The Ubuntu Friendly program, much like the old Fedora data gathering and other similar programs, aims to find out what hardware Ubuntu works on and which hardware causes issues. This is a very important part of out ability to assess both regressions and entrant hardware comparability and I commend anyone’s participation in the program as vital to Ubuntu’s future progress.
I do however want to add something to the discussion about hardware testing. I think one of the things we get wrong when gathering data about hardware is that we have no clue how much hardware is actually out there, we indeed can not be sure what it is possible to test with and what we’ve failed to test. And this half-data doesn’t just impact hardware testing…
A classic example from our community is the guttenprint driver and open printing website. The website lists all the printers which other users have added to the database. This means that there are inconsistencies in naming, duplicate entries and lots and lots of missing entries. This doesn’t help developers, they can’t know for sure how good the coverage of the guttenprint driver is looking at the website.
The solution for gutten print and I think for projects like the Ubuntu friendly program is to spend some time researching and documenting the hardware-space; i.e. writing down all possible published hardware. A good solid coverage list can turn the seemingly infinite task of say getting a picture for each hardware into a finite game where you win when all known hardware has a picture.
This is the same as testing, as sure as it is the same with producing printer drivers. We should know for sure what our possible scope is before passing over the torch to user data. Users are not going to be as bothered about testing their computer if the message is: “Come test your computer, it might be possible your data is unique”, but they could be much more motivated if the message is targeted as: “This type of computer has never been tested and you’d be helping Ubuntu out a great deal if you can run the test suite.”
Not just good for targeting, but also good for testing progress. We can see how well our testing programs are going, how much coverage we can produce in time for the release or RC. It would be great to have a competition between LoCos to see which group can dig up new and unique hardware to test.
So with all this in mind, I appeal to all those involved in the Ubuntu Friendly program to consider doing the diligent thing of going out there to OEM websites and documenting everything you can find. It doesn’t have to be in depth, we might not even need to know what the hardware is for sure, but it would be great to be able to use smart tactics.
What are your thoughts dear reader?