Greg Kroah-Hartman on contributions to the Linux Plumbing pipeline

Discussion in 'Other Operating Systems' started by cleary, Jul 7, 2009.

  1. cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,243
    Location:
    Griffith NSW
    This is a little old now, but I haven't seen it posted here, so - It's the keynote speech for the 2008 Linux Plumbers conference presented by Greg Kroah-Hartman.

    It's interesting because it covers which companies are the major players when it comes to contributions to the Linux 'Plumbing' (ie the low level bits that make Linux unique)

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3385088017824733336
    Be aware, it's 35 mins long, just over half that is talk, the rest is question time.

    In particular it goes into detail on Canonicals lack of contributions. For me, this is extremely surprising having sat through the last 3 years of LCA conferences always being the only guy in the room not running Ubuntu or OSX - from my perspective, Ubuntu is _owning_ the linux desktop market share. Distrowatch, my communications with various upstream open source projects, and this forum also support this observation.

    I know we have a stack of Ubuntu users here, both using it in a hobbyist environment as well as professional/corporate environments - how do you feel about these statistics?
    Does it change your opinion on using Ubuntu at all?

    I've started reinvestigating ubuntu myself after ~3 year hiatus, looking mostly at LiveCD mastering and desktop customisation. Even with the small amount of stuff I've looked at, it's scary how much work the devs are making for themselves (maybe that helps explain why stuff isn't going back upstream since they spend so much time maintaining patches)...

    a very quick example - gnome-control-center
    Code:
    bernie@ed:~/tmp$ apt-get source gnome-control-center
    ...
    Fetched 4273kB in 15s (282kB/s)                                                                                           
    dpkg-source: extracting gnome-control-center in gnome-control-center-2.26.0
    dpkg-source: info: unpacking gnome-control-center_2.26.0.orig.tar.gz
    dpkg-source: info: applying gnome-control-center_2.26.0-1ubuntu5.diff.gz
    bernie@ed:~/tmp$ ls -l gnome-control-center/gnome-control-center-2.26.0/debian/patches/ | grep ^\- | wc -l
    24
    
    I compared it against the equivalent upstream debian package which has 6 patches, of which 3 are used by ubuntu. So that's 21 patches extra they are maintaining on what is a relatively small tool by comparison with the rest of the OS... ouch!

    Side comment: they also mentioned CentOS as a non-contributor. This is an interesting one to me since all CentOS have ever claimed to provid is binary packaging for the RHEL source - nothing more. I guess they should be providing patches where possible, but being able to package something doesn't necessarily mean you can code, so I was a bit skeptical about that comment.

    Discuss...
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  2. stmok

    stmok Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2001
    Messages:
    8,877
    Location:
    Sydney
  3. adante

    adante Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Messages:
    494
    Location:
    Brisbane Nth
    I'm not too hassled. I use software primarily based on how well it works and how cost effective it is versus making some point of principle. In my limited experience ubuntu has been the least painful distribution to use in terms of 'just working'.

    If canonical were (somehow) charging money for their distro or otherwise profiting wildly while not giving back to the os community, I would probably be dirty. But for the nonce they are giving quite freely to the end-user community, and their domination illustrates pretty clearly that it is good value stuff.

    Just out of curiousity, am I wrong in thinking that the internal distro specific patches are publicly available? What prevents upstream from grabbing these patches and incorporating them into the codebase if they so desire?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 7, 2009
  4. OP
    OP
    cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,243
    Location:
    Griffith NSW
    nothing, except that there are X patches for Y different distros on Z different codebase states. For the upstream to go out and sort out the useful from the useless would be a time consuming and unrewarding endeavour. By having useful patches pushed from downstream, the signal to noise ratio is significantly reduced.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,243
    Location:
    Griffith NSW
    To call for a ban is imo naive and missing the point.
    IMO Greg nailed it when he said that the companies need to be educated about how to function in the ecosystem.
    Ubuntu is too popular to let all those eyes go to waste, but canonical need to interract differently with the upstream community.

    Edit: just read the end, glad it was (at least partially) a tongue in cheek statement
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  6. adante

    adante Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Messages:
    494
    Location:
    Brisbane Nth
    That said it seems like the only suitable judge for what is a 'useful' patch for upstream developer. I suspect the distro considers all X of its patches useful. I wonder how many times downstream have submitted patches to get rejected before they figured bugger it, let's manage these internally.

