We'll see | Matt Zimmerman

a potpourri of mirth and madness

Posts Tagged ‘Breezy

Reflections on ten releases of Ubuntu

The gold master for Ubuntu 9.04 was finalized and released on Thursday, and remains a hot item for download today.  With the bits safely out the door, I paused to think about what made this release special, and soon realized that version 9.04 was the tenth release of Ubuntu.  With two Ubuntu releases each year, this means that it has been five years since I first became involved with the project.  A great deal of my time during those years has been spent working to enable Canonical and community developers to work together to produce a system that is a pleasure to use and share.

I am amazed at how much has happened in that time.  Here are some of the things which give me a sense of how far Ubuntu has come.

In 2004, Ubuntu itself was a single product which came in two parts: an installation CD and a live CD for 32-bit x86 computers.  Along the way, we’ve vastly expanded the number of ways to obtain, install and use free software through Ubuntu, having:

  • added an official 64-bit edition (5.04) and six additional ports
  • combined the installation and live CDs into a single medium which serves both functions (6.06)
  • created the Server Edition (5.10) and Netbook Remix (9.04)
  • developed a simple upgrade system which guides users to the next release when it becomes available
  • inspired dozens of derivative products such as Kubuntu and Xubuntu (five of which released new versions in sync with 9.04)
  • added installation DVDs (5.04) and support for USB flash media which can be used to install both desktops and servers
  • added a long-term support (LTS) option  (6.06)

Launchpad barely existed when Ubuntu 4.10 was released.  We were using a modified Bugzilla for bug tracking, and Debian’s dak toolkit to build packages and manage the repository.  Today, Launchpad is a central piece of infrastructure for Ubuntu:

  • hosting nearly 300,000 bug reports
  • managing official repositories of hundreds of thousands of Ubuntu packages (with even more in PPAs)
  • enabling translation of virtually every piece software in Ubuntu
  • destined to become open source later this year
  • hosting thousands of upstream projects
  • soon to be providing revision control for the entire source code for Ubuntu using Bazaar
  • providing a massive cross-referenced index of all of this data, including web APIs

The Ubuntu community, now an essential part of keeping Ubuntu going, was only just beginning in 2004.  We had a basic governance structure, a couple of public mailing lists and a wiki, mostly populated by ourselves and people we knew through the open source community.  Since then, some of the highlights for me have been:

  • the establishment of the Ubuntu Forums for users to share experiences and help each other, now with over 800,000 users and 1,000,000 threads
  • the incredible growth of local Ubuntu community teams, of which there are now over 70 worldwide and many more in the process of becoming official
  • the growth and diversity of the Ubuntu blogosphere, as reflected in Planet Ubuntu, Planet Ubuntu Women, The Fridge and other aggregators
  • the addition of over 500 official Ubuntu Members, acknowledging a sustained and significant contribution to the project
  • seeing social networking groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites with tens of thousands of members
  • the celebration of Ubuntu releases through parties around the world, of which there were over 100 known for Ubuntu 9.04
  • the emergence of Ubuntu community news publications such as the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter and Full Circle Magazine
  • the creation of Ubuntu Brainstorm to group and rank suggestions and feedback from Ubuntu users

In the beginning, of course, Ubuntu was known to few people other than its own developers.  Today, the fact that Ubuntu has touched so many lives is an important motivation for many of us to continue our work on the project.

  • we can’t be certain how many people are using Ubuntu globally, but estimate the number to be over ten million based on Internet traffic
  • Ubuntu has received extensive press coverage, including appearances in mainstream publications such as The New York Times
  • Ubuntu community members report frequent recognition of Ubuntu in public (for example when wearing an Ubuntu T-shirt) in countries around the world
  • Ubuntu has been ranked the most popular distribution in surveys of Linux users, including the Linux Foundation client survey
  • Many of our friends and family members, who are not particularly interested in tinkering with their computers, use it and love it too

Canonical, the company which has made Ubuntu possible, has changed dramatically as well.  From its inception as a startup comprised mainly of a small engineering team, Canonical has grown to:

Such rapid growth has brought about great challenges in all of these areas, and provided plenty of opportunity for personal development.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with the most talented and dedicated team of my career, a team which spans corporate, national and social boundaries.  Together, we’ve broken new ground in realizing the potential of free software.

Here’s to the next ten releases!


Written by Matt Zimmerman

April 27, 2009 at 12:35