Post-Christmas Angst

December 27th, 2007

One of my busiest times of the year is finally over, so now I have some time to blog about what has transpired for the past days. It’s a sort of good news-bad news thing. It’s actually a fairly (days) old news and some people have blogged or written about it already. I tried to refrain from blogging about it immediately, thinking that people are probably tired from my blonts on the Planet, or trying not to ruin the holiday spirit. But I’ve seen quite some misinformation being spread around that I just couldn’t take things sitting down. So if you will allow me my last blont of the year…

The Bad: No LTS for Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron.

The plain cold fact: Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron will not be a Long Term Support release. An LTS release is supported (by Canonical) for a period of 3 years on the desktop and 5 years on the server, versus the 18 months of a regular release [1]. So the next Kubuntu release will just be a regular release with a regular 18-month lifetime. Now that the LTS “tag” has been removed from Kubuntu 8.04, the Kubuntu developers will now focus on having two “releases”, one that contains KDE 3.5 by default, and one that contains KDE 4 by default, mixed with a few KDE 3.5 apps.

That’s it, as far as “official” facts are concerned. Why so sparse? It’s because there have relatively been no “official” announcement or communication of any kind regarding this matter, which is one reason why it has a sort of ominous feeling to it. Aside from what is written in the previous paragraph, everything else is either “unofficial” or speculation, or even downright incorrect. Riddell’s announcement in the developers’ list [2] is probably as official as one can get, at least on the side of Kubuntu. But before you go singing high praises for the “decision”, let me just lay out a few other things for consideration. Again, note that these come from “unofficial” statements/announcements.

1. Canonical called the shots. Not the Kubuntu developers. Not the Kubuntu community. And rightly so. The LTS is a “commercial support commitment provided by Canonical Ltd.” [3] It’s their prerogative to declare an LTS release or not. So next time you see an article or blog post saying that “Kubuntu (community) decided not to have an LTS”, don’t believe it. We just decided to go with it. Anyway, it’s out of our hands.

2. There is no official announcement. From Canonical, that is. Which is probably why we (Kubuntu) can’t issue an official statement about it either. So we’re basically relying on an semi-/unofficial e-mail [3], the lead developer’s announcement [2], and word of mouth about the facts and issues. Maybe it’s just the timing. Hopefully we could get a more official statement after the holidays.

3. Almost no communication. I don’t know how or when it happened. I was gone for a week or two, and when I came back, this was barely known. Judging from the reactions of fellow developers, I’m pretty much sure they were also unaware of the decision or how it came to be. It was said that the input from the Kubuntu community was sought on several points. How and when that happened, I’m still unsure. It was definitely never brought up in our meetings. Add that to the fact that it was only “communicated” now, months after the Ubuntu Developer Summit. Of course the reason was that it wasn’t clear whether KDE 4 would before Kubuntu 8.04, which releases on April 2008. That has always been clear, although pushed back from December to January. Of course, KDE’s releases don’t align themselves with Ubuntu’s, so to heck with it. :D But better late than never, I always say.

4. Special KDE 4 release. It has always been the plan to have a special KDE 4 edition alongside the LTS release which contains KDE 3.5.8 (or 3.5.9 if there will be one). It was never planned to have KDE 4.0 by default on the LTS release. We’ve always known that. We’ve always emphasized that. So it’s quite baffling to see people react “Great! Now that there’s no LTS they can finally have a KDE 4 release”. Again, that was the plan anyway, LTS or not. The only thing that’s changed is that now we have an excuse… er, reason, to have fun and play around with KDE 4 much more, rather than focusing on polishing up KDE 3.5.8. (Hint: sarcasm is mostly lost in transmission over the Internet).

5. “KDE 3.5 will be supported as long as KDE 4 isn’t suitable for support”. Read in another way: “KDE 3.5 will stop being supported when KDE 4 becomes suitable for support”. This is being cited as an important factor in considering whether Kubuntu 8.04 is eligible for an LTS nod from Canonical. This is cited to be upstream (KDE’s) position. I find this, again, quite puzzling. If anything, there has relatively been no collective statement from KDE regarding how and how long KDE 3.5 will remain supported. Other than a few comments here and there saying that KDE 3.5 will still be supported for a long time, I haven’t come across a position that’s official enough to be considered as the major reason not to have a Kubuntu LTS release. Another question that ran through Canonical’s mind, it seems, is “Will a bug in KDE 3.5 receive upstream attention in March 2011?”. To that I can only give Stephen Binner’s post on the matter. [4].

