Kubuntu, the Blue-headed Stepchild

This post is meant to be read in the context of this post.
I do not find fault with Canonical/Ubuntu does to invest in KDE/Kubuntu, but rather with what they (don’t) do in neglect of KDE.

So, Kubuntu and Ubuntu are treated equally, right? Unfortunately, the neglect is routine. The most recent case of which happened today. The recent upload of bluez 4.x breaks bluetooth in Kubuntu entirely. You can read about it for yourself here (Scroll down to near 15:00), though I will highlight especially important parts here.

15:01 pitti ScottK: does superm1 know about the KDE regression?
15:01 ScottK pitti: He does.
15:01 pitti he worked a lot with the packages recently
15:01 ScottK My impression was he pretty well shrugged.

Edit3: superm1 has been very nice and fixed kdebluetooth, and is looking at hal shortly. This is great, the below comments however, are really the problem. Bugs do usually eventually get fixed, but it’s the attitude that coutns.

15:02 pitti hmm
15:02 seb128 I don’t think anything went especially wrong there

So an untested upgrade breaks supposedly-equal Kubuntu, and nothing is wrong? Hmm…

15:02 ScottK The Kubuntu dev who’s mostly looked into bluetooth (Tonio) is mostly MIA at present.
15:02 seb128 it’s just a lack of manpower issue
15:02 persia It’s more about needing upstream to do something. None of the few people hacking the bluetooth stack now understand kdebluetooth
15:02 pitti http://launchpadlibrarian.net/18310466/Traceback.txt looks like an API change
15:02 MootBot LINK received: http://launchpadlibrarian.net/18310466/Traceback.txt looks like an API change
15:02 seb128 we can’t block ubuntu in a broken state because nobody tests other desktop variants
15:02 ScottK seb128: There’s nothing especially wrong with breaking Kubuntu just before release?
15:03 Riddell persia: it would be better not to do major foundation changes after beta

Also:

seb128 having ubuntu broken just in case a derivative would break is not a solution eithjer

I thought that Ubuntu and Kubuntu were equal… The main problem here is that API changes were made without testing with KDE and uploaded anyway. The resounding response we get here is that Kubuntu is merely a derivative, and uploading untested API changes is OK for that reason.

Continuing on, we arrive at bug 259436. Basically, wiki login was broken for every browser except Firefox, another lack of testing/act of neglect. Yes, it did get fixed today (thankfully), but for almost 2 months this bug was a severe impediment to Kubuntu development. Main Inclusion Reports couldn’t be written. Agenda points for meetings couldn’t be set. Release announcement wiki pages were writable only by those who used Firefox. (Such as myself) This bug has almost affected one third of the entire development cycle. (Short by a week or so)

The response here was basically “use Firefox”. So, great! The default browser of Kubuntu is rendered useless for all things ubuntu-wiki for a third of the development because of a lack of testing, the only alternative being to install Firefox. This brings me on to my third and final point, also involving Firefox and the neglect of Kubuntu on that front.

Say somebody wanted to use the wiki bad enough the last two months that they were willing to install Firefox in Kubuntu. The first thing that they would notice is that it would pull in half the Gnome software stack. Very not nice for Kubuntu users. But what has been done? Nothing. Apparently Kubuntu isn’t equal with Ubuntu to the Ubuntu Mozilla team either. Others have noted this too, along with similar issues with installing the java plugin for use with Kubuntu. No consideration is made for the KDE environment and craptons of unneeded packages are introduced and forced upon any Kubuntu user who wants to use Firefox.

Edit: I’ve been notified that this is actually fixed. I can give another example in it’s place, though.

Up until shortly Alpha 5 KNetworkManager was broken by NetworkManager 0.7, once again due to an API change. At one point it looked like Kubuntu was simply going to be overlooked and left with an non-working networkmanager. Luckily this was fixed in svn, and now we are currently running an svn snapshot of knetworkmanager, which isn’t ideal but at least it works…

I agree with Aaron Seigo. Ubuntu routinely neglects Kubuntu, not because of what it does to support it but because of what it does to neglect it. The Kubuntu Team tries hard to deliver the best KDE possible, but that becomes hard to do when the maintainers of other packages routinely neglect the needs of Kubuntu, the Blue-headed stepchild. If Canoncial/Ubuntu want to become serious about Kubuntu/Ubuntu equality major mindset changes will need to be made across the board. Otherwise the stereotype of Ubuntu neglecting KDE will continue, because so far the stereotype has proven to be true.

