Archive for September, 2010

Joshua Hoover: Free software, Ubuntu One, E.T. and me

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

On May 11, 2009 I joined Canonical as a project manager on the Ubuntu One team. I went from working in the world of Department of Defense contracting to the world of free software. I now have a better appreciation for E.T.’s plight. OK, maybe not. E.T. was trying to get back home. I feel like I’ve found mine. I love what I do at work.

Everyday is something new. My contributions to Ubuntu and free software aren’t nearly as noticeable as those I work with. I do smaller things. Things that often get overlooked in any software project. Some of these includes:

  • Writing tutorials about how to use Ubuntu One and upstream software together to help people get the most out of the software.
  • Updating FAQs that help users get answers to their questions.
  • Support. Send a support request into Ubuntu One and there’s a good chance you’ll get a reply from me. Hopefully it’s a helpful one!
  • Triaging and prioritizing bug reports which helps improve the software one bug fix at a time.
  • Coordinating work between our team and other upstream projects to keep improving free software across the board.
  • Writing acceptance test cases others can use to test Ubuntu One and Ubuntu functionality.
  • Testing Ubuntu One and our contributions to other upstream projects to improve quality.

Lots of little things. And I don’t do them without help from many others, both within and outside of Canonical.

I realize Ubuntu One is often perceived as (at least part) alien in the free software world. I can relate to that, coming from my previous employment to Canonical. We, the Ubuntu One team, make mistakes. We know we’re far from perfect citizens of the free software world. We need to work better with those in the community and we have plans to do that. We’ve been learning so much, so fast that it’s hard sometimes to lift your head up and realize that you’ve probably ignored people who want to collaborate. We’ll do better. I’m committed to doing better in this area by dedicating some more time to working with those in the community who have an interest in making free software as a whole better.

I’m excited moving forward with Canonical, Ubuntu, Ubuntu One, and free software in general. It’s a crazy time in technology. So much is changing and many new opportunities are opening up as result of that change. It’s hard to imagine what tech will look like ten years out, five even. I’m just happy to be working with all of you in the free software community. It’s a great community, filled with so many unique perspectives and focused on doing so much good. It’s a place where even someone such as myself is welcome and whose talents can be put to good use. Thank you!

Joshua Hoover: Setting up Ubuntu One on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I help out with the support requests that come into Ubuntu One. It doesn’t take too long helping out there before you realize our process for setting up your computer with Ubuntu One on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS can be problematic for some people. We’re making the setup process better in the next release (Maverick, Ubuntu 10.10) but we’ve got another 2.5 years supporting 10.04 LTS, so I thought it might be helpful to show some screencasts of the setup process.

The first video is for those signing up for Ubuntu One for the first time.

The next video is for those who already have an Ubuntu One account and need to setup their computer with Ubuntu One.

We’ve tried to reproduce the issues people are facing with the setup process and haven’t been able to do it. The main problem seems to be with step 8 where the “add this computer” web page should appear. Those having trouble with the instructions don’t get this page. There is a workaround documented in the first FAQ entry. If you think you can reproduce this problem, please let me know, either through the contact form here or through the support contact form on the Ubuntu One web site. Also, if you have ideas on how to improve the install/setup instructions, please let me know. I’d love to make them clearer.

Martin Albisetti’s blog: Why (I think) Ubuntu One exists

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

One of the questions that took a little while for me to fully understand was a very simple one: why does Ubuntu One exist?

Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer, but here’s my take on it.

Above all, to extend the power of Ubuntu as an environment. Ubuntu One already allows you to many things beyond the basic file sync we started off with, you can keep your contacts from your phone and desktop  (and between other Ubuntu devices) in sync and backed up, notes, bookmarks, all your important files are backed up and synced, you can share them privately or publicly, you can buy music that gets delivered right to your music player, and soon you will be able to stream any of your music to your phone. And this is just today. As the project matures, we are working hard to make it easy for more and more third-party projects to use our platform and out-pace us in ideas and code.
All of this allows Ubuntu to extend its reach into mobile devices and even other operating systems. It feels like integrating into the real world today, not only the world we want to build.

