April 15, 2007 9:00 PM PDT

Ubuntu's 'feisty' spin on virtualization

The Ubuntu version of Linux is getting more virtualization-friendly, but in a different way than its top rivals.

Canonical on Thursday is releasing Ubuntu 7.04, also known as Feisty Fawn, sporting two newer virtualization technologies. First is paravirt-ops, a layer that lets Linux get along better with the dominant virtualization software today, VMware. Second is KVM, which lets Linux run other operating systems as guests.

"Both have landed very nicely in this release," said Canonical Chief Executive Mark Shuttleworth. "That was a surprise to me."

Ubuntu's current approach contrasts with the approach of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server, both of which use the Xen software but not yet paravirt-ops.

VMware and KVM use an ordinary Ubuntu kernel, but Xen currently must use a separate kernel, Shuttleworth said. That makes Xen "difficult to experiment with. I hope in the next release, the Xen guys will step up," Shuttleworth said.

Ubuntu has risen to popularity alongside better established versions of Linux such as Red Hat, Suse Linux, Mandriva and Debian. Canonical began its Ubuntu push with an emphasis on desktop computers, the latest in a long line of contenders that have attracted only a small fraction of users away from dominant Microsoft. But Canonical hopes to profit from Ubuntu's use on servers, a proven area of interest for the open-source operating system.

"I'd be happy to fund Ubuntu on pure philanthropy. I've got to get rid of the loot anyway.
--Mark Shuttleworth
CEO, Canonical

Some versions of Ubuntu come with long-term, five-year support--the first and most recent being 6.04, called Dapper Drake. Feisty Fawn won't be such a version, Shuttleworth said, nor in all likelihood will its sequel. But another long-term support version is likely to emerge in April 2008, after two of Ubuntu's six-month release cycles go by, he said.

Last week, Shuttleworth christened the next version of Ubuntu as Gutsy Gibbon. Ubuntu has a six-month release cycle, so that version is due in October.

That version will have a new variant, an as-yet unnamed version for open-source and free software purists that's free of proprietary software such as video drivers, Shuttleworth said in a mailing list announcement about Gutsy Gibbon. The Gibbon variant will take an "ultra-orthodox view of licensing: no firmware, drivers, imagery, sounds, applications, or other content which do not include full source materials and come with full rights of modification, remixing and redistribution," Shuttleworth said.

With Feisty Fawn, Canonical and Ubuntu take a more relaxed view, if not to say an enthusiastic embrace, of proprietary software. It features new software to let people download and install proprietary software that they may use but that Ubuntu doesn't have the right to distribute, Shuttleworth said.

"We have to be very conservative in what we enable Ubuntu to do by default because of this patchwork of patents," he said.

As reported last week, Feisty Fawn also sports a debugging tool that reports crash results to developers. The tool is called Apport, Shuttleworth said.

Ubuntu comes with the GNOME user interface, and about two-thirds of Ubuntu users prefer it, Shuttleworth said. The other third gravitate toward Kubuntu, which uses the KDE interface, he said.

There's some benefit to competition, but in a perfect world, software developers and users wouldn't have to worry about the dueling interfaces, he said.

"It does seem we're losing some of the eyeballs and talent. If we had the one environment, we probably would have more features and fewer bugs," Shuttleworth said. "But we live in the world we live in."

One good sign, however, is that fancy 3D interface work that had split into two variants--the Compiz and Beryl software projects--have converged again into a single effort.

"Those two have reunited. That's great news," Shuttleworth said. "We had seen a lot of innovation in Beryl, but it's easier to deal with just one of them."

Profitability is still a future hope for Canonical, but Shuttleworth--who grew wealthy by selling his security firm, Thawte Consulting, to VeriSign for $575 million in 2000--isn't worried about the current financial state.

"I'd be happy to fund Ubuntu on pure philanthropy. I've got to get rid of the loot anyway," Shuttleworth said. "But I do think it's possible to turn this into a self-sustaining infrastructure."

