March 9th, 2007

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you're with me, leather

So Greg mentioned to me the other day that Jono Bacon was selling his leather jacket on Ebay.

For those of you who don't know him, Jono Bacon is the Community Manager for Ubuntu/Canonical. He has placed his jacket up for auction in order to raise money for a project that he is working on to record a complete album in 24 hours, that will be released under Creative Commons.

The Fedora Project loves Creative Commons and also loves music. Why not, we thought, support this endeavor by bidding on Jono's jacket? We're all part of the same freedom-loving cause, after all.

So after a brief negotiation, Greg and I decided to pool our meager resources and entered a partnership in which we each would each control a 50% share of Jono's jacket. We then proceeded to Ebay and sealed the deal.

Which brings us to the point of this blog post.

We're looking for someone with the skills and artistic ability to airbrush the Fedora logo onto the back of this sucker, or do something cool with it that we aren't even thinking of.

What should we do with our new jacket?
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intelligent, rational feedback is good

So I sat down tonight with the intention of just relaxing a bit on a Friday, but one thing led to another with Google and the next thing I knew, I had found Planete Beranger -- Open Source and Strong Opinions. A very interesting blog -- the author, Radu Cristian Fotescu, offers his opinions on a variety of topics, and spends a decent amount of time on Fedora/Red Hat. Maybe some of you guys already know about this guy's blog, but today was the first I'd ever seen it.

I really enjoyed reading it, because while the author is often quite critical of Fedora, he also seems like a pretty fair guy. When he sees something he dislikes, he says so. And when he sees something he likes, he also says so. For example, he offers a lot of praise to CentOS, so at least by association not everything that Red Hat or Fedora does can be wrong.

Anyway, now that I've found this site, I inted to visit it often, and try to respond to some of his complaints, since I think they are well thought out and well written. It's criticism, not flames.

I can't go back through all his posts about Fedora/Red Hat, but I'll comment on some of the more recent ones. Let me say again, before anyone gets the wrong idea -- I like the fact that this blog exists. I am happy to have found it, and I am writing about it now in order to give it the attention it deserves, because the author of this blog has been saying intelligent things for a long time, and I wonder how many people know it. And because I believe that well-reasoned criticism should be seen and discussed.

Codec Buddy

According to Radu, the rationale is "rational", the scope is "limited" and we have "everything wrong" in the details, including the name.

My response:

I have updated the page on the Fedora Wiki that talks about this part of Fedora 7. The page was woefully out of date, and I think the update to it addresses some of his concerns.

I spoke with Thomas Vander Stichele at FUDCon and FOSDEM, and he is working on the code for GStreamer that will serve as the basis for this feature. I am hopeful that we will have something we can test soon, because we admittedly got a late start on this piece of Fedora 7, but I still think we can get it in.

Fedora 7 -- Objectives, Artwork, and Lifecycle

In a brutally honest look at some of the issues in the Fedora Art Project, Radu makes a few points:

(1) Diana Fong's Fedora 7 artwork is great.

My response -- I agree, it looks gorgeous. The first time I saw it on my laptop screen, I was blown away.

(2) Fedora 7's objectives (overall) are impossible to achieve in the 6 month timeframe. Our 1 month delay in release is a testament to that.

My response -- We definitely gave ourselves a lot of work to accomplish for Fedora 7. I think it's good to be ambitious, and not necessarily a bad thing to delay. Fedora has the luxury of being able to be flexible with our releases. We try for twice a year, because it's important to put some markers in the ground, but we also don't want to release something that isn't ready. Fedora 7 has lots of moving pieces -- different spins, a LiveCD, new tools for building the distribution (pungi). It's a lot of change, and a lot of pain, but the benefits that we will see in the end shall be worth it. What we don't finish in Fedora 7, we will in Fedora 8.

It's not wrong to be aggressive. It is wrong to release a crappy product for the sake of a deadline that is somewhat artifical to begin with.

(3) It's embarassing that the Fedora Art community wasn't able to see through their work on the Fedora 7 theme, and instead final say and design was handed to Red Hat's Desktop team.

My response -- He's right. The work that the Red Hat Desktop team did on Fedora 7 is successful from an aesthetic standpoint, but failed from a community standpoint. And I don't think it's hypocritical of me to say that the Fedora 7 desktop looks great, but at the same time I am unhappy with the *process* by which it came into being.

Not all parts of the Fedora Project are equally community friendly. It is an unfortunate reality. We have chosen to spend a huge amount of time and effort in Fedora 7 revamping the release engineering toolchain and the Core/Extras merge, to empower the more technical members of the Fedora community.

The Fedora Art community, I must say, has demonstrated commitment and patience with us beyond what I ever thought it would. And I am grateful for that, more than I have been able to express. We've seen them graciously accept our failings with regard to community participation in the Fedora 7 theme, and watched them refocus their efforts on a variety of other artistic needs that the Fedora Project has, and which the Art team can be in charge of without fear of "meddling".

There is a lot left to be done in the in Fedora Art, as well as in the area related to logo guidelines. It has not received the level of attention that it needs, not for malicious reasons, but mainly because no one has been able to really sit down and devote themselves to solving a whole bunch of small, but related, issues at the same time. The criticism that we have received is completely justified.

(4) The ability of users to spin their own distributions of Fedora is good.

My response -- Yes, it is!

(5) (paraphrasing) The fact that old versions of Core are given their security updates by Red Hat engineering, coupled with the fact that the Legacy project ended, means that the whole idea of the Fedora community is fake, and Red Hat completely controls Fedora. What's the role of the community after the merger?

My response -- The entire reason why we are *doing* the Core/Extras merge, along with the external build system and compose tools, is so that future versions of Fedora (starting with 7) can be as fully in the community's hands as they like. I believe that when the process for building a Fedora distribution is EXACTLY THE SAME regardless of whether you are inside of Red Hat or not -- and by this I mean that when every piece of the toolchain from source code in a file to ISO on a disk -- then there is nothing Red Hat can do that the community cannot do.

Fedora's lifecycle is not meant to exist for years and years. That's not the purpose of Fedora. That is why we have RHEL and CentOS. However, it is within the scope of Fedora's mission to allow anyone who wants to *try* to maintain a release for longer than Red Hat engineering cares to devote resources to it to try. The way we enable that is by having a single Fedora toolchain. And that's what we're doing.

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There's a lot of other intersting posts, about a variety of Fedora/Red Hat topics. I'll make you a deal, Radu. Keep calling it like you see it, and I'll keep responding to what you write, because I think it's a worthwhile conversation. Thanks for being a vocal critic, but also a rational one. I wish there were more folks like you, and I also wish that I gave you less to be critical of.