Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Canonical and the Linux kernel

There's been a lot of discussion recently about Canonical and it's contributions to upstream, mainly due to an off-the-cuff comment by GregKH on a google video, and mainly in relation to the Linux kernel. Greg's statement, while correct when compared to his data, was incorrect because of improper data collection.

Greg did some data gathering to show where kernel contributions come from, based on the history in the git logs, and associating email addresses of authors with companies.

During this presentation, Greg said that "Canonical does not give back to the community". While I could do pages about how this blanket comment is completely baseless, due to the fact that he is using one numeric value from one bit of history, I wont go into that now.

What I want to clarify are the numbers, since I can prove them with facts. I don't make any claims that this data means we do huge amounts of work, or that we compare favorably to other companies. I just want people to know that the numbers you heard are wrong. I also want people to realize that these numbers, while important, are not a good metric of how much a company such as Canonical, SuSe or even Redhat contribute back to the community on a whole. Just remember, Ubuntu is a community driven distribution. It's not something we put out to appease the developers and community, it's the heart and soul of everything we do.

So, to get some corrections out:

GregKH: "Canonical only contributed 6 patches in 5 years"

BenC: First off, Canonical hasn't even been around for 5 years, so expressing the numbers in this way leads to some incorrect conclusions. Second off, using a check for ^Author with a canonical.com or ubuntu.com email address in the v2.6.25 tag of the upstream kernel tree, shows 91 commits (I should know the numbers, since 63 of those were from me). Granted, Redhat and SuSe outnumber us considerably, but then we don't have > 100 kernel developers on staff (we have less than 10).

So how did Greg make this mistake? After talking with him it seems he was only checking for canonical.com addresses. It was only recently that we started using canonical.com as a habit for upstream work (we used to use ubuntu.com).

Seems people like to harp on numbers, as inconclusive as they are. All I can say is, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We're all working toward the same end, and we all have our contributions.


  1. We never doubt your work. Don't mind those who do. Keep it up! :D

  2. Well, never trust any statistics that you haven't faked yourself.
    And, as we have seen here once again, numbers do lie. Regularly. :)

  3. $ git log v2.6.20..v2.6.26 | grep ^Author | grep canonical | wc -l
    $ git log v2.6.20..v2.6.26 | grep ^Author | grep ubuntu | wc -l

    care to show how you arrived at those numbers ?

  4. Why start at .20? Ubuntu has been around for far longer than that...

  5. I misparsed Bens text as "since 2.6.25"

  6. I thought Canonical went bankrupt with Ubuntu Linux. They picked the wrong horse and catered to the masses that never bought anything. Or at least that's what I got from PromotingLinux.com

  7. I wouldn't say that contributing to the kernel is the most superior form of contributing to Linux. What i feel Ubuntu does is to get Linux into every nook and corner. In this way a lot of people are using and in turn contributing too. I don't think any other distribution has had a bigger impact ever. U guys rock.

  8. I don't have an opinion what kind of contribution Canonical and Ubuntu should do. I appreciate everybody who contributes to free software be it technical or political. Here's the number of commits that have come from people with @(canonical|ubuntu)\.com in their email address:

    $ git log --author=@(ubuntu|canonical)\.com -E | git shortlog -ns

    65 Ben Collins
    11 Fabio Massimo Di Nitto
    6 Daniel T Chen
    4 Fabio M. Di Nitto
    4 Tim Gardner
    2 Kees Cook
    2 Stefan Bader
    1 Amit Kucheria
    1 Colin Ian King
    1 Scott James Remnant

  9. Absolutely irrelevant hair splitting. Despicable.

  10. $ git log --author=mjg59


  11. Hey ben just posting your patchqueue so google picks it up and people realize ubuntu contributes upstream:

  12. balerdi:/home/tatel# grep commit ChangeLog-2.6.26 | wc -l

    So I think that claiming GKH is badly wrong because there have been 91 commits from canonical/ubuntu... is badly wrong