It is a proven fact that Ubuntu, the Linux for Human Beings, is a great GNU/Linux distribution, which enables more and more people all over the world enjoy free software, share their knowledge and joys.
Being an user of Ubuntu, I must say all the work done by the community and Canonical is awesome; but as a contributor from a not English spoken country, I would be extremely happy to see we can launch localized edition Live CDs, in other words language specific edition Live CDs for users that have different languages and preferences.
For different languages there always be different cultures, and this caused to different user preferences. There are many people don’t have enough knowledge about English to use a not localized computer in this world. A user of this kind will find it essential to download and install many thing to complete their language support when they installed Ubuntu from our Live CD in the past and at present. Most of these users have some common usage of software, so install these “language preferred” software is another required task before the system is usable. Do you think such a thing is very annoying? Yes, users would be much happier when they find an operating system designed to be very considerate.
We have spent lots of man power on improving the process of installation including language support, and a GNU/Linux distribution always ships not only a system but also a set of selected applications, but I think things are still not perfect for us. Microsoft and Apple make their operating systems have different language’s editions, and as a non-native English speaker, I ‘d like to say it worth. Users prefer to have a fully localized environment in every corner they can see from the very beginning. But for Ubuntu we can only add translations of software that used during installation. The live session is an exciting feature, but I always here somebody ask “why are those all in English?”"is there a fully translated Ubuntu available?” I’ve explained our current situation times by times, and these people always return to say “Ubuntu is great, but if there is a fully translated one, things will be even better.” The way to solve such problem, is having a language specific edition.
So there are teams and individuals appear to make their distributions based on Ubuntu, or we are regarding them as Ubuntu Derivatives. The existence of these derivatives help us spread our distribution in the positive side, but there are really negative side, it’s not just a problem on user choice, like between Fedora and Ubuntu, but something influence our build of community. Those derivatives always not only ship language packs but also some small tweaks for specific user groups (not like Mint, which makes some bigger differences). Due to many reasons, there always be breakages and bugs that never existed in official Live CD. Users have to choose a provider that he or she can trust when they are about to turn to Ubuntu but can hardly accept to start from a global edition Live CD with minor support of his or her language. But who can make sure the quality of these derivatives? Perhaps nobody can tell. For the derivatives provided by non-profit organizations, situations are better than those profit-driven teams. I know some editions have changes that bring security holes, ship Ads (e.g. hard change on Firefox home page which point to a site full of Ads), and of course some of them refused to open there changes. Yes, users are able to drop those unwilling changes, but why he or she tries a derivative if they like to deal with such issues? We may still say it doesn’t matter a lot up to here. Then, most of those derivative’s authors don’t supply support even though some of them have make changes and cause problems, and even some of them push the support work to local community deliberately. Apart from general questions, these users always ask about problems caused by derivative’s changes. It is an annoying and overwhelming job to answer, even just tell them “to use the official one” can be an awful thing that few people like to do. This lead to discount to our community, and those users may think Ubuntu and our community are not friendly because most of them don’t know the real situation exactly.
Making official localized Live CDs can also lead to a new stage of Live CD usage. A Live CD can be used as a demo, a rescue system, or even a temporary working environment, the live session is a feature that many users like very much. As mentioned before, a not English spoken user can find some very limited support in the current Live CD. We need to admit it can hardly be used to do anything other than run a installation. Even for a demo purpose, other will always ask about the nearly all English environment. I’ve said in the beginning of this piece, users prefer to seeing that every corner he or she can reach is localized. To achieve a better usage of Live CD, a full localization is critical for these users. As for languages that need input method to input characters, for instance CJK languages (Chinese, Japanese and Korean), without a full featured input method, their usage of Live CD can be even more limited. It is really hard to input these complex scripts, though we have ibus with general m17n support by default, but you can only type characters one by one, such thing look very ridiculous for nowadays input method development and usage. When you cannot input a sentence, how can you make it even if you just want to search the web for some articles via live session?
Apart from the meanings of official localized Live CDs above, users can save time on downloading and installing language support and perhaps other common software using a localized Live CD. For example, to complete a basic language support of Chinese needs around 100MiB to be downloaded, such a size only count in the language packs and input method without pulling in any other common software like StarDict to land on the system. With a localized Live CD, users can have a usable environment to be installed when they can’t access a fast Internet connection, or even without a connection, such feature is obviously welcomed by many users who have desired it for long. With a fully localized environment, we can simplify user’s configuration process, and make it really almost ready-to-use once installed.
Making the localized Live CDs don’t need any changes on our most infrastructures, it is just a matter of default selection of software in the CD. This will cause some more work for CD image team, translation exportation and our ISO building facilities, but I think it worth it. The intention of default package sets and some QA work can be done by the LoCo teams.
We can’t provide Live CDs for all languages, especially at the very beginning, but starting with having a try for some languages that have special need of care and a big amount of potential users is worthwhile. We can accumulate experience and make the process better. Windows and Macs can have language specific editions, why we can’t?
Providing official localized editions can be a big step forward on spreading Ubuntu and free software to the world. The progress of making it out is another try on the cooperation of development community and local communities. Ubuntu is Linux for Human Beings, I think such an action is really to that point, which will benefit a lot of users throughout the world.