I’m not the Doctor, but I play him on the Internet


As you may have already seen, Project Timelord is out in the wild. While Kubuntu 9.10 is undeniably a decent release and undeniably better than previous releases, it is not an outstanding release. The potential to be the best KDE distribution in the world is there, but something is not quite right. For example, KDE translations are pretty much fixed, but our Kubuntu-developed often suffer from a lack of translators as well as a general inattentiveness to localization bugs, which is made worse by a lack of feedback from justifiably frustrated users. Kubuntu tools are written for KDE4, but perhaps stick out too much and don’t fit in with the system as well as they should. Our early KDE4 packages for Hardy left a bad reputation, and now any bug– KDE or Kubuntu’s fault– gives disgruntled and suffering users to brand Kubuntu as “just that buggy, second rate KDE distribution” on the internet. Kubuntu is good, but to break free of its past and at the same time become great, major changes will have to be made. What Kubuntu needs is a Doctor.

The Name

Hopefully, anyone from this generation or the previous has heard to the Doctor. The Doctor is a man with no name, the lone survivor of the Last Great Time War, and the last Timelord in existence. With the last of the TARDISes, he roams through time and space with his companions keeping the universe safe from perils both manmade and alien. Project Timelord was named that because:

  • We thought it sounded good at the time
  • Harald and I are both Doctor Who fans (Jonathan Riddell probably does too)
  • Kubuntu needs repairing, and who better to fix something up than the Doctor?

What is Project Timelord About?

I really would recommend reading both the announcement as well as the complete Timelord specification, as they will do a much better job of explaining Project Timelord. They’d better do a good job too, since I spent a lot of time writing them. 😛 Basically Timelord is a roadmap of todo items, brainstormed by Kubuntu’s finest. Thought to maintaining the status quo was thrown to the wind, and we seriously took a look at what our biggest weaknesses or perceived weaknesses as a distribution are. The result is a list of solutions that may in some cases be radical change from the status quo. We will do whatever is necessary to make Kubuntu the best.

In essence, Project Timelord is taking a look at what we currently do and doing a sanity check on it. For example, Timelord asks:

– Do we have the resources to maintain translations in Launchpad?

Probably not at the moment, no. Launchpad translations is a solution for a problem we don’t have, and if we cannot maintain it without a massive amount of work or at the cost of people wanting to translate our Kubuntu-specific apps, then we should not use it.


– Do we have the resources to track bugs in KDE itself at Launchpad?

While tracking things at both places does have its benefit when done properly, it really cannot be done properly by two people. Until our bug team grows, the recommended course of action is to send upstream bugs upstream where the belong, lest upstream never sees them at all.

It is questions like these that Project Timelord attempts to answer. (Really, go read the spec for more details :P) If we can follow the proposed roadmap, I am sure that Kubuntu will rock for Kubuntu 10.04 and beyond, eventually becoming the best Linux distribution possible.

But All of This Requires You

As a co-brainstormer of Project Timelord, I believe that if we follow Timelord’s solutions sincerely that Kubuntu will look into the heart of the TARDIS and become reborn! The best part about it is that you can help us make Kubuntu the best Debian/Ubuntu-based KDE distribution, nay, the best Linux distribution around! Feel free to hop onto IRC or fire a mail to the kubuntu-devel mailing list; we are looking for people of all talents! Whether you can triage bugs, write python or C++, help out other users on IRC, make great artwork or have any other skill, we look forward to you helping us making Kubuntu the best it can be!


P.S. I will actually probably blog in a bit about the first developing “fruits” of Project Timelord, kubuntu-notification-helper, soon. (A C++ replacement for update-notifier-kde)


19 Responses to I’m not the Doctor, but I play him on the Internet

  1. Prateek says:

    I hope Timelord will also bring Kubuntu on par with Ubuntu and destroy its blue-headed-stepchild reputation!

  2. burkeone says:

    IMHO, you miss a certain point: Public relations.

    Rename Kubuntu to”Ubuntu-” something, and rework the artwork. Renaming a project is like a fresh start and it signal your willingness to start from scratch with new and fresh ideas.

    Also try to keep a certain proximity to Ubuntu itself. Kubuntu doesn’t look like Ubuntu, doesn’t behave like Ubuntu and doesn’t ship Ubuntu’s fancy stuff up to a certain degree. Although this is a proper behaviour up to a certain degree, I think Kubuntu should be easily recognizable as a Ubuntu-Spinoff in terms off artwork and things like Ubuntu One and the Software store.

