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The Business Model of Ubuntu 254

Andareed writes "Open-source software companies, such as Ubuntu (an open-source Linux distribution), are better able to respond to user request and bugs than traditional software companies, such as Microsoft. Simon Law, head of the Quality Assurance department at Ubuntu in a talk given to the UW Computer Science Club, explains why this is, and how Ubuntu is leveraging the open-source model. Simon explains how the QA department at Ubuntu differs from traditional QA departments, through its use of the open-source community at large. Most interesting is Simon's views on what motivates open-source developers to develop software, and how open-source oriented businesses (specifically Ubuntu) are making money."
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The Business Model of Ubuntu

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  • Re:Geez (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:20AM (#15816613)
    Ubunutu? Can we get an editor here?

    Sadly, the editor is not the only one that spells this wrong. Take a look at a google search []. approximately 25,000+ results can't be wrong, can they?
  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rolfpal ( 28193 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:25AM (#15816657) Homepage
    Works for me out of the box. Intel iw2200 on a Dell laptop.

    Maybe you just have unsupported hardware
  • Re:Inaccurate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:48AM (#15816792) Homepage Journal
    Ubuntu is not a company, it is a community-driven distribution. Canonical Ltd. is a major financial sponsor of Ubuntu, but (AFAIK) provides very little guidance of the project.

    Not true at all. If it weren't for the Ubuntu Technical Board [], Ubuntu wouldn't be the highly polished, well-integrated desktop distribution that it is. They decide what packages make it into the distro, what features will make it into the release, and how the parts will integrate together. Additionally there are project-based teams [] that deal with the nuts and bolts and local teams [] that deal with the issues of L10n adn I18n. Some of these teams include people from Canonical, and others are comprised of strictly members of the community. It's not lopsided like some other Open Source projects with corporate backers, like or Mozilla or even the Fedora Core Project. In my mind, Ubuntu represents a good balance between community interest and corporate interest...the question becomes will Canonical, Ltd. make money on its investment or not?

  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andrewman327 ( 635952 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:48AM (#15816798) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me or does Ubuntu not support WPA? Hell, even my Palm Lifedrive supports that!

    Anyway, I am glad that people are realizing that this business model can work. Many current companies seem to be kept afloat through high prices and huge amounts of advirtising on every surface possible. Think of the money they could make if the back of every install CD package had a color ad for Bawls []. Ubuntu deserves a big tip of the hat.

  • by taxman_10m ( 41083 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:18AM (#15816959)
    I find the Ubuntu forums to be totally inadequate. There were at least 15 different threads on how to get wireless working for my dell b130, with none of them working for me.

    I still don't understand why the latest stable ndiswrapper isn't included on whatever Ubuntu CD is offered on the website. That alone would probably solve most people's wireless issues. Everything needed to get wireless networking working should be on the CD. Not everyone has wired access, certainly not with city's and towns rolling out municipal wireless.
  • by lytles ( 24756 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:24AM (#15817007) Homepage
    i've been running gentoo for a few years, but when i bought an x60 recently, the livecd wouldn't boot. so i tried ubuntu, at first thinking that i'd just use it to bootstrap gentoo, but this quickly faded into i'll try ubuntu, and then "i've spent all this time getting it to work, i guess i'm committed". so ubuntu for the last few months on my primary personal machine. and yes, a lot of stuff works.

    but some things don't, and there doesn't seem to be any response at all from ubuntu. the biggest issue is a minute long hang during boot with the message "mounting root filesystem". 5&page=17 []

    this thread is 18 pages long and started june 1st, and there are many other threads, bugreports, etc that are dealing with the same issue. there are a hundred "me toos", and one has to assume many people like me who haven't put their two cents in for every one who has. so i'm pretty sure it's not an isolated problem. and yet there is very little response from ubuntu. a few pages with sloppily put together work-arounds. but i haven't seen any sort of official statement on the problem or a commitment to fix it or a disclaimer in any of their pr that the problem exists, or even a statement of the scope of the problem (eg. which cpus are effected).

    in some ways i'm very impressed with ubuntu, but responsiveness isn't one of them. in the gentoo world, there would have been a 10 page official document describing the problem, summarizing scope, offering work-arounds, and naming a team assigned to solving the problem.


  • Re:Business model (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:32AM (#15817077)
    I know first hand of several deals Canonical is working on. One is HUGE, but not yet a done deal. One is medium and being installed now. Another is smallish and will be installed soon. Sorry for the vagueness and anonymousness, but I cannot say more. The point is--they are making money; though not necessarily a profit.
  • by woodsrunner ( 746751 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:44AM (#15817156) Journal
    Just for the record, ever since Bill Gates quit his day job at Microsoft he has been running one of the largest privately funded health and education initiatives to allieviate misery worldwide. His project has been so successful that he has been able to convince Warren Buffet to donate the bulk of his wealth to the fund, too. []
  • by A.K.A_Magnet ( 860822 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:05AM (#15817313) Homepage
    Traditionnally, most of the big players in GNU/Linux distributions have had a bottom-up approach. They get the kernel, a few hundred of common software (GNU utils, desktop environment) they package, they try to get everything to work together and once it's good enough they ship. It's up to the user to set it up regarding his needs (e.g: some users spend some time on seting up the desktop appearance while many others won't care, but will spend some time on installing some scalable fonts and setting X up for dual display and get all their peripherals to work). Major GNU/Linux distributions have required tweaking for years. Now that wasn't really a problem, since most users went to GNU/Linux to discover the OS's internals and learn more about compiling, OS architecture and on. Most LXers/Slashdotters (me included) didn't care, and on the contrary were in fact quite happy with the state of GNU/Linux (using the shell before friends/girls looks like some kind of voodoo, I've always found it fun to mount an USB key with dmesg | tail then mount -t vfat -o uid=1000 /dev/sdaX /mnt/usb before friends ;)). However, we couldn't expect massive GNU/Linux adoption with this approach. The user should NOT care about the OS.

