Ubuntu Linux- In need of a unique identity

Lucid Lynx is set to spot a new look when it makes its debut come this April. The days of the Earth brown Ubuntu colors are over, replaced by fresh looking new designs. However, despite its aesthetic looks and feel, I am of the view that Ubuntu is still in need of a unique identity if it has decided to do away with the brown.
In as much as I appreciate the level of work that has gone into the making of the new themes and visual appearance, I still strongly believe that it is actually a step in the wrong direction. Let me explain myself. You see, with the brown, Ubuntu was unique. There was no other OS in the world that spotted those colors. It actually symbolized Ubuntu in many respects, not least of which is the origin of the name. It gave it an aura of ‘uncommoness’ that is rare.
Now fast forward to Lucid Beta 1 and bam, a nice looking theme and visual appearance that is not unlike that of an existing software. In all honesty, I believe the new visual appearance of Ubuntu has too much resemblance to Mac OS. Let’s face it, if Microsoft were to be the one coming out with this, all of us would have made a laughing stock of Redmond by now. I remember seeing blog posts in the initial days of Windows 7 about how MS is mimicking Mac OS.
Sure I can change it to my brown, but so too could the brown have been changed by anyone who actually wanted something else. Yes it was time to breath new life into the visual appearance of Ubuntu, but the breath should have been as unique, if not more than the one it was meant to replace. It’s little wonder then, that part of these changes have caused a massive storm of user protests, so much so, that Shuttleworth had to tell the community how far their views could go.
Yes there needed to be change in the way Ubuntu looked from the factory, but the change should have added to the uniqueness of it, not cause people to actually have to think twice to know that Ubuntu is not Mac OS. Change is good, but a unique form of change is even better. What do you think? 

Mark Shuttleworth steps down as Ubuntu CEO- Hands over baton to Jane Silber.

From March of 2010 when all the changes would have been completed, Mark Shuttleworth, the charismatic icon whose vision and drive helped bring Linux to the desktop of more people than any other person, will cease to be the CEO of Canonical, the commercial backer of Ubuntu.
In a blog post, Mark states that “I’ll focus my Canonical energy on product design, partnerships and customers. Those are the areas that I enjoy most and also the areas where I can best shape the impact we have on open source and the technology market. I’m able to do this because Jane Silber, who has been COO at Canonical virtually from the beginning, will take on the job of CEO.”
This means that Mark Shuttleworth is still going to be very active in Canonical except that he’ll be focusing his energy on where he thinks he’s good at. In a Q & A style blog post asking whether this will mark a change of direction for the company  and Ubuntu, Mark states ” no, it doesn’t mark a change of direction.  Jane and I have worked closely together over the last 5 years, and while in her new role as CEO she will have the authority to make decisions which may differ from those I would make, we are aligned on our strategy and direction. 
“This change does mark our commitment to continually optimise our operations and offerings, and as Canonical matures as an organisation I believe that Jane brings the skills and experience that we need in the CEO role.”
If you are wondering who Jane Silber is, she, in her own words “wears, and has worn, many hats at Canonical. I am currently Chief Operating Officer and Director of Online Services. I joined Canonical in 2004, and since then have been closely involved in the establishment and management of most Canonical functions including Ubuntu One, OEM Services, Corporate Services, Marketing, Finance, Legal and others. 
“I have a technical background and started my career as a software developer, and have since held engineering and senior management positions at companies as diverse as a health and wellness promotion start up, a large technology and manufacturing company in Japan, and the US defence contractor General Dynamics. I am American, and came to the UK in 2002 to complete an MBA at Oxford. I learned about Canonical and Mark’s vision for Ubuntu while deciding whether to remain in England or return to the US, and haven’t looked back!”
On a lighter note, this serves to confirm my suspicion that Mark Shuttleworth, if anything, rather discriminates against men as opposed to the beliefs of some feminists that he’s sexist. Also, it could be my imagination running wild but I can foresee Google somehow having a significant stake in Ubuntu sometime in the future.
In a related incident, the first alpha of Ubuntu Lucid Lynx is available for testing. This release is meant solely for advanced users and developers for testing. It is not meant for everyday use, neither is it suitable for those who cannot work their way around serious bugs. If you fall into the above categories, you can download yourself an ISO file and start off with the testing.

