Interview with Dmitry Agafonov []

    With each new release, the Ubuntu operating system proves its worth in the operating system market, and more and more attracts fans to its camp. Obviously, the stagnant hegemony of Windows is not popular with everyone, and especially people associated with IT. We decided to develop this topic and talk with Dmitry Agafonov, who is the coordinator of the support team for the huge Russian-speaking user community .

    Stanislav Gornakov (Chief ed. Web Analyst.INFO):Hello Dmitry! We are glad to welcome you on the pages of the journal Web Analytic.INFO. Dmitry, let's start with Ubuntu itself, its history and goals, and then we'll talk about the Russian-speaking community of Ubuntu users. Maybe not everyone knows what Ubuntu is, so tell us briefly about the history of this distribution, the Canonical company itself and its goals.

    Dmitry Agafonov:Hello! I am also happy to be able to tell a little about Ubuntu and the people who are working on this interesting project. Turning to the history of Canonical and the Ubuntu distribution, it is impossible to pass by the founder and mastermind of all this: Mark Shuttleworth. Mark was born in the Republic of South Africa and was educated in Finance and Information Technology at the University of Cape Town, where the world of open source software opened up for him. For some time Mark was one of the developers of Debian Linux and, working as a team of this deservedly respected and popular distribution, he understood both the positive and negative aspects of the Debian project and decided to change something. So in 2004, the Ubuntu distribution and Canonical were born. The main goals in the work were clear release dates (and not according to the schedule “when we do, then it will be released”) and the readiness of the distribution package as a product for the mass consumer market as a general-purpose OS, and later as a server. Canonical thus became the official developer of Ubuntu, a commercial OEM partner for computer manufacturers, and also began providing technical support to customers who installed Ubuntu.

    SG: The scope of the company is impressive, at the moment Canonical has offices in the USA, England, Canada and Taiwan, as well as an office at the place of registration of the company on the Isle of Man. By the way, why is the Isle of Man?

    YES.:The main current residence of Mark Isle of Man. In my opinion, it is logical that the company is registered there, is not it? In general, the Isle of Man is an interesting place, both geographically and historically, as well as politically. At the same time, Canonical can hardly be considered a large company. Scope? it is rather the effect of the fact that the geography of activity covers the whole world: providing technical support, communication with OEM manufacturers, developers. The real scope is that a huge community of people outside the company work with Canonical projects, who appreciate the flexibility of the provided solutions for working on opensource projects, as well as Ubuntu, as a powerful platform for implementing their ideas.

    SG: The Ubuntu operating system has several different versions, please describe each of them.

    DA: Initially, only the universal version for desktop computers, Desktop, was released. Then, with the development of the distribution kit, a server edition appeared, which allowed many system administrators to harmoniously supplement the systems running on personal computers with appropriate server solutions supporting the latest technologies. In recent years, the so-called netbooks have become particularly popular, the purpose of which and their technical parameters made developers think about optimizing the system. As a result, a special (Netbook) version of the Ubuntu distribution was released. The main features of the version for netbooks are cost-effectiveness, convenience and speed of connection to various networks, optimization for working on a small screen.

    S.G .:In addition, the Ubuntu desktop distribution has several other variations, such as the well-known Kubuntu, Xubuntu and Edubuntu, and the lesser-known Gobuntu, Mythbuntu, and so on. Tell about these editions of Ubuntu, what are their differences and why they are needed.

    YES.:Yes, indeed, the basic version of the Ubuntu distribution is developed and thoroughly tested with the GNOME user environment. At the same time, for many users, other environments are more consistent with the desires. This is mainly KDE, as well as XFCE or LXDE. Here you need to understand that Linux distributions are software packages that include the OS kernel, system environment, user environment, and application programs. Thus, you can modify these kits, creating different versions of the distribution for specific needs. At the same time, different sets can be installed on a working system at the same time. This is amazing flexibility. This is what we love about Linux.

    So, Kubuntu is a Ubuntu distribution with the KDE user environment. Xubuntu and Lubuntu use XFCE and LXDE, respectively, these are "lightweight" shells for computers with low performance. Orienting Ubuntu for specific tasks has become possible thanks to a change in application software packages. So how did the Edubuntu distribution kit for educational institutions, Mythbuntu entertainment media center, Ubuntu Studio? distribution for creativity. There are many versions and variants of the system that are created by teams of enthusiasts and commercial companies for their own needs.

    SG: All versions of Ubuntu are free, so the question arises as to what and how Canonical makes money, because programmers are people too, they want to eat their families too.