    I would be more inclined to put the onus on upstream to incorporate these patches, if they they think they are useful.

    And MrLinux sounds slightly insane.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,243
    Location:
    Griffith NSW
    I meant more in the sense that they often patch distro-specific stuff ie use different paths or so, which is useless/irrelevant to upstream. Then there's junk stuff, for example, using a distro brand icon somewhere instead of standard.

    Wading through that sort of patch series is not the role of the upstream developer. the packager already knows what all the patches do - and it is in their best interests to get the useful patches upstream so they don't have to maintain them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  8. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2001
    Messages:
    36,651
    Location:
    Brisbane
    I must say I'm getting tired of the anti-Ubuntu/Canonical attitude from a lot of people involved with "Linux plumbing".

    You would think that all Linux users would take a united stance. This concept that a distro is only "valid" if it actively contributes to all software (including the kernel) is a bit silly to me.

    Given the positive attention Ubuntu is bringing to Linux, and the onflow affect it will have as people initially use it for whatever reason and as time goes on get used to and understand the idea of free (as in freedom) software, can only be a good thing.

    I wonder how many people have cut their teeth on Ubuntu who will go on to be the next generation of open source (and kernel) developers? Given the massive marketing budgets proprietary software houses have, why can't Ubuntu be seen as "marketing for Linux", if nothing else? And even then, saying that Ubuntu "sucks and needs to be banned" (as per the blog post above) totally undermines the positive things Canonical is doing ("100 papercuts" is a brilliant initiative, and totally worth the time and effort).

    "Linux" as it's known today is more than just a kernel. It's an entire workflow from back end server to front end desktop and everything in between. All free software needs attention, and this uppity elitism that seems to hang around the kernel developers annoys me greatly.

    Anyways... that's all a bit over-reactive on my behalf. I'll calm down now...
     
  9. OP
    OP
    cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,243
    Location:
    Griffith NSW
    Sorry, but this wasn't put forth as an anti-ubuntu discussion. It's statistics (I know, lies, damn lies and statistics, however...) -
    I'm curious to know how YOU feel about using, and I presume contributing at some level to a distro where very little of what you provide seems to benefit anyone else in the community (at least as far as the plumbing goes). Especially when compared to what other major players in the Linux market (Red Hat, Novell, Intel and even Oracle) are doing.
     
  10. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2001
    Messages:
    36,651
    Location:
    Brisbane
    I personally have no problems with it. As above, I think all distros have their place. I consider the concept of every distro supplying upstream patches to every package in their repositories evenly rather silly.

    From reading about, the average for Ubuntu is 25 patches per year for the Linux kernel. But looking at other packages (GNOME, and anything built on/around it, for example), the patches number in the thousands. Not to mention the efforts put into Launchpad (almost 400,000 bugs reported).

    It's no secret Ubuntu are a desktop-focussed distro. I don't see any surprise in them concentrating on higher-level applications, nor do I feel any sort of "shame" in using the product on desktops (or servers, for that matter).

    It's also worth noting that Canonical are a very small company, and extremely young in the grand scheme of things. Compare and contrast to RedHat, Novell, IBM and others who have a much longer history, and also have been making good profits and employing more staff for much longer, and it's not surprising to see that they out-do Canonical for number of upstreamed patches.

    (Out of curiosity, does anyone know the actual number of Canonical employees? The best figure I can find was 122 in 2007, which includes admin/non-development staff).

    And beyond the "plumbing", as I touched on before, I think Ubuntu are doing a marvellous job of marketing - something that's long been missing from Linux. And unlike Apple's recent "I'm a Mac" series of ads, Canonical's approach is a little more subtle: put forward a flashy/shiny/easy-to-use product based on free software and listen to "average user" feedback and improving the user experience further.

    I guess the short answer is that "contributions" come in many shapes and forms. Code is just one. There's testing and bug reporting, marketing and evangelism, organisation and administration and many more. Measuring lines of code or number of patches per company is fine, but using those measurements as some sort of overall "hierarchy of worthiness" to the FOSS community as a whole is dangerous. Dangerous because it causes friction between groups of people who should be working together, and dangerous because it doesn't acknowledge that the free software community needs more than just code.

