Tag Archives: Ubuntu

The economics of contributing to open-source projects

This adaptation of Elinor Ostrom‘s work on the emergence of self-governance to open-source projects can explain my decision to stop reporting bugs to Ubuntu. If this formula holds true, then an open-source project will thrive:

benefit of contributing > benefit of not contributing + cost of contributing

In my experience with Ubuntu, this formula does not hold true. The benefit of contributing is often zero, as patches are not accepted and bugs are not fixed, or close to zero, as it can take years for a bug to be fixed. And the benefit of not contributing is similarly zero. And of course, the cost of contributing, in terms of time spent filing bugs, is greater than zero. The cost of contributing is often very high, requiring arguing for the validity of a bug, re-reporting the same bug multiple times, or attempting to recreate a bug from several releases prior.

Another Ubuntu release, another core regression

It’s business as usual over at Ubuntu headquarters. This time the “Root Terminal” menu item, installed in the system menu by default for at least the last few years, is suddenly broken. Irate users commenting on bug reports in Launchpad are dangerously close to starting a full-blown flame war:

Sebastien, your comment seems to imply that Launchpad bug reports are a waste of time. Is this really what you meant? I had been under the impression that Launchpad was intended to be a gateway/portal for bug reporting. If Launchpad reports do not get forwarded upstream automatically once triaged then what purpose does it have? -Russel Winder

and:

With all due respect Sebastien — I can hardly believe that
I’m reading this: “ubuntu only distribute it”.

(why even have a bug reporting system in the first place,
one wonders, btw.). -bjd

(That’s right, those are in response to the same Sebastien Bacher I took to task for unhelpful comments on other bugs last year.)

The bug itself isn’t Ubuntu’s fault, but the fact that the menu item survived intact in the default Ubuntu configuration despite being non-functional for (at least) the last four months speaks volumes about what passed for testing on Jaunty Jackalope1.

Temporary workaround, until Gnome fixes this regression and Ubuntu inherits it: change the menu item to gnome-terminal -e 'sudo -i'. It took me longer to write this paragraph than to change that.

  1. I’m not even going to get into how the “upgrade” process left my system unable to find the root filesystem and therefore unbootable. My memory, and a judicious application of grub-fu, saved the day, and since I’m unwilling to downgrade to Intrepid and then re-upgrade to Jaunty, this bug must remain un-duplicable and un-reported. []

Rebuild mail-notification to support SSL under Ubuntu/Debian

Because of a four-year-old disagreement on the legal interpretation of the GPL and OpenSSL licenses, Debian is shipping a neutered and useless version of mail-notification without SSL support. Ubuntu hasn’t resolved the issue, so they’re shipping the same broken package too. People arguing about why they can’t fix bugs bores me. So here is a script to download the source packages, and rebuild them with SSL enabled. It even bumps the version number so that the package manager doesn’t try to overwrite your working package with the broken one in the repository. It also keeps track of the (on my system) thirty-seven megabytes of build dependency packages that it installs and removes them once the package is installed.

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Why I’ve stopped reporting bugs to Ubuntu

I’ve largely stopped reporting bugs to Ubuntu because of the condescending and dismissive attitude from their developers.

I cut my Linux teeth on RedHat back in 1998, and soon after settled on Debian as the best of several flawed but promising choices of Linux distributions. When I switched to Ubuntu 4.10 in October 2004, I was excited by the promise of a distribution with the quality of Debian and frequent releases and a focus on the desktop.

Today I stumbled across what unfortunately seems like another typical example of what happens when you report a bug to them: aumix in Ubuntu 7.10 was compiled wrong, such that it won’t even launch. Recompiling the source package without making any changes to the source fixes the problem. Instead of just doing that, the Ubuntu developers spent far more time and effort bickering on the bug report and justifying their inaction by referring to official protocol. Shallow thoughts outlines the issues with aumix and contains this quote:

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