Edubuntu 7.10 - A Released Debacle and a Practice in Failure - Response

Richard Weideman richard at
Wed Dec 12 16:24:43 GMT 2007

Hi Scott and others,

I note the points you raise, and offer the following comments with

Foremost, please realise how small the full-time Education team is -
essentially 2 full time people; Oliver as lead developer, and myself on
relationships. The rest of the effort is purely volunteer.

Also, we have reached a point after 2-3 years where many of the original
core founding community members are moving on to real-world jobs,
families, babies - people who previously devoted a lot of their daily
time to Edubuntu.

We do have "new blood" volunteering in the #edubuntu channel, and are
trying to get a process going to get them up engaged and up to speed.

This relates to your "how can you help" comments and is a start in
addressing them.

#1 The education groups in launchpad have become fragmented.

The good news about launchpad is that anyone can create a group. The bad
news is that often groups are created that do not really have a distinct

Also a lot of the time there is an initial burst of enthusiasm from the
creator of a new group, and when there is little activity, the group
becomes a dead limb, which does not make for a coordinated effort, or
help a new person looking to get involved.

At UDS last month, we formalised a spec to tidy and prune. We are
currently discussing this in the weekly meetings.


#2 People pop up in #edubuntu, say they would be keen to help, but do
not get engaged.

We recognise that a better volunteer structure and uptake / introduction
process would make a difference here.

What also happens is that the person who offers to help is usually in
the channel to get a solution to a particular problem. Often they get
back to their daily issues once they resolve their issue, and do not
"come back" to carry thought their offer of help.

We ourselves are busy (with work or travel) and usually do not get the
time to hold their hand and lead them to the right place.

We are sorting out a process which will allow us to easily kick an intro
email to them for later response, and have also come up with the
volunteer position of "Edubuntu Ambassador" ... who will be an
individual with the role of performing introductions and giving guidance
to match volunteer skill and time availability to a decent work effort.

Jonathan Carter is the first "Edubuntu Ambassador", who will help to
shape the role so it can easily be transferred to successors.

#3 Oliver was essentially the bottom line for all Edubuntu tech as well
as LTSP core development and integration.

He was a single individual as a side branch to the distro team, fitting
loosely on top of Ubuntu.

In reality, this a high workload and responsibility for any one person,
and things did fall off the back of the bus so to speak. This was a
matter of time and resource availability.

In the past month, Canonical have restructured the development of
Edubuntu as follows:

Oliver moves into the Ubuntu distro team, with the role of Education
Lead Developer. The management of Edubuntu Technical will now fall to
the usual development team structure, with Colin Watson as the overall

Technical Requirements that are directly education related, will be
designated to Oliver. Other technical elements that are pure Ubuntu will
be designated to and handled by the relevant teams within Distro. This
gives us access to a much larger and broader team, and frees up a huge
amount of Oliver's time and concentration, by reducing essentially
duplicated effort he had to devote to what are core issues.

#4 The LTSP experience has been good for some, not for others

Much of this can be attributed to the broad range of hardware on which
people deploy our software, which is almost impossible for the core team
to test ourselves.

The complexity of a server/desktop combination delivery means that there
is more to "go wrong" than either server or desktop alone.

If you join our Edubuntu meetings in #ubuntu-meeting on Wednesdays, or
scan the previous logs, you will see that when I ask Oliver (our lead
developer) what he needs most, his response is: testers, testers,

Stéphane Graber from our community assisted greatly with the 7.10
testing management, but we really need as many people as possible who
are willing to test on their own many and varied platforms.

Your input, support and suggestions would be good here.

Also, our LTSP could be seen perhaps as bleeding edge ... we
synchronised our LTSP with the core LTSP group, and move with the latest

Many other distros remained on the old LTSP 4 due to not having
resources or time, which results in reliance on unsupported code that
hasn't effectively been touched for two years, and is provided without
ongoing security updates.

#5 Release Notes

Point taken. Ideally, we would like to get problem responses from people
up and onto a decent wiki page for easy and ready reference, and not
just either:

 * once off comments in #edubuntu which may be solved on the fly,
   but which are not documented for others to benefit from


 * buried in launchpad as a bug report, which a person intending
  to deploy a new release will not usually find until they  have
  installed  and experience the same issue
  (which is too late as a delay in install is clearly better than
   a regression)

#6 Releases too often for Education

Yes, twice a year is perhaps too frequent for a typical education
environment, especially seeing as typical school administrators are hard
pressed for time and resources, and an unexpected spanner in the wheel
can cause many headaches for the teaching environment.

At the 6.10 UDS, we discussed the concept of:

* an annual edubuntu release for education deployment

* a 6 month edubuntu gap release for administrators/decision
  makers to evaluate and get an idea of where we are

What complicates this is that the school calendar for the north/south
hemispheres are out of sync due to the structuring of the school year
around the summer long-break vacation.

Here in South Africa, we run with a calendar year ... the school year
begins in January after the December summer break. Up north, it
commences in September.

The Ubuntu release cycle is April & October

So which release is a good month for schools in both groups ?

* Comments welcome on this one. *

#7 The wiki needs a tidy, consolidation and a better overview

Agreed. We've been working on this, but again we need help from the
community of users to get this all sorted.

