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.


nathaniel said...


I've got a little programming experience, a lot of experience in the Ubuntu community (help run the VanBuntu LoCo here in Vancouver BC) and would be willing to put some time into some of the leadership human stuff (even some of the testing)

Although I currently don't use Ubuntu Studio I've been planning on moving to it (from the vanilla desktop version)

Drop me a line and we'll figure out where I can be of best use.


DistroLink said...

Thank you for your post. Maybe I'll have a try.

Peter said...

Hej! I am a user of Ubuntustudio since many years ago.Running my own side in Sweden I have experiences with Drupal and Joomla. I can help with testing new features and maybe with the webpage.

Scott Lavender said...

I want to apologise for not replying sooner to the comments. I attended a wedding and needed to complete a few projects first.

@nathaniel - Outstanding! I will be contacting you to discuss where you can best help :)

@DistroLink - Thank you. Yes, please try Ubuntu Studio.

@Peter - Thanks for using Ubuntu Studio and commenting. Helping with testing would be appreciated, but if you were able to fix a few things on the website that would be even better! Email me please -

Neal said...

I have many decades of experience with computers and would like to get involved in open source development. I would be interested in exploring ways I might help. Can we communicate about what might be the best mutually beneficial way to contribute to Ubuntu Studio?

Scott Lavender said...


Email sent to you.

I am looking forward to hearing back from you.

Unknown said...

I would love to get involved. I have used ubuntu-studio in the past along with 64studio (and logic-pro 7.1 OSX). I am a self taught muso and audio techie and do the sound system (and some live recordings - which is always a challenge!) in my local church. I have a good understanding of Debian (use stable, testing and Sidux) and am learning python (just for fun you understand!).
Testing install and use i can do, and maybe look at the python stuff you mention. I also enjoy creating themes, but one thing at a time!
Drop me an email and we can sort out where I can fit in.

Anonymous said...

Why not join the Debian pkg-multimedia team? I'm sure they could use some more help!

Anonymous said...

Hi i know Ubuntu from a litle time ago, and from the beganning am inlove whit ubuntu studio, but i could ever work in edition in it becuase i simple dont know how.

I read the interview in thefrige and am really interes to help on whati cant, am blogger orriginaly spanish i speak a creole englis so sorry for my writhing and am juts willing to help, i could test, write post por the webpage tutorial well what ever you whan to put me to do.

so just say for what you need me

Barto said...

I'm a long time user of US (well, a few years anyway, started with the old fervent software StudiotoGo! way back when). My interests are primarily in the audio aps using mostly Rosegarden and Zynaddusbfx to create music (downloadable from Jamendo under artist Barton K. Woolery). I would be able to offer help in test driving new ISOs. My Linux chops are limited, I'm certainly no Midnight Commander, but my computer uses removable drives so throwing a new install on is relatively easy.

jpasion said...


Is there a spot for a documentation writer/editor? I work as technical writer and I would like to know if I can contribute.

I can also do some graphics or test install ISOs as well.

What is the Ubuntu Studio contribution model?


Anonymous said...

I have programming experience, and work as a professional web developer. I am also a musician so I am interested.

I have played with python, but not much in depth. It is on my list of things to do though.

Lost Color Theory said...

I've a little programing experience, mostly in Delphi / Pascal, but I know a Python. But, me and my brother are really more interested in help with wallpapers, themes (althought we don't have many experience in themes). I am about to start to develop a musician calculator, so if you are interested this will be another thing I can help.
Ah, and I'm a native Spanish and catalan speacker, and if you need help translating documentation or something else just ask.
If you want email me at and we can decide where we can be needed.

Jeff Hendricks said...

I've been very impressed with Ubuntu Studio, and have been using it for the last two years or so. I'm a semi-profesisonal musician, and have been dabbling in Linux for about 8 years.

My strong points are technical writing, and of course, testing. I also dabble in graphics and web design, but just enough to get by.

Scott, I'm proud of you for asking for help! I think Studio is too good of a distro to let die a slow death.

Scott Lavender said...

JamesTheDisciple - email sent.

Anonymous - I think you missed the point, mate.

HectorHenry, barto, and anyone else interested in testing ISO - Go to this website, create an account, pick your architecture (i386 or amd64) and then subscribe to one of the tests. It will email you when new images are available to test.

Anchovy - If you want to help with the website then I suggest you read this email thread for the latest on website development:

JeromeP - email sent

LostColorTheory - email sent

Jeff Hendricks - tried to find an email address for you mate and couldn't. Yes, we could use a technical writer, testers, and website development. Send me an email at and we can discuss it further.

Anonymous said...

Well installing tonight. I have had a few goes over the years since 8.04. I ran into a few issues tried to file bugs, got lost in a whole ubuntu quagmire. So I will give it a go. I would to see how much of my label I can run on open source. I'll let you know how I go and I have signed up for the dev mail list. ISO testing is easy for me to do and I have a few machine. Peace

Hectorhenry17 said...

Hi am here again.

I would also like to help more on move the web page, like whit news of Ubuntu Studio and think like that i really willing to work whit you all.

Ian Noel said...

I have installed Ubuntu Studio for my son in August 2010. He wants to record music. I am a linux user.. of just over a year. We both (me and my son) need to learn more about Ubuntu Studio... so how could we help ?


Unknown said...

Hi Scott

I am a professional Java (web) developer and hobby musician. I am beginner Ubuntu Studio user, but been using Ubuntu for a long time.

I have some firewire hardware (ESi Quatafire 610) which is currently running in 10.10 out of the box. Thanks a lot for that!

I am willing to help the Ubuntu Studio project. I could imagine working in the following areas:

Testing: I could help to test the kernels for the next release with my hardware (in the dev-mailing-list I have read about some issues)

Documentation: When I was looking for information about the installation of Ubuntu Studio I came across a lot of outdated Wiki pages (for example mentioning non existing -rt kernels)

Packaging: I would be very motivated in learning how to become package maintainer and take over responsibility for some packages.

These are just ideas. Let me know where you think it would make most sense to get involved and give me some pointers on how to start.

I have subscribed to the dev mailing list which I am now following in order to find out how I could help.

Best Regards

PS: I am located in Europe (Switzerland)

Arun Srinivasan said...

I have been a user of ubuntu for quite some time. Intially using the system as a movie watching and mail checking one and somehow trying to get it to run little windows games in the early 6.06 versions. Then got it installed with 8.04 and had been using the LTS versions now and then till last year, when I decided to try with each and every version that got released immediately. Considering the place I come from India - we don't have good networks, It takes atleast 2 days to get the entire distribution downloaded. So I'm not sure whether I'll be able to help with that. But If testing only the Changes made in the existing installation is available, I would like to pinch in for that. And if you need help with any kind of programming that has some structure to it like C, let me know as well. I code small small things in windows OS generally for official purpose ranging from little VBA, vbscript codes to .net/java codes. And also in recent times had to work with small small perl codes and shell scripts as part of my work. So could really help with those things. I don't have extensive knowledge of the working of the linux kernel, so dont think I'll be of any use in configuring new kernel releases and incorporating them into the system and stuff like that. Anyways I can do something or the other with whatever knowledge I have got now.

And one sad thing is I'll have to punch in the hours for ubuntu studio support on saturdays and sundays bcoz of my more than hectic work life. So let me know on anything that you think I could help with and I'll try doing from my side.