    And lets face it, the reason that certain other software development companies have more market share has nothing to do with quality or volume of code.
     
  11. alvarez

    alvarez Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2006
    Messages:
    2,621
    Location:
    Geelong 3218
    The exact same can be said about ubuntu and its volume of users.

    In open source where contributors; be it testers or developers etc can make or break a project. having alot of attention on ubuntu is not a great idea. Like it or not ubuntu is trying to be windows, flogging the dead horse of kernel while churning out top level patches to keep the masses happy, as windows have been doing for years.

    The difference is in OSS there is an alternative, there are alot of people who are trying to improve the low level linux systems, be it plumbing etc. Ultimately this leads to stagnated development and advances are only made out of necessity not because something works better.
    Ubuntu is popular and marketing is good, but ubuntu isnt the best face for the OSS world.
     
  12. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2001
    Messages:
    36,651
    Location:
    Brisbane
    I disagree. Ubuntu may certainly be bringing a low of "low end" users to Linux, but at the same time there will always be a percentage of users who are competent and helpful with the swarm too.

    I disagree entirely with this. And I would say with confidence so would anyone at Canonical, or anyone who truly understands FOSS.

    If your only likening to Microsoft is a company that concentrates on end-user bling, then Apple are as guilty as anyone else. And it's pretty clear to me that Apple are not "pulling a Microsoft" either. Particularly when Apple were doing GUIs long before most.

    ******************************************************************************

    Back on topic, Mark Shuttleworth (Canonical chief) has made a response to this very topic in a recent interview:
    http://www.techradar.com/news/softw...hift-for-ubuntu-linux-613835?src=rss&attr=all

    Both Mark Shuttleworth and Andrew Tridgell are two people in the FOSS community I admire greatly and have great respect for. It's interesting for me that independently they've both come to the same conclusions as I did above.
     
  13. adante

    adante Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Messages:
    494
    Location:
    Brisbane Nth
    edit: hats
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2009
  14. adante

    adante Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Messages:
    494
    Location:
    Brisbane Nth
    Why is GKH gunning for ubuntu? Is it their rampant success?

    Early on in his talk he asks the rhetorical question "so why am I picking on canonical? some of you know why." but after watching the whole thing I don't really know why. Or more specifically, why canonical as opposed to e.g. all the other corporations who are not in the top 78 kernel contributors by company?
     
  15. OP
    OP
    cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,243
    Location:
    Griffith NSW
    I'm not sure he's gunning for them - from what I can tell (and I may be completely wrong), the situation is thus:
    * he's made an offhand comment at some stage about how little canonical contribute back to "Linux"
    * this is obviously something that's going to cause some disagreement, so the purpose of this talk was to qualify his statement with some figures

    Now it's not necessarily wrong, the stats may not be accurate as they could be, but from his perspective as a kernel hacker, and his idea of what "Linux" is, Canonical are not doing much for the community.

    Taking a bigger perspective such as the one Tridge put forth in elvis' post above, then it's much more difficult to quantify the value that canonical is adding.
     
  16. adante

    adante Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Messages:
    494
    Location:
    Brisbane Nth
    Ok, not to mince terms, but why is he picking on them then?
     
  17. OP
    OP
    cleary

    cleary Mental in the Face

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Messages:
    4,243
    Location:
    Griffith NSW
    Sorry, I thought that could be inferred from what I said. The reason canonical is the subject is because they are at the centre of frequent arguments on whether ubuntu is good for linux or not. I expect that his initial comment stemmed from such a discussion. Built into a free for all, and here we are now, talking about it.

    This is all assumption on my part, I don't think it's unreasonable but I have nothing to validate whether it's true or not...
     
  18. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2001
    Messages:
    36,651
    Location:
    Brisbane
    What's interesting about the "is Ubuntu good for Linux?" discussion is not so much the answer, but what those asking it expect to achieve?

    Negative remarks from a bunch of neck-bearded kernel hackers certainly aren't going to make Mark Shuttleworth suddenly give up on his pet project.

    Surely instead of judging from up on high, these people making these sorts of comments should instead get back to doing what they do best: coding, and not complaining about fad distros.

    Take a leaf out of Linus Toravalds' book. There's a man who has frequently answered the "what's your favourite distro?" question with a "whatever works... I don't care, I just code" response.
     

Share This Page

Advertisement: