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Dear Tech Republic, it’s called FOSS and that’s just how it’s done

Jason Hiner, Editor-in-Chief over at Tech Republic, wrote an article where he describes what Canonical and Ubuntu can teach Microsoft, Apple, and others.  Ironically, every virtue he praises Ubuntu for are all virtues they gain from practicing the open source way.

Here’s his list of what is “the secret of success for Canonical”:

  1. “Methodically produce incremental upgrades to its OS.”
  2. “It is transparent about its goals and plans.”
  3. “It releases its software on schedule.”
    1. “In fact, this incremental approach is Ubuntu’s most potent competitive weapon against rivals Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.”
    2. “[I]ncremental releases on a reliable schedule is a quality that appeals to IT departments.”
    3. “That allows IT to test and roll out OS updates much easier and quicker.”
    4. “Ubuntu has established a disciplined upgrade cycle, made it a top priority, and stuck to it. Canonical releases a new version of Ubuntu every six months.”
    5. “This type of transparent, methodical, and incremental upgrade cycle is the future of software.”

If you are familiar with open source development methodologies, you will realize you can substitute just about any successful FOSS project for “Canonical” and “Ubuntu” in that article and it means just about the exact same thing.  In fact, the six month release cycle, which Fedora has been following for as long as Ubuntu (longer if you figure in Red Hat Linux before), we may have inherited that from GNOME, who probably learned it from Mozilla! In fact, the six month release cycle has been followed by Fedora since we inherited it from Red Hat Linux.  The story I hear is that GNOME adopted a time-based release schedule from Red Hat Linux, and others (Mozilla et al) followed suit.  In other words, Ubuntu’s process of incremental, transparent, and rapid and regular scheduled releases is the great-grandchild of Red Hat Linux in the 1990s!

Hiner’s whole list looks like it was derived from “Producing Open Source Software” (Fogel), yet the article reads as if this is something in OSes that only Canonical has figured out.  In fact, what he describes is part of the whole reason Red Hat Linux became Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  Don’t think for a minute Canonical didn’t notice and learn from that, too.

Here is my corresponding list from The Open Source Way for each of the virtues that Hiner ascribes to Canonical:

  1. Do not forget to release early and release often and Embrace failure
  2. Practice radical transparency from day zero and Take extra extra extra care to have all discussions in the open and Take even more care to do all design and decisions in the open
  3. Use a predictable schedule type and stick to it and Release early and release often is for more than just code

In case you are wondering, I didn’t learn all that by watching Canonical or any other single entity

It seems that really what Canonical has done best is convince or allow the media and others to think that they are Linux.

Chris Blizzard pointed out to me that is also the case for Red Hat, that it is equated with Linux and FOSS development.  Yep, and I don’t like it when that happens, either.  In fact, one important part of the Fedora Project legacy has been making it clear there is a lot more to a freed OS than just one brand.

(Article updated regarding the six-month release cycle history after I received several corrections.  Apparently I also forget how much the FOSS world learned from Red Hat over the years.)