5 more questions for Ubuntu on the eve of Karmic Koala

Tomorrow, Canonical is going to release Karmic Koala, the latest of the Ubuntu Linux OS. I have tried the beta and it is quite impressive, particularly Kubuntu, which comes with KDE as the default desktop. I have been very impressed with Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular with the strides made relative to MS Windows over the last few years.
Early last week, Workswithu published a  list of 8 questions for Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth. However, I still have some questions lingering in my mind which I would also like to put across to Mark and you in the hope that you would help clarify them for me.
1. Why does Canonical market Ubuntu more than it does Kubuntu?
Ubuntu comes with the default Gnome desktop environment which is not that polished and good looking though very resource friendly. This is what Canonical seems to be marketing feverishly though  Kubuntu, which comes with the KDE is very polished, good looking and very attractive. Gnome has a long way to go to catch up with the more advanced KDE. People are likely to give Kubuntu a try than Ubuntu with its dull brown looks.
2. How many people REALLY use Ubuntu according to Canonical’s reckoning? 
There is no definite number about the number of people who use the Ubuntu distro and its growth rate. How many people does Mark reckon are using his baby.
3. When will a person be able to use the GUI absolutely on Ubuntu without having to resort to the terminal at some point in time? 
Ubuntu has done a lot to make the use of the OS less reliant on the terminal. You may disagree with me, but one thing is for sure; the terminal is a big determinant of whether people will use Ubuntu or not. When will Ubuntu finally make the terminal absolutely OPTIONAL so that some of us can go all out to recommend it to people without having to inform them of any terminal caveat.
4. This question was beautifully echoed by a reader on the 8 Workswithu list I talked about above and would
like to repeat it here. When will Ubuntu target more aggressively  the more profitable Corporate Desktop deployments. Yes it probably has the most user base, but when will that user base comprise a significant number of corporate desktop deployments.
 5. What does future does Mark envisage for Ubuntu relative to the launch of Windows 7 last week and the critical acclaim it has won over the world?
Does Ubuntu feel threatened? Confident? How does Mark think Ubuntu is going to scale that mega MS missile called Windows 7 to reach more people?
These are the fives questions that are nagging at me and I would love to hear your views on them.

Why Matt Zimmerman must not quit Ubuntu.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the keynote address by Mark Shuttleworth at the Linuxcon 2009, the CTO of Canonical, Matt Zimmerman went public in voicing his opinion, suggesting that the remark his boss made was sexist. This has led to calls for him to say goodbye to Canonical because he had gone public with his views about his boss’ remark. I have a problem with such calls and really think he should not be given the boot nor pressured into leaving Canonical and for that matter Ubuntu.

First of all, whether the remark in question was sexist or not, I think is irrelevant in the sense that whatever one says is always bound to be interpreted by people in various ways. And Mark Shuttleworth, being who he is, is more prone to such human idiosyncracies. So when Matt went public with his opinion, I was not surprised he had also interpreted his boss’ speech as such. However, I am surprised at the call for his resigantion from Canonical.

Canonical, and for that matter Ubuntu, pride themselves on certain philosophies that I believe must be upheld at all times, the theme of this philosophy being tolerance and  humanity towards each other. How then can such a company throw out or pressure someone to resign because he had disagreed with his boss albeit publicly?

Matt did not make his statement on behalf of Canonical, he made his statement as an individual. Yes he should have waited to watch the video again and  be sure of the context in which his boss made the remark before going public. Yes he should have exercised a little restraint in his rush to air his opinions, but that is also precisely the reason why I think Canonical should not fire him nor bring any pressure to bear on him to resign.

