you be willing to branch out from education into health care open source projects? I know people in South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia, and other countries who would be willing to participate.

MS: I certainly encourage the use of open source in government wherever possible. And there is in fact a pilot project in the SA ministry of health which turned into an accidental open source success - I say accidental because I don't think the officials in charge realised the potential, but they agreed to let the developers work on that basis and now this small tool is being used in several countries on the continent.

I hope that's an indicator of what the future holds in store.

I don't fund health care work in SA, as a rule, because I want to build the Foundation team steadily over time, and think education is a big enough elephant to swallow first. Once we have a good track record in education (TuxLabs, SchoolTool and other projects are a good start) we can expand to other areas of social entrepreneurship and innovation.

Thanks everyone for these questions -- apologies for taking so long to answer them!

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Mark Shuttleworth Answers At Length

Comments Filter:
  • by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 ( 812236 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:37PM (#12136672) Journal
    to see get the real facts from MS for once.
  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    I'm surprised it didn't take 5 years for the interview....
  • A reply... (Score:5, Funny)

    by youknowmewell ( 754551 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:40PM (#12136698)
    A return reply time worthy of a Debianaut.
  • by Nasa Rosebuds ( 867909 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:45PM (#12136750)
    The Ubuntu project is all about creating a free, high quality OS for everybody -- home, office and data center.

    I once saw a sign that said: Formula for failure - Try to please everyone.

    I think there is some truth to that phrase. I really don't like it when software tries to be everything for everyone.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      While I agree...

      Microsoft does basically the same thing. One OS, different configurations...

    • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:14PM (#12137100) Homepage
      I see nothing wrong with targeting everybody, actually I would consider it quite wrong to target somebody specific and leave out the rest. Software for Linux stays software for Linux, if I use Emacs at home or at a data center makes zero difference to the software itself. Sure the distro itself should provide some default package selections for different uses, but the software itself and the packages for it can stay 100% the same, no matter who uses them.
    • I think there is some truth to that phrase. I really don't like it when software tries to be everything for everyone.

      Well, that's Debian out...aaaand Gentoo, can use it as so many things...don't forget Red Hat in all its forms (Fedora, RHEL), boy, that must be awful for you...hell, let's go for -1 Troll here, Windows, quite damn flexible, used by a lot of people for everything, even Mac OS fucking X has a server version.

      You are not going to find an operating system, and certainly not a distro, which isn'
      • You are not going to find an operating system, and certainly not a distro, which isn't going to try to be everything for everyone.
        Thats bullshit. Lots of distros are specifically designed to e.g. rescue lost data (livecd), run as headless server, dsl router, ...
    • by natrius ( 642724 ) * <.gro.narin. .ta. .narin.> on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:25PM (#12137220) Homepage
      I really don't like it when software tries to be everything for everyone.

