Friday, November 20, 2009

Is Ubuntu Too Big for Its Own Good?

I miei CD di Ubuntu ShipIt!
Image by via Flickr
After writing my post about the default applications in Ubuntu last night, I had some thoughts which Fieldyweb might agree with:
What they should do, is redesign that, take ALL the apps out of Ubuntu, other than ff add adobe flash and as many codecs, 3g ethernet and wifi drivers as they can get away with, then redesign the app store, so if you want printing, you install it from there, if you want evolution, gimp whatever you install it from there.
My opinion is that the universe and multiverse repositories contain too much software for Ubuntu to QA properly. The number of bug reports during alpha and beta is so large that many of them aren't triaged until long after release. The release bugs aren't triaged until the next version is just around the corner. Invalid is the natural response in that situation.

Ubuntu is a foundation-run project, but the software reflects on Canonical, which sells support. The Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life needs to take the lead here and move the MOTUs out of the official Ubuntu repositories and into Launchpad, Canonical's code hosting and buid server. Making optional software available in individual PPAs, will mean that Ubuntu becomes responsible for much less and can concentrate on making the applications in main, especially default applications. Canonical can work toward its stated goal of creating a worthy competitor to OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and Windows 7.

What would the process of moving towards more streamlined look like? First, there would be no more mass import from Debian Unstable. Ubuntu would be responsible for the basic application and drivers necessary to run the various projects. MOTUs should be encouraged to move as quickly as possible to PPAs. AptURL should have the prohibition on PPAs removed for Finally, the Software Center needs to be reworked into a front-end for Launchpad PPAs. Backports will be responsible only for core applications (and likely only for LTS releases).

In the end, MOTUs and their PPAs would be obviously responsible for third-party package bugs which are now blamed on Ubuntu. Ubuntu development would more closely model its rivals (OS X and Windows), concentrating on the core OS and leaving the extra applications to interested parties. Users would still get one-click installation of software. Users would also stop bitching about having to upgrade in order get the newest software. The default Ubuntu install would just work.

There are some problems with this approach:
  1. Making sure users understand how to get PPA software and that the process is easy. This is solved using AptURL and one-click adding of PPAs and keys.
  2. Enforcing a packaging method in PPAs which limits or eliminates dependency conflicts. This is solved by having the software center only search for MOTU PPAs, where MOTUs are responsible for limited numbers of packages. Python bindings for Coherence (uPnP) are handled by one MOTU and Python programs which use that binding are assigned to other MOTUs.
  3. Ubuntu will definitely get some backlash for supporting fewer applications. Hopefully, this problem is mitigated by the improved quality of the core OS.



Sounds good. You should put it on brainstorm.


I'm gonna say it: Ubuntu is arrogant. Out of this arrogancy is born poor QC. It's what happened to MS, GM, GE, Sony... Once they've reached the top of the Linux heap, they believe they can do no wrong.


I think what you are suggesting is to remove multiverse and universe from the default install.

Then all extra packages must have their own apt sources list entry and under no circumstances touch the core libraries.

I think the idea has merit and problems. All the packages would have to coordinate the versions of their addon libs. Otherwise we could end up with a 2000 way dependency hell. Maybe the mega PPA package maintainers could draw from a repo that is another layer away from the end user (and not be able to fiddle with it).

I am sick of dipping into PPA and trashing my setup, you have to be careful. eg an nvidia update that removed KDE for me. Maybe PPA is not the correct model.

I am with @Artanis, would not hurt to put it in brainstorm.



That's what I was trying to get at with point #2 in the last section. The Software Center needs to deal only with MOTU's PPAs, and not touch all the extra ones so that dependencies are dealt with in a reasonable manner. I don't know how that could be handled. Maybe a "trusted" tag?

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