Is Dapper Drake the One?
by Phil Hughes
The next release of Kubuntu Linux is named Dapper Drake. For Kubuntu, the process of getting to the final release is relatively public, which is not always the case with other distributions. At this point, four different Dapper Drake pre-release CD images have been made available to the general public. Although the average TUX reader is not a candidate for playing with this potentially unstable software, I never have been called average, so I have been playing with it since the first pre-release.
Up until last week, I thought I was playing around with Dapper Drake solely for my own interests. But, Mark Shuttleworth, "father of Ubuntu and Kubuntu", recently scheduled an on-line public meeting to discuss the possibility of delaying the Dapper Drake release by six weeks. A final decision will be made after the meeting.
In the process of talking about the possible delay, Shuttleworth said that we would be living with Dapper "for a long time". It is reported that he also said "for five years". Given the current six-month release cycle for Kubuntu and SuSE, five years is a very long time. This brings up two questions: what does this five year number mean, and, well, why?
Kubuntu (although this includes Ubuntu, I specifically focus on Kubuntu, as Shuttleworth himself recently switched from the GNOME-based Ubuntu to the KDE-based Kubuntu) is a relatively new player in Linux distributions. The evolution from Hoary Hedgehog, the first Kubuntu I used, to Breezy Badger and now to Dapper Drake has been an amazing process. And it all has happened in one year, which is a very short time for such major changes.
Kubuntu depends on the long-term stability of the Debian distribution, which tends to have long waits between releases. But, Kubuntu has been much more aggressive in adding new capabilities as needed. I say "as needed", because Debian tends to find itself running on servers and systems of more technically oriented people that generally seek out, build and install the specific enhancements they need. Kubuntu, being desktop-oriented, attracts a much different user base.
Now, this announcement of a five-year wait until the next Kubuntu release doesn't mean you will get Dapper Drake and then be stuck with it as is for five years. Kubuntu uses the well-established capabilities of Debian to allow incremental upgrades. In other words, you can painlessly update your Dapper Drake install to the latest versions of programs with little work. That is, you don't have to concern yourself with specific programs--the update system lets you say that you want to upgrade the programs you have installed if a later version is available. It does the updating for you.
Furthermore, although a core group of programs exists that is well supported by the Kubuntu team, an additional set of programs can be found in a repository called "universe". There you can find thousands more programs that add to the overall functionality of your system.
For those into more adventure, you can add other repositories to your source list. These repositories can be generic Debian repositories that include programs available in the main Debian distribution but not specifically tested with Kubuntu. Or, you can add other, single-program repositories. A single-program repository is where you can get a program that has not been accepted into the main Debian distribution. The program might not be in the Debian distribution because it is very new, very specific or has licensing issues. For example, Debian does not include the software library needed to decode encrypted DVDs, because its use is illegal in some countries. You can, however, add that repository to your own sources list. Afterwards, including or updating the software works the same as it does for all of the other Kubuntu and Debian repositories.
Turning to my crystal ball for a minute, I see Dapper Drake as being something other vendors will need to watch closely. Although no Linux distribution will be the cure-all for everyone, every indication says that Dapper Drake is going to look very good to a lot of users new to Linux on the desktop.
Author's Note: March 30
After hearing some grumbling and then getting an email from a friend telling me "this 5-year thing was wrong" I decided to actually read this post. Oops.
The sentence starting with "Now" that implies this (ok, states this) originally said "Now, what this doesn't mean is that you will get Dapper Drake and then just be stuck with it for five years." So, that teaches me to not read things after they are edited.
To clarify, the 2-year support cycle of the Ubuntu and Kubuntu distributions gets upped to five years with Dapper. Release cycles will remain every six months. That means you may elect to install a newer distribution in six months but, if you don't, Dapper will continue to be supported.
Sorry for the confusion.
As for the KDE/Gnome issue, I don't see either distribution as a "subset" of the other. But, this article is about Kubuntu, not Ubuntu. I use KDE and I am writing specifically about what I have used. If there are Ubuntu users out there that want to write about their experiences, great. Send us your article and we will put it up on the site.
About the Author
Phil Hughes is Group Publisher for SSC Media Corp.