Long term goals of Xubuntu contributors (or "What users do we want and what do we want to do of our time")

Vincent mailinglists at vinnl.nl
Mon Aug 17 13:15:02 UTC 2009

On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 11:01 PM, Steve Dodier <sidnioulz at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello everyone,
> I am writing this mail in order to pursue the discussion that began on the
> IRC channel a few weeks ago, because I have the feeling that some questions
> need to be answered by the core Xubuntu developers in order to make it
> possible for everyone to use one's free time efficiently, by all walking on
> the same direction (it's the goal, indeed, of the strategy document). The
> reason that drives me to write this email is that I have the impression that
> we are having more conflicts than other FLOSS development communities I
> know, and that we are all mature and responsible enough to be able to sort
> things out and agree on what Xubuntu is, and who we want our work to profit
> to (which I believe are the key points where everyone has a different
> answer, thus a different approach).
> The strategy document is, imo, too vague concerning the target audience. We
> can't say that we don't target any particular kind of user, but that we want
> an easy-to-use distro. Gentoo is easy-to-use for some users too. The
> question is : which users ? My opinion is that XFCE is not targeted to end
> users who don't _want_ to understand what a DE is. XFCE is targeted to
> people who want to build a desktop that fits their own needs, which is why
> it is so modular. People who want everything-out-of-the-box and
> no-confusing-settings-at-all are imo better served with GNOME. People who
> want a simple, light, and modular DE will prefer XFCE (even if they don't
> know it :p). We have this chance to be much lighter (in terms of amount of
> components and selection of features, but not as much as before about
> ressource usage) than GNOME and KDE, and to be based on a DE that is much
> easier to adapt to the needs of an average linux user, and of a power user.
> I think this is where we should focus. I'm using Xubuntu because i'm a lazy
> power user, it just does almost everything I need, it does it well, and
> adding what I lack is a piece of cake. I wouldn't recommend XFCE to a
> typical windows end-user, and I would like to know what you guys think about
> this : what kind of people do you expect to mostly use Xubuntu, how to fit
> their particular needs, how to let them know about why Xubuntu is the OS of
> choice for them.

That about sums up my view on this, too.

> I would also like to state that I don't believe at all Xubuntu is, as of
> today, still the best distro for very old computers.

I never really did this. Xubuntu works fine on not-brand-new computers, so
you don't have to write them off every year. However, if we support
five-year-old PC's now, this doesn't mean we should support six-year-old
computers next year. Xubuntu is also a modern distro, more than a last
resort that you wouldn't use on your main PC.

> It will run slightly better than Ubuntu for machines with ~256/512 MB of
> RAM (and XFCE 4.6 can be greatly improved on this scope; several apps badly
> leak memory), but Lubuntu, Damn Small Linux and PuppyLinux are better
> choices for very very limited computers. I'm not confident with recommanding
> Xubuntu as a first Linux distro to end-users with old computers, since we do
> not actually do anything to improve the experience of this particular kind
> of users (but there are possible improvements : making sure things like "no
> menu editor" don't happen - by coding them, obviously -, shipping more
> drivers for obsolete hardware - and for netbooks :p -, improving the CPU and
> RAM usage of desktop apps - which is something devs should do alongside
> bugfixing after feature freezes, imo)...
> Anyway, it looks obvious to me that without clearly stating how to achieve
> our focuses on kind of users we want to have, we won't be as efficient as we
> could; We need to state who we want as users, and what we have to do if we
> want Xubuntu to be the best OS for them. And focusing on too many kinds of
> users (or not focusing on anyone at all), with the extremely poor manpower
> we have, is in my opinion going to make us fail to achieve any goal.
> But we don't only need to know how to make our users happy. Don't you find
> it strange that, regardless of the number of developers of GNOME vs KDE vs
> XFCE, our "community" is about 20 people when Ubuntu and Kubuntu have
> hundreds if not thousands ? The reason of this is, for me, extremely simple
> : we don't communicate enough. Well, we don't have much to communicate
> about, too, and that's a shame. But there are imo two things that need to be
> done, if we want to see the emergence of a Xubuntu community (which will
> happily contribute to documentation, support, artwork and translations, and
> even to coding for some of them) :
>  * get an userbase that is satisfied enough of what we, Xubuntu, do in
> order to feel indebted to give something back.
>  * communicate about what we do and where we need help. Some people are
> very happy with Xubuntu but don't know how to get started. And wiki pages
> and desert mailing lists are not as warm and welcoming as blogs, forums, and
> an active and welcoming IRC channel.
> This email is already quite big, but there is a last point I would like to
> talk about. The strategy document mentions our goals, but doesn't clearly
> state our strategy in order to reach them :) Should we merely package Ubuntu
> + XFCE + some GTK apps, or should we define what needs to be done in order
> to better integrate GTK desktop apps inside an XFCE based distro, what needs
> to be done in XFCE components to get rid of the last GNOME components
> (because having them doesn't help to lightweightness, and brings much much
> more complaints from our users than they make them happy. Check out external
> forums if you don't believe it, but most of our users expect XFCE where it's
> possible, and nothing - or something non
> GNOME/KDE/Qt/Mono/PulseAudio/<anything polemic or heavy or causing
> compatibility problems, whether it can be blamed for it or not> where there
> is no XFCE component available). This is a reality. Some XFCE components are
> not worth much compared to their GTK/GNOME equivalents, but when the feature
> parity can be reached within one or two release cycles, we should opt for
> XFCE components on a systematic basis, because :
>  * the fact that it will keep working in Xubuntu is much more predictable
> as it is maintained by people who work on XFCE based distros, and since some
> of these people use Fedora, Debian, and other "end-user" distros, so that
> they make sure it works on such distros.
>  * the community will be less pissing about the "bastard gnome"
> distribution, and more willing to contribute, as they usually opt for
> Xubuntu because it is the XFCE Ubuntu (at the notable exception of people
> who are told to use it because their hardware is old, while sometimes Ubuntu
> or a really small Linux would be better for them).

I find your other points very strong, but this one not so much. First of
all, until we determine what our target user is, we can't say whether these
users belong to that group.

More important, though, is that many of these users do *not* look at feature
parity within one or two cycles, but only to the name. If something of GNOME
is included that doesn't carry "gnome" in the name, there's much less
outrage. In my opinion it is more worthwhile to look at actual benefits an
application brings to Xubuntu (e.g. improving Xfce, providing better
features, whatever) as opposed to how loud people complain about it.

>  * we will be more helpful to the XFCE devs, making them have more time for
> features since we can help them on testing, bug fixing, user feedback. They
> will also have a better opinion of us, as we will not be the guys that use
> their code without giving back anymore.
> I think this is something we should agree on. My understanding of the
> reason why Xubuntu exists is that we think Ubuntu's core is the most solid
> and likely to fit users' needs of all distro cores, and XFCE is a great
> desktop environment. But I may be wrong, and I'm curious about the reasons
> that make you people make Xubuntu live.
> I know this is a quite long message, but I think it needs to be said,
> because I have the feeling that along the questions I'm asking here, lie
> some of the disagreements between the people who contribute to Xubuntu and
> make it exist, and because I don't think we will go anywhere without
> choosing the direction to follow.
> With much respect, SD.
> --
> Steve Dodier
> OpenPGP : 1B6B1670
> IRC : SiDi on irc.freenode.net
> Jabber : sidi at im.apinc.org
> steve.dodier at gmail.com
> https://launchpad.net/~sidi <https://launchpad.net/%7Esidi>
> --
> xubuntu-devel mailing list
> xubuntu-devel at lists.ubuntu.com
> https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/xubuntu-devel

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