This is an opportunity for Mark Shuttleworth and the team over at Canonical to prove to the world that they do stand by the philosophies that they tout. They should prove to the world the level of tolerance they have for all people and how they are willing to still be with people who disagree with them. This will go a long way to help further the growth of Ubuntu for people will know that yes, the philosophies behind it are not empty cliches. Firiing Matt Zimmerman or bringing pressure to bear on him will not do any good to Ubuntu or Canonical: it will only serve to tell people how intolerable the people behind the Ubuntu distro are.

Do you think Matt Zimmerman should quit Canonical? Please share your thoughts.

A detailed analysis of Mark Shuttleworths Linuxcon 2009 keynote address.

I came across this blogpost on LinuxPlanet where the author has deeply dissected the speech delivered by Shuttleworth at the Linuxcon 2009. The three things he stressed on were cadence, design and quality. Things I have also been talking about for sometime now. Below are excerpts from the blogpost with a link to hte full article.
“Mr. Shuttleworth’s three points are Cadence, Quality, Design, and they are all part of coordinated vision for the future of Linux development. It is a very different vision from how it’s done now. The current state is very developer-centric. Software developers start and maintain projects, and the quality, responsiveness, and direction of projects are mainly controlled by the developers. Mark’s vision is broader and more ambitious:

“People often ask me why I’m so fascinated by Free software , and why I put so much time, energy, and money into Ubuntu…I really believe the Free software process is the right way to build software. Not only that, but there is the potential, if we raise our game… that we could end up defining the experience that the average person has whenever they turn on a computer.”

An open letter to Mark Shuttleworth – Be a man and say SORRY!

Hi Mark. I won’t bother asking how you are doing. In case you have not been told or heard of it, there is a needless flame war going on in your community. This was started by you when you said something is  “hard to explain to girls.” I wonder what that is.
You know, I have not seen the transcript of your keynote address at LinuxCon fest 2009, neither has anyone explained the context in which you made that statement. However, that is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The long and short of it all is that your comment did not go down well with people, and some are really fuming about that particular statement. I for one, did not have any problem with your comment, but now that it seems it had not settled down well with people, I had thought you would just issue a simple statement of sincere apology.
However, I was very much disappointed this afternoon when I read here that you had flatly refused to do such a thing. You see Mark, apologizing does not mean accepting or acknowledging defeat. Neither does it mean you were wrong and the other party was right. Far from that. On the contrary, it means you are a man who is capable of being sensitive to the feelings of others around you and you are willing to do all you can not to hurt those feelings. If I am right, you are the founder of a whole community that prides itself on being humane to others, and have won for yourself millions of admirers from all over the world. You have succeeded where most others failed.
Your massive community of Ubuntu users look so much up to you. You are charismatic and I like that about you. You are steadily building an empire around that magnificent OS called Ubuntu. That is not a bad thing. However, I fear that your apparent persona of standing your grounds no matter what will trickle down to your followers in the community, who will in turn begin to be just like you- unyielding. That I fear is going to be the beginning of the end of your empire.
If I read right, one of the the cardinal codes of the Ubuntu community that you are involved with reads

“Be respectful. The Ubuntu community and its members treat one another with respect. Everyone can make a valuable contribution to Ubuntu. We may not always agree, but disagreement is no excuse for poor behavior and poor manners. We might all experience some frustration now and then, but we cannot allow that frustration to turn into a personal attack. It’s important to remember that a community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is not a productive one. We expect members of the Ubuntu community to be respectful when dealing with other contributors as well as with people outside the Ubuntu project, and with users of Ubuntu.”

How then can you of all people in this community allow yourself to be the center of so much controversy when a simple, sincere statement of apology could have prevented everything. Mark, I won’t take much of your time because I know how busy you are. All I humbly ask you to do is to be the nice, warm, charismatic and charming leader you are by saying a simple sorry to those who felt offended by your finding it “hard to explain things to girls.” Remember, chief among the reasons why you have reached where you are today is because you succeeded in winning the hearts of people. Now do not let this erode your gains over the past several years.
It’s not too late Mark, and forget whether you were misquoted or not, taken out of context or not, you need to be the man I know you to be and just make a sincere apology to all those wonderful people out there who felt offended. Go Mark, be a man and say SORRY!
Your friend and unofficial Ubuntu analyst


What did Mark Shuttleworth say at Atlanta Linux Fest 2009?