    The great paradigm shift with Ubuntu (and a few others, but I don't know them really) is that they took a top-down approach. Instead of taking the existing software as a starting point, they take the final result: if they want the desktop to behave some way (e.g: have hints for new users, give more visual feedback, make some apps easier to use), they'll modify GNOME appropriately. Mark Shuttleworth has a lot of money so the bounty system works just right. They also have integrated Ubuntu with Launchpad, their bugs/features request/apps discussion database/website (which code is unfortunately proprietary), so that it supports their mantra better (anyone who knows how to fill an HTML form can request a feature). But under the hood, it's still Debian. In fact, it's 90% Debian, 10% Ubuntu (Debian has done 90% of the road up, and the Ubuntu people 10% down). They couldn't do Debian's work better, but most Debian people wouldn't want to do Ubuntu's work (but some of them are both Ubuntu and Debian developers, quite a lot in fact). The accomplishment with Ubuntu is that it was the last piece of the puzzle needed for a community-made distribution (even if it's financed) to go mainstream. It has all the technical greatness of Debian (including the wonderful APT framework) with a great ease of use.

    As a Debianist, I used to be quite against the Ubuntu hype. First, with their high dependancies and their oh-too-recent toolchain, they make .deb packages that I couldn't install on my Debian (they even broke some dependancies). Before, about all .deb packages used to work on Debian Sarge (which was at the time still in development). They broke the ABI too, but that I didn't really cared. But my main problem was with the community and all the hype. But well, I can't blame a distribution for its community (not talking about developers but all the forums full of newbies, it feels like Digg or MySpace for Linux ;)). And anyway, it was just Debian, no?

    Well no, it's Debian plus a bit more. And the bit more is that it can go mainstream for the desktop use (and it has already started). My mom has been using Debian for almost 2 years now (of course I installed it, but she's using it) with no problem. However, she's totally insensitive to computer aesthetics and she doesn't care as long as she can use Thunderbird and Firefox. Some times ago, a friend of mine couldn't upgrade his pirated copy of Windows because of the WGA (maybe he could, but he's not tech-savvy at all, and I told him I wouldn't help him with Windows anyway). So I proposed him to test GNU/Linux, say in a dual-boot. He was like "no, I don't want no fuckin' dual-boot, I just want Linux". I was quite surprised, he doesn't know anything about c
  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by deviceb ( 958415 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:29PM (#15817941) Homepage
    Well i would have said the same thing about Suse a year ago. BuTT Ubuntu has found every wireless system i have built /shrug. I have no complaints with Ubuntu in this reguard. Perhaps your hardware is outdated.
  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by martinultima ( 832468 ) <> on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:33PM (#15817968) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, I remember trying Ubuntu myself, after hearing all the hype – at the time my entire home network was wireless, so as a result it was completely useless on my system. Couldn't find any wireless packages for it anywhere, tried Debian's but – oh, that's right, it's not binary-compatible because Ubuntu uses a different version of the kernel and GCC! Not to mention, it was unusably slow...

    Anyway, Ubuntu trolling aside, I think the reason there's no real wireless support is because they won't put in programs like NdisWrapper [], which is often the fastest and easiest way to get wireless running on Linux. And why don't they include NdisWrapper? Their free software guidelines don't allow it; it doesn't matter how convenient it may be for the end-user, if it's patented, involves binary blobs, or anything else that would restrict its freedom, it can't go in. That's the same reason you can't get MP3, DVD, or Flash support out of the box; first is patented, second requires "illegal" decryption software, and third is proprietary software.

    Just to put things into perspective – I've been maintaining my own distribution a while now, and personally I'm taking a more pragmatic approach to the whole thing... the way I see it, I'd much rather a system that's ready to go out of the box than one that's basically assembled by idealistic purists. I can understand why the whole freedom thing's important and all, but a lot of the reason I like Linux in the first place is because you get so much ready to go "out of the box," and when everyday things like Flash and MP3 aren't available, that's really defeating the whole purpose. So MP3 – yep. Flash – yep. And wireless – one of the first things I did was make sure NdisWrapper was included, because otherwise all my NETGEAR adapters would go to waste, and I'd much rather use what I have than go all out and replace them with more "free" ones just because my favorite distribution refused to include a perfectly good driver all because of "freedom". (And yes, I am working on the ATI and nVidia drivers...)

    But anyway, to get back on topic: Long story short, as far as I know, the whole wireless thing has nothing to do with Q&A, it's entirely because of their free software guidelines. So either go with their rules, or make up your own – you have the freedom to choose. Use it wisely.
  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andrewman327 ( 635952 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:17PM (#15818342) Homepage Journal
    I think this way of thinking became firmly planted with the creation of Linux live CDs. I can order a free Ubuntu CD and drop it in my Toshiba laptop to play with this OS. I consider myself a geek, but prefer to spend my geek time coding Java rather than learned obtuse Linux commands. Another possible cause of this shift in mindframe is the fact that Linux suddenly had the opportunity to earn some more market share instead of holding steady in its obscure niche. Companies took advantage of this and made it more approachable.

    I do not think that being able to use the command line to connect to an excrypted wireless network is a requirement for being a geek (it doesn't hurt, though). There are loads of people who are savvy with computers but who do not want to learn loads of commands in order to test Linux. For the record I was very impressed with Ubuntu.

Air is water with holes in it.