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Ask Ubuntu Founder (And Astronaut) Mark Shuttleworth 357

Mark Shuttleworth isn't one to rest on his laurels. Founder of Thawte Consulting, Shuttleworth has used the wealth generated by Thawte's 1995 sale to Verisign to start a venture capital firm, to further South African science education (and education in general) with his eponymous foundation, to push for the acceptance of open source software in South Africa, and to become the first citizen of an African country to visit space with his 2002 flight to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz shuttle -- basically, to live life as a Neal Stephenson hero might. His latest project is Ubuntu Linux, a Debian-based distribution designed for ease of use, extensive language support, and thorough cooperation with the larger Debian organization. Mark's agreed to answer questions from Slashdot readers about these projects -- Ubuntu seems to be chief on his mind -- so please add your questions below, one per post (but as many questions as you'd like). We'll forward 10-12 of the best to Mark for his answers, and post them verbatim as soon as they're ready.
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Ask Ubuntu Founder (And Astronaut) Mark Shuttleworth

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  • by apanap ( 804545 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:02PM (#10622059) Journal
    That's a good name for an astronaut I guess... Too bad the shuttle isn't worth flying...
  • by H_Fisher ( 808597 ) <hvfisher&hotmail,com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:02PM (#10622061)
    A lot of Americans, unfortunately, focus on the continent of Africa as "poor" or "third world" - which isn't the total truth. How do you think the various nations of Africa (together or separately) will change this image by embracing technology? How are they already doing so?
    • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:22PM (#10622258) Homepage
      I think the images burned into our brains of skinny children with flies in their eyes has a lot to do with the image Americans of the U.S. maintain... that at that other stuff we see in National Geographic... something about extreme body mods (plates in ears and mouth, hoops around the neck, scarring and such-like) doesn't do much to help shed the image... then there's the seeming lack of control over the nigerian bank scam... well okay, maybe that doesn't belong since most spam money is to and from U.S. American pockets.

    • Unfortunately, when you take Africa and look at it through the looking glass of "The World Economy," it is "poor" and "third world."

      Though it shouldn't be, should it? If you look in terms of natural resources, Africa is quite rich (which is why, I guess, it was such an attractive target of colonization ... isn't the human nurturing spirit so inspiring!) Now they are in the unfortunate situation of exporting their resources then buying them back after they are 'processed' by the 'developed' world ... I'm n
    • Sadly, any hope Africa had in becoming a real 'developing' continent, is over thanks to AIDS. Egypt, Tunisia and some other northern countries might 'survive', but AIDS is basically like a nuke to any dreams that sub-saharan Africa has/had.

      There is no way that an economy can cope with 40% of it's population (and around 60-75% of it's real labour force) being severely incapacitated, or dead. Think 40% is a bit high? It's not. Botswana will have reached that level by the end of this year or certainly next ye
      • I am appalled at this writing. I live in South Africa, a country considered to have one of the best democracies in the world. We enjoy perhaps greater freedoms than many western countries. AIDS is not just an African problem, and it saddens me to see that there still exists this perception that AIDS is fundamentally an African problem. The AIDS epidemic is a global threat, and drug companies are doing R&D to combat this disease. The next scheduled crew on the International Space Station is tasked with
  • Updated Packages (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Ubuntu doesn't stick to the official Debian packages, so will you guys make the switch to and Gnome 2.8?
  • Why Linux? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Coneasfast ( 690509 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:07PM (#10622095)
    why not create a freebsd-based distribution, or maybe even an OS designed from scratch for the desktop? you have the resources to do so much. what made you choose linux?
    • Good reasons for using Linux for Ubuntu:

      Linux has a lot of mindshare. It's probably the most popular kernel among computer enthusiasts, and of all open-source Unix kernels it's the most popular in the commercial world. It has lots of contributors, and is backed by large corporations such as IBM. Most importantly, switchers coming from Windows are most likely to know Linux.