      Out of the box, Ubuntu tries to be the friendly desktop distribution that most people recognize it as, which satisfies the home requirement and the office one with a bit of customization. Under the surface, it's merely a collection of packages that can be put together however you like. If you install the packages containing the server software you need, you've got a server distribution. When you have the many individual application developers along with the many hands within Debian proper and Ubuntu itself working to make sure all the packages work well together, it's not that hard to see how you can accomplish many things.
    • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:39PM (#12137434)
      I've got some bad news for you... it is an OS for everyone... well, not quite... die hard Mac fans and Microsofties will hate it... those sort are never pleased with anything different...
      • Disagree: the Mac fans will love it because Gnome is very MacOS X-like. The Microsofties will like Kubuntu. Those who love Linux will love Debian.
        • no, die hard Mac fans and die hard microsofties will never be satisfied... we get them all the time in here complaining about this or that feature of Linux whenever something new likelooking glass desktop or that "wobbly windows" thing
  • ...were worth reading. The rest was the expected stuff.
  • Well done (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FidelCatsro ( 861135 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <orstacledif>> on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:52PM (#12136837) Journal
    He really does come across as a genuinly nice guy , Well awnserd questions and he knows what he is on about (alot more than i can say for alot of people in his position).I use Ubuntu on my old imac g3 and have been very impressed with the distro , it is debian at its heart but the customisation are mainly things i would have done myself for my home system( etc) . As he said almost all the things i would need are in the universal repositorys. I have found it very stable whilst remaining modern .. good job all round.
    Its nice to have another major Distro on the linux PPC platform -
    I am very tempted to recomend The use of ubuntu at work as the support also seems well devised(if anyone has any personal experiance with ubuntu support then i would love to hear about it) and the web support is steadly improving.
    Ok i am begining to sound like a driviling fanboi but respect where it is due
    • I'm curious by your post as to how well Ubuntu runs on the G3. Reason I ask is that I have an old G3 b&w powermac here (350MHz with 256M of RAM (I can kick that up to 512 though if I want)) currently running OS 9 on it (OS X would be painful on such a configuration). Been thinking of putting another OS on it, but I'd prefer to keep a dual boot for the time being. How hard is it to do that? Does the ubuntu ppc installer come with a disk partitioner now? What type of performance does one get on such
      • I have an imac g3 dv se+ (400mhz) and 383MB ram.
        it runs fine (both gnome and kde ) and if i were to install xfce or perhaps fluxbox even(which would run perfectly)it would fly.
        as for the duel boot , i did not bother trying , but i would imagine it is easy as it gives a boot prompt and the wiki and installer info for ubuntu is probably present online .
        Basicaly i wouldnt worry about performance (FYI: i did run OS X on it for a while and whilst not extremly fast it is workable if you tone down some gloss, i ev
  • by skyshock21 ( 764958 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:56PM (#12136879)
    Mike said he wants everyone to use it... but how does he expect an IT manager to seriously sell this idea to his boss without snickering at the blatantly stupid names?

    Boss: Well, we should start looking at a replacement desktop... any suggestions?

    IT Guy: Yeah, actually, I was thinking we should go with Hoary Hedgehog Ubuntu Linux running the Gnome desktop

    Boss: Ubububtoo Huh??'re fired!

  • by shapr ( 723522 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:57PM (#12136887) Homepage Journal
    I admire Mark for spending money to make the world a better place, rather than spending it to make only his own life a better place.

    I admire his efforts to organize schools to teach children and make the future a better place too.

    This is the real spirit of open source, giving what you can in hopes it benefits others, improves the world, and in the long run benefits all of us.

    Maybe I'll get rich one day and I can do the same.
    • Well, ya know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:23PM (#12137197) Homepage
      I admire Mark for spending money to make the world a better place, rather than spending it to make only his own life a better place. I admire his efforts to organize schools to teach children and make the future a better place too. This is the real spirit of open source, giving what you can in hopes it benefits others, improves the world, and in the long run benefits all of us. Maybe I'll get rich one day and I can do the same.
      Well, ya know, you don't have to be "rich" to spend money to make the world a better place. Small contributions to the charity of your choice really do add up. Feel bad when you walk past a dozen homeless people bumming for change on your way to work, but can't justify handing out cash that might go to somebody's drug habit? Donate to your local shelters/soup kitchens. Feel like kids are spending too much time in front of the TV and aren't exposed to the humanities? Donate to your local museums or arts organizations. Want to help healthcare? There's numerous efforts to cure diseases or promote international medical aid that you could contribute to. I'm not just trying to be glib, I'm really serious -- you should try it. Say you give $200 or something, to a couple of different organizations; I bet you won't really notice it's gone, in the long run, but the organizations you donated to really will appreciate it. And all of the above, even donating to a PBS station, does something to make the world a better place if it helps to enrich, educate, or otherwise help the needy.

      Also, if you have a full-time job, don't forget to see if your employer will match your contributions. That's a great way to send extra money the direction you want it to go, above and beyond what you feel you can personally afford.

      • by kalayl ( 604800 )
        Although I agree with you entirely, I often have the same concerns that you mention as to where the money goes. My concerns are more about ensuring that 100% of my financial donations arrive where they are needed in a direct way.
        But if there isn't a creditable enough charity you can find, I'd always recommend giving of your own time in some sort of practical way. If your time is worth x amount of dollar per hour, then you're practically making a contribution to the same amount of dollar/hour by providing
    • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:55PM (#12137665)
      The best thing about open source and linux is that anybody can help. If you can't do anything else you can write documentation, volunteer to run tests, design logos, work on web site themes, help on IRC, give lectures in local schools, donate time to big brothers and big sisters to teach kids linux, the list goes on and on.