    YES.:The main earnings of the company now are providing technical support, working with OEM, as well as a number of new services: a paid extension for Ubuntu One remote storage and a music store, available there. The company management considers the chosen way of monetization to be right and, first of all, continues the development of the Ubuntu project, as the main trump card for attracting customers to its paid services. However, as far as I know, at present the company has not yet reached profit, although it is much closer to this. Thus, while the company is sponsored by Mark Shuttleworth himself. The staff of the company receives a salary, which means that programmers and managers have something to eat, do not worry!

    SG: How often do Ubuntu updates come out? Are these updates regular or does it all depend on the mood of the developers?

    YES.:The open source development model often leads to the fact that programs are rapidly evolving, changing. Often there is a change of "leader" in a particular class of user applications. In open programs, errors are more successfully detected and corrected. This leads to the need for frequent software updates, which are installed as part of the system. Work on supported systems is ongoing. Security updates for Ubuntu come out very quickly and as often as required. However, within the framework of one release, updating of versions of programs is usually not performed for the sake of compatibility and according to the golden rule of administration: “works - do not touch”. Every six months, new versions of distributions of the Ubuntu family are released. This is necessary for updating to new versions of the entire software package in the distribution, for making innovations, honing various aspects of the system, integrating the latest technology. Releases are numbered according to the rule "2 digits of the year, period, month", the current version is 10.04, the next 10.10 will be released in October.

    SG: Of course, I myself am aware of the schedule of system updates, since I am a fan of this OS, but I asked this question, because most users have the opinion that all Linux distributions are distributions assembled “on the knee”. That you can’t trust them, and someday such a time will come that the developers will abandon “their toy”, and we will remain at the “trough”.

    YES.:First, Ubuntu is supported by a commercial company. This business and the current state of affairs speaks of the growing popularity of the system and services, of a good future in this area. Canonical, as well as other commercial sponsors of Linux distributions, guarantees its users that the releases will be supported for a certain time (minimum 1.5 years for desktop systems and up to 5 years for LTS versions of the server edition). In addition, special attention is paid to the issue of simple automatic migration to new versions. So only those who can’t keep up with the progress in the field of opensource, provided by Canonical and thousands of developers around the world, can be left with nothing. Connect to the network, install the free security updates available for you, update to new versions of the distribution for free and you will always have all the best from the world of open source software. And being on the cutting edge of progress is great and inspiring!

    SG: Tell me, is Ubuntu a self-contained and mature system and can it really compete with Windows?

    DA: In short, yes. As a system, Ubuntu does its job well. In addition, immediately after installing the distribution kit, you can usually perform the vast majority of everyday PC user actions. Work on the Internet, mail, office documents, solitaire. Usually, problems arise precisely at the moment when you have to face the world of Windows. Specific application software, protocols for interacting with services, file formats. You can’t imagine how much effort the developers of open source software have to spend in order to open the “windows” ... But even here there are already very impressive results. There are fewer and fewer problems.

    S.G .:You know, sometimes it seems to me that Ubuntu lacks some little things and thoughtfulness to compete with Windows, for example, “normal” and familiar names. It really hurts a lot of “technical slang”, so to speak. For example, during the installation of a package or updates, the phrase of the plan “The trigger is being set up ...” is thought to lead ordinary users into some perplexity that the system is supposedly for techies. Maybe it still makes sense to stick to the names that are familiar and understandable to most users?

    YES.:You know, here again the problem is more likely not so much in the “technicality” of slang as in its difference from that already used in that very, different system. Although, in fact, there is a problem and some efforts are being made to solve it. Mark has now moved from the position of managing company to the side of the architect or, if you like, the designer. A team of professional designers has been formed who are working on the development of concepts for a more convenient and understandable user environment for Ubuntu. For the second year in a row, the 100 100 Paper Cuts ’campaign has been held, where, together with users, they search for and eliminate those very minor flaws that actually spoil the impression of working with the system. The results are already there and much more to work.

    S.G .:By the way, from the outside it seems that Ubuntu is trying hard to make its own clone of Mac OS X. If so, then what's the point?

    DA: There really are similarities. But there is no particular intent precisely to copy the interface of a particular OS. Just as part of the task of improving, simplifying, increasing the intuitiveness of the interface, you have to analyze and try on the best solutions already created, trying to go further. It is in this state that the work on improving the interface in Ubuntu is. In my opinion, Linux has never been as beautiful and comfortable as it is now. But work is still underway!

    SG: On October 10, a new release of Ubuntu 10.10 will be released, what can we all expect from this release?