21 Responses to Kubuntu, the Blue-headed Stepchild

  1. SEJeff says:

    Not trolling, but why don’t you be done with it and go use opensuse or mandriva?

  2. Rafael Carreras says:

    Very well said, JontheEchidna. For long are Kubuntu users deal with that situation.sejeff, maybe we want them to improve, not let them aside.

  3. John says:

    I don’t know if it is a recent change, but on my up to date Intrepid system, the firefox-3.0 package only “Suggests” firefox-3.0-gnome-support and “Recommends” ubufox. So either this is a bug that has been fixed, or the person who submitted the bug has apt configured to treat recommends as dependencies.

  4. JontheEchidna says:

    @sejeffI don’t leave because I love Kubuntu. Despite the hard time we are sometimes given I feel Kubuntu is a great piece of software. Things can and should be better, and they won’t get any better if everybody just gives up on Kubuntu.

  5. IvanIdea says:

    Instead of all of this trouble with keeping gnome and KDE as equal citizens, why not take advantage of the KDE4 and Gnome3 rewrites and merge? The original split was due to a licensing issue which has since been fixed. It seems silly to me that Gnome has to do a GTK rewrite in order to support all of the features that QT4 introduced. Why not take that effort and port gnome to QT4? [subjective] I personally find it easier to write and understand oo concepts in C++ than C/gobject[/subjective].

  6. jldugger says:

    I don’t care about KDE, and therefore neglect Kubuntu. I’m not subscribed to Kubuntu specific lists, and I don’t test Kubuntu. I rely on Kubuntu users to run and test Kubuntu. I do however, subscribe to and work on bug reports to packages, some of which are of value to KDE users. In fact, subscribing to cwiid is how I discovered the bluetooth transition. Kubuntu <>is<> equal in the following sense: they both are capable of breaking core tools, and require the same oversight. Kubuntu however, is not equally capable to deliver on as many fronts as Ubuntu, because of people like me. Or perhaps more accurately, Kubuntu lacks people like me. The Kubuntu approach seems to be that someone else should do the work on migration to libbluetooth4. Under normal circumstances, that’s ridiculus. KDE based developers should by all rights be far more qualified to write and review patches to KDE than a GNOME based developer. If this is an equality thing, then Kubuntu has to participate. I can of course, understand the argument that it was far too late in the cycle to do a major transition. I might even concur that it’s up to the proposer at such a late stage to fix the problems. But shouldn’t something like this be brought up at the start? KDE was invited to test, but apparently has nobody to turn to within the project (Tonio is missing?). Rather than point fingers, this should probably be a time for introspection. The phrase “step down considerately” comes to mind.

  7. matir says:

    I started to write a rant about how broken I think KDE4 is anyway, but then I thought better of it, realizing this is not the place. Instead I’ll post it over on my blog. (I would, however, appreciate a Kubuntu user maybe setting me straight, because I’d like answers, not just to rant… http://matir.wordpress.com)As much as I support choice, I’ve begun to feel that the whole KDE vs Gnome issue is a major problem for greater Linux adoption. In order to give someone directions to accomplish a task, we need to develop TWO sets, one for each desktop environment.Should Ubuntu be held back because it might cause a regression in Kubuntu? Could it be made such that Kubuntu perhaps ships shortly after Ubuntu so the core bugs could be worked out? I’m not sure what sort of development model would help with the NM 0.7 transition… why was KNetworkManager not able to handle it? I know the API changed, but Ubuntu should not be held back until the KNetworkManager devs feel like updating to support 0.7, for example. Or perhaps Kubuntu should ship with NM 0.6.X. I don’t know the solution, really… maintaining two parallel worlds that are completely different, but expected to be the same, seems impossible to me🙂

  8. wolfger says:

    I’d care more about this if I found KDE4 to be usable at all. I can’t even stay on it for a week before I have to go back to 3.5 in frustration.Also… is bluetooth really that big a deal? Maybe I’m just behind the times, but bluetooth is something I use on my phone, not my computer.

  9. slashdotaccount says:

    Why don’t you come to Debian? I’m sure the KDE team would welcome you with very open arms! Debian treats regressions seriously and we definitely need more developers.