      So don't wait till you are rich! Roll up your sleeves and get busy!
  • OT: Source Hoarding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @03:58PM (#12136898) Homepage Journal
    Ok, so this is slightly OT but the talk of 'open source is good' brings this to mind..

    Considering the impending IP/DMCA/copyright/etc doom that is coming soon to open source in an attempt to stamp it out, how would one propose to create and retain ones own source code 'repository' of all the pertinent packages that one would need when the eventual happens and lots of code disappears ( or is simply not allowed to run on the new 'drm-chips'.. )

    Obviously collecting a Linux distribution's source disks are a start, but how about something that has more long term safety due to changing platforms, like the entire NetBSD ports tree ( with all package sources, not just the 'tree' of course, which are spread out all over the net currently ). Tried this using FBSD and 'fetch' one weekend but it made a mess of my ports directory and would be almost impossible to 'maintain'..

    Sure, I'm sounding paranoid, but the day may happen and I know personally I still want to have something I can use without being told I cant do x y or z...

    And again, no flames for being OT please, and no this isnt some sort of troll about 'impending doom'..
    • I'm running FC3 and I wonder... After installing software from the net, or updating packages, how would you restore a machine to that same state if the HD failed? What if the packages were no longer available? I really like the idea of having everything on physical media. It'd be nice if everything you install or update over the net also gets added to a local "repository" that you can backup to a CD and "reinstall" at will to the same point. Automatically rebuilding from source is the ultimate version of th
      • In theory, if you use the ports tree in *bsd, this is exactally what happens.

        It brings down all the source you need, then compiles it and leaves the orginal source behind.

        Problem is what if tomrrow you find out you wanted item X, but its gone due to some cease-and-deist ( or just the orginal guy is gone ).. Thats why I'm thinking a 'complete as possible' local archive.

        • I don't know about BSD but with Gentoo I suppose you could do:

          find -name \*ebuild /usr/portage | xargs emerge --fetchonly
          and backup /usr/portage/distfiles after it finished. That way you should have all packages needed to install anything currently in the portage tree (except for packages with fetch-restrictions due to license problems or installed from a game CD or something similar).
    • by natrius ( 642724 ) * <.gro.narin. .ta. .narin.> on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:58PM (#12137701) Homepage
      Considering the impending IP/DMCA/copyright/etc doom that is coming soon to open source in an attempt to stamp it out, how would one propose to create and retain ones own source code 'repository' of all the pertinent packages that one would need when the eventual happens and lots of code disappears ( or is simply not allowed to run on the new 'drm-chips'.. )

      None of those things you mentioned can directly harm open source. IP is just a concept. Someone can claim that their IP has been infringed upon in an open source project, which would be bad. The DMCA has no bearing on open source. Copyright is what allows the privileges granted to the user by open source software to be passed down without being taken away. Without copyright, there is no GPL. With that said, if there were DRM chips that would somehow stop open source software, how would having the code help you?

      I think you should be more worried about the Internet. Without the Internet, where are you going to download all your software? All that has to be done to stop the flow of open source software is to take down the Internet. The developers wouldn't be able to collaborate, and the users wouldn't be able to download the software. It would take some sort of doomsday scenario for either of these situations to occur, in which case I'm sure you'd have better things to worry about, such as killing terrorists with steak knives as they push the front lines forward through your neighborhood. Instead of worrying about a failsafe stash of code, you should probably be assembling a redundant transcontinental wireless network, completely independent from the major backbones. Impossible? I know. That's why paranoia's overrated.
      • When chips refuse to run the *binaries* that were available in the past i am thinking 2 options:

        1 - using source, code around the 'problem' ( be it DRM or just technology )
        2 - create new hardware ( FPGA, surplus machines, etc ) and port said applications over..

        While i agreee IP is just an abstract concept, I think it will become an evil beast in the near future that could stop the legal distribution of a lot of items. The IT world is now sue happy, and its not going to get any better soon.

        Internet going
  • by Sark666 ( 756464 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:02PM (#12136948)
    Regarding this question:
    Apparently this means that Ubuntu will not work with general debian apt repositories. Is this true?