    I guess with a new branding, name and artwork you will experience quite a positive feedback in the future.

  3. woodsjay says:

    Let’s start with simple stuff. How about switching your blog to someone who will work with Konqueror (or fix Konqueror so that it works with wordpress). The actual problem is that the message about the password not being complex enough didn’t show until Firefox was used.

  4. echidnaman says:

    Sorry, blogspot was just too spam ridden for me to stand. I still have 600 spam comments from previous posts I still have to delete. (I only got 300 yesterday before I became too bored to continue) My blog is hardly part of Kubuntu anyways.

  5. woodsjay says:

    As a second step get the text to fit on the various screens. As an example the current time (08:32 am) in the bottom right hand corner has the time text truncated on both the right hand and left hand ends. (The date is OK.) The same problem shows in the popup Calendar in the week of the year (43/44) column.

  6. jamboarder says:

    Excellent! You guys are spot on with Project Timelord. I’m excited to see the fruits of this effort, and I’m even motivated enough to try to carve out *some* time to participate.

    You all, I’m sure, recognize the hole in the distribution ecosystem for a top-notch debian-based KDE distribution. OpenSuse has a LOT going for it, but soooo many of us trudge along with Kubuntu because we can’t convince ourselves to give up the gigantic debian software ecosystem. Most exciting is focus on improved coordination with upstream. If we can accomplish much of what is identified in the Project Timelord document, Kubuntu would finally be on its way to becoming what many people are hoping desperately for it to be. Who says navel-gazing is a bad thing?!!

  7. Lunarcloud says:

    I’m very excited about this.

    I’m mostly happy about the admittance that this python obsession from Ubuntu is giving us sub-par utilities that integrate poorly with Kubuntu.

    I’d love to help out with the web site, writeups and screenshots (using screenie and other programs).

  8. Bugsbane says:

    Any idea what kind of artwork could be used? I’m pretty experienced with Inkscape / Gimp / Karbon / Krita / Blender, but I’m not aware of any kind of TODO that could be started on…

  9. sandsmark says:

    I know this is easier said than done (politics involved and all), but maybe ship less custom stuff? The KDE bugzilla has already started getting crashreports from the fancy new notification stuff KUbuntu patches in, I’ve seen. Think, if you had completely vanilla KDE packages, you could just forward ~all of the bugs upstream, instead of having to have them triaged several times (once in Launchpad and once in the KDE Bugzilla).
    (Yes, yes, “look who’s talking”. :-P)

    Ohohoh, one last bit; while you’re looking into getting stuff more trouble-free, how about dropping PulseAudio and shipping Phonon-Xine by default? 🙂
    (At least until coling finishes his PA-Phonon work, and someone cleans up the PA output in Xine.)

    But good luck!

    • echidnaman says:

      The branding/artwork stuff is still pretty much “To be determined”, but in the meanwhile we’d love to hear input from artists on what they’d like to see happen. Rest assured when the time for artist muscle comes, we will make noise. 😉

      Aurelin is paid as a full-time employee to take care of the Ayatana notification stuff, and as long as he’s satisfactorily doing his job I don’t think there’s any problem or any way we can stop Canonical. 😉 That he’s an upstream developer is another plus, because you can easily just nag him on B.K.O. when they occur. 😛

      On the front of PulseAudio, I can proudly say that we have never shipped PA by default with Kubuntu, ever. (Probably never will be unless major changes in PA occur)
      It is unfortunate though that Ubuntu enables it by default for their applications, so all Ubuntu users using KDE apps are exposed to PA’s inherit fail. We’re stuck in between a rock and a hard place for that, though. Hopefully the PA-Phonon integration patches will start to show some improvements in the near future. Would it be worth it to not compile the current PulseAudio support at all to prevent this from happening until PA improves?

      Thanks for the interest. 🙂

      • sandsmark says:

        Aha, I was getting confused by the users in #amarok. 🙂

        But I think no PA-support probably is worse than what we have already, but yes, tricky situation.

        Do you already use Phonon-Xine by default too?

        Thanks for *your* interest in making KDE rock (or something, I’m not good with slogans…).

