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Ubuntu To Pay for Upgrades To the Free Software User Experience 546

jcatcw writes "Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reports that Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical, is using his millions to improve the Linux user experience, hiring people to work on X, OpenGL, Gtk, Qt, GNOME and KDE. He had doubted that desktop Linux could ever equal the smooth, graceful integration of the Mac OS. Now, between the driving pace of open-source development, and Shuttleworth's millions, it might be happening. Why not? After all, Mac OS itself is based on FreeBSD. Desktop Linux's future is starting to look brighter."
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Ubuntu To Pay for Upgrades To the Free Software User Experience

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  • Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoctorDyna ( 828525 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:34PM (#24970139)
    Since the summary mentioned it first, I've always been curious as to the logistics behind having OS X released as a desktop environment. *shrug* who knows, might be interesting.
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:53PM (#24970445)
      I have a friend who is a die hard Mac fan. I don't really know that much about Macs, other than what people who use them (all fans) tell me.

      The other day though, he needed to chop up an audio file and didn't know what to do on his Mac. I didn't know either, but I do know how to do it with Audacity on Linux. So he sent me the file and then sat down with me as I did what he wanted. His only comment was "Wow, that's so easy on Linux". Granted, what he was seeing that was easy was in fact Audacity, not Linux, and I'm sure there is an easy to use app under Mac, but it's nice to see that, although Desktop Linux is constantly getting railed on, once someone not exposed to it actually sits down and sees what can be done, they're not intimidated by it.

      • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Informative)

        by am 2k ( 217885 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:56PM (#24970499) Homepage

        Maybe somebody should point out that Audiacity works fine on Mac OS X, too (even without X11). I'm using it all the time for minor cropping/ogg-encoding work.

      • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:58PM (#24970529) Homepage

        I had to do that same thing the other day. I'm a Mac user, and I just used Audacity because I know it can do the job and it's free.

        What's the official Mac way? Probably QuickTime Pro (which you have to pay for, which has always annoyed me). Or a third party piece of software. Actually I think you can cut bits out with QT (non-pro) but it's a bit unintuitive. I considered using Garage Band (which I'm sure could do it) but that would be overkill.

        I've got to say, it was the first time I'd used Audacity in maybe two years. It was just as ugly as ever, unfortunately. It looks almost EXACTLY like the program that came with my SB16 in the Windows 3.1 days. It works, but could really use a little interface TLC, especially on the Mac (where the Linux/Windows style interface just looks even more out of place).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Almahtar ( 991773 )
        I get that a lot, actually. Depending on the theme I'm using and whether I'm using KDE or Gnome (both with Compiz fusion), I get people saying either "So that's what Vista looks like... I really like it!" or "Wow. I've never used OSX before, but that looks cool".

        None of them know what a "Linux" is, so I don't bother clarifying :-)

        Equally often people will ask what the hell that is, of course.
  • Flash content (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Javi0084 ( 926402 )
    How about paying someone to fix Flash? It's what made me go back to Windows.
    • Re:Flash content (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:39PM (#24970219) Homepage Journal

      If you can get Adobe to open source Flash, I'm sure that can be arranged.

      In the mean time, the best you can do is to tell web developers to not use Flash, but open alternatives.

      • Re:Flash content (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:32PM (#24972023) Journal

        Unfortunately, there are a great many things Flash does for which there are no alternatives, open or otherwise.

        Let me give you a recent, stupid example: We want to let users upload a bunch of things at once. We have three options:

        1: Build something using multiple file upload fields. (This could be done elegantly -- by hiding one as soon as it's set, and generating a new one.) In other words, we force the user to select each file individually, and click browse again -- and the files can't start uploading until they've all been selected.

        2: Accept zipfiles. Extra work for us (admittedly not much), and extra work for them.

        3: Use Flash. Not only can they select more than one file in the open dialog (ctrl+click, shift+click, ctrl+a, etc), but as soon as they select one, we can start uploading it.

        I want to use open alternatives. I hate Flash more than... I'm not a very hateful person, but Flash makes me homicidal. But even something as simple as that, there's an advantage to using Flash.

        • Re:Flash content (Score:4, Informative)

          by bgarcia ( 33222 ) on Friday September 12, 2008 @06:52AM (#24975821) Homepage Journal

          1: Build something using multiple file upload fields. (This could be done elegantly -- by hiding one as soon as it's set, and generating a new one.) In other words, we force the user to select each file individually, and click browse again -- and the files can't start uploading until they've all been selected.

          You can do this now with Gears []. For those of you not familiar with Gears, it's a browser add-on available for Firefox, IE, Safari, and Google Chrome. It adds extra functionality to browsers which will hopefully turn into standards in the future.

          The latest version of the YouTube multi-file uploader uses Gears to do this. You can also look at an example implementation of a multi-file uploader on the Gears Sample Applications [] page.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Are you serious?

      Flash is one of the first things I DISABLE on a browser. I have it installed, only as a last resort kind of stuff.

      If some casual site wants flash, I leave the site. And those flash ads just dont work. That's a plus in my book.

      • Re:Flash content (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:47PM (#24970357)
        A lot of us watch YouTube and other flash video. Heck, some of us even play the odd flash game until a download is finished. If Adobe open sourced Flash, you could make decent cross-platform web applications in a matter of minutes all the while blocking Flash ads.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hedwards ( 940851 )

          Gnash actually does a pretty good job with youtube most of the time. And I've been able to play some of the older flash games as well.

          It sucks in the sense that it's not completed, but they did manage to replicate the original crashing randomly on flash pages.

          At present, it's the only way of getting flash on FreeBSD for amd64. I believe that flash still hasn't been ported to Linux on amd64 either. But not really using Linux, I'm far less sure of that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ppanon ( 16583 )
          Gnash [] your teeth. Gnash doesn't work for web sites that test for and require the absolute latest Flash release, but it seems to work well enough for YouTube. It's what I'm using at home with Firefox on Ubuntu Hardy.
    • How about paying someone to fix Flash? It's what made me go back to Windows.

      killall -9 pulseaudio

      then install the flash10 beta for Linux.

      It's pretty nice in comparison to what we've been dealing with in the past. Still not open source, but a lot better than before!

      • by bucky0 ( 229117 )

        There is still that terrible wmode bug that's been fixed in the firefox upstream but hasn't made it to the ubuntu repository. I've been following the bug in the tracker, and nobody thinks it's a high priority thing that flash will segfault firefox when using wmode.

      • by Curtman ( 556920 )

        then install the flash10 beta for Linux.

        Link for 64 bit version please?

        I use swfdec currently. It works some of the time, and I'm grateful when it does.

        • by kiddygrinder ( 605598 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:14PM (#24970799)

          Link for 64 bit version please?

          Adobe don't believe in 64 bit. In fact i think their programmers get confused if you ask them to count to 33

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JackieBrown ( 987087 )

      I think Adobe already gets paid

    • by DrSkwid ( 118965 )

      Flash has always been annoying esp. on Lunix. I was rather pleased to find my EeePC 901 plays YouTube videos just dandy (and rfmon works on the WiFi ;)

  • Where's the BSD? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:36PM (#24970181)

    As anyone with half a brain knows, Mac OS X is based on the Xnu kernel, not the FreeBSD one. Xnu is a combination of Mach combined with various bits lifted from FreeBSD 5.x (but is not itself the FreeBSD kernel). OS X is an updated NeXT, not a GUI-fied FreeBSD.

    I can't believe the editors let such a blatant slip-up onto the front page. Wait, it's slashdot --practically speaking, we have no editors. ;_;

  • by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:37PM (#24970203) Homepage Journal
    Shuttleworth paying out of pocket to help the ubuntu experience is nothing new. He's always done this. The printed CD's of ubuntu have always been free to whomever requested them. That's cost out of pocket for canonical. Don't get me wrong, this is great; but it's something they've always been doing.
  • by Captain Spam ( 66120 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:38PM (#24970209) Homepage

    X, OpenGL, Gtk, Qt, GNOME and KDE

    Frankly, that's a considerable amount of work he's planning on hiring up for. This intrigues me greatly, to be honest. And, with any luck, this all comes back to the community so that not-Ubuntu users can get in on it, too.

    Though I give it five minutes before we hear complaints that they're not helping out some obscure toolkit or DE. :-)

  • Why Not? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 )
    "Why not? After all, Mac OS itself is based on FreeBSD. Desktop Linux's future is starting to look brighter."

    As long as you have people literally in stand-offs against each other based on QT vs. GTK, Gnome vs. KDE, and the merits of this distro over that, then no. It won't become as seemless. Why? Because a lot of good programmers are tied up in projects that simply don't move the ship forward. They only decorate a room on the ship. Hey, I love Linux. Adore it! Maybe the problem is until Linux geeks get l
  • Gnome + KDE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InlawBiker ( 1124825 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:46PM (#24970335)
    I keep wondering when Gnome and KDE will ever join forces and do some real damage. But every time I wonder that out loud somebody smacks me down, as though I'm asking the English and German to join forces against tooth decay. I guess it's smack-down time again.
    • Re:Gnome + KDE (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:56PM (#24970493)

      Specifically, I thought they were going to unite their libs so that gnome and kde would be cosmetic changes of the overall GUI subsystem sitting atop X.

      Some things like DCOM have already been united and shared.. It just takes a few dedicated individuals to do so.

      I personally would love united libs that any gui can use while knowing that every "frozen" feature will be as such for any major versions. Let everybody use it, from GNOME, KDE, Xfce, and any other manager.

    • Re:Gnome + KDE (Score:4, Insightful)

      by martinw89 ( 1229324 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:11PM (#24970735)

      It will probably never happen. Plus, the competition probably does both teams a lot of good. But let's look at the specific reasons:

      • Different toolkits. If the projects joined, they would have to consolidate (ie, rewrite) TONS of code. That is, if they wanted to unify the applications look and feel. I suppose they wouldn't have to, but that sort of defeats the purpose.
      • Different design philosophies. KDE is all about choice, Gnome is all about making the choices for you. Obviously these are big oversimplifications of each (KDE makes some good choices by default, Gnome usually gives the power users a place to change things), but the different design philosophies would be hard to combine.
      • They're just different: The two projects have grown a lot over the last 10 years, and they both have great systems in place inside their desktop environments. Tons of this work would have to be heavily rewritten or scrapped altogether to make a new unified desktop environment. As an example, Gnome stores a lot of settings in the GConf repository, KDE doesn't.

      And one could go on for a while regarding why these projects can't just magically join together. It's sort of like the cries of Webkit in Firefox. Read the Ars article on that subject to get a feel for trying to combine projects with similar goals but completely different designs. They just don't mesh.

    • Re:Gnome + KDE (Score:4, Interesting)

      by idonthack ( 883680 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:16PM (#24970823)

      The two environments take entirely opposite approaches to design:

      • Gnome assumes the user is confused and tries to help them.
      • KDE assumes the user is capable and lets them do whatever they want.

      They are both an equally valid approach, but the target demographics are incompatible. It would be stupid to try and combine them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swillden ( 191260 )

      I keep wondering when Gnome and KDE will ever join forces


      KDE developers aren't interested on working on something like GNOME. If they were, they would. If KDE didn't exist, they'd create it or do something entirely different.

      Ditto GNOME developers. I mentioned KDE developers first, because I'm in their camp. I like C++, I like OO and I like the elaborate, ultra-flexible coolness you can build with them, and the simplicity inherent in the complexity. GNOME developers read that last phrase and say "Huh? WTF is he smoking?". To KDE developers GNOME

  • An omen! (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:46PM (#24970337)
    This must be proof that 2009 will be the year of the Linux desktop!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:47PM (#24970347)

    As an audio software developer, I have tried several times to make and port programs to Linux.

    Basically, you never dare to request anything other than the default config from an alsa driver. Trying different sample rates, formats or channel configs can cause anything from an unhelpful error code to a segfault (I kid you not).

    So it's hard to take Linux seriously in this context.
    ALSA is a roadblock, due to being "good enough", but it's nowhere near good.

    • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:29PM (#24971009)

      I've done a lot of work on audio on Linux, not for the audio itself, but because I work with satellite telemetry that's frequency-modulated in the audio band. I hate ALSA. It broke completely with the Unix philosophy.

      Before ALSA, one would open audio devices just like files, acquire audio data just like reading files, play audio just like writing files. ALSA went the Redmond way, one different API for each different type of data.

      • by Kent Recal ( 714863 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:20PM (#24971827)

        Amen to everyone who bashes alsa here, I agree wholeheartly.
        I think it's high time for a rewrite, maybe they get it right the third time...

        It's really amazing how thoroughly they managed to screw up something so relatively simple (when compared to other areas of the kernel).

        Every time my box decides to re-shuffle the order of my soundcards (re-promoting the onboard sound to default), or decides to remain silent for the rest of the session after I plugged/unplugged my USB headset, or requires me to play trial&error with barely documented and obscure config files (asoundrc/openalrc) to *maybe* get sound in a game working it reminds me of why 2008 is probably still not the year of linux on the desktop...

        To be fair, yes ALSA "works" most of the time and even out of the box. The distro-hackers managed to beat the hardware-detection into submission so that pretty much any liveCD will give you sound (at least on one of your cards...) right away. Just never try to get fancy, like going beyond adjusting the Master-volume. You're in for a world of pain.

  • by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:52PM (#24970417) Homepage Journal

    "Macs were interesting because 1) they weren't Intel and 2) they weren't Unix, now they're both. Oh well."

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:53PM (#24970425)

    Red Hat has invested a lot of money to improve the Linux desktop experience as well. They've made great strides, but still - they still have a ways to go, at least in the opinion of this user of both OSes. So spending more money does not guarantee they'll reach the goal.

    I think, in order for Linux to really break through here, they probably need to have teams of actual designers rather than have the coders do most of the design themselves. They also probably need to "think different" and come up with their own usability/interface ideas, rather than keep mimicking Apple's (which Gnome seems to frequently do, if discussions on the developer email lists are any indication).

    In any case this is a good thing, and I hope Linux continues to push forward thanks to this new investment.

  • while this is useful admirable-- if I had millions, I would consider setting up a program to pay a limited number of folks $100 for installing Linux on a desktop machine used 8+ hours a week and using it for a few months. A weekly (at least) intelligent posting to the forums would be required. You would have to apply for the program - show some of your writing on the internet (slashdot posts) as someone who really exists and can actually communicate.
    Meanwhile, paid staff would facilitate a way to solve p
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @06:56PM (#24970497)

    Sorry, I couldn't help it:

    It is official; Netcraft now confirms: *BSD is growing

    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered Windows community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has risen yet again, now up to more than 30 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has gained more market share , this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is sending other OSes into complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by topping the charts in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

    You don't need to be a Daemon to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a long and prosperous future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Windows Server because *BSD is growing. Things are looking very good for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to gain market share. Red ink flows from Redmond like a river of blood.

    FreeBSD is the most loved of them all, having gained 93% more core developers. The sudden and pleasant release of the long developed 5.0 only serves to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is growing.

    Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

    OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 70000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 70000/5 = 14000 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 7000 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (70000+14000+7000)*4 = 364000 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

    Due to the release of OSX, cool new technologies and so on, FreeBSD is expanding into more desktops than ever. FreeBSD has become more than the sum of its parts.

    All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily gained in market share. *BSD is very powerful and its long term survival prospects are very bright. If Windows is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to improve. The progress achieved is nothing short of a miracle. For all practical purposes, *BSD is alive and kicking.

    Fact: *BSD will kick your ass

  • Simple start (Score:2, Insightful)

    by loconet ( 415875 )

    X? OpenGL? really? Will some of the simpler more annoying stuff that is broken right now be addressed as well? How about we start with some simple stuff like getting Flash with audio not crash Firefox 98% of the time. I don't care that you can fix that by installing Flash 10 beta, or some extra library, the fact is that it does not work out of the box. Not only that, the fix (as explained by the hundreds of other users who had the problem) involves jumping to the command line and apt-get'ing a new version o

    • Re:Simple start (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:13PM (#24970781)

      Thats right.
      Ubuntu works fine.
      Firefox works fine.
      Gnome/X works fine.
      Compiz works fine.
      Pretty much every app works fine.
      Bugs are addressed quickly on ubuntu's website.
      ADOBE makes a crap version of Flash for Linux.

