Friday, August 6, 2010

The State of Ubuntu Studio 2010

This blog post is going to be little different from others in my blog.

Normally, I like to discuss positive changes and how things are improving within Ubuntu Studio.  However, due to recent experiences and to address some issues I would like to share with you some of Ubuntu Studio's deficiencies.  And more importantly, ask for help to fix them.

All in less than 1100111110101 characters or less.

But first I would like to explain some history and clear up at least one misconception.  And if you don't want to read the wall-o-text below, just skip the the Summation below for bullet points.

Explaining Why I Ask
When I started helping the Ubuntu Studio developers I had no previous developer experience (this is an important point).  However, Ubuntu Studio was without active leadership and within a year I decided that I would provide that leadership.  Ubuntu Studio was too important to me to stand by idly as it decayed and slowly died.

The lack of leadership did not preclude others' involvement including some who have had long associations with the project.   Although Ubuntu Studio is not necessarily their priority they are still improving the systems and foundations upon which Ubuntu Studio is built.  Examples, oversimplified as they are, include crimsun and TheMuso working on the audio stack among other areas.

Recent contributions that have greatly helped including packaging of new multimedia applications for the archives (quadrispro) and invaluable ISO testing for quality assurance (rlameiro and holstein).  However, there are fewer new (not to mention inexperienced) contributers that are joining the project than the older (and more experienced) ones that have left the group recently.

Therefore, the current state of Ubuntu Studio could be described as losing momentum characterized by limited development in contrast to its substantial potential.

Lastly, I hope this brief explanation helps our users understand that when we receive user feedback (e.g. about wallpapers or Plymouth themes) we are not arrogantly deciding to ignore it.  On the contrary, we are struggling to adequately maintaining the functional necessities (e.g. bug reports and ISO testing) with the resources available at the current time.

Can You Help?
But you may be asking yourself, "How can I help?  I'm not a developer!"  Or you may say, "This all sounds WAY too complicated, involved, and time consuming!"

Or possibly, you may ask yourself, "What is that beautiful house?"

To answer the first question, of the ways I'll mention only a select subset require more than a modicum of experience and/or knowledge.  The threshold is really quite low since most will only require a few simple and easily taught additions to your existing skill set. Also, remember that I had no prior developer experience when I started.

In response to the statement, transitory assistance is quite welcome and appreciated; a full commitment to the team is not required.  Find something that interests you and fix it.  That's it.  Simple as that.

My answer to the second question would be to stop making sense.

When considering if you can help keep in mind that currently there are many tasks that are simply not being done. And as such, any help is an improvement and therefore most appreciated and welcome!

How You Can Help
Now that I've convinced you that it's ridiculously simple to help, let me count the ways (in no particular order).

Website - Ideally we would like a complete update of the website since it has not changed in years, other than the slight disrepair that has occurred.  If you have suggestions for a new layout we would love to see them and are extremely flexible in regards to design requirements.

Alternately, we would also simply appreciate anyone with Drupal experience that could fix a few things if nothing else.

Do you have audio, video, or graphics you would like to showcase? It's something we would like to incorporate into our new website.

Art - An art director with experience creating themes and a vision would be preferable. We are open to explore your vision and have but a few requirements.

We also readily welcome art submissions for GDM, wallpaper, Plymouth themes, et al from all artistic types. We highly encourage you to send it to us. How cool would it be to have your creation as the wallpaper for a Long Term Support release?

Emailed links to art created by others would be appreciated as well. See an image you like, send us the link!

Testing - Willing to download and test install ISO's? Then we have a job for you. Flexible hours!  Make your own schedule!

Also if you would like to help develop testing procedures we could probably find something for you as well. No one else is doing it, be the first.

Documentation - All the cool kids are a Documentation Lead, you should be one too! Help coordinate, develop, update, and review new and existing documentation.

But we would also really like it if you just updated or created one thing in the wiki. Find a great tutorial on YouTube? Post a link in our documentation.

Programming - This is done probably a lot less expansively than most would expect since the Ubuntu Studio team does not write the majority of the applications included.

However, we really could use someone with Python experience to tidy up a few bugs for us in a few of the applications we do maintain.

Tech and/or Bug Lead - This is one of those categories that requires a slight bit of experiences, but not necessarily. Someone of quick wit and perseverance could do quite well actually.

Like to track bugs and fix them? Or perhaps enjoy solving why a certain application does not build or install correctly?  Then inquire within!

Okay, if you skipped down from the top or you need a refresher about the points I made, here is the Cliff's Notes version:

  • Several experienced people within the project have left recently and not enough new people have replaced them
  • Many things are not accomplished because of limited resources (i.e. people)
  • Even without prior developer experience you too can contribute to Ubuntu Studio
  • Long term commitment is unnecessary, just fix one thing or a couple
  • If you are not helping then it probably is not getting done
I believe that about sums it up.

If you would like to help change the State of Ubuntu Studio there are several methods to do so including commenting at this blog, emailing the ubuntustudio-devel mailing list, or talking to us on IRC at #ubuntustudio-devel.

Hopefully I have great tidings the next time we discuss the State of Ubuntu Studio.