      Linux is flexible. The number of modules available for the Linux kernel is astounding. Linux has been used on everything from watches a
    • Why do only one thing? Haiku OS is in the works, should we all just use the MS OS until than?
  • Hmm, I'm an Astonaut (Score:5, Interesting)

    by agent dero ( 680753 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:07PM (#10622109) Homepage
    I live in Aston Hall at Texas A&M, so...I'm an Astonaut TOO!

    My question though, is what are the main goals of Ubuntu, I was a member of the ekkoBSD, and we died quickly because of lack of manpower, but moreso from lack of a definied focus.

    It doesn't really matter where Ubuntu is today, where do you really see it going?
  • by ChipMonk ( 711367 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:07PM (#10622110) Journal
    With that kind of resume, it seems obvious to me that you take a grand vision of things. Beyond the obvious (learning to tolerate differences, being polyglot), what would you recommend to us lesser beings for furthering the cause of, if not peace, at least a better world for our children?
  • by Fished ( 574624 ) <> on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:10PM (#10622134)
    This is a question that's sure to come up in many different ways, but I'd really like to know what is so special about Ubuntu that its purposes could not be as well served by contributing to the Debian tree? I'm assuming you have your reasons - is it about having control of the packaging, more frequent releases, what? Do you see Ubunutu supplanting Debian someday, or will it just be a branded form of the more open Debian (akin to Fedora/Redhat)?

    Also, becoming aware of your financial resources, I can't help but wonder whether Ubuntu is intended to be a money maker, or it seen as a gift to the community?

    (My new Athlon 64 system is coming any day now, and I've decided to try Ubuntu first. So far, it looks very nice from afar.)

  • FLOSS jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kanaka ( 9693 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:10PM (#10622136) Journal
    Do you have any pet projects you are funding
    or want to fund that might provide a living for
    a software engineer? And on a related note, do the
    core Ubuntu developers get paid?
  • Hurdles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:11PM (#10622139) Homepage Journal
    What were the major hurdles you encountered while developing this Debian offshoot and what sets it apart from the original?
  • Cooperation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:12PM (#10622153) Homepage Journal
    I know that the Ubuntu project cooperates with Debian. Are there any alliances with the other Debian-based distros like Mepis or Knoppix?
  • Why Debian based? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kanaka ( 9693 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:13PM (#10622165) Journal
    Why did you choose Debian and not Gentoo as the base
    of the Ubuntu distribution? What do you think of
    Gentoo in general?
    • Gentoo is an excellent distribution, and I learned many things about the organisation of GNU/Linux distros from it. However, I think it would be completely unsuitable as a basis for Ubuntu.

      Ubuntu clearly aims to be newbie-friendly. Gentoo is clearly not. Just the fact that it made me learn so much kind of proves my point. You don't go and bugger newbies with bootstraps stages and compile cycles.

      If you engineer the distro to hide the install stages, it would not be Gentoo anymore. This means that, each tim
  • Why Debian? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:13PM (#10622168) Homepage Journal
    With so many distros being offshoots of Red Hat (including my favorite localized one, LinuxTLE []), why did you choose Debian over Fedora for your base?
  • Common Efforts? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meggito ( 516763 ) <> on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:14PM (#10622186) Homepage
    How are the nations of Africa working together to promote technological growth? Are there any common intiatives in place or will there be or are the nations still working independantly instead of building a common infrastructure? Are the current methods succeeding or do you beleive there should be change to the way the continent is approaching their technological challenges whether they are seperate or cooperative.
  • Linux in Deep Space? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pan T. Hose ( 707794 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:14PM (#10622187) Homepage Journal
    You are an expert on the issues related to promoting Linux and open source software. What do you think should we as a community focus on to make Linux percieved as an operating system capable of reliably controlling space shuttles and space stations? Would you have visited the International Space Station in 2002 if you had known it was controlled by Linux? Would you visit it now in 2004? How in your opinion the perception of Linux among people in big business and politics changed during those years? How do you think it will change in the future and what do we have to do to make it change as you would like it to and why? Also, as a matter of comparison, would you visit a space station controlled by Microsoft? Would you feel safe? Thank you very much for all of the outstanding work you are doing. We need much more dedicated and influential people devoted to the propagation of the free software and open source movement as yourself. Thank you very much indeed.
  • Modifications (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:16PM (#10622200) Homepage Journal
    After I installed your distro recently, I was impressed by the attention to graphical detail. The gdm login screen, the default theme and the wallpapers chosen for the desktop were all very nice.