I am just wondering what Mark Shuttleworth said at the Atlanta Linux Fest 2009 when he delivered his keynote address which has sparked a furore in some corners of the blogosphere.
He is alleged to have made some sexist remark about the  women which from the letter in the above link, did not go down with lots of people. I have searched for the transcript of his address but have not found it. I am just curious to know in which context he made that statement.
I am  one of those who have wondered out loud about the participation of women  in FOSS.  There is no doubt that more men are involved in FOSS than women. However, the contribution that women can make to FOSS can simply not be overemphasized.
It is in this regard that I humbly call on all the wonderful ladies out there who felt offended by Mark Shuttleworths comment to keep their cool and not take his personal remarks to mean that of men in general, for that is the impression I got from this blog post by Srlinux on Tuxmachines. 
Also, I would humbly implore that Mark’s comments are not taken as an excuse to initiate any form of boycott Ubuntu campaign for Ubuntu is way bigger than one individual and thus should not be made to suffer for his errors.
The future of FOSS depends a lot on the active participation of more women and comments that have the tendency to inflame  passions especially among women should be avoided especially by people of Mark’s caliber. To all the women out there, I say we really appreciate your involvement in the FOSS movement and are deeply sorry for any offense you might have taken in his remarks.

Ubuntu business model- a misunderstood concept

Canonical, the business arm of Ubuntu, has one of the  most promising business models in the Linux world, and also the most misunderstood. First of all, Ubuntu is in a market termed by economists as a perfectly competitive market. This means that it cannot charge any price beyond that which is determined by the market. The only way to make profit, as has rightly been identified by Canonical is to create an ecosystem of products and services around Ubuntu, which would complement the functions of the OS.
This is model of making profit is not new. There are other companies that make money from this method. Give the primary product for free but then create other value added products and services that complements this primary product. To make profit from this kind of business model takes time and a lot of investment. Mark Shuttleworth, the financial backbone of the Ubuntu project  rightly knows so and is doing exactly that. Most critics of the Ubuntu distro, are convinced that it’s only a matter of time before Ubuntu also capitulates like its predecessors for lack of funds. They couldn’t be further from reality.
The fact that Canonical after six years of existence is not making any profit does not spell any doom, neither does it mean there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the distros that are always used as yardsticks to tell how Ubuntu is bound to wither away did not have any other strategic business model in place. They only offered a Linux distro and expected to make money from it. Some also did not have a thorough understanding of the market in which they operated. Ubuntu so far has not fallen in any of those traps.
The recent partnerships between Canonical and big shot OEMs like Dell and IBM only goes to underscore the fact that the Ubuntu business model has a lot of potential. Companies like Dell and IBM will not partner a distro that they do not believe to have a future. Their partnering with Canonical to offer Ubuntu only underscores one fact- there is light at the end of the tunnel for Ubuntus profitability.
Also, there are those that claim Ubuntu is an ugly, over-hyped distro by mostly fanboys like myself. Well they have the right to their opinions, but a thorough analysis of Ubuntu tells you that it is in the news virtually every other day. Not a day or two passes without Ubuntu being in the news. Count how many times this week that you’ve heard of the name Ubuntu in the news and you will understand why it is popular. As for the ugliness, I believe it takes time to get used to. I also initially disliked the brown, but when I got used to it, I could hardly like any other color or theme.
The fact remains, that Ubuntu despite all the short comings of its commercial backer like not contributing enough upstream or not giving enough back to the community, is an OS that has the potential to be a market leader in the desktop Linux OS market and whether critics agree or not, Ubuntu will for the foreseeable remain a popular, first choice OS for a lot of people.