6. Commercial considerations. In the end, it’s really all about that. We can’t deny the fact. Canonical isn’t a money tree for Ubuntu. It’s existence depends on financial and commercial considerations. I don’t blame them. Perhaps Kubuntu isn’t really profitable for them, and an LTS wouldn’t really do much good. I don’t really know. All I’ve read is that Canonical made the decision “on a purely commercial basis”.

To sum up, I respect Canonical’s authority and decision over the matter. Even if I find the reasons presented a bit baffling. After all, an LTS tag is theirs to give and take. My only aggravation (aside from the “reasons presented”) is how properly they communicated this to the developers and the community. Until now, probably because of the holidays, we have no official word about it. We’re left guessing what really went on. I’m left guessing how and when we were going to be told about this if the topic didn’t “accidentally” come up in the IRC channel. As much as Canonical reserves the right for these decisions, I think the developers and the community deserve the courtesy of being at least informed about such decisions. Whether they will take the input of the community into consideration or not, at least we will not be caught unaware. This situation almost reminds me of how Novell shocked its developers with it’s deal with Microsoft. IIRC, Many of them, even those employed by Novell, were unaware of what was happening. Of course, the situation isn’t exactly the same. It still reflects how trust is important in the community dynamics.

Fortunately, things don’t end too badly.

The Good: Kubuntu 8.04 and KDE 4.0

Not all is lost, though. One of the best things that can happen is that Kubuntu will now be able to focus more on KDE 4 as early as possible instead of waiting for Kubuntu 8.10. While it has been planned before to have a KDE 4.0 edition alongside the KDE 3.5-based LTS, now the focus shifts more towards KDE 4 integration. This is good for both Kubuntu and KDE for a number of reasons:

1. Brings KDE 4.0 to more users. And the more users trying out/testing KDE 4.0, the more bugs, corner cases, and missing functionality can be uncovered. This will ensure that succeeding KDE 4 releases will have less of these issues as possible.

2. Brings in more people into Kubuntu development. And hopefully into KDE development itself, directly or indirectly. While KDE 3.5 is more stable, KDE 4 brings more exciting things to do and learn. More stuff for aspiring developers, packagers, documentation writers, translators, and contributors. Hopefully this can help infuse fresh new blood into Kubuntu.

3. Iron out Kubuntu-KDE4 integration. An early KDE 4 adoption will allow us to focus more and zero in on KDE4 packaging and setup issues for Kubuntu as early as now. Debian merges, co-installability, which section to put KDE4 packages in, etc. It will help make a smoother transition later on in the KDE4 release cycle, when more users start to migrate from KDE 3.5.

4. Focusing manpower. Kubuntu doesn’t have the manpower to “aggressively” maintain two KDE versions. With this, we can focus our efforts on KDE 4 (and migrating KDE 3 utitlities to KDE 4), because KDE 3.5 is stable and polished enough (yes, there are still bugs). Although I do suspect we’ll end up still supporting

Of course, all of these would have happened anyway, LTS or no LTS. But now we can focus on them more clearly, without having to worry about making a KDE 3.5 LTS-quality release. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s up to you to decide. :)

“All’s well that ends well.” And hopefully this will end well too. The adventure’s just beginning. As Kubuntu shifts its gears towards KDE 4, we need as many hands as we can get. We need packagers, programmers, porters (port KDE3 utilties to KDE4, mostly python stuff), testers, etc. So if you can lend us a hand, drop by the IRC channel, #kubuntu-devel @ irc.ubuntu.com (or irc.freenode.org, whichever you want). The more, the merrier!

So that ends the last blont of 2007. Another year ended. Another one begins.

Happy Holidays!

References:

  1. http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu/releases
  2. https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/kubuntu-devel/2007-December/002066.html
  3. https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/kubuntu-devel/2007-December/002099.html
  4. http://www.kdedevelopers.org/node/3167

23 Responses to “Post-Christmas Angst”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    As always spot on. I’ve already voiced my view on things in regards to this issue. I think the biggest problem with how this was handled comes down to nothing more then communication. At UDS it was decided just as you stated, one LTS version of KDE 3.5.X and one special release of KDE4. When that changed no one knows and no one will really know. Disappointing…

  2. troll Says:

    You shouldn’t whine about how KDE got left behind.. Why shouldn’t it have, Ubuntu is about GNOME and the KDE version is a marginal and inferior one. No one really cares.

  3. Jarek Says:

    @troll, many people feel Kubuntu shouldn’t just be Ubuntu with KDE on it, it should mature into its own distinct distro.

  4. Jayson Rowe Says:

    First, @ troll, I don’t believe Kubuntu is second class to Ubuntu any more than openSUSE w/ KDE is any more a second class citizen to openSUSE w/ GNOME. It’s a fine distro, and I would use it regardless to if it was called “Ubuntu w/ KDE” or “Kubuntu” - it’s just a name.

