|La Linux Foundation recently published its annual report on the development of the kernel Linux. As usual, Red Hat and SUSE topped the list of top contributors to Linux kernel development. Even Microsoft reached the first 20 due to its cleanliness of the code of its Hyper-V technology that allows to virtualize Linux on Windows Server.
However, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, was left out of the list (just appears in a distant booth No. 79).
The question that arises is what is Canonical's contribution to Linux. At Muktware, several users came together to write a common article, some of which I took the liberty of translating and sharing with you below.
When Steven Vaughan-Nichols, editor of ZDNET, asked Mark Shuttleworth about Canonical's contributionHe said: "... the kernel is a small part of the Ubuntu user experience, and we do not lead kernel development as a particular goal."
I was curious what Linus Torvalds and Greg KH, the two leaders of the Linux world, think about Canonical's input. During LinuxCon, when I asked Linus Torvalds about non-contributing players, he said, “When you have people who just use the system, they are not forced to contribute much as they don't need to make any changes. They only use it the way it was designed to be used. "
So if you just use the system without making any changes to it, there is not much to contribute.
When I asked him about Greg KH's criticisms of Canonical, Linus said, “The reason Greg didn't like Canonical was because they really did make changes. They just weren't as active in driving their onboarding as Greg wanted them to be. "
I had a meeting with Greg the next day, so I asked him about Canonical. He said, “If you trust Linux, shouldn't you help contribute to Linux to make sure it works in a way that is useful to you? Canonical's business decision is not to contribute and that's okay. We have no problem with that and Canonical agrees with that. " Then he added: "They have contributed more, there's no question about that, lots and lots of people who contribute are not considered 'top contributors.' That's fine, I have no objection to that.
Canonical's Michael Hall seems to disagree with this definition of contribution. When listening to Greg and Linus' comments on Canonical's contribution, Michael said, “… I'm equally sure that people who say that have a very narrow and unrealistic definition of what a contribution is. I don't agree with your definition. "
Table of Contents
Canonical contributions outside the core
Ubuntu supporters often argue that Canonical has contributed by making GNU / Linux very popular with the masses. That's true. Ubuntu has made it easier for those who want to leave Windows to use GNU / Linux.
SJVN also believes that Canonical is contributing significantly outside of kernel development: “Sure, the Linux kernel is important. Without it, nothing could be executed. But, as Shuttleworth points out, Canonical contributes a lot to the larger Linux community. Additionally, Ubuntu has helped expand the Linux audience, and Ubuntu itself is the foundation for other popular Linux distributions, such as Linux Mint, PepperMint OS, and TurnKey OS. The bottom line is that Ubuntu may not have contributed many lines of code to the Linux kernel, but it has made great contributions to Linux in a broader sense. «
“True, but Canonical is not making the word 'Linux' popular. Ubuntu is not Linux. You will not find mention of Linux in the Ubuntu marketing material. Therefore, when a user uses Ubuntu they do not know that it is Linux. In the same way as a user who uses Mac or iOS and does not know that it is BSD. If this is the yardstick for measuring contribution, TomTom must be a bigger contributor as it has a bigger market than Ubuntu. ”Says Rajiv Sachan, an Ubuntu user.
Canonical Technologies Outside Ubuntu
Canonical has developed a large number of technologies like Unity, which can be considered its contribution to the Linux world. Theodore Ts'o, the main developer and maintainer of e2fsprogs, noted: “One of the reasons why many people do not consider Canonical's contributions to Unity as a contribution to 'Linux' is that no other Linux distribution uses it. . The same is true for almost all Canonical-led projects. "
The same is the case with other Ubuntu technologies that are not used outside of Ubuntu. Canonical's personal cloud services like Ubuntu One are not available on other GNU / Linux distributions.
Brett Legree argues that there is nothing preventing other Linux distributions from using Unity. There are a lot of applications that are not installed in all distributions, or even as compiled packages for them. There is work in progress for other distros like Arch, Fedora, Debian, and Mint to allow their users to use Unity.
Ubuntu developer Michael Hal says: “There is nothing preventing other distributions from using the Ubuntu One client, except the desire not to use a free software program that uses a Canonical service. They are as free to use the Ubuntu One client as they are to use the Dropbox client. "
Dean Howell, editor of PoweHouse, is skeptical: “It's hard to really measure Canonical's motives with Ubuntu. On the surface, it is a product for the people, by the people, but internally it is easy to question whether this is indeed the case. Shuttleworth seems to have worked very hard to keep its team isolated from other development groups and even to establish itself as an independent entity. This is dangerous behavior on the part of a company whose work relies heavily on Gnome 3. Unity tries to build on the GTK3 libraries and at the same time use it as a stepping stone to independence. What else could explain the lack of the latest GTK3 packages in Ubuntu? Gnome 3.4 would break Unity.