    One thing that stood out was the choice to eliminate desktop icons and change the required trash icon into a panel applet. Why was this choice made?
  • by seanmeister ( 156224 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:18PM (#10622226)
    Who is the blonde []?
  • Why Arch? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:19PM (#10622236)
    On your website, you "encourage [your] developers to keep track of their patches using the Gnu Arch Revision Control System and to publish their patches that way." What made you decide to use Arch instead of Subversion, Darcs, or any of the other new revision control systems?
    • Arch is actually quite interesting as a concept.. it's a bit too alien for me, though (I had a look at it and couldn't work out what the hell was going on!).
      • Arch is actually quite interesting as a concept.. it's a bit too alien for me, though

        It's actually quite simple and transparent, conceptually. If you understand "diff" and "patch", and realize that you can apply patches to a version of the file different from the version against which the patch was made, you are all set.

        Arch just needs a better interface, but I believe such a thing is in the works...
  • Nice indeed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Visceral Monkey ( 583103 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:21PM (#10622254)
    Personally, I've been an avid Gentoo user for the last year or so. I decided to re-install linux on a new machine and tried out Ubuntu first for shits and giggles.

    I've decided to stick with it instead of Gentoo now, it's that nice. Ease of use and package availability appeals to everyone, linux n00bs and people use to building their own systems alike. As for the much discused "speed" advantage of Gentoo, my anecdotal observation is that Ubuntu is no slower than Gentoo. I would never have bothered with Debain and the chain of egos that come with it had it not been for this well rounded adaptation of it.
    • this is almost the exact thing i would have written about my transition from gentoo to ubuntu. on the ubuntu forums is a thread asking what distro people used before ubuntu, and most of them used gentoo.

      i wonder what the connection is.
  • Arch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ultrabot ( 200914 )
    I read somewhere that Canonical these days employs Tom Lord, of Arch version control system fame and thus funds the development of Arch. Do you have some more far-ranging ambitions regarding Arch *cough* Linux Kernel *cough* than the simple fact that Canonical is using Arch themselves?
  • The bottom line... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bollie ( 152363 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:24PM (#10622278)
    This might be a bit of a sensitive issue, but do you plan to make money off this project, and other open source projects eventually, or is the funding a (VERY GENEROUS!) gift to the community? I assume that profitability would be a long long long term (10+ years in the computer industry!) goal of any project, but I get a sense "profitability" is not monetary only in this case.
  • by bushboy ( 112290 ) <> on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:26PM (#10622294) Homepage
    Is is possible to bridge the digital divide ?
  • by gspr ( 602968 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:27PM (#10622296)
    As an astronaut, you must been drawn to the mysteries of the universe outside our own planet. But as a South African, you must also feel drawn to the problems facing your home continent (I KNOW this sounds very ignorant and Western, and I'm not trying to say "Africa is a place full of problems", I'm just referring to the huge problems that exist for a large portion of the continent).

    Do you think space exploration can be justified when so many people here on Earth suffer? And why?
    This is an important question to me, as I dream of space, and definitely think Mankind should explore all we can. However, I am having a moral problem (which I'm just ignoring at the moment, for the sake of continued dreaming) justifying spending huge amounts of resources when billions of people right here on Earth lack access to clean water, and millions are infected with HIV.
    • I know this sounds very ignorant and Western, and I'm not trying to say "Africa is a place full of problems", I'm just referring to the huge problems that exist for a large portion of the continent.

      Africa is, in fact, a place full of problems. Africans need to realize that. Don't qualify your remarks when they're absolutely true. And Africans.. Don't be offended 'cause you're not the Garden of Eden. Just remember that every nation/continent has their problems.