    His response didn't clear this situation up for me.
    From what I understand, they take a snapshot of (all?) deb sid packages every six months and make them their own for ubuntu.

    So within that 6 month window if a package enters sid that is not currently in ubuntu, and I'd like to have the package and enable the sid sources, is everything still going to behave? I'd think you could get away with some programs, but if in turn some libs start getting updated from sid I could see problems.

    So what's the deal on this? Anyone have experiences with mixing sources or have you found there's no need as ubuntu has all of sid? Also in between the 6 month cycle. Do they upgrade their packages faster than sid sometimes? Besides the obvious gnome, etc.
    • The general rule is use the Ubuntu repositories unless you really need something else. If there are packages that have been updated after the upstream version freeze, there are probably going to be several programs you want that fall into this category. In this case, you're probably more of a tinkerer than a normal user, so you probably want to join the people running the development branch of the distro. I've only been running Hoary for a month, and that was after most things stablized, so my experience isn't really typical. However, I hear that there weren't any problems for people who were running it from the start. I'd recommend upgrading to Breezy (the next version) once it opens up, which should be pretty soon.

      To answer your question more directly, I personally don't think that you'd run into any big problems by using debian packages do to the way Ubuntu versions its packages. An Ubuntu package uses the same base package version as the Debian one, then for each revision of the package, "ubuntu" followed by the revision number is appended. This means the subsequent Debian package version will be higher than Ubuntu's, and it will replace it. Technically, since Debian receives all of Ubuntu's packages, the new package may contain the patches and you won't have many problems. There are probably a few Ubuntu specific things out there, and those will break.

      Installing a new version of gaim won't break much, but upgrading glibc is probably a bad idea.
    • by crimsun ( 4771 ) * <crimsun.ubuntu@com> on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:45PM (#12137518) Homepage
      I'm one of the universe maintainers (Masters of the Universe, or MOTU).

      Ubuntu, being a Debian-based distribution, _can_ work with general apt (.deb) repositories. Whether one _should_ add such to one's sources.list is a completely different matter. Ubuntu's repos are tuned for our (Ubuntu) packages. Adding in external repos very well will result in massive dependency headaches (unless you're skilled with apt pinning, but even that can get messy - my home machine is Sid+experimental+Hoary base, Sid since '98, and I've snagged my share of "oh crap"s) - the notorious Ubuntu Backports used to be a source of much weeping and gnashing of teeth, though they've fixed many of the versioning problems that would have wrought insanity with a dist-upgrade.

      Roughly speaking, we regularly sync with Debian Sid as a base, then work from that. For the universe packages, we sync (and merge) as often as we need to ("need" determined by the amount of effort required to backport versus simply merging a new sync from Sid). We have a system for requesting that new packages be synced from Sid. We also have "quite a few" packages that are newer than their counterparts, if they exist, in Sid. The development branch of Ubuntu tracks Sid regularly, but not all of Sid is in said development branch (though it's pretty darned close to being "all").

      As part of the team that oversees nearly 15000 packages just for Hoary Universe, it's difficult to do extensive QA, but we're getting to the point where, through inviting new members to join our universe maintainer team and automated regression testing, we can make that a reality ( [] truly is wonderful). My colleagues are a great bunch.
    • I'm running a Debian system with all of the following in my /etc/apt/sources.list:
      • Debian sid
      • Debian experimental
      • Ubuntu main
      • Unbuntu "universe"

      In general, everything works wonderfully.

      I've encountered one real bug -- a duplicated file in some python packages -- and just have that package on hold.

      With a few packages I have to prevent it from trying to use the newer Debian-experimental versions, as the Ubuntu dependencies don't like it.

      Right now I have 3 packages on hold for the above reasons. If you're b

  • SABDFL? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jacco de Leeuw ( 4646 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:04PM (#12136965) Homepage
    I wonder what a SABDFL was (South-African B*st*rd Director From L....??? :-). Apparently it's:

    "Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life".
  • Health Care Software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr. No Skills ( 591753 ) <> on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:12PM (#12137076) Journal
    I do a lot of work in South Africa and other parts of Africa with health care information systems. There is a pressing need for open source information systems for AIDS treatment and also health system management. The existing proprietary solutions are expensive, not suitable, not customizable, and don't build local capacity.