    Now, to the meat of the topic, KDE4 and LTS. We just simply got stuck between a rock and a hard place with this one. If we don’t move forward with KDE4 in a timely matter, we will get left in the dust. KDE4 is going to be groundbreaking, and I honestly think (hope) that it causes a lot of the distro’s that default to GNOME to change to KDE (in time).

    That said, we have to focus on that more than developing a LTS release. I see LTS in the Linux world more advantageous on the Server side than the desktop side anyway - I wish we had some numbers as to how many people were still running Kubuntu 6.06 (or even Ubuntu 6.06) at this stage of the game. I’m sure there are still a lot of command line systems out there chugging along w/ 6.06 (or even older), but I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be that far behind on a desktop system.

    I may be totally wrong in that assumption, as I have ZERO data to back it up, merely my thoughts on the matter.

    I say play forward, and develop our hind ends off getting KDE4 as polished as possible before April so we can stand out from the crowd.

  5. Pharao Says:

    just do yourself a favor and mark the KDE4-version as beta, unstable, experimental, testing, you name it.

    I see on point where your system can fail.
    Many new users want to try out Kubuntu, have no clue what they are doing start using Kubuntu/KDE4, get several crashes and annoying bugs, get told that this can happen when they use untested software and what will we see?
    Blogposts and confused people talking about how bad Linux is.

  6. Lynoure Braakman Says:

    It was mentioned there would be an upgrade path from Dapper to Hardy. What I don’t know, however, is whether there will be an upgrade path from Hardy to the next LTS version, or whether after Hardy one is one the 6 month upgrade cycle.

    If LTS versions of Kubuntu start happening less often that stable releases of Debian, it gets more attractive for a LTS Kubuntu user to become a Debian stable user instead.

    However, I do understand that KDE4 makes this LTS puzzle pretty unsolvable, unless there are more resources/developers to throw at Kubuntu.

  7. OSSDailyNews.com - OSS, Linux, and BSD News Says:

    Review of KDE 4 and Kubuntu Happenings…

    Jucato does a great job summarizing what has been going on KDE 4 and causes and impacts of Kubuntu 8.04 not being a LTS release supported by Canonical:

    “The plain cold fact: Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron will not be a Long Term Support release. An LTS rel…

  8. Juan Carlos Torres su Kubuntu 8.04 e KDE 4 at pollycoke :) Says:

    […] Se una letturina in inglese ogni tanto non vi spaventa, vi consiglio di leggere quello che ha da scrivere Juan Carlos Torres a proposito di Canonical, Kubuntu, LTS e KDE 4. […]

  9. Jucato Says:

    @troll: I’m not whining about KDE being left behind. I’m complaining about how Canonical went about this whole deal. And no, people do care. I really don’t care if you don’t.

    @Jayson Rowe: I’ve encountered people who are actually still using Dapper. Although what’s probably more important for Canonical is how many of these Dapper users are actually buying support from them. There have been mass deployments of Kubuntu, but maybe they either don’t use Dapper or they don’t buy support from Canonical, or maybe both.

    @Lynoure: right now, I think the upgrade paths for Kubuntu is pretty much screwed, with respect to LTS releases. So all we can be sure of now is that people upgrading to from Kubuntu Dapper to Kubuntu Hardy would probably have to go the normal route. Not entirely sure though.

  10. Nathan Dbb Says:

    Businesses want rare but predictable upgrades to the desktop, server installs want stability and security above all else, these two markets make the LTS releases important. Businesses are the route profitable support contracts (not home users) for Canonical.

    @ Canonical: We should understand that your commitment to keeping your disto free forbids the huge commitments that Novell is able make to maintain KDE3 after it has been abandoned.

    @ Juan Carlos: KDE has better apps and integration of the apps. KDE is always changing APIs to make this tight Apple-like integration happen. Part of the cost of that is that it is much less stable.

    @ Jarek: It would be a waste to have a full distro, it would also further divide the resources and dilute the brand name. The only upside is that it will please the fan boys.

    @ everyone: Do we really want Canonical spending time/money on KDE3 after the upstream has abandoned it? (This is the time/money could be going to make KDE4 shine in 8.10/9.04/9.10/10.04/10.10/… )

  11. Kevin Kofler Says:

    @ Pharao: KDE 4 will not be “untested” in April. It is already in Fedora rawhide (the development version, heading towards the next release) right now, and we’re also heading for an April release, and our plan for Fedora 9 is to ship KDE 4.0 as the ONLY version of KDE. Add to that the testing coming from Kubuntu itself, openSUSE etc. and you’ll find “untested” is the wrong thing to be worried about. ;-)

  12. Tristan Rhodes Says:

    FYI - CNET just posted an article about this issue:

    http://www.news.com/8301-13580_3-9838094-39.html?tag=newsmap

  13. Cary Bielenberg Says:

    If Canonical is caught between a rock & hard place why not include KDE4 without LTS for 8.04? I have lots of Kubuntu pc’s in production environment LTS is not a deciding issue for me. Mine range from Hoary to Gutsy with my test laptop with Hardy.