    • And as far as the moral dilemma--sorry to double post--don't worry about it. In everything there are winners and losers. The ecosystem depends on the winner/loser dynamic. Humans are a product of that system and remain a part of it. Accept it and make your life as good as possible for yourself 'cause, if you were destitute, no one would care. It's human nature. Why we try to fight it, I don't know.

  • Debian packages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by renelicious ( 450403 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:28PM (#10622307)
    I read that you guys are rebuilding your own version of all the debian packages you use instead of using vanilla debian. Apparently this means that Ubuntu will not work with general debian apt repositories. Is this true? If so, what is the reasoning behind this and will you in the future be considering changing this policy?

    • Ubuntu will not work with general debian apt repositories. Is this true?

      Most pure debian packages will work on an Ubuntu system. You just can't mix apt sources. See my earlier post [].

  • my question for Mark (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Recovery1 ( 217499 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:29PM (#10622313) Homepage
    I'm curious to know how business and individuals have responded to the open source campaign you started. Has there been any interesting success or failures that have encouraged/discouraged your campaign?

    I'd also be curious to hear from fellow slashdotters who may be from South Africa. How has his push for open source made inroads in the computer community?

    I am interested because I recently find myself in a situation where I will be promoting open source in my own community.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:30PM (#10622325)
    I do a lot of work in South Africa and other parts of Africa with health care information systems. There is a pressing need for open source information systems for AIDS treatment and also health system management. The existing proprietary solutions are expensive, not suitable, not customizable, and don't build local capacity.

    Would you be willing to branch out from education into heatlth care open source projects? I know people in South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia, and other countries who would be willing to participate.

  • Money (Score:2, Funny)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 )
    Since you have an awful lot of money, how does an average joe, such as myself, convince you to simply give me.... oh.... $500k or so?
  • What will the KDE Support of Ubuntu will look like once it's more sophisticated?
  • My personal view is that there is only two stumbling blocks for Linux, neither of them technical or really solvable without (it seems) large amounts of money for bribes^H^H^H^H^H^Hinvestment. The first is hardware drivers (which might be solvable by throwing money at developers) and the second is patents and associated legal hassles. Would you suggest that we take the battle to the politicians/policymakers eventually? Or do you think that it wouldn't be a problem in the long run?
  • The Digital Divide (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rico_za ( 702279 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:35PM (#10622372)
    Ubuntu [], SchoolTool [], [] are some of the projects you support that seem to tackle the digital-divide head-on. Do you have any views or ideas on how to make Internet access cheaper so more people in developing countries can have access to it? More specific, any plans on convincing the South African government that not over-regulating the telecoms industry will be good for everyone?
  • by xutopia ( 469129 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:37PM (#10622386) Homepage
    I switch from distro to distro whenever I find one that is better than the current one. I just moved from Slackware (with dropline gnome) to Ubuntu because of the latest gnome and kernel. My brother is so impressed with Ubuntu that he's switching from Windows. Well he's also partly unimpressed with Windows security. He's currently backing everything up and the transfer of files and all is rather tedious. We thought of an idea to make the process faster and would like your opinion on it.

    Would it be possible to have an Ubuntu install CD which checks a Windows or Linux installation, migrates its users/files and "converts" their system to Ubuntu? I realize there are some hurdles to overcome this in the Windows world but it seems feasible from one distro to the next. What do you think of the idea?

    Thanks in advance.

    • This is a superb idea, and one that I have often wondered about. Mod this fellow up!
    • Windows I can't help you with, but if you are migrating from one Linux distro to another, just create separate partitions for / and /home. Then, you can switch distribitions, and so long as you keep your /home partition and mount it as /home, many of your settings from the prior installation will simply carry right over.

      Of course there may be benefit to backing up /home and starting everything fresh. You may like the default setups in the new distro better than what you had cobbled yourself under the old
  • How much funding do you have assigned to create these free cdroms, and even pay for shipping? I couldn't believe it when i saw it, so i requested 10 cd's, and i live in Venezuela, so this is very nice.