Even if some people could strip problems & solutions and outstanding
issues from the mailing lists ... that would be a small effort that
would assist in explanation and resolution, and a focus of effort.


>From the above, I hope you can see that we are working on improvements
to address many of your issues, but we do desperately need as a start:
* more testers with a range of equipment
* more capable helpers to:
  - assist people in the mailing lists
  - assist people in the #edubuntu channel
  - document issues (such as the release problems you mention) on
    the edubuntu/ubuntu wiki

If you are keen to assist, or any others reading this email would like
to help, please send me a mail directly, and CC Jonathan - and join our
weekly meetings.

There is one tonight : Wednesday 20h00 UTC : which will have a focus on
* both the launchpad group tidy up
* and the volunteer uptake process

Note that our meetings usually have a handful active participants only.
Surely there should be more people with a vested interest and enthusiasm
who are prepared to join the discussions, and lend some elbow grease to
the work effort ?

We're coming up for a Long Term LTS release with 8.04 ... let's work
together to make this one rock solid.


On Tue, 2007-12-11 at 08:14 -1000, R. Scott Belford wrote:
> I have been using, supporting, or advocating for thin client computer 
> labs for 5 years.  I've always tracked the K12LTSP project.  Beginning 
> about 3 or 4 years ago, I began tracking the Skolelinux, now debian-edu, 
> project.  By tracking I mean that I subscribe to their user's mailing 
> lists and watch the action.  I have given a substantial portion of my 
> time, energy, and income to promote FOSS in education.
> I am very disillusioned with Edubuntu, the leadership (or lack thereof) 
> and the false claims of functionality.  I'll start with the last issue - 
> false claims of functionality.  Please read the release notes for 7.10,
> "The Edubuntu classroom server install builds on the functionality from 
> the previous release simplifying common Linux classroom server 
> deployment processes. It includes the very latest thin client software, 
> LTSP-5. Thin client deployments offers clients a lower TCO (total cost 
> of ownership), simpler installation and easier maintenance than typical 
> IT deployments. With all data stored on the server, administrators have 
> substantially eliminated the cost of updating individual workstations to 
> ensure their security."
> We can't say that 7.10 built on the functionality of 7.04 - it actually 
> regressed.  Now, if you are upgrading from 7.04, I guess that you can 
> get away with that claim since new installations don't work for most, 
> but upgrades from 7.04 seem to mask the bugs.  We *definitely* cannot be 
> making the claim that "Thin client deployments offers clients a lower 
> TCO (total cost of ownership), simpler installation and easier 
> maintenance than typical IT deployments".  The K12LTSP can, Debian-edu 
> can, but Edubuntu has absolutely no right.  We can't even support the 
> same older clients used by 7.04 (without hacking an lts.conf file).
> Now, for the lack of leadership, please take a look at the recent 
> release note for Debian-edu
> and the centralized, updated, and consistent documentation for it
> Is there *anyone* in the Edubuntu community either a. working on a r1 
> release for all the bugs in 7.10 or b. working on consistent 
> documentation for the varying incompatible releases?  If so, then where, 
> so I can help.  If not, then why not, and should we change this?  I have 
> tried to find ways to help by starting here
> > If you would like to help shape Ubuntu, take a look at the list of ways you can participate at:
> which took me to here
> >  Getting involved
> > 
> > We use Launchpad to track the Edubuntu teams. Even if you can't program, there are many ways to get involved with the Edubuntu project, whether it's documentation, testing, packaging, artwork, or reviewing of material.
> > 
> > If you'd like to get involved, please send an e-mail to the edubuntu-devel mailing list, explaining where you would like to get involved, and how you would like to contribute.
> So I went to Launchpad to search for edubuntu, and, well, there is no 
> way to help.  I've been looking at the edubuntu-devel list, but there is 
> no discussion amongst developers addressing the issues that arise on the 
> users mailing list.  In fact, I see people asking for help, and getting 
> none, on the developers list.
> Last week I asked this question
> > 
> > It seems in so many ways that 7.10 is a debacle.  There, I said it. Were there *any* production labs using a mixture of older clients that successfully tested the upgrade procedure from 7.04 to 7.10 *before* the release?  If not, are there *any* production labs actively participating in the bug squashing for the next release so that these problems never happen again?  I am personally offering myself to help, but I am not sure if any of the developers are actually on this list.
> I am no troll.  I am the person that the FOSS community needs if we are 
> going to grow past an insular morass of slightly advanced and eager 
> computer enthusiasts.  We cannot be Edubuntu and claim to be Linux for 
> Human Beings while going AWOL when the Human Beings struggle with our Linux.
> Edubuntu is doing a tremendous disservice to the FOSS community by 
> riding on the coattails of the K12LTSP and Debian-edu while pretending 
> to be just as capable.  People are being fooled, drawn in, and then 
> disappointed.  This is not honorable.
> Is there anyone around capable, willing, and prepared to keep this from 
> happening in future releases?
> --scott
> -- 
> R. Scott Belford
> Founder/Executive Director
> The Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation
> P.O. Box 2644
> Ewa Beach, HI 96706
> 808.689.6518 phone/fax
> scott at

Richard Weideman
+27 (83) 321-2233
richard at

Ubuntu Education Programme Manager

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