  10. mpt says:

    Where did you get the idea that “Kubuntu and Ubuntu are treated equally”? It seems that assumption is the cause of most of your confusion.BTW, it doesn’t make sense to say that “Ubuntu routinely neglects Kubuntu”. Ubuntu is an operating system.

  11. Jucato says:

    Been there, done that. Quite amusing that I actually started this same train of thought exactly almost a year ago. But mpt is right. Your/Our frustrations come from the false assumption that Ubuntu and Kubuntu are actually treated equal. Once you realize that it is absolutely false, despite any marketing or anything that Mark Shuttleworth says, you’ll be able to move and see what Kubuntu really is, “A community-driven distribution”, and stop expecting miracles. In some sense, give or take a few “privileges”, Kubuntu is exactly like Xubuntu, Fluxbuntu, and other Ubuntu-derivatives.Sad to say… but I have moved on…

  12. mdke says:

    The relationship between derivatives is always going to raise difficulties now and again. I think it is appropriate to describe Kubuntu as a “derivative” of Ubuntu even though there is a special kind of relationship in the sense that the release cycles are the same, the developers work closely together, and other resources are shared. That special relationship should and does require all developers to consider all the projects when making changes, and we see this happening in a positive way in Ubuntu all the time.However occasionally there are “hard cases”, where the fact that Kubuntu, Xubuntu and others, as communities, have less manpower than Ubuntu will inevitably surface. I think the bluetooth issue is one of those: bluetooth was broken in Ubuntu, the potential change was flagged up very clearly some time ago on the development mailing list and testing packages made available, but I guess that there was no one in the Kubuntu project who had enough time to check the issues and ensure that the transition would be smooth. There was certainly no post about it.In relation to your point about the wiki, you’re not being fair. The problem was caused by a bug in the upstream software used on the wiki (Moin) and the workaround (installing an alternative browser) is not nearly so serious as you make it out to be. Also, I think the time taken to resolve the issue (2 months) is actually not too bad in the context of the size of the problem and the serious workload which our sysadmin team is under.On the Firefox issue: what you have described is a straightforward bug, and one which any Kubuntu contributor could have stepped up to fix. You get these things from time to time in a development cycle, and you shouldn’t blame the ubuntu-mozillateam for being unable to fix all the bugs in their packages immediately. They have a lot to deal with and have to prioritise according to seriousness. Also, they are mainly volunteers.To conclude, you are right that Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu and so on need to work together during a development cycle. In my view that generally happens. Sometimes difficult issues happen though, these can’t always be avoided, and that’s when issues of manpower will arrive. We just need to get our heads down and deal with them as best we can.@mpt: I disagree with your second paragraph, Ubuntu is a project as well as an operating system.

  13. mpt says:

    Sure, I understand they’re projects, and some people work on both projects. The Kubuntu project is much <>more<> closely coordinated with the Ubuntu project than, for example, Knoppix is with Debian. It wouldn’t make any sense to say that “Debian neglects Knoppix”, so it makes even <>less<> sense to say that “Ubuntu neglects Kubuntu”.

  14. mdke says:

    @mpt: ok, your original point seemed to be a grammatical objection, so maybe I misunderstood that.I personally think that Ubuntu, Kubuntu and other approved “sister projects” do have a closer relationship than your standard derivative, so it is possible to say that one project neglects the other. Normally, from what I’ve seen, Ubuntu developers are pretty sensitive to causing issues with other sister projects.

  15. zbog says:

    I am a Kubuntu userKubuntu and Ubuntu may be equal to Canonical, but as far as I know, they heavily rely on community. And in the community one will always be stronger than the other. One will have a larger, more active community that will get updates and fixes quicker, while the other will play catch up.What I think we need is not fight each other, but we should have some integrated automatic tests.Adding K,Xubuntu to any testing effort involving any Ubuntu should come free for all projects (bluetooth, network manager). We need to make an “OpenSuse Build Service” for testers.

  16. Jeremy Farrance says:

    I say the entire KDE community, developers, users, contributors of all types, should give Canonical and Ubuntu the royal heave ho altogether.Lets stop wasting time trying to get Canonical to join a party they’re not really interested in. We’ve all got better things to do. We can do better.

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  20. […] time of the Karmic release. On Oct. 9, 2009, a blog post by Jonathan Thomas (Jontheechidna) titled Kubuntu, the Blue-headed Stepchild detailed what he called a pattern of neglect. His argument was that while Canonical certainly does […]

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