    YES.:At a minimum, each new release is, as I said, updating all software versions that are part of the system. And this brings both correction of errors and a portion of new features and functions. For example, a kernel update will expand the range of supported hardware. In addition, the design and software package will be updated, which will be installed by default. In preparation for the previous release, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, which is a release with long-term support and should therefore be the most stable, the development team had to “keep” a number of changes. These innovations will be gradually introduced in 10.10 and subsequent releases. Already announced changes in the interface options for netbooks: shell "Unity", and was it announced the launch of the Light project? A lightweight version of Ubuntu for ultra-fast startup and work outside and up to the main operating system. These, of course, are not all changes. Stay tuned for more details.

    SG: Dmitry, let's now talk about our community and you. When did you first meet Ubuntu, and how did you come up with the idea of ​​creating a community of Russian-speaking users of

    D.A .: It is impossible to create a community, it is formed itself where there is reason and interest. So, having appeared in 2004, the Ubuntu distribution has become such a center of attraction and community formation. At the beginning of 2005, a domain was registered and a Russian-language forum was opened. Just as a reflection of the fact of the emergence of a community that is growing and developing so far. I started using Ubuntu in 2006, and in 2007 joined the resource support team. Somehow it happened that after a while I became the coordinator of our team. I probably had the most free time.

    S.G .:For the second year in a row, you receive a certificate from the current LoCo team. Tell us what LoCo is, what kind of certificate it is and what advantages it gives you?

    D.A .: From the very beginning of the Ubuntu project, Canonical realized what an important part of open source projects the community is. These are not only users and potential subscribers of paid services. Community? it is feedback, it is a generator of ideas, it is a source of development and a “litmus test” that determines the correctness of the chosen directions of movement. In fact, all developers of system components, translators, people reporting errors are all part of the community.

    To support the community, Ubuntu introduced the Local Command Institute (LoCo). These are groups of enthusiasts who promote Ubuntu in their cities and countries, organize events, distribute discs with the system, and help newcomers get comfortable. In large territories, such as the USA and Russia, global teams operate that support local groups of activists. Such a team is our Russian Ubuntu LoCo Team.
    Every 2 years there is a process of recertification of teams, a review of their activities and work results. Confirmed status (Approved LoCo Team) is a recognition of the merits of all the people in our team who help to develop the project, this is trust in using Canonical's trademarks in the work of our resources, this is the official status of community support resources, this is a certain responsibility both to the company and before users who expect a certain level of support on our resources. In addition, at the local level, it is the active teams that receive more attention with support for organizing events, distributing discs and handouts.

    SG: How many active users at the moment are portal.

    YES.:It’s quite difficult to give exact numbers; we have several tens of thousands of registered users constantly visiting our resources. In addition, hundreds of thousands of visitors monthly view 2-3 million pages. We do not hide information, we do not require registration for access. So we can say that our user base is at least several hundred thousand Russian-speaking computer owners around the world who are interested in Ubuntu, have already installed the system or plan to do it.

    SG: What is useful on the portal for a simple user?

    YES.:Information, news, but most importantly support. If anyone has questions on any aspects of the system, you can find the answer through a search or ask a question in the appropriate section of the forum. Help solve the problem quickly in IRC or Jabber chat. For more fundamental descriptions and documentation, see our reference wiki. In addition, people with similar interests will always find topics for discussion, and not necessarily near-computer ones.

    SG: And what does your team generally do for the Ubuntu OS and what can a simple user do to be useful for the community?

    YES.:The Russian translation group is doing perhaps the most notable job. This is something that everyone who uses Russian as a system language will certainly encounter. Editors have issued a large number of articles in our Russian-language documentation. Periodically, translations of Full Circle magazine and a podcast are published. Nevertheless, technical support of resources, moderation of the forum and chats, testing and work on system errors are what we also do daily and often imperceptibly for most users.

    Ordinary users are those who once were not users, and tomorrow they can become a “guru”. The main thing that you can do is help others: if you know the answer to the question raised on the forum - write. Let the moderators know if rules and codes of conduct are being violated somewhere. If you find a mistake in the translation or in the system? report them. If you know how to do something and want to help our team, look at the special page where we are looking for help. If you have ideas, express them. All this will help to make the system and our resources better and more useful. It will make the Ubuntu distribution and community the way we all want to see them.

    SG: Dmitry, thanks for the interview, I wish you and Ubuntu OS all the best!

    You can read this and other materials in the new September issue of the magazine.Web Analyst.INFO .

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