What’s the difference between platform and apps?

I’ve been observing the expansion of this idea of “Ubuntu App Development”.  David Planella just wrote about what the Canonical Community team is doing to build that area. Recently, Daniel Holbach asked if the Ubuntu Packaging Guide should be renamed to the Ubuntu Platform Development Guide (or something similar) since it deals more with working with packages within Ubuntu instead of on top of it.

So here’s my issues and questions. How do we distinguish between apps that we have in the Ubuntu archives (for which the current Packaging Guide would apply) from the apps that people ship on top of Ubuntu (delivered in PPAs, Canonical Partner repos, etc. for which developer.ubuntu.com is maybe the primary entry point)?

I’m personal uncomfortable with the “Platform” language being applied to things like Firefox or Inkscape or the thousands of other desktop and end-user applications. “Platform” to me means libraries and kernels and things like X.org,  awk and curl.

My feeling is Ubuntu is becoming a mix of Debian, where we try to put the entire FLOSS universe in our software repositories, and iOS where we have a fairly clear distinction between Platform and Apps. It’s a bit confusing

Non-Free Tools in a Free Software Community

I was reading Bradley Kuhn’s post over at Planet Gnome about feeling a lot of social pressure from within open-source communities to use proprietary communication tools such as Facebook, Google +, and Skype. Normally I don’t agree much with Kuhn’s positions when it comes to open source software. I’m much more of a pragmatist and don’t see any inherent philosophical or ethic issues with proprietary software.

That said, I think Kuhn is making a pretty good point and I think it is one that the Ubuntu community ought to think about. We went through this before with Launchpad (I wrote a post back in 2007 about that) when it was not Free. These days I do see quite a bit of communication done via Google +, Skype, and less on the stalwarts of  open-source communication, IRC and mailing lists.

So my question I guess is, why? Why are these tools being used? Are they being used in place of IRC/mailing lists or in addition to?

A different type of Git book

I thought maybe Planet Ubuntu readers might find this interesting. Former Ubuntu/Edubuntu developer and all-around good guy Pete Savage is writing a book on Git called Git In the Trenches (gitt for short).


Of course there are many books on version control and Git in particular. Stackoverflow has some suggestions. So why do we need another one? Well, as you probably know, different books will appeal to different people just like different distros, desktop environments, web browsers, etc.What is interesting about Pete’s book is the style/method he’s using. Instead of a “just the facts” quick reference or a long tome on version control theory, Pete is using his experience in novel-writing (Emblem Divide) to teach git through realistic scenarios that let people associate knowledge with experience.

In Git In the Trenches Pete takes the reader though the experiences of a group of software developers at a fictional company. Each chapter represents a week at the company and is broken up into “bite size” days. Each chapter includes an “After Hours” section where Pete allows readers who are more interested in the guts of git to dig a bit deeper.

As of now Pete’s up to 8 chapters (weeks) and about 300 pages. I think it is an exciting project and I know he’d appreciate feedback from Ubuntu Planet readers. If you want to have a look, Pete’s got the LaTeX source on github. Enjoy!

Running GNOME apps in Kubuntu

These days there is a lot of discussion going on surrounding the future of Ubuntu and GNOME with respect to desktop user interface or “desktop experience”. For me personally I find a lot of good in both Canonical’s Unity and GNOME’s gnome-shell. There is, however, enough issues, both technical and political, that I have been more of a mind to try other desktop environments.

Every since KDE 4 first came out I have periodically tried it out. One of the biggest issues when I do that is that there are quite a few GNOME/GTK applications that I like and I have a hard time switching desktop environment and day-to-day applications all at once. Of course we Linux users have been able to run GNOME applications in KDE, and vice versa, for a long time but it hasn’t always been that pretty. Well, when I tried Kubuntu 11.04 on my netbook after some promoting from Scott Kitterman I was pleasantly surprised to see that my usual set of applications when I’m in Ubuntu, Firefox, Pidgin, and Xchat, worked just fine in Kubuntu complete with very native feeling (because it is) indicator support. One of the things that always turned me off about KDE was that it had a somewhat monolithic feel that seems to be melting from what I’m seeing. What I realized in my last Kubuntu adventure was that I could run KDE’s plasma desktop as a desktop but could freely go between GNOME and KDE applications without a significant difference. That may sound trivial to you, but it is pretty significant to me.

Kubuntu seems first-rate to me. I takes many of the best parts of Ubuntu like ease of installation, lots of packages, good hardware support and combines it with one of the most developer friendly and user empowering desktops I’ve ever seen.

I have two wishlist items for Kubuntu:

  1. I found it pretty hard to get KDE to look like an Ubuntu GNOME desktop. There are a ton of options, etc. but it’s hard for me to get a good theme and get everything looking like my other desktop. I love the look of GNOME.
  2. While there has been some real improvements in terms of CPU usage, KDE still takes a fair amount more RAM than GNOME/Unity on my netbook. On my Acer Aspire One with 1 GB of RAM, KDE runs at least 100MB more RAM, a 10% increase. As flexible as KDE seems to be, it seems like it ought to be possible to make a more streamlined desktop. I would love to hear suggestions!

Amazon S3 for static web hosting?

I’ve got a new domain where I would like to create a professional landing page. Nothing too fancy and no blog. I am getting rid of my dreamhost account because frankly I just don’t use it enough to be worth the cost. So I was looking around trying to figure out a cheap alternative.  Well, I can get a web host for something like $50/year, which is nice. However, I got to thinking, “do I really need all this?”. I don’t need all the e-commerce stuff, I don’t need domain registration (I’ve already got one), email, or a thousand different PHP apps. All I want is to cheaply host my files and a static website. I then came across news that Amazon S3 could be used host static websites! I found a good review of the cost and how to make S3 do the hosting. If it actually works I could probably host my landing site for < $0.50/month.

My lazyweb question for all of you is, have you tried hosting a static website from Amazon S3? If so, what did you think of it?