    Not to point out the obvious, but Googling "Open Source Health Care" [] finds plenty of information to get started. I wonder what questions this one bumped off the list?

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )
      I thought I should explain since I am the person who posted that question.

      I am aware that there are a lot of open source medical projects. I have formally evaluated most of them. They all need a lot of work for use in Africa for AIDS/TB and health system use.

      I posted the question to try to interest MS in devoting some of his time and attention to health and I didn't necessarily need a public reply.

      I'm sorry if your favorite question didn't get answered.


      • *off-topic, private (poster's Email not available)*

        I guess my message came across as a little negative - more of a comment about how different this question seemed to be from other questions, and maybe I just read your question wrong.

        I work in healthcare IT in USA, and I'm involved in some public domain projects. While I don't understand the specific needs for AIDS/TB, I do understand how the costs can be prohibitive for commercial projects. Write me at the above Email if you wish.
  • by Anonymous Coward

  • "But YOU try motivate someone to hack on a sewerage management system in their spare time."

    I get the impression that government doesn't want to compete with private enterprise in this arena. For instance, I believe that it was a Linux User Group meeting in Des Moines about 2 years ago where a person employed by the State of Iowa developing software for the state described their policy as 'not to release it into the public domain' so as not to compete with private enterprise. This was considered pro fre

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Kubuntu is a distribution based on Ubuntu, a distribution based on Debian, a distribution of Linux, an implementation of GNU.

    And they say Linux is confusing. PSHAA!!
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:44PM (#12137515)
    I liked hearing his responses, but I have to say that his descriptions of space travel were awesome. I am sure he could have gone into more detail, but he paints a pretty amazing picture of the experience. Sounds like a helluva ride. Even if you have the money to take that trip, it takes balls to actually go through the training and time to do it. After all, he has a great fortune to risk by doing so.
    • After all, he has a great fortune to risk by doing so.

      Well, yeah, that. And his life.

      I'd venture that's one hell of a larger risk, but then again I ain't rich :/
      • Well, yeah, that. And his life.

        I thought the life thing was sort of implied. :) I just meant that he is wealthy, and could easily lead a comfortable life without taking such a risk. I am sure that someone who is that wealthy goes through additional fears on top of "I could die". If you are grinding through a daily job, the fear of death may not be as great as if you have a 10,000 sq/ft house and a few ferraris. :)

  • by crimsun ( 4771 ) * <crimsun.ubuntu@com> on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:51PM (#12137619) Homepage
    I'm part of the Ubuntu (Masters of the Universe) MOTU Xfce team, and after 4 consecutive nights of merging, Xfce (based on Xfld) is installable from your friendly neighborhood Ubuntu mirror. Enabling universe, updating, and installing 'xfce4' is all it takes.
    • Thanks... I was steeling myself to enabling the Marrilat repositories for installing that one... probably find it's upgraded itself behind my back over the past couple of nights... I've had a hard time keeping up with the flood in the last week...
  • Ubuntu rocks..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by buff_pilot ( 221119 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @05:09PM (#12137818) Homepage
    Two weeks ago I found Ubuntu.

    I've tried various distros over the years, but none had enough polish for the rest of my family to use.

    After installing the distro on a lower end machine (PII 350), I took the plunge and migrated my wife's machine.

    She loves the eye-candy in Gnome. All she does is surf, email and use office apps. I upgraded to Open Office 2 and she's happy.

    Past attempts at migrating my wife's machine to a distro failed. This one worked great.

    My kid's machines are next.....

    User support on the Ubuntu forums has been great. Any problems I run into usually can be answered with a search of the forums.

