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Shuttleworth: There's more to Linux development than kernel hacks

Canonical has taken heat for not contributing more to the Linux kernel, but this may not be an accurate reflection of the good work that it does.

As I've noted before, there is more to open-source development than lines of code written, important though that activity is. There is, for example, the critical work done by Canonical, the company behind the ubiquitous Ubuntu Linux distribution, which tends to involve more ease-of-use development than core kernel development.

Canonical CEO and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth highlights this "secondary" development in an Ubuntu Open Week interview, reported by Ars Technica. Arguing that "Ubuntu and Canonical are making a very big difference in free software, and that has little to do with how many patches in the kernel have an e-mail address associated with them," Shuttleworth points out two key areas in which his Canonical team is improving the Linux experience:

  1. Launchpad, a Web-based collaborative development platform. Launchpad breaks new ground in open-source development, and is a valuable contribution to Linux;
  2. Design and usability. Canonical has been hiring usability and design experts to feed improvements to the "upstream" Linux community. It is hard to overstate how important this work could prove to be to consumer Linux adoption.

We need more than just the Linux code jockeys to make it a viable, growing community and project. In fact, we're probably at the point where these "tertiary" contributions to Linux will make a bigger difference than core Linux engineering as we seek to make Linux mainstream for consumers.