Why ubuntu sucks in keeping the distribution in good shape?

About a year ago, Canonical released Ubuntu 8.04LTS, codenamed "Hardy Heron". Hardy was the first Ubuntu version to introduce Firefox 3.0, the problem was that Mozilla Firefox 3.0 was released only some time after the Ubuntu release, which made Canonical include a beta version of Firefox in the official release.

As Linux has better software updates mechanisms than other operating systems, no one worried about Canonical's decision to include beta software, and it was good to people who update their systems on a daily/weekly basis, but a bad idea for users who use LiveCD Linux (newbies, people who use Linux just as an Emergency CD for their other-os installation etc.), and for people who are unable to update or prefer not to do it (offline users, people who are connected only to internal networks).

Ubuntu users indeed got the official Firefox release right after it was released by Mozilla, but Canonical forgot one important piece – translations. In the official Ubuntu release, they got Firefox 3.0 beta 5, and its equivalent translations, but while they kept updating the browser, they didn't update the translations, <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>where a few string changes were made.

Speaking of the Firefox Hebrew translation, which I am proud to be a member of, we had one very visible bug which was fixed between 3.0 beta5 and 3.0 rc1 – the status bar text was not aligned correctly, bug 402240 in Mozilla bug tracker. Shortly after the Ubuntu release we got the same issue reported on Ubuntu, and thanks to good people who pointed me to the link I had the opportunity to see it and tell them about the upstream issue in Mozilla.

Ubuntu users are living in a closed eco-system. They use software from other projects ("upstream"), but for most of the time they don't send patches and fixes back to these projects, and bugs reported in the Ubuntu bug tracking system will be kept there. The project maintainers and members won't even know about these issues, which are making Ubuntu users suffer from some issues which are not relevant to other Linux users.

Canonical adds a menu item to report bugs on every 3rd-party software they use, but you guessed right, the reported bug will exist only in Ubuntu Launchpad. when I tell people they should report these bugs to Mozilla if they want them to be fixed, and point them to the real bug which was already reported – other call me a troll and ask me to leave.

Back to our story. Because Canonical are packaging the software by themselves, they don't always remember to pack everything often enough. They are updating the browser itself, but you can forget about translation updates, even if they important and might break the application in some cases of missing strings.

Time passed by, Mozilla released the official translation, and Ubuntu updated the browser from Beta5 to 3.0 GA. The translation is still broken, as they thought Beta5 is final. The issue was mentioned in a few community forums, and when we looked for translations, we found that the translation was hiding inside the Gnome packages!

Fast forward to May 2009. One year, two Ubuntu distributions released, 10 Firefox minor versions. Do you think Ubuntu fixed these issues? Think again. They just keep using the same broken translation packages for both Ubuntu 8.10 Interpid release and Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty. Next Ubuntu release may fix this issue at least, as they may want to include Firefox 3.5 in the release, far ahead of such minor bug fixes.

How to make things better in the future? I have three ideas:
a. Ubuntu should not keep bug reports for 3rd party software locked inside their bug trackers. They should motivate users to look for bugs in the upstream systems or do it for them (even if "human routers" need to be used).
b. Ubuntu should not update software while keeping old translations. It is not important to update a translation when it has no diff from the previous version, but sometimes it is important, even for minor versions, and l10n maintainers don't need to request every distribution to push the updates to their repositories.
c. Mozilla should be more friendly to Linux users, including but not limited to better quality binaries (in other words – enable PGO), and helping distributions by providing the packages to the repositories.

14 תגובות בנושא “Why ubuntu sucks in keeping the distribution in good shape?”

  1. Tzafrir: One may assume that in the process of trying to report upstream, people will find out that it has already been solved. Having more people aware of that just might help fixing it faster in Ubuntu.

  2. In my point of view, upstream is not just the parent distribution (Debian, in this case) but also the project itself. If users will report these bugs directly to Mozilla, some mozillains will be able to help Ubuntu to resolve it or just to nag them. But since the project itself is not familiar with these issues – no one will care, and bugs like this can be kept open/unresolved for years.