    • I found the 'Ubuntu needs corporate-oriented software' question interesting. I'm not in a big business environment, but I still need corporate tools, because I'm at a large university, and there is lots of support for using NFS and AppleTalk and email and Active Directory and dialling in and using IPsec VPN, but only on Windows and Mac OS X. Many people don't realise that so-called corporate tools often apply to educational environments as well. If I could use IPsec out of the box like I could with a cer
  • by ahfoo ( 223186 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @05:11PM (#12137841) Journal
    I went and checked out the Foundation website and tuxLabs. While this is certainly a nice gesture, I'd like to share some of my own ideas about what would really be necessary for FOSS to have a big impact in education. It's not a minor issue. And, as a matter of fact, I believe that education is the last place we're going to see open source succeed. That's not to say that it won't succeed, but that it's not going to happen without some major developments taking place.
    I understand Mr. Shuttleworth is focused on South Africa and perhaps just brigning computer labs to schools is still a major accomplishment in South Africa. But in other parts of the world entire curricula even in elementary schools are based around computers. Essentially, computer labs become the classrooms. This isn't some futuristic fantasy land although it might seem that way from a South African perspective; this kind of system already exists today. It's more than just a computer lab to learn typing and a few computer skills, entire curricula are computerized.
    One of the things that makes these elaborate electronic classrooms possible is easy-to-use authoring systems so that content specialists AKA teachers are able to develop electronic content. This is precisely why education is the last place you're going to see open source succeed: the development tools in open source are hardly dumbed down. What passes for a RAD system in open source like KDevelop is hardly the kind of thing that you are going to see elementary school teachers putting to use to make a lesson plan and the fact is, those teachers, as opposed to experienced developers, are the people that you want to design the lessons because they have the direct knowledge of what will work for the students. More importantly, if those teachers are empowered to develop the computerized lessons themselves, they'll be able to adapt them in accordance with their experience in the field.
    So, if Mr. Shuttleworth really wants to have a serious role in bringing open source to education I would suggest that there are various Courses of Action(sic) that could have far reaching consequences.
    One extremely ambitious project would be to fund the creation of a completely new media presentation system for FOSS platforms along the lines of Macromedia Director. Perhaps some existing code from some open source SVG applications like Inkscape could be reused in this effort or even combined with something like Open Office Impress which already allows for transitions between slides. It's not a hell of a start, but it's something.
    Ultimately, something along those lines is really essential if you want to put a dent in the entrenched monopoly position in the education market. It's not the kind of stuff that makes young ambitious coders drool with excitement but education is like that. The reality of it is painfully dull and not sexy at all which makes it a last choice for open source coders. Education is filled with ironies. It's all about learning and yet it requires everything to be dumbed down. In order for education to become more exciting, free, effective and open, someone is going to have to do some very unappealing and thankless work.
    Anyway, if you're reading this Mr. Shuttleworth, I seriously would recommend you look at the development tools used to produce some of the sophisticated electronic classrooms in America today and, if you have the will, to devote some of your resources towards making something along those lines possible in an open source version.
    • And, as a matter of fact, I believe that education is the last place we're going to see open source succeed.

    • Please look at SchoolTool. The Shuttleworth foundation has been funding the development of software for school administration. It has been desgined to be used globally. Every school needs administrators to schedule classes and oversee daily operations. If this tool can make schools less expensive AND give them access to tools that encourage best practices, I say more power to them. This is a signficant project that addresses a rather different educational need than the one you are describing. You may
  • For setting an example I would like to follow, if I ever have the fortune to have the resources to do so.

  • by irgu ( 673471 ) on Monday April 04, 2005 @06:21PM (#12138589)
    From the extensive NTFS Resize FAQ page []:

    Feb 24, 2005: Ubuntu 5.04, codenamed "Hoary Hedgehog", is the newest distribution that added support for non-destructive NTFS resizing during installation by the use Partman and ntfsresize. Here is how you can do it when the [Partitioning disks] screen appears:

    1. Choose the "Manually edit partition table" option.
    2. Choose the NTFS partition you want to resize.
    3. Choose the "Size:" line.
    4. Choose if you are asked about "Write changes to disk and resize the partition?".
    5. Enter the new size.
    6. Please wait patiently until the resize process frees the needed space for Ubuntu installation.

  • I wish I hadn't missed the question-gathering story, but I'll post here anyway, in the hopes someone might be able to answer.

    Will I ever be able to buy Ubuntu preinstalled on a p5/pSeries machine?

    As a Debian user for more than 5 years, I've always wondered why anyone would want to run Red Hat or SUSE on a server, when Debian is so much nicer. It's so much easier to deploy just the components you want, to configure remotely, to keep things up to date...

    I can only think that the reasons are the age of sta

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