  14. Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron tidak LTS « Brendo Bak Thariq Says:

    […] ini menimbulkan banyak pertanyaan (dan protes) dari developer Kubuntu. Katanya Cannonical berubah fikiran dari hasil UDS dengan alasan LTS cenderung akan menghabiskan […]

  15. 120% Linux » Canonical no soportará (oficialmente) a KDE 4 Says:

    […] otro lado, Juan Carlos Torres, escribe en su blog que está insatisfecho por la decisión, declarando que «a Kubuntu no le sobra mano de obra para […]

  16. CANONICAL NO DARA SOPORTE OFICIAL A KDE 4.0 « INFORUX: Software Libre Says:

    […] decir del otro lado de la brecha, Juan Carlos Torres(desarrolador de KDE 4.0), muestra en su blog estár muy incomodo por la decisión, declarando que “A Kubuntu no le sobra mano de obra para […]

  17. Bobby Says:

    Does anyone here honestly believe that Canonical would deny LTS to Gnome if they were between versions? Of course not. They would give LTS to the older version until they got the new version up-to-speed.

    Sorry, but it is simply a fact that KDE is a second class citizen in the Canonical world.

    Bobby

  18. JP Says:

    granted LTS would be nice, it doesn’t sound like they’re abandoning Kubuntu as a project. So there is a bit of a hiccup in the development, all other KDE based distros are probably gonna suffer the same problems.

    This is really just a matter of KDE people feeling like they’re losing the battle between them and Gnome supporters, which is foolish since KDE 4, if its all its cracked up to be, is gonna blow Gnome away anyway.

  19. Antoine Pairet Says:

    PLEASE STOP! Stop arguing about which of KDE/Gnome is the best desktop environment! The open source world is wasting a lot of energy because of this, and guess who’s winning then… Proprietary companies!!!
    Together Gnome/KDE could accomplish huge things, and I read an article in which Mark Shuttleworth went in that direction (I don’t find the source anymore-sorry). So I don’t think he ’s considering KDE second class.
    I know there are some technical and philosophy problems with merging KDE and Gnome (C - C# and so on) but this would be wonderful.

    I’m a Gnome user, and never used KDE, but I’ll surely give KDE4 a try, and I use some KDE apps under Gnome…

    regards,

    Antoine

  20. Sam Says:

    Ubuntu and kubuntu share the same repositories! I have mixed the two desktop environments since ubuntu 5-point whatever. I use kde 75% of the time but I use gnome apps like totem and gnomebaker 90% of the time.

    So as far as typical security updates will cover me on (k)ubuntu lts??

    I am not sure I will like kde 4.0. For one thing Dolphin is a Stupid Stupid Stupid Idea. I switched and made Konqueror the default highest priority file manager!! Thats how I feel about that! And I helped file bug reports on dolphin for having no cut and paste but a copy and paste named cut.
    We don’t have to switch to kde 4 we should choose any kde version we want. If its better fine but if it ain’t broke don’t break it hi hi.

  21. Chani Says:

    “our plan for Fedora 9 is to ship KDE 4.0 as the ONLY version of KDE.”

    *whimpers*
    oh god no. 4.0? alone? do you actually realize what you’re saying? are you aware that several popular kde apps aren’t going to release with 4.0?

    “I know there are some technical and philosophy problems with merging KDE and Gnome”

    …I think we have a candidate for Understatement of the Year Award here, folks.

    anyways, only *some* people get involved in silly desktop wars. there are other people working on freedesktop standards to make kde and gnome software get along better.

  22. macada Says:

    Hi,
    congrats for your job in KDE and congrats for the KDE4.
    Ive been developing apps for linux for years but I want help seriously to the community.
    Ive read that KDE community needs people.I dont have experience in develop kde apps but I can work with c/c++ or whatever.
    Pliz, give me a shout if you need someone. Id like to help to my fav desktop.
    Cheers

  23. Canonical no soportará oficialmente KDE 4.0! | Reylimo.net Says:

    […] destacados de la comunidad de Kubuntu como Juan Carlos Torres, dijo sentirse insatisfecho con la decisión pero urgió a los programadores a canalizar esfuerzos en la mejora de Kubuntu con KDE 4.0, que […]

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