Saturday, March 20, 2010

Anyone who really knows me...

...also knows that I am not the type to let something that is on my mind go without saying. So here we go.

This past Friday I had the misfortune, and good fortune, of experiencing one of open source software's major detractors, in the minds of a large majority of people. I'll explain the good fortune bit in a few moments, but I'd first like to focus on the misfortune. :-)

I updated my Lucid Lynx install on my main laptop Friday evening. I can hear people groaning now, but please bear with me. For those of you who are not aware, Lucid Lynx is the release name for the Ubuntu 10.04 version of the popular operating system. I want to stress that this software has only just reached beta and is, therefore, not recommended for production level use. What that means is, if you don't want your machine to crash and potentially wipe out all of your precious bits and bytes, it is probably a good idea not to use this version.

Since I am a Canonical Employee, I find that I am honor bound (meaning not required by the company, that I am aware of) to use the development version of the software so that I can catch unexpected problems as they arise. Having said that, Friday evening was a bit of a stress for me. :-) My Evolution (mail client) icon disappeared from the Office section of my launcher menu. My chat icon disappeared from my Indicator Applet and every time I selected Home directory from my places menu the archive manager popped up indicating that it couldn't create the specified archive. Sounds like a barrel of monkeys eh?

So like any good software guy... I freaked right out. Yes, I did. After a moment, I caught my breath and I tried looking around on my machine to see what else, if anything, was broken. Nothing, that I could tell. I shut the machine down thinking if the worst were to happen, I could just reinstall later. I put the incident out of my mind.(I have 2 laptops running so I could do that :-P)

Now we get to the good fortune and why I love free software so much. I booted my machine today. I saw several failures, but everything looked as if it had come up smoothly. I decided I would try to update the machine (via the Update Manager) to see if any of the latest updates fixed the issues I had been seeing. Post-update, everything was back where I expect it to be. Those things that were missing are there once again, and when I click to open my home folder, it opens! \o/

Now, in the real world, I realize that any of the issues I saw could have been the result of some failure during the boot or loading process, but some of these issues seemed to be, during my analysis, products of the update I did on Friday. This is just one of the times I have seen this in action, but I know that the Ubuntu team worked to fix the issues I encountered and maybe a host of others that I didn't experience as the result of the Lucid Beta release on Friday. Why do I think this is good fortune you ask? Simply because I have personally encountered such issues in the Windows and Mac world, and I can tell you, never have I seen them react so quickly and resolve issues like these. In those cases I was a paying customer. This is free software, and I couldn't be more proud. This is the team of brilliant professionals that I am allowed to work with daily. It is events like these that affirms the decision I made so long ago to use and promote Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

Thanks to the developers, the testers and indeed to the community members who brought this to their attention for getting this squared away during the weekend!


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