  3. You list one issue here and that is with Firefox, and because of this one issue Ubuntu sucks? I fail to find the reasoning fully I guess. As for sending bugs upstream, Ubuntu hasn't gotten better at that and even have a person who is working on making it even better. Like some have said, some of the bug reports we get may not be valid upstream issues, especially in the case of KDE 4. You could also class every other distribution in here as well, because there are bugs and patches reported in a distros bug tracker, but aren't pushed upstream at all. At least with Launchpad, people are encouraged to file the report upstream or create what is known as an upstream task if they don't know what they are doing really. Then the developers will come through and tidy that up. There are many volunteer members who are working on tidying things up and creating upstream tasks or reports.

    1. nixternal – First of all, thanks for your reply. I gave only one example of the way Ubuntu users behave, but familiar with other issues similar to this. Don't get me wrong, I love Ubuntu and using it both as my desktop computer(s) at work, and my personal computer at home. I think that Ubuntu is a very important step for getting more users to switch to Linux, and hope to see Ubuntu, like any other OSS project success.

      My problem with Ubuntu is simple – It try to become the connection between the users and the software, and even inject "report bug on launchpad" on every 3rd party software shipped with Ubuntu, but after users are reporting there bugs – no one will take care of it if it's not Ubuntu fault, and because Ubuntu are not familiar enough with the software itself, there is no chance Ubuntu can solve anything from their side. Such issues can be simply fixed if Launchpad will forward issues upstream.

      (In this case, Mozilla is the direct upstream and not Debian, because Ubuntu are packaging the browser themselves AFAIK)

  4. LTS version gets updates not only in repositories but new ISO files are also available, so your comment regarding hurting users who use liveCD is void.

    regarding Ubuntu bug tracking system- almost all other linux distributions have BTS including Debian. The bug are reported to the distro BTS so the package maintainers can create a patch or upgrade from the upstream. there is nothing wrong with that. I guess that part of being a good bug reporter is knowing where to post it. Ubuntu users are sometimes less technical and bad bug reporters but their bug reports do help Ubuntu developers pin-point the issues.

    About people asking you to leave them alone while you try to explain where is the right place for their bugs:
    You are a troll. admit it 🙂 you must learn to be less offensive when aproaching these crowds.

    Generally, I agree with you that something is very wrong in the way thing work right now and a chnge is needed. I'm not sure you have the right solutions.

    1. LTS version gets updates not only in repositories but new ISO files are also available, so your comment regarding hurting users who use liveCD is void.

      shlomil – I am not sure if you are right. When you have a LiveCD, you'll keep it, and probably won't replace it every six months. And even if you are, this issue is still open for 8.04.x and up. I hope it will be fixed by 8.10 as they will be required to update the package due to new major release from Mozilla.

  5. There seems to be an army of launchpad volunteers who repeatedly copy and paste a standard diatribe "thank you for your bug report. Can you please append XYZ to the bug" without checking whether XYZ are actually in the original report. Perhaps they could better spend their time checking whether issues were relevant/reported/fixed upstream?

  6. "which are making Ubuntu users suffer from some issues "which are not relevant to other Linux user"s.

    This is a constant issue with *buntu and one reason why I stopped using the distro. I am still getting emails about bugs that I filed years ago that they've not fixed but the rest of the world has.

    Your right-to-left website is extremely difficult to add comments to since the cursor seems to bounce all over the place when trying to quote or type… I don't get it.

  7. Tomer: by "upstream" I did refer to the Mozilla's Firefox and not to Debian's Iceweasel.

    Again: is there a patch to the bug? (is it assinged to the right package?) If not: could you speculate why? If there is: why was it not applied?

    Knowing that there is a bug is just the fist step to resolving the issue.

  8. i don't get it. are there two different versions of firefox for ubuntu? the mozilla version and the canonical one?

    i just installed ubuntu 9.04 and it has ff 3.01 and no update available to 3.5. but when i went to mozilla site i found a 3.5 for linux version.

    should i install it? what exactly is the difference between the two versions? why are there two version?

    i'm a pretty new linux user. is each version also called a different package? or the word package represents something else.

    thanks very much,

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