      It's Ubuntu's fault Flash crashes. Nuh-huh

      Try: The proprietary software dealer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bendodge ( 998616 )

      Does this Flash problem everyone gripes about exist in only in GNOME or something? I am using Kubuntu 8.04 KDE 4.1 and Flash seems to work just as well as in XP.

  • ...for not calling this the year of the linux desktop.
  • by Brain Damaged Bogan ( 1006835 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:20PM (#24970889)
    the uberGeek. We should all aspire to be like that guy, he's worth millions but he chooses to give back to the community by paying for FOSS development out of his own pocket. Sure, Canonical is a business and I'm sure the publicity and improvements he's paying for will help get some more license fees, but the geek points he's scoring are worth so much more

    **Geek points not redeemable for any cash value.
  • by Jjeff1 ( 636051 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:50PM (#24971343)
    As far as I can tell, the killer app preventing linux from taking over the corporate world is the lack of an outlook replacement. More and more of our work is web based. Evolution has a beta mapi extension for exchange 2007, and exchange 2003 support (via screenscraping OWA). My attempts to get it working with exchange 2007 so far have failed. I'm really perplexed that no one seems to have nailed this down yet.
  • No Reason Why Not (Score:4, Interesting)

    by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:17PM (#24971763)

    There's no reason Shuttleworth can't deliver something on par with OS X. All he needs to do is concentrate on functionaliy, usability, and marketability, and not worry that much about ideology. I.e., the same things Apple worries about.

    The market does not care how software is writen, it just cares about what it does and how it looks.

  • Not so fast ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Neuropol ( 665537 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:38PM (#24972091) Homepage
    This last weekend, I had the biggest scare in the last 3 years of using Ubuntu. After downloading and installing the latest XML update for some thing, I rebooted (because I felt like it), and Gnome, my usual windowmanager, absolutely would not boot up. I couldn't even get safe-mode to boot so may uninstall the update, if that were even an option if I did get it to boot. Being that I have about 20 other options for window managers, I began logging in to see which other ones had fried in the process. Luckily, none of the other ones had bzzzt'd.

    Because I've used linux for the last 9 years, 3 years of full-time-no-windows-any-more, I have come to acknowledge the unexpected, irreversible errors that have plagued me and my choices of software in Linux.

    I've noticed a move towards lack of backwards compatibility for many apps along the way in the last two years. Luckily, I have only had to rebuild a Ubuntu install once, the rest of the additions have been welcomely handled by fairly painless updates (except when Ubuntu blew up xorg on every one and one couldn't boot back to an actual functioning video screen) [...]

    This move away from backwards app compatibility and support was a common trend when RedHat was growing out of its diapers and moving towards being a popular, viable Open Source option. This is some thing that eventually drove me away from using RedHat, due to essentially, cutting their core users off at the most crucial time in order to expand in to a more wide reaching market in enterprise Linux.

    To understand what took place on my gnome issue, I know that I trick out the desktop in such a way that any good programmer would look at me, take my machine, and say, 'nope, you are not supposed to do that, mine now'. BUT, it works, and always has ... until an xml update blew stuff up.

    If Ubuntu plans to keep its core supporters, stuff like this just can't happen. It's a pain to have to rebuild an entire usable desktop option so I can go back to editing Astrophotography Images in DS9. For me, it's a few curse words and a lot of time.

    On the other hand, consider a fresh-off-the-windows-boat user, had this happened to them, Ubuntu would lose those customers left and right, no questions asked - back to windows - because that just doesn't happen in windows. In the 10 plus years I've actually seriously been messing with computers - again, 9 of which have been Linux (the 80s & 90s don't count), I've never seen this happen with either Windows or Mac - and it better never again, or Ubuntu will be losing a long-time dedicated user because I just can't spend my days rebuilding what some "update" broke due to lack of backwards compatibility - and no subsequent follow-up bug fix has been released ...

    I like Ubuntu due to its simplicity on the front end, yet it comes with every thing that makes Linux good under the hood. Just don't kill it for the those who have supported your efforts.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll