Just about a year ago, Ubuntu developers undertook the first "100 Papercuts" campaign to fix trivial bugs on the desktop.  But servers get papercuts, too, and the server team has been working for the last several months on its own papercut-eradication effort.  Here's a look at what's been done so far, and what's planned for the future.

Admittedly, the desktop papercuts campaign, which remains ongoing, hasn't been universally successful.  Despite the many problems it has solved, some bugs have been left unfixed, and many of those that remain open are feature requests more than usability bugs.

All the same, from my viewpoint, the very fact that a desktop Linux distribution has put usability on center-stage is a success in itself.  The more developers put the end-user experience first, without the expectation that all end-users are geeks, the better off we'll all be.

Server papercuts

The desktop experience is obviously quite different from the server one, and so is the average server user.  But that doesn't mean that usability counts any less on servers.  With this in mind, developers fixed nineteen papercuts last winter in time for the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS release.

Although the next version of Ubuntu, 10.10, is not an LTS and is therefore not quite as important for server users, a new round of papercut-resolution is ongoing for Maverick.

The eight bugs resolved so far fix issues such as a URL bug in the elinks text-based browser and inclusion of a new package in the repositories (curiously, the latter "bug" appears to have been fixed a long time ago, but was still included in the Maverick papercuts).

Five bugs in the current round of server papercuts, which developers aim to complete by June 28, remain open and target clear usability issues such as reducing spam from cronjobs and making the aptitude package-management tool friendlier for Spanish speakers.  A second round of bugfixes is planned in advance of the alpha 3 release of Ubuntu 10.10.

The scale of the server-papercut campaign is much smaller than that of its desktop equivalent, which is not surprising given that Ubuntu's biggest niche by far remains on the desktop.  Nonetheless, it's great to see attention being paid to usability on Ubuntu servers, especially because they represent an environment where most users are geeks by definition and user-friendliness is often given short shrift.