What should become of Edubuntu?

Free Software 9 Comments »

First, A little background.


Edubuntu was initially created based on discussions that took place at the first Edubuntu Summit that took place in London in July 2005. The first release of Edubuntu aimed to be a turn-key solution that provided an LTSP computer lab with the best educational applications that were currently packaged in Ubuntu. It was to Ubuntu what the K12LTSP project was to Fedora, and schools around the world took advantage of the benefits that Edubuntu offered.

As time progressed, there were 3 full-time Canonical staff working on Edubuntu and Education withing Ubuntu. There was even a full time Ubuntu Education Manager. A technical problem that plagued Edubuntu since the very start was the amount of free disc space on the CD’s that were distributed. Often, funcionality or language packs had to be removed that would otherwise be in Ubuntu to make space for the programs and libraries that was shipped with Edubuntu. LTSP had become incredibly easy to install on Ubuntu, to the point that it was just an installation option from the installation CD, which impacted on the need for the turn-keyability of Edubuntu. Since the Edubuntu and the Ubuntu disc already shared about 90% of the same data, it made sense to make Edubuntu an add-on CD to Ubuntu. That way, there’s much more free space available on the installation disc, and the ease of installation of an LTSP lab wasn’t really compromised, all that was required after an Ubuntu LTSP installation was to insert the Edubuntu disc and install the required packages. Edubuntu was also adapted to Intel Classmate PC’s and other netbooks used in education and is installable via a USB flash drive.

Current Status

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Jordan Mantha, who has been juggling his work and his dissertation with Edubuntu work, there has been an Edubuntu release with this release of Ubuntu (Jaunty) and the previous one (Intrepid). If it wasn’t for Jordan, these releases simply wouldn’t have existed. The Canonical staff that were involved full-time either moved to other projects where they were more needed, or moved on from Canonical alltogether. Edubuntu is currently completely a community driven project with the backing of Canonical in the form of hosting, build services, bug trackers, etc, similar to the Xubuntu project. If there’s no community, there’s simply no Edubuntu at the moment. This isn’t necessarily a problem, back when we had 3 full time Canonical staffers working on the project, it certainly had an effect on the growth of our community. When there are people who are paid to do the work, then everyone assumes it will be done and they get less involved. When the involvement of the Canonical Education team was the highest in Edubuntu was when community participation dived to its lowest. Unfortunately, community participation hasn’t recovered yet. I do think however that one full-time staff member in Edubuntu would be beneficial.

From now forward

With the last few releases, I’ve been asking myself whether I really want to continue being part of Edubuntu. I haven’t been contributing, and I didn’t want to be in it half-hartedly. Yesterday I got a notification from Launchpad that my Edubuntu membership is about to expire, and I considered just deactivating my account, and then I realised that I really do want to be part of this, but it has to be pretty much all or nothing.

I believe that the Edubuntu project is neccessary and that it will add value to the education world, but in order to make it grow again we need to fix its vision and goals, and get people involved that care about the project and who wants to make Ubuntu the killer system for educational environments.

I think we need to answer the following:

  • Who are our users and potential users? What do they want from us?
  • What does Canonical want and expect from the Edubuntu project?
  • How can we align the above with the available amount of resources, as well as find ways to increase current participation?

I’m sure that Canonical had certain goals in mind when Edubuntu was founded, and I also don’t think that the project has quite become what they have hoped it would be. I think it’s important to satisfy the needs of the users of the project as well as the sponsors.

Some people suggested that it’s better to contribute to the upstream educational projects rather than Edubuntu directly. I think fixing upstream bugs and adding features is awesome, but having a pre-packaged solution for teachers is equally cool and just as important.

I’m sending a link of this entry to the edubuntu-devel list, where I hope that Canonical will provide some answers on the future of Edubuntu. Feel free to follow and get involved in the discussions there.

