Interview On Thursday, the Ubuntu 8.04 magic happens. The operating system - called Hardy Heron at playgrounds around Silicon Valley - goes up for download in its various forms, most notably Server and Desktop.
Like most open source jobs, these Ubuntu OS releases are protracted affairs. Canonical, the corporate body behind Ubuntu, has already told everyone what to expect with the OS during the beta process. We covered most of the major new features last month and won't bore you with the details again.
Thankfully, we can move away from the marketing fluff and head to Shuttleworth country for the real meat behind 8.04 - Canonical's second Long Term Support release to date.
We caught up with Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth in London to talk software and whatever else came up. Shuttleworth, clad in Nike running gear, had jogged into work before our interview. He hardly smelled at all, which is unusual for your typical Linux developer let alone one who has known of exercise. [Can you still make lame jokes like that nowadays with Intel, IBM, Google and other corporate types funding most of the Linux work? - Ed.]
Anyway, Shuttleworth was in good spirits as usual and particularly proud that Canonical hit the LTS mark on schedule.
"We are now confident that we can narrow the window for the next LTS down to two years," he told us. "Previously, we had said 18 months to 36 months.
"We know when the next LTS will be probably with better confidence than we know when Windows 7 will ship. I would take that bet."
Now that Canonical has its own house in order, Shuttleworth would like to see all of the Linux heavies synchronize the major releases of their operating systems.
We would be quite willing to revisit the elements of our release schedule in order to make that synchronicity possible, if the fact that we happen to do April and October wouldn't work for the majority of the distros. We would be flexible in that regard.
Timing your releases drives a whole bunch of things. It means a greater ability to collaborate on bug fixes. If we are on the same versions of the Linux kernel, it is a lot easier for us to say, 'Hey, here is this patch to make this device work. Do you know any reason why we shouldn't put it in?'
You could just get so much more done at an engineering level between the teams. My engineers regularly collaborate with Novell and Red Hat and, of course, Debian. Barriers to that sort of collaboration are sometimes ideological but, in most cases, are just practical things. We are just on a different version so someone else's patch isn't going to apply. There's a bit of friction there.
You can understand the isolationist stance of Red Hat and Novell - well, at least of Red Hat. Why should the big daddy distro go to any lengths to help out an upstart like Canonical, even if it means saving a bit on bug patching and the like. But, hey, who are we to stop Shuttleworth from dreaming.