Mark Shuttleworth has flown into space on a Soyuz TM-34 and founded Thawte Consulting that later sold to Verisign for over $500 million, but he is now known most for being the founder and leader of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. In addition to Ubuntu he also established HBD Venture Capital and is involved with several other free software projects. Earlier today we had spoke with Mark Shuttleworth to discuss the latest happenings in the Ubuntu world including Dell shipping Ubuntu PCs, getting open-source drivers from hardware vendors, and what is coming down the road for Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon.
Many thanks go out to Mark Shuttleworth and the people at Canonical.
Phoronix: Mark, thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions. While most of our readers have likely heard of you from Ubuntu, your space adventure, or Thawte, could you briefly tell us a bit about yourself for those that may not be familiar with you?
Mark Shuttleworth: I am a thirty-three year old South African living in London. I have been a passionate user of Linux since the mid 90's. Thawte was built on Linux and free software and its server-side infrastructure was built using free software. I became very convinced in those days that free software was one of the keys in unlocking the potential of new entrepreneurs around the world. That has always been part of my motivation in helping to get Ubuntu off the ground.
Phoronix: Last year on your blog you had welcomed any OpenSuSE developers to join the Ubuntu community after Microsoft and Novell had formed their pact. Have any OpenSuSE developers accepted your invitation and has this Novell deal impacted the development of Ubuntu in any way?
Mark: It was very clear to me at the time the deal was announced that the real thrust from Microsoft's perspective was to try and do an end-run around free software's continued rate of adoption and growth using intellectual property restrictions. I don't think that was really clear to everybody else when they first made the announcement. I think it became clear to other people more recently when they started talking about the number of alleged patents that Linux might infringe. I think increasingly people are looking at that deal with suspicion because they fear that their real motivations were not on the table even between the parties involved with the agreement itself. I didn't mean to disguise the work of the OpenSuSE community because I think they had absolutely nothing to do with that deal. That deal was done by the Novell management without any reference to the OpenSuSE community. The community does tremendous work and is equally committed to the things that we are committed to, which is the widespread availability of free software on good terms. I regret any suggestion that I was criticizing OpenSuSE as opposed to criticizing Novell management, which I think made an error in judgment. Since then, yes, there has been very good attraction and collaboration between Ubuntu and SuSE. While there was a bit of an outcry at the time, I think that the interaction has certainly improved as Microsoft's real intentions of that deal have become clearer.
Phoronix: Among the many new features in Ubuntu Feisty Fawn are network roaming improvements and easy codec installation. If you had to select one "killer feature" for Feisty Fawn what would it be and why?
Mark: For Feisty I would say that there are two things that are really interesting for end users. The first is the Windows migration tool that was really just a sparkle in someone's eye six months before the release and I didn't think of it as a serious feature that we would commit to for Ubuntu but the guys involved typed away at it and it came together quite nicely. It's very much a first release of the technology but it's been surprisingly popular amongst people who are installing Linux as a dual-boot option next to Windows. The other is the easy to install codecs. Really what we are trying to do there is to help people make the right decision in regards to intellectual property issues that are associated with codecs. For many of our users it's perfectly legal for them to install and run those codecs so we try to give them a straightforward framework to exercise those rights. Then for other people they are living in countries where there are restrictions in their ability to use free software for certain codec operations so we try to help them make a smarter decision about that.