Ubuntu’s main installation method comes on a single bootable CD. By today’s standards, a CD is a rather confined space – as a result, every last megabyte is considered precious. A single stray megabyte could push the CD over the limit, and make it worthless – and a few saved megabytes could help make the disc more multi-lingual, or mean more exciting apps. There are rumblings from within the bowels of #ubuntu-devel that OpenJDK would be a nice thing to include – but this is essentially impossible unless someone can magic over a hundred meg of space onto the already hard-pressed CD.
As a team, the Debian Mono Group (which is these days a joint Debian/Ubuntu effort) have helped to reduce our footprint by a good few meg in the Jaunty cycle, as part of the Mono 2.0 transition. And now I have a proposal which I’m going to make to the Desktop team at Ubuntu Developer Summit in May, which will save six precious megabytes.
That’s right, kids. To save a significant amount of space (6.1 MiB), we dump bloated C-based Rhythmbox and include svelte lightweight C#-based Banshee. The numbers may astonish C die-hards, but they’re true – similarly, Gnote’s binary is twice the size of Tomboy’s binaries, even though it has no plugins (it only appears smaller thanks to having no documentation). Removing Rhythmbox and all its Rhythmbox-specific dependencies decreases the size of an Ubuntu Jaunty install by 18.4 MiB; installing Banshee 1.4.3-4 (with all Recommends, of course) adds on 12.3 MiB. The 6 meg difference could be the first 5% of OpenJDK inclusion. Or it could be two extra languages. Or it could be a cool new tool (Gnome-Do, anyone?).
Running the numbers also involved testing other players. Songbird is a no-go (42.6 MiB, and a RAM footprint to crush small towns). The smallest entrant was Quod Libet, but version 2 of that seems to have a UI designed by MC Escher, which isn’t really an appropriate direction for the default player. RAM consumption compared between Rhythmbox and Banshee rules in RB’s favour, but not by too much (about 60 meg versus 50 meg in the testing I did).
Perhaps the most important detail, though, is that Banshee development is active and vibrant, with new features being added every release. This fits into Ubuntu’s raison d’être far better than the somewhat maintenance-only development Rhythmbox has been seeing. Even if the desktop team rule that Banshee isn’t appropriate for one reason or another, I’m pretty confident that upstream could fix each and every concern by the time Ubuntu 10.04 rolls around. So that’s the proposal! Let’s see how it plays in Barcelona at UDS.