    Will this be only available for the current version, since Ubuntu is new?
  • by cheros ( 223479 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:39PM (#10622412)
    Hi Mark, as with any (F)OSS project you're almost entirely depending on volunteers. That's OK for popular projects, but to work on, say, an admin or accounting back-end someone still needs to do the heavy lifting without the promise of the kind of glamour and street cred that the likes of Firefox offer.

    Have you found a way to get support for the less sexy projects and if so, how?
  • Nature theme (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Espectr0 ( 577637 )
    Who came up with the idea of the nature theme, which included 3 people naked (but not showing anything) in the gnome startup splash screen? Didn't you think the community would respond negatively to it? At least you heard the community and removed them from the final release
  • I do a lot of professional development work with science teachers in South Africa. There seem to me to be two key things that will build SA science education: (1) Simple, appropriate resources for laboratory work (2) Teachers' own science knowledge and professionalism Is your foundation focused on either or both of these?
  • by HoserHead ( 599 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:43PM (#10622455)
    How does Canonical plan on making money? Ubuntu seems to be completely and utterly free, in both senses of the word. In my mind at least, the 'services will pay for development' business plan for Free Software went out of style when the dot-com bubble burst. How will your company be different?
  • Why GNOME? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @01:48PM (#10622503) Homepage Journal
    I think Ubuntu looks very slick, is user-friendly, and works well. In large part, this is due to the use of Debian and GNOME.

    I have to wonder, though, why GNOME? You must have considered KDE as well; what made you decide for GNOME?

    Just for comparison purposes, I made a separate install using Debian testing and mimicked Ubuntu's package selection, but using KDE instead of GNOME. I compared both installations in terms of startup time, memory usage, responsiveness, integration, and looks. My conclusion: Konqueror is a faster browser than Firefox, GNOME has better themes, KDE has better integration. Other than that, I found systems are both equally impressive (I don't use either one myself).

    How did your comparison fare; what were your criteria, and how did both environments score?
    • That one is simple:)

      Gnome uses HIG, KDE does not. Having 3 separate settings dialogs with god forbid how many pagers for every application is not the way.

      Konqueror faster - yeah, maybe but is konq w3c compliant as firefox

      Integration - you should check ubuntu bounties, you might read something usefull.
    • From their website: (Score:3, Informative)

      by greechneb ( 574646 )
      Why does Ubuntu install Gnome by default? Do you support KDE and KDE apps?

      The default desktop environment for Ubuntu is Gnome. You will find all the KDE packages you could want in the universe component of Ubuntu. We don't at this stage have the resources to put the same level of post-freeze work into the KDE packages as we put into the Gnome packages.

      We are working with the KDE team to collaborate on that, so that Ubuntu will be an excellent platform for KDE users too... more on that in due course.
  • Verisign acquired Thawte in 1999 [], not in 1995
  • I'm a happy Gentoo user. Why would I choose this distro instead of Gentoo?
  • Why Ubuntu? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smcavoy ( 114157 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:03PM (#10622670)
    Why not pour resources into user Linux, or Debian directly? Does the world need another Debian based distro.
  • Was it worth it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:05PM (#10622695) Journal
    Two questions:
    1)Asking you "was it worth it?" is going to get an affirmative answer regardless of how you really feel so let me ask you, what happened on the flight that made the trip worth $20 million?

    2)How much would you pay to go up a second time?
  • mark vs microsoft (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bani ( 467531 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:07PM (#10622727)
    your foundation is the complete antithesis of everything microsoft represents. how long do you expect it will be before microsoft comes after you?
  • I've been playing with Ubuntu for the last month. One of projects for TheOpenCD I had a hand in got onto it, so interest was piqued early.


    1. I enjoy focused nature of this distro. One desktop, a rather spartan Gnome. No multiple redundant program groups, clean graphic login, etc. However, while I admire this restraint, what is the rationale for not including gcc in the basic install? This drove nuts me when trying to set up VMWare, so had to ask.

