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Mark Shuttleworth Q+A Part 1: Gnome 3, New Themes, MONO & Peanut Butter On Toast…

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shuttleworth Apple may have Steve Jobs, Microsoft their Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer but we Ubuntu lovers have our own awesome over-lord in the form of Canonical head and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. He even dubs himself “Self Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life”!

This week ‘Ubuntu Open Week” (A week dedicated of online tuition, chat and Q+A’s celebrating the latest Ubuntu release ” this month Jaunty Jackalope) saw Mark opening himself up to a 2 hour probing session in the form of a Q+A. Here’s part 1 of the IRC highlights!

Key: ‘MS‘ = Mark Shuttleworth.

Are there plans to do more work with existing partners like IBM to increase official product (WebSphere, Eclipse, TeamConcert etc.) support for Ubuntu Server as an enterprise platform?

MS: Yes, very much so. We need to be able to demonstrate critical mass. I have no doubt we will get there key thing is to demonstrate large organisations deploying ubuntu in production, underneath services which they expect to pay to keep healthy and innovative so, if you have case studies, or users, that will help as best i can tell, ubuntu is the #1 platform for evaluations, now need to translate that into production deployments.

What factors are you judging 9.04 as the best release ever from ?

MS: Nice combination of desktop and server features, plus no major subsystem issues, plus some unique features we are contributing to upstream, plus 105 release parties, plus it’s named after a mythical horned rabbit.

Recently, the idea of replacing Rhythmbox for Banshee in Karmic has resparked the Mono debate in the Ubuntu community. As the SABDFL, what is your view on Mono? Is it safe to build a distribution that depends on it?

MS: Yes, i believe mono is a reasonable runtime to include in a distribution like Ubuntu. I don’t expect Microsoft to launch any IP assaults based on mono adoption, they have said they will not do that.

What are the plans for GNOME 3 and the LTS. Will you release 10.04 with it or defer it to 10.10?

MS: We’ll support GNOME3 in the best way we can. It’s too early to say what that will be – it depends on what our users want, what the development community wants and what the code looks like.

I suspect it will be best to get GNOME3 onto as many *developer* desktops as possible as soon as possible but that it will not be a good service to our users to suggest they upgrade direct to 3.0, perhaps more 3.2; the experience with KDE was very useful.

If GNOME 3 is 2.30, then I expect we would make available packages in universe or a PPA with easy tools for people to get it in one click or one command while delivering an LTS based on more established code.


How do you see the Oracle-Sun deal, do you think it is going to affect Open source projects like Java, OpenOffice, etc? Is it going to affect in some way ubuntu?

MS: It will definitely affect them, but it’s too soon to know for sure how – we’ll have to see whether Oracle makes any big initial moves (selling off or shutting down any projects) then we’ll need to see if the people who were engaged there are changed and then we’ll need to see how the dust settles. That will take three months, a year, three years respectively.

The code is still free software, that cannot be taken back.

If you’re passionate about those projects the best thing to do is to participate, imo I’m not worried about any of those.

Will we finally have a promised “New look” in next release, and is it gonna be something good, something different or something like Human-Clearlooks.

MS: It has taken a long, long time to pull together a design team. I had hoped to have that team in place six months ago, but it’s still forming. I think we will make good progress in the next cycle, you can already see a few things that have borne fruit from that team: notifications, time zone selector in installer, etc, but it’s fragmentary.

I’m pretty darn confident we’ll have a new look for 10.04 but i think only pieces of that will emerge for 9.10.

Brick and mortar stores rely on the sales of software along with PCs. Many local-to-me shops refuse to carry free OS computers because they lose the related software sales. Do you have suggestions on how we can support our local shops AND Ubuntu?

MS: It’s a great question. Essentially – is industry addicted to software margins, and can we safely treat the addiction? One answer is that computers will increasingly be sold in non-specialised stores both online and offline – Tesco’s, and Amazon or That’s not a great answer for your local-to-you specialised store, though I don’t have better ideas other than that.

If we continue to improve the experience, usefulness, robustness and capabilities of the free software alternative, industry will reconfigure itself around that.

If suddenly the majority of computer users were on Ubuntu machines instead of Windows, do you think Ubuntu would be ready? Are there any key developments that need to be made before Ubuntu could be an excellent mainstream product? (Is it even desirable to be so mainstream?)

MS: Yes, it’s desirable, and yes, there would be issues. I think we will grow into the role.

There’s a LOT going on at the hardware level, as we engage with the PC industry to work out how to enable them best on Linux generally and Ubuntu specifically.

If the world suddenly wanted Ubuntu everywhere tomorrow, we’d blow a fuse but over time it could be done and i think we shouldn’t shy away from a mainstream role.

Folks spending weekends making X better, or GiMP better, or Abiword better, or OO.o better, will have more satisfaction if they know that work will reach 100m people rather than 10m people.

Regarding the computer distribution, I often been told Linux is for geeks/specialists only, my ubuntu experiences shows me the inverse, how can we change the way stores sales man see Linux?

MS: Only with patience, time, and commitment to making it even better every six months.

What will come next in the Ayatana project? What part of the experience will you try to enhance next?)

MS: Ayatana is an initiative that spans desktop environments (there are folks there from KDE and GNOME at least, possibly XFCE et al) and I expect us to engage directly with individual upstreams as well as the broader DE’s.

Notifications will see an evolutionary improvement in 9.10 – that is under discussion on the Ayatana list as will the messaging menu. Those discussions are all public so please join in!

There are some other new features that we are working on for partners, they will be open source when they release and go into the next version of Ubuntu. More on those in the announcements in due course!

Have you seen gnome-shell and what do you think?

MS: I was there when it was being designed in Boston. I think there are cool ideas, and it will evolve into something fantastic given time.


Mark, what is your all-time favorite comfort food ?

MS: Peanut butter and jam on toast.

Read on to part two to find out whether Apple’s iTunes or Adobe’s Photoshop have plans for Linux versions; What Marks feels is 9.04’s biggest weakness and Ubuntu’s plans for wide-spread adoption…