Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Remembering the good ole days

Quality has been a buzzword for a couple releases now. Certainly, it's safe to say we saw many more people talking about quality last cycle than any previous cycle I can remember. Ubuntu of course has done LTS's in the past, but something about this past release was different. People yearned again for the perceived quality of the past LTS release and wanted to see ubuntu succeed.

Ahh yes, the good ole days of 8.04 or 10.04 LTS releases when everything was right in the world and ubuntu just worked, etc. Heh, it's easy for us to remember the past and the good things we enjoyed. But to the extent those releases served me well, I have the community to thank. Ubuntu is community, and it's success or failure is determined by all of us.

Open source projects are not typically known for there quality. In the same way ubuntu has innovated and paved the ground for a consumer focused desktop linux, I believe we as a community are uniquely positioned to show how open source can be better quality than competing ideological offerings. In the same way a minuteman can win a battle against a better equipped mercenary, so too can a dedicated community provide better quality software than a commercial offering. This only makes sense. I would rather work with a group of passionate people than with folks who don't care about there work.

One of the best parts about getting to work in QA is seeing the end result of the entire communities work. Those who perform QA represent the last pair of eyes for the work our community does. The developers, translator, doc writers, bug triagers, forums and IRC admins can all do marvellous work in support of ubuntu. But if it doesn't install/work on your pc, then sadly you won't be able to enjoy any of that work.

Recently, those running the development version of ubuntu noticed a bug that caused there webcam to no longer work. The community responded by helping figure out exactly what commit caused the regression. Many folks were involved here! People with the issue tested different kernel versions to narrow down when the regression occurred, while the kernel team made these kernels available and provided insight. Ultimately with everyone's help the problem code was identified and confirmed by testing a custom built kernel. Armed with this knowledge an upstream bug was created.

Now as I sit here today, my webcam works again! And not just for me, or other ubuntu users, but for everyone who uses the linux 3.5 kernel. After upstreaming the bug,  the original developer made a fix available which we tested. Ultimately, this fix made it into the 3.5 kernel. This prevented the 3.5 kernel from shipping with broken logitech webcams for everyone. This is the power of our community!

The story is but one of many examples of problems the ubuntu community has solved. If you enjoyed or remember the good ole days in ubuntu, I would encourage you to get involved. If your running ubuntu on your desktop now and want to continue doing so, consider donating your skills to help. A healthy QA community is vital for ubuntu to continue to grow and get better. We, as a community, can be the standard for quality in open source.  So how can we take ubuntu, and specifically quality in ubuntu, to the next level? It starts with you.


  1. nice post. the 'good ol days' are a prime example of selection bias. a hard look at the bugs of yesteryear vs the bugs of today i think would show that they're both less frequent, and less severe than they have been. couldn't agree more that the open source ethos is in a superior position to produce quality software, and we're doing it every day. :)

  2. Hmm.. my webcam not work, because nobody from ubuntu developers wana add syntek (stk11xx http://syntekdriver.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/syntekdriver/tags/3.0.0/ ) driver package to the repo. I ask few people and everybody say that is no change to add this because this is not in kenel !?

    1. Mariusz, have you filed a bug for the issue? I would be happy to help. File a bug on launchpad and point me to the bug number.


      Did your webcam use to work in ubuntu, or is this a new piece of hardware you'd like support for?