Openness is the next thing on my mind. I know about all the criticisms about the server software not being open, I understand them and I’ve been through this same process with Launchpad. Right now, Canonical doesn’t see a way to fund a 30+ developer team of rockstars, a huge infrastructure and bandwidth usage that is mostly used at no cost and still offer up the code to any competitor who could set up a competing project within minutes. I am sure someday, just like with Launchpad, we will figure it out and I will see all my commits push me up thousands of positions on ohloh. Until then, I’ll have to continue working on Wikkid or any of the other 20 projects I use and am interested in, to keep me at a decent ranking.
All that said, the Ubuntu One team releases tons of source code all the time. A lot of the libraries we build are open sourced as soon as we get some time to clean them up and split it out of our source tree. All our desktop clients are open source from the start. On top of that, we work on pieces like desktopcouch, enabling couchdb for the desktop. We even got the chance to work with a closed-source iphone application, iSub, to open source his code so we could base our new streaming client on. We get to pay developers of open source projects on the Android platform as well, to work on improving it so we can deliver a better and more secure experience. We also get a chance to learn to package applications and upload new versions of the libraries we use to the Ubuntu repositories. And hundreds of other small things we do that feel so natural we forget to advertise and be proud of. All of this on Canonical’s dime.

Finally, a goal that is dear to my heart. Make Canonical profitable. I have been overwhelmed over and over again by the passion with which Mark personally, and the company as a whole, contributes to making open source be the standard way of developing software in the world. I can understand why it’s easy to feel uncomfortable with a privately owned company pursuing a profit while sponsoring an open source project which thousands of people contribute to, but after having sat down in dozens of meetings where everybody there cared about making sure we continue to grow as a community and that open source continues to win over tens of thousands of computers each month, I only worry about Canonical *not* being sustainable and constantly growing.

All these reasons for working on Ubuntu One have been close to my heart for many years now, a long time before I took the final step of investing not only my free time, but my work time, leisure time, and not too seldom, my sleep time,  and started working for Canonical in a very strict sense of the term “full time”.

I’ve spent time working in a few different teams, all of them are interesting, exceptionally skilled and open source is a core part of their lives. Ubuntu One is where I feel I can do the most impact today, and I’m beyond lucky to have given the opportunity to act on it.

Ubuntu One Blog: Ubuntu One Maverick beta update

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Special thanks go out to the Ubuntu Maverick alpha and beta testers and those that are informing us of Ubuntu One bugs in the release. Our team has been hard at work resolving them so I thought I’d provide a brief summary of a few of the most recent fixes.

  • Ubuntu One is now using the new Ubuntu SSO authentication service. There have been many bug fixes along with this change that will make creating an Ubuntu One account more convenient and signing-in to add a computer more reliable
  • Fixed the application name “Ubuntu One” that we display at
  • Added the Nautilus Ubuntu One ribbon and implemented fixes for when it is visible, how it functions, and some related Nautilus crashing issues
  • Fixes to Nautilus displaying published files
  • Many server side improvements to improve server resource efficiency and enhance desktop sync speed
  • Usability enhancements to the contact picker which will make privately sharing folders using your Evolution address book an easier process
  • The Ubuntu One Music Store is now available to Maverick testers using Rhythmbox. A fix is coming soon for Banshee

These are only a few areas that the team has worked on to make it a better service for all customers. Thanks again for the Maverick beta testers for providing important feedback on Ubuntu One. If you notice problems with Ubuntu One on Maverick or any other release, please file bugs at our Launchpad project page.


Just a reminder that if you are filing a bug, it’s best to at least include this basic information (courtesy of Dave Winer via Joshua Hoover).

  1. What you were doing.
  2. What you expected to happen.
  3. What actually happened.