At the Ubuntu Summit

Since Sunday afternoon, I’ve been at the Ubuntu Developers’ Summit at SAS Radisson hotel near the Charles De Gaulle airport outside of Paris.

Actually, the hotel is located in the small village Mesnil-Amelot which is even outside of the airport so that you have to take a shuttle bus to the airport, and then a train from the airport train station in order to get into Paris. Effectively, this discourages most of the assembled assorted geeks from running off to Paris all the time.

The summit is focused on discussing, drafting and approving the specifications that will be implemented in the next Ubuntu release, codenamed the Edgy Eft. As it is, as much of the planning of the release will be done within these 5 days as possible. You can check out the draft of the release cycle here.

There are a goodly mix of people from the community here. First of all, there’s all of the Ubuntu core developers with backgrounds in F/OSS projects such as Debian and GNOME, and fair few of the developers of the associated Launchpad project which is a platform for Open Source development that is still in active development. The connection between Launchpad and Ubuntu is really interesting, as it allows for a continuing exchange between the development of the distribution and the framework and structure through which it is being developed. The Launchpad framework makes certain assumptions about how Open Source projects are developed, and how the different sections of the whole wide Open Source community should coordinate their work. I’ll definitely be looking more into that.

Then there’s also the community volunteers, a fair few of which have been sponsored by Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu and Launchpad, there are people here from the KDE community to help with Kubuntu development, there are people from the Linux Terminal Server Project to help with Edubuntu development, there are XCFE volunteers to help out with Xubuntu – all three of which are subprojects based on the Ubuntu distribution. There are Intel people to ensure hardware compatibility, there are MOTU‘s – the volunteer package maintainers that prepare the software sync’ed from Debian for use in Ubuntu. Lots of activity and lots of different associations and motivations.

Many of the people I’ve talked to are very impressed that so many different projects are represented here. And that so many of the Open Source celebrities are here, hacking on Ubuntu together. People like Jeff Waugh and James Troup (note: Troup doesn’t seem to have his own webpage, so I’ve linked to a rant complaining about his central position in Debian. Mind the bile) work for Canonical and have quite a reputation among the volunteers here.

The format of the days are that everything is divided into discussions of single specifications. These sessions are called BOFs (for Birds Of a Feather, and scheduled based on the specifications in Launchpad through an automated process. Here’s the schedule for Monday. And here’s a picture of a typical BOF in session:

You’ll notice the ubiquitous laptops. Developers tend to bring them along wherever they go. Many have these tiny laptops that really couldn’t possibly be any smaller without it being too small to use properly.

People here are passionate about what they do, and friendly and quite willing to discuss their work. I’m really enjoying myself doing this fieldwork.

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