    2. This may be a small thing, but the defa
  • Corporate Usage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheFlu ( 213162 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:09PM (#10622750) Homepage
    I've been a Red Hat/Fedora user for years now, but I decided to give Ubuntu a try, as it had some of the most recent packages included (Gnome 2.8 and Evolution 2.0) by default. Needless to say, I was very impressed by the polish of a pre-release version, and I have switched my workstations at work, and my Linux boxes at home over to Ubuntu.

    I was, however, disappointed by the lack of "corporate" tools currently included with Ubuntu. All of our client machines here are currently running Fedora with a customized install script written using kickstart, so when a machine dies,I can pop in the custom install CD and have a blank machine back on the network in 5 or 10 minutes. Are there are plans to include kickstart-like features and NIS support inside of Ubuntu's installation routines? I would switch our entire company over to Ubuntu in a flash if that were the case. I'm sure other companies would enjoy seeing the addition of such features as well.
  • by sab39 ( 10510 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:14PM (#10622799) Homepage
    How closely are you following the nascent commercial space industry (SpaceShipOne, Virgin Galactic, etc)?

    How soon do you see private industry making it to orbit?
  • Thawte root in IE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jacco de Leeuw ( 4646 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:18PM (#10622844) Homepage
    How did you convince Microsoft to accept the Thawte root certificate into Internet Explorer (or Netscape for that matter)? Would you say that this was a crucial moment in your career?
  • He wasn't an astronaut, he was a space tourist. There's no way he'd have been in space if he hadn't simply paid the Russians for the trip.

    Group him with Lance Bass, not John Glenn.

  • by debio ( 695867 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:22PM (#10622885) Homepage

    I'm a South African ex-pat currently living/working in the US. Still, South Africa is never all that far from my mind (particularly as a northern hemisphere winter rolls in), and I try and keep an eye on developments back home as much as possible. Certainly, your impressive achievements inspire me with no small amount of pride. Very well done, oke!

    I know that many slashdotters might be inclined to ask you about Africa, and its myriad problems, as a whole. Perhaps this is somewhat unfair... Although there is an indefinable common African spirit that infuses the whole continent, a more diverse region politically, economically, and technlogically one would be hard pressed to find. South Africa [] has a GDP of US$456b which is more than 10 times that of the sum of its four neighbouring states, and is comparable to that of the Netherlands [] at US$461b. Talking about Africa's problems *as a whole* is like asking an American to talk about the problems of North and South America taken *as a whole*.

    Still, South Africa is very much a part of Africa, and presents I believe, a glimpse of what the continent can achieve.

    So, my question: what is open source adoption like, *really*, in South Africa? I remember during my most recent visit back home, walking into "Incredible Connection" (the South African version of say "Frys Electronics" or "Microcenter" here in the US), seeing row upon row upon row of Microsoft software. When I asked one of the sales people about RedHat Linux, he was totally confused. "I'm not sure about that. Isn't that like an Internet browser for Windows?" was his response. I did manage to find a bundled RedHat hidden away at the bottom shelf at the back of one of the aisles. It was also a major release behind the at-the-time freely available download.

    With an attitude like that in one of *South Africa's* leading computer retail stores, what hope OSS for the rest of continent?

  • Interesting project, I have been thinking of trying it out because I use Debian, but would appreciate something that isn't so much "everything and the kitchen sink"-like. However, I am worried about the fact that you use a different apt repository and you don't recomment mixing Ubuntu and Debian packages. One thing I definitely like about Debian is the amount of testing they go through, and I was wondering about how many volunteer developers you have, and how much time you spend on testing the distro?

    On a
  • by kobus ( 544780 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:27PM (#10622942) Homepage
    Hi Mark,

    This is a question combo suggestion.

    I'm a programmer from South Africa, working in the Bay Area.

    I had dialup Internet in South Africa already in 1994. However since then not much has changed. In fact Internet access is appalling. Its very expensive compared to the average income of middle class, and ISDN or ADSL is just too expensive and at the same time pathetically slow.