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20 comments

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Ubuntu
I ike ubuntu, it's definately a step closer to the dream of a linux desktop should be. It's not there yet. When it's as popular as windows and carries the same muscle as windows with OEMs, then things will get interesting!
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
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Well...
Linux has had much time to claim its throne and to step up to the desktop world... but still it's not there... so when will it be?
Posted by hack311 (10 comments )
Link Flag
Xubuntu
I use Xubuntu and like it much better than the Gnome and KDE variants. Hopefully they continue to support it...
Posted by demner (62 comments )
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Don't turn down this dead end
"That version will have a new variant, an as-yet unnamed version for open-source and free software purists that's free of proprietary software such as video drivers, Shuttleworth said in a mailing list announcement about Gutsy Gibbon. The Gibbon variant will take an "ultra-orthodox view of licensing: no firmware, drivers, imagery, sounds, applications, or other content which do not include full source materials and come with full rights of modification, remixing and redistribution,"

Great, a distribution that's guaranteed not to work on any computer and potentially turn off anyone from the general public who might be confused about what it is. There are vast numbers of linux distributions that "purists" can use, why lose focus catering to this? Ubuntu has rightly been developed to work in the real world, where the hardware that people have to buy in order to use computers will always have proprietary drivers and proprietary softwares. There would not be any personal computers or software for them if not for the profit motive, let's not waste any more effort catering to impossible utopian visions.

This is a critical moment in the history of personal computers, with a free linux distribution ready to take its place as a competitor against the Microsoft monopoly, and I for one don't want to see a single ounce of its precious resources squandered on pointless distractions like divided Beryl/Compiz or this idea of a "pure open source" variant. Keep your eyes on the prize...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
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Consider alternatives to Unbuntu like Linspire
<a href="http://www.linspire.com/">Linspire</a> is a commercial Linux with software written to work like Windows does at a fraction of the price of Windows.

End Users don't really care if part of the OS is not open sourced or that only most of it is opne sourced. They just want something that works and is easy to use. Now professional users and developers and IT experts want a complete open source Linux distro so they can "tweak" it themselves and hack away at it.

Now then Linspire has <a href="http://www.freespire.org/">Freespire</a> for those open source purists who want everything open sourced and the OS available for download for free.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
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Microsoft Monopoly
On what? No such thing exists. Perhaps we can say they have a monopoly on an easy to use operating system that runs on the widest variety of machines.
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
loot
If Shuttleworth wants to get rid of his loot, I would be happy to take some of it off of his hands.
Posted by wangbang (155 comments )
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Ubuntu
I do not know why Ubuntu is so popular. It is so far behind Fedora and SuSE in every category you want to name. It is not user friendly, has a poor permissions system, and is too windows like: ie hides important details.

Ubuntu has promise but it is years away from being the real top distro. Right now, openSuse 10.2 is rock solid, has more packages then just about anyone else, has a detailed(something Ubuntu is sorely lacking in) yet simple install routine. It is so easy a total computer neophyte can use it, and be secure without having to add in a bunch of third part apps. Anyone with a little experience on Windows could easily install it and be up and running in under an hour with little to no problems. With Wine, very few windows games won't run well on Linux either. In fact, on my dual boot system, I get better gaming performance and latency in Linux on games made for windows.

If Suse or Fedora had the hype that Ubuntu gets, then Linux would be much further along in gaining desktop market share.

If Debian
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
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And this is why Linux keeps failing
There are too many factions all supporting conflicting versions of Linux out there, each adamant about why their version is superior to everything else.

It's hard to get any real development done when these folks are busy sticking their fingers in their ears whenever someone dares to say anything different than their religious dogma.

Once these folks get some sort of common direction going instead of the infighting they are currently involved in, then perhaps they may make some inroads on OSX and Windows. Until then, they will always be an isolated group.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
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I used to use Fedora
Then I got tired of rpm and yum. I prefer apt-get. rpm sucks with circular dependencies and crap like that. Plus there is a lot of stuff that does not come in their repository which I had to get from external sources. This is quite cumbersome to do, and third-party packages often botched up my install.

I tried Debian but their release cycle was too slow for my taste. Ubuntu had a faster release cycle. It also had Debian's vast repository of apps, so I stuck with it. I still think Fedora's installer was better, but Ubuntu's is good enough.
Posted by quasarstrider (439 comments )
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