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Re: Why does Ubuntu have all the ideas?

I'll try to address my answer on issues not addressed by Matt

Fredag 28 juli 2006 17:02, skrev Katrina Jackson:

> I am concerned Debian isn't trying to meet people's needs enough.

I agree with you that Debian could be perceived that way. The 13500+
program packages in Sarge could be overwhelming. It could be adverse
to find the solution for your immediate needs. That said, the Custom
Debian Distributions[1] projects are targeting a lot of different
needs and requirements. Independent evaluations[2] shows that some of
that tailor made solutions made with Debian outperform other
alternatives that don't take the users needs into account.

1. http://wiki.debian.org/CustomDebian
2 .http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/3373/470

In my personal view (K)Ubuntu has done a great job making the desktop
just work. It gives a good feeling for a lot of people.  I have
replace Windows with Kubuntu for a lot of family members and
friends. But when it comes to municipality wide installations of free
software on many schools, operated centrally, the Debian based
Skolelinux does the job. 

If system operators initially have run an k12ltsp installation or
something else, they switch to Skolelinux after they have experienced
the need for stability. They have to do some tailoring of the desktop
and services anyway, so in the school environment, the KDE 3.3 and a
backported OpenOffice.org 2.0.3 with a lot of educational programs is
good enough. The users also tend to be conservative. They don't want
to change KDE every year. It's believe it or not the same with
Windows. A lot of people don't want to change their desktop to
often. They also want full support for flash, media streams, MS Word
document (God forbids ;) and such in the Web browser.

The Skolelinux Drift, a Norwegian based company that maintain
Skolelinux installations, installs Kubuntu on the laptops and
Skolelinux on the servers with support for thin clients and diskless
workstations. They add inn the support for multimedia, USB-stics and
such. All things plays together nicely. The biggest issue is to show
the computer support person at every school to know the possibilities
with educational software. They often don't know what the options are,
and hard work has to be done educating the users that computers are
more than office applications (that often is the case when teachers
uses Windows and MS Office, and has inherent experiences from that

> A.  Ubuntu seems like it can get hardware support immeadiatly, but
> that support never seems to quickly get to Debian.   I have been
> using Ubuntu since Debian doesn't wok on my laptop.  Suspend doesn't
> work and my wireless pro  3945ABG doesn't work.  With Ubuntu
> everything works fine.

Thats mainly a kernel issue, where (K)Ubuntu ships with a newer kernel
that comes with Debian unstable. After the little I know about the new
Debian release, they will ship with the 2.6.17 kernel, and it will
most likely be possible to upgrade to a new supported kernel in the
mid life of the new Debian version. I don't know much of the status
for suspend support in a new Debian version, but i suspect that it
will be on place in Etch. So the suspend issue will probably work out
of the box with laptops (correct me if I'm wrong).

> B.  Ubuntu members not only support mailing lists and IRC but suport
> user forums which are so much more user friendly and don't fill up
> your mailbox.

A lot of the Custom Debian Distributions has it's own user support
lists. Skolelinux has more questions answered on it's user lists in
Norwegian than Edubuntu has world wide. After what I've heard the
German support list for Skolelinux also has a lot of traffic relevant
for the users. That said, the reason for making Skolelinux in 2001 was
to address a general challenge for all Linux-distributions. The
distributions back then was general purpose, and not tailored for the
different users needs.

Back in 2001 a standard school admin had to answer 128 question to
installing a Linux system on a server with network support and 5-6
services for 100 client machines. The installation manual was 134
pages for a RedHat distro. By redesigning the Debian installer the
same installation is done answering 3-4 question, and the school
servers is up running after 30 minutes.

When making the installation tailored with profiles for different
users, we could use more effort on helping people using a free
software at the schools, not using all the time on configuration talk
at the support lists. Ubuntu tailored the installer for their
requirements, and my opinion they have done a great job making the
desktop usable for average users. In some areas Skolelinux had to
catch up, and others Ubuntu is catching up. They have a more glossy
desktop. Skolelinux have a municipality wide architecture, tailored
for central operation and maintenance.

Most or all the developers in Skolelinux is deeply concerned on making
free software useable in a teaching environment, and then every
improvement should be made available upstream. Everyone should with as
little effort as possible be able to get our translations, bug-fixes
or new code, and the documentation and computer programs in their own
language. So there are a kind of two campuses in that particular
project, and we have to work all the time to bridge the gap between
the developers and the users. 

Skolelinux developers work together with Edubuntu to developing new
functionality and share experiences. We want to be pragmatic about
this in the framework of free software. We don't want to waist time to
discredit the other distroes. That will just backfire on us self, and
most of the ordinary user don't understand this anyway. But Skolelinux
hope that Ubuntu and other Debian brased distroes will make the 
patch management more upstream to Debian. 

> The reason why Ubuntu is more popular than you is they honestly
> focus their attention on making their users happy.  They actually
> seem to care about people's needs.  As was recently said, pretty and
> nice are features too.  I don't understand what the deal is.  Any,
> good programmers have good ideas they impliment, more then just the
> ability to hack to debug.  Is debian good for anything besides
> Debuuging, Debugging, Debugging.  Never and new great features or
> ideas.

The strength of Ubuntu has and continue to be their marketing effort,
and the 6 month releases with support for newer hardware and a nice
desktop based on Debian unstable.  The other thing that is important
is that companies and public sector want to have someone to held
accountable*. With Canonical firms can make contracts to get someone
to blame if somethings breaks. We have done the same thing when
establishing Skolelinux Drift ("Skolelinux operation and maintenance
Inc"). The Skolelinux got the question about accountability from the
Ministry of education and science in Norway in 2002. The One Laptop
per Child project have exactly the same concern, and RedHat said that
they could be held accountable. 

* Accountable in this context is the general notion that you can call
  a company that will fix your problem if anythings goes wrong with
  your installations, and this has to be done professionally.

When it comes to new feautures or ideas, the standard distro today,
and I then include Ubuntu, have very little new things. In my personal
view the saying "the people that don't know their history, thinks
everything is new". This applies to most of software in use
today. The most of the innovations done with computers we use today is
already done 20-30 years ago. The only thing Microsoft has invented is
the bothersome paper clip which they introduced in Windows for over 
a decade ago. When it comes to Linux-distroes, the innovation 
happens outside the distroes. It's explain it self by the fact that 
a distro distributes software made or innovated by all the 
software projects out there.

The success of free software i believe mostly comes from the fact that
it is built with open innovation[3] and works in the marked place as
disruptive technology[4]. To be a first mover in a disruptive marked
can give a commercial success that outperform the success gained by
stepwise improvement of sustaining technology. The most of the
business schools learn you how to survive in businesses with
sustaining technology, and they learn that the first mover is a
dangerous and risky path. That said, impressive amount of science 
shows that there could be are a more risky to work with 
sustaining technology ... Today the growth[5] in the computer business 
is happening in the free software space. 

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Innovation
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology
5. http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/5663/469

Best regards 

Knut Yrvin
Project manager Skolelinux Norway

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