Ubuntu and Community Testing

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During Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS), held last week (May 9-13) in Budapest, Hungary, a very interesting program was discussed. It’s the Ubuntu Friendly program. The end product of Ubuntu Friendly should be a way for people to find out whether a particular computer system can run Ubuntu properly (it’s friendly!). This has many possible uses, not the least of which is to enable people to choose a system on which Ubuntu has a good chance of working without much tinkering by the end-user. This is important in a world where most people compare a preinstalled Windows system (which has had most of the dirty driver installation/enablement work done by the manufacturer) with a from-scratch Ubuntu installation, where Ubuntu is expected to pick up all the hardware and work adequately with it.

Due to this last scenario/requirement, in my opinion, installing Ubuntu is already a much cleaner/friendlier experience than installing Windows; on my laptop, a Samsung QX410, Ubuntu has a few glitches which require manual configuration (touchpad, hotkeys), but the system is immediately usable out of the box. The same can’t be said of Windows, where a plethora of device drivers are required for even the most basic devices to even work. However, since the system is purchased with this work already done, to the user’s minds, the Ubuntu experience is not as polished as the Windows one.

I digress. So the Ubuntu Friendly program seeks to award Ubuntu Friendly status to those laptops the community finds work well with Ubuntu. This in a way replaces the Ubuntu Ready program, where manufacturers were responsible for running the tests on their systems. It also complements the existing Ubuntu Certified program, where hardware is tested in-house by Canonical, under more stringent standards, and an official Canonical-sanctioned certificate is issued to machines that are deemed certified, as in, work with Ubuntu out of the box.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of interest from the community in this Friendly program; it’s a win-win situation where the community can contribute valuable testing and results, and the world becomes a better place through what will be a large list of systems that the community has identified as being “Friendly” to Ubuntu.

During UDS, the sessions where this program was discussed had great success; attendance was good, and I was glad to see people from outside the Hardware Certification team in Canonical participate. Yes, there was a lot of interest and participation from community members too. There were a lot of valid concerns and good ideas being talked about, and even though an extra session was scheduled for this program, they all ran out of time with people still wanting to participate.

All in all it’s a very interesting program, one that hopefully will take form quite soon. If you’re interested in seeing what this is all about, here’s the blueprint with a more formal description of what is being planned.