Nekhelesh Ramananthan, Ubuntu Editor, sees things differently than Dean: “I don't agree with saying that Gnome 3.4 would break Unity. Gnome 3.4 has been ported to work on Ubutnu 12.04. Totem 3.4 is not included just because it requires hardware acceleration, so users with older hardware would be left without a video player by default. "
Beyond the Core: Other Canonical Contributions
“Canonical has contributed uTouch, which is actually the most advanced open source multitouch and gesture system. During uTouch development, many of the drivers have been updated or contributed (Apple Magic TrackPad). And many layers were modified (kernel, X.org, window manager, misc.libraries). From the point of view of a Human-Computer Interaction researcher, Canonical was the first to be interested in linking the work done by scientific researchers and applying it for the benefit of the community, ”says Mohamed Ikbel Boulabiar.
Ubuntu Linux contributes to Linux in a different way. While it is true that they do not contribute to the core, there are other services and technologies that Canonical develops not only for its users, but also for everyone else. Besides that, Ubuntu is probably one of the operating systems and it serves as the basis for other distributions (eg Linux Mint). Ubuntu has made server creation easier and is seen in robotic technology, such as Darwin-OP. "What we have to understand is that Ubuntu is one of the many faces of Linux and is an important gateway to the world of Linux, which is more than enough," says Michael Redford, an Ubuntu user.
Nekhelesh says: “There are a lot of companies that focus on kernel development. I'd rather Canonical (a small-scale company compared to Google or Microsoft) continue to focus on making Ubuntu easy for new users. Besides that they already have their hands on too many topics: Ubuntu TV, a mobile OS, Ubuntu One, the Ubuntu Software Center, etc. I got into Linux because of Ubuntu and am grateful because of the ease of use of the system. I'm absolutely fine with them not participating in kernel development. "
The question is not whether they should get involved in kernel development or not. The point is if they are making changes to the kernel and not sharing them with the wider community so that they can benefit from them. Not sharing these changes is not okay. But, as Greg says, they are contributing, but they are not the top contributors.
Canonical numbers in perspective
Canonical employee Dustin Kirkland makes an interesting comparison in which he points to data from the most important companies in the Linux world:
Canonical: ~ 130
Red Hat: ~ 2200
Novell: ~ 4100
IBM: 386,558 ...
Canonical: (probably somewhere south of the following numbers)
Red Hat: $ 523 million USD
Novell: $ 933 million USD
IBM: $ 98,786 million USD (yes, that's a hundred billion dollars)
Years of existence
Canonical: 4 (founded in 2004)
Red Hat: 15 (founded in 1993)
Novell: 29 (founded in 1979)
IBM: 119 (founded in 1889)
These data make the situation somewhat clearer: Canonical may not contribute much, but its size is also much smaller than that of large companies that work with Linux.
Canonical is doing the best it can
Considering the size of the company, Canonical is doing the best it can. Yes, there is much more to be desired, but the field they have chosen to fight is very competitive. They are fighting for a market between an abusive monopoly (Microsoft) and a player with $ 100 billion in the bank (Apple).
It's a tightrope for Ubuntu. Considering its size, the company has expanded into a perhaps too wide range of products: operating system for desktop PCs, Ubuntu One, Ubuntu Music, Ubuntu TV, Ubuntu for Android, etc.
At the same time, Canonical may not want to narrow down that product range and put all of your eggs in one basket. That is why it is your desk is on the tightrope. However, for now Ubuntu is still in balance.
Does Canonical Deny Linux?
Poor Canonical, right? He is very "small" and does what he can. But, in truth, the question that matters is whether Canonical's low contribution to the Linux kernel is due to an economic impossibility or if it is really based on a commercial strategy in order not to associate Ubuntu with Linux, something similar to the Google's own strategy with Android.
The story comes from an article published by Joe brockmeier on his personal blog. In fact, Brockmeier downloaded the first beta of Ubuntu 12.04 to test it, and when taking a look at the release notes, the poor man was shocked when he found the following line: "Beta-1 includes the Ubuntu kernel 3.2.0-17.27 which is based on the stable kernel v3.2.6. »
Ubuntu kernel? He wondered, since when? Since never, of course. And there he reminded a bit of the detachment that Canonical has had regarding the name "Linux" in its products, since there is not even mention of the kernel created by Linus Torvalds on the official Ubuntu website (or not at first glance).
It seems that in Canonical they prefer Ubuntu to be just Ubuntu. In other words, goodbye to "Linux for human beings".
And what do you think? Does Canonical contribute to the development of GNU / Linux?