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Linux Popularity Contest: Facebook Has Spoken

Free Software 13 Comments »

Ubuntu has been quite popular on DistroWatch for a long time now. Currently it is at the number 1 position for hits per day on the site over the last six months, 675 higher than it’s closest competition (OpenSUSE), and that doesn’t even count in the 1563 hits from Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Mythbuntu, Fluxbuntu, Ubuntu Studio and Ubuntu CE.

There’s a nice little Facebook app that’s called “Linux” that proudly displays which distribution you use on your profile page:


It also builds stats of which distributions and desktop environments people use, and which podcasts they listen to:


Once again, Ubuntu outranks them all. What’s even nicer is that Debian is second here. makes my theory feel stronger that all RPM based distros will probably become Debian-based within the next 5 years or so (or die out, unless something superior emerges (no pun intended)). I might be completely wrong… who knows, but, when you look at the trends (got this link from Mark Shuttleworth’s website), and if they continue the way they do, then things certainly don’t look good for the future popularity of RPM based systems:


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Xubuntu Proves to be Popular

Free Software 1 Comment »

Only a week after release, Xubuntu is receiving nearly as many hits as Kubuntu on Distrowatch.
Distrowatch chart

I think it’s great to see a new Ubuntu based distribution climb so fast! I also think it’s great to see that more and more of the top distributions are Debian (and also more of them Ubuntu based), which is always handy when having the occasional flamewars about .rpm vs .deb on your local lug list :)

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New Kid on the Block

Free Software 1 Comment »

I used to be a huge fan of Slackware and SuSE Linux. I loved Slackware for being so heavily oversimplified. And I enjoyed SuSE for all it’s bloat and YaST and all the things that came with it. I used to use SuSE on all my bigger machines, and Slackware on the older, slower machines.

When I started working at TSF, I thought that it might be a good idea to start using Debian. I’ve installed Debian before, but hated it. All the software was outdated, and it still shipped with Gnome 1.6 and used GTK 1 applications (yuck). I asked Thomas Black, open source program manager at the time, to show me what he thinks is cool about Debian. He showed me how to dist-upgrade to unstable, and it was awesome. Every single day, there were new packages available, and I had the latest and greatest software all the time. I very quickly started moving all my machines to Debian, and learned to love it very quickly.

Thomas then told me that Mark is looking going to support updates to the unstable Debian branch. Putting it like that sounded a little strange, but then he handed me a CD that he downloaded from http://no-name-yet.com. He said that it was made by “the warty warthogs”. For the most part, it looked like a standard Debian install, although there were less questions and somehow it felt more pleasant. I remember how we laughed when we saw the first naked people mockups on GDM. And how nice it was to have a Debian setup that just works more the way you’d want it to.

Since that first release, many things have changed. In Warty, the main section was only a bit more than 500MB large. Now, if my calculations and assumptions is correct, it’s about 3.5GB. Universe has also grown, and now Ubuntu gives you one of the finest collection of packages you’d find in any operating system.

What’s more is, the installation options have grown. Every release after Warty, a new baby distro was born. The first baby was Kubuntu, and has grown up very quickly. So much in fact that other commercial distributions, such as Impi Linux has based their distribution on it. Then came Edubuntu, an Ubuntu setup that saves lab administrators time by automating much of the setup, by including as many educational software on the CD that will fit on it, as well as automatically setting up the LTSP environment. Edubuntu has also come a long way since its first release. LTSP now uses much, much less RAM on the thin clients, and it boots up very quickly. Congratulations to ogra, your hard work had really made a difference to many :)

With the 6.06 LTS release, however, we see a new Ubuntu kid on the block. This time it’s Xubuntu. Xubuntu fills that gap a bit nicer for what I used to use Slackware for. It ships with the Xfce desktop environment, which is clean, simple and fast. It’s also less CPU and memory intensive, and is great for use on terminal servers. Jani Monoses has been incredible, and have done some great last minute work to get LTSP into Xubuntu. You can now choose “Install LTSP server in Xubuntu, just like you would with Edubuntu. Happy birthday Xubuntu! Welcome to the tribe!

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