    Internet access is really holding our country back! I believe it is critical to schools and families to have access to better Internet.

    As a South African entrepreneur and someone who is successful in the IT world, have you ever given this problem any thought, or considered starting an initiative to provide better access to the Internet?

  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @02:50PM (#10623167) Homepage Journal
    ...but I'll throw it out anyway. There is another SA based product out there that is quite unique and practical, the Baygen windup a spring to get electricity radio. I own two of them and they are quite spiffy. I wonder if Mark is familiar with this product, and if so, has considered or *would* consider to be more accurate, a similar product to have a low priced and easily powered computer "for the masses" which would ship with Ubuntu pre installed?

    A computer without software is an expensive paperweight, and software without a computer is an exercise in vapor herding, it's the package deal that is important and what makes a complete product.
  • Do you see your efforts towards African regional self-sufficiency crossing the interests of the International Monetary Fund, as well as all other such mechanisms for keeping the "Third World" subservient to the Western-governed financial machine?
  • by ewanrg ( 446949 ) <[ewan.grantham] [at] []> on Monday October 25, 2004 @03:17PM (#10623518) Homepage
    I'm curious who you see as the Ubuntu target user/audience? It seems that from the ease of use, and "price", that you are trying to target the audience that doesn't care for Microsoft, or that is trying to do things and can't afford Microsoft.

    With that, I'm a little curious as to why Ubuntu has chosen Gnome as the desktop? On older machines (such as my HP Kayak), Ubuntu runs passingly well, but simply having an option that probes the machine and then picks a desktop like XFCE or IceWM using a similar theme to the Gnome one would help refurbished/recycled machines really shine.

    Similarly, it would seem that there are some software choices that could be tuned as well. As much as I like to use Open Office on my newer machines, selecting a more modest office offering for lower specification machines seems like a reasonable option.

    Interested in your thoughts on this...
  • by Isofarro ( 193427 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @03:51PM (#10623971) Homepage
    Over the last ten years there's been a significant brain-drain of talent from South Africa to Europe and the United States, mostly in medicine and IT. Universities are churning out a succession of high quality graduates into an country unable / or unwilling to utilise those skills - so emigration was inevitable.

    Does your long term vision include reversing that exodus - creating an economy whese skills are wanted ?

    Its good to see the South African government taking a look at open source solutions. South Africa is a virtual Microsoft monopoly. With open source, there's a far better chance of growing the grass-roots - but is there going to be a future in South Africa for the ever increasing "knowledgeable computer folk"?
  • by Yankel ( 770174 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @05:21PM (#10625175) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I prefer KDE and Konqurer over Gnome and Nautilis

    I installed Ubuntu this weekend and I'm really impressed with the interface - very little tweaking was required (mostly Nautilis) to get things working 'my way.'

    I read on that you were planning on implementing KDE as a second desktop option, and my initial reaction was "why?"

    I think the strength of Ubuntu is its focus. A limited selection of applicationa on an easy to navigate Gnome desktop. Most distros try to be everything for everybody, and stretch their resources too thin to make a meaningful contribution, or arrive at a unique product.

    Couldn't "Ubuntu with KDE" be someone else's project? Wouldn't it be better for Ubuntu (and Debian overall) to focus your resources on doing what you do best, Debian integration with Gnome, rather than pleasing everybody?
  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @05:42PM (#10625392)
    I don't know if you've heard it or not but if you have then I'd like to know the truth of it.

    Once upon a time a very bright young lad decided he wanted to work for a young startup in Cape Town. The Internet was getting big and he thought the company was going places. Ultimately he didn't because his parents talked him out of it - too risky, too far to travel, this startup looked dodgy, blah blah blah.

    However this career move (or lack thereof) deprived him of the million dollar bonus that you paid to your employees when the sale to Verisign went through since Thawte was the startup! I hear it left his relations with his parents quite strained.

    Keep it up with Go OSS and Ubuntu and tell Craig he needs to work harder :)

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"