      • Blendiac says:

        It’s kind of tricky saying what I’d like to see happen when I’m not sure the scope of what’s being looked at. Would we be talking artwork for Project Timelord itself (ie PTl Logo, icon, website etc) or rebranding Kubuntu per se (as it is under PTl)? Are we talking application artwork (eg a Kubuntu specific Amarok splash), system artwork (eg wallpapers) or ecosystem type stuff (website, flyers, promotional videos).

        One thing that I personally would love to see would be some kind of consistently branded videos, with inspiring (CC / Jamendo?) music, plainly worded that showed new features aimed at *potential* Kubuntu users. New ones could be put out with each beta release and then compiled into a showcase for the final release at the end. Distribute them to every channel via something like TubeMogul. Give people who are curious but not subscribed to any mailing lists / planet feeds somewhere to go and see the coolest stuff, visually, all in one place.

        I should mention that my background includes a fair amount of (low-hype, high conversion) copy-writing. My time is limited, but I’m happy to help edit announcements and give pointers. Good, ethical marketing is largely using the same time-proven techniques repeatedly, to answer: “What’s in it for them (specifically), and why should they care?” Bonus points for avoiding long, vague adjectives like “excellent / super / amazing / stupendous” etc.

        The main need I’ve found in the past is projects asking for help, but not saying what help, *specifically* they would like. I hope that Project Timelord will help Kubuntu say specifically what artwork and marketing is wanted, giving the army of the willing (and able) somewhere clear to start. World Domination(tm) follows shortly. Roll credits.

        Anyway, congratulations for getting the ball rolling. It seems fitting that this is happening for Lucid! (From Wiktionary: clear, easily understood, mentally rational, sane, bright & luminous).

        I have a feeling Lucid is going to be clear, easy to understand, bright AND luminous (although I’m not sure this is sane or mentally rational!) From there, it can only get better again!


        Kubuntiac / Bugsbane

      • echidnaman says:

        Yes, Xine is the default Phonon backend used. But once again GNOME’s heavy usage of GSTreamer may make it easier for it to be pulled in to Ubuntu installs… 😦

  10. Serge says:

    I use Kubuntu since 6.10 and the switch from KDE3 to KDE4 was really big. It looks like a complete new rewritten Desktop environment. The versions of KDE4 are getting increasingly better and Timelord can help Kubuntu further with the battle with his bigger brother Ubuntu (GNome).

    The biggest issue of Kubuntu in my point of view is the graphical frontend of the package manager. I think KPackagekit is an horrible program, which needs replacement even with 10.04. While the rest of Kubuntu is running well. Because a new package manager is not easily made and certainly not before 10.04 I think there are 2 options. Re-intoduce Adept(-kde3) or add Synaptic (GTK). I just de-installed KPackagekit and replace it by Synaptic this morning at my computer.

    • Lunarcloud says:

      It’s not bad, it just is lacking a categorial view, which imho is very crippling to its usability, yes. I do reinstall the kde4 version of adept for novice users of kubuntu.

  11. Tathosh says:

    I think the Timelord project is a great idea. I have been using Kubuntu as ordinary user for more than 2 years and I am a happy user.

    I think you could also introduce something like 100 Papercuts for Kubuntu. I my opinion previous 100 Papercuts was very oriented for Ubuntu. But generally fixing little bugs that make newbies life better is an excellent idea. It would be great to have something for fixing Kubuntu bugs. It would help to improve Kubuntu’s reputation.

    Otherwise it is a GREAT system.

    So THANKS to ALL Kubuntu DEVELOPERS for their had work!!!

  12. WindPower says:

    Yes please! And a Hundred Papercuts for Kubuntu would rock. There’s lots of little quirks to fix with things like Firefox KDE integration, OpenOffice integration (good work in 9.10 but it still looks like crap with my color scheme, Obsidian Coast), etc.

  13. […] Project Timelord, however, is rolling right along. Since we are right around alpha 3 and around half way through the cycle, I thought I’d take a moment to do a review on the progress of Project Timelord. […]

  14. James Cain says:

    Great work from the Kubuntu team in identifying and executing the Project Timelord specification. I am excited as to what the team has accomplished, as well as where this project is headed in future releases.

    Jonathan, one item I am curious about from the specification document is the “Improve marketing, promotion” item listed in the Ongoing Changes selection at the end of the document. It would be great to see a blog post detailing the successes and challenges faced in this particular area.

    Keep up the good work!

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