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Canonical's Troubles With the Free Software Community 155

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the stone-the-popular-kid dept.
puddingebola (2036796) writes "Bruce Byfield looks back at the soured relationships between Canonical and the free software community. Partly analysis, partly a review of past conflicts, the writer touches on Mir and Wayland, and what he sees as Canonical's attempts to take over projects. From the article, 'However, despite these other concerns, probably the most important single reason for the reservations about Ubuntu is its frequent attempts to assume the leadership of free software — a position that no one has ever filled, and that no one particularly wants to see filled. In its first few years, Ubuntu's influence was mostly by example. However, by 2008, Shuttleworth was promoting the idea that major projects should coordinate their release schedules. That idea was received without enthusiasm. However, it is worth noting that some of those who opposed it, like Aaron Seigo, have re-emerged as critics of Mir — another indication that personal differences are as important as the issues under discussion.'"
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Canonical's Troubles With the Free Software Community

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @11:33AM (#46584367)

    The second any one party becomes big enough, or popular enough, to start making meaningful changes in the way Linux is implemented in their distributions, the knives come out.

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      That's why I still laugh every time I hear someone predicting "This is Linux's year!" For that to even have a chance of coming true, there would first have to *BE* a "Linux OS." If you put 10 random Linux fans in a room with a ticking time-bomb set for an hour, they would spend 1 minute agreeing that something needed to be done, and the next 59 minutes arguing over 200 proposed competing solutions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Where did you pull that shit up from? I think red hat is a huge linux company, and i don't see any knives against them. Also IBM, where are the knives? The only knives against canonical is because their own fucking up and acting like they don't need to care and not contributing, and it's not the kind of knife you are thinking of.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      People don't like/want leaders. Think about presidential candidates: as soon as one stops talking about how he'll competently adminstrate, and starts going on about leadership, you start thinking, "oh well, I sure ain't gonna vote for that one." What people want, is for others to get the fuck out of the way and stop putting up obstacles. And while most leadership isn't about really creating obstacles, if you have any ideas of your own, someone else's leadership is usually going to look like that.

      Sure, yo

    • Yes, damn Canonical for not toeing the party line as set forth by the self-appointed central committee of the supreme soviet who decide what The Software should be. The whole gang of miscreants should be banished to the gulag until reeducated properly to the free market, that is to say the market fee of competitive ideas. Only then will the One True Way be realized. Until then, they are stealing bread from the mouths of our software children.

  • but from what I can tell, the Ubuntu style release schedule took off over-all.

    And as long as things are consistent, it will have the effect Ubuntu wanted (or close too it, they basically wanted upstream to release 4 months before them, so they could integrate if memory serves).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by keltor (99721) *
      Back when these guys were best buddies with KDE and GNOME, both orgs thought this was a perfectly fine plan. Things have since heavily soured.
      • by AvitarX (172628)

        yeah.

        Ubuntu started projects used to get adopted, as time went on, they went more off the walls, and their projects became tainted.

        The Mir thing is really upsetting to me as a user, because Wayland has demonstrated the ability to take feedback and adapt, making the whole split seem like lies.

        Wayland really seems like a smartly run project handled very well, that seems to be a huge mistake.

        Even if in principal I like the idea of Android drivers working, I think Wayland has been working on that too though.

        Ups

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Ubuntu is switching to systemd:
          http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/1316

          Lets hope they'll eventually switch to Wayland, too.
          Unfortunately it also remains true that Ubuntu is the most usable Linux distro out there for the "I'm not afraid of computers, but also don't have the time to learn Linux, I just need a working environment and the ability to quickly google stuff" crowd.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            And Unity isn't terrible, as long as they keep things easily replaceable (by using Wayland etc. under it), they have real potential I think.

            What they are doing with phone has real promise too. They really need to work within the system though. KDE is working on similar things with Plasma (netbook, vs desktop, vs active), it'd be great if at least some of the work between the two is sharable. Not just great, but part of the platonic idea of FOSS.

          • In my limited poking at Linux Mint, it seemed as usable as Ubuntu.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Even if in principal I like the idea of Android drivers working, I think Wayland has been working on that too though.

          The library supporting Android drivers, libhybris, does not come from Canonical. It was developed by a Jolla employee, and is already in use in the Wayland powered Jolla phone. Canonical just gave the impression that they were the ones creating it -- one more reason for the current bad blood in the community, I guess.

          For a short history of the library, check http://mer-project.blogspot.fi/2013/04/wayland-utilizing-android-gpu-drivers.html.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            I did state take credit for "ideas", "even falsely".

            I thought the wayland/android thing was a response to Mir though. And that part of the reason Mir came to be was to use Android driver.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No. The idea was to make things easier for upstream. If every distro pulling in for example VLC at the same time, VLC would have less of a problem coordinating all the issues. Problem is everyone is so blinded by their canonical hate that they don't see these good ideas that they come out with.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @11:49AM (#46584507)

    ... they and Shuttleworth disappeared up their own backsides in a blinding flash of self importance and inability to listen to users (Unity - the OSS version of Windows 8 Metro, need I say more). I'm afraid their We Know Best doesn't tend to adhere them to many people and I suspect they've now peaked in terms of their importance in the free software world and will slowly fade away as the years go by.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That and once they decided to monetize our search results and share it with Amazon ... well, I'll never have an Ubuntu installation again.

      My perception of Canonical is now "greedy assholes who don't care about user's privacy"

      • by NaiveBayes (2008210) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @12:15PM (#46584775)
        Canonical have been making a major loss for years and yet still put more and more money into Ubuntu and open source software development. You may still want to see them as greedy, but is it greedy to not want to make losses year on year?
        • They should do it because they like to code and produce something. When they start thinking about profit, they become control freaks.

        • by iroll (717924)

          Canonical also dump buckets of money into a lot of things that are either of no interest to me (Ubuntuphones) or actively putting me off Ubuntu (divergence away from mainstream Debian and linux in general because of NIH syndrome). Covering such losses with cheap tricks like feeding Amazon search (yes, I know I can turn it off) just makes them even more unappealing.

          If Canonical stopped tilting at windmills for five minutes and invested their money in finding ways to sell more real services, they'd probably b

      • by Anonymous Coward

        yeah, fuck them for not wanting to be in the red in perpetuity. They apparently care about user privacy enough to anonymize the data and allow to opt out entirely.

      • by horza (87255)

        Yup the Facebook of Linux distros. The worst thing is when you are wiping all your friends and families Ubuntu and putting on Mint instead, you get the groans "I have to learn a new desktop AGAIN?". It was an uphill battle shifting people from Windows to Unity. Having to shift people between distros makes it look pretty unstable and fragmented.

        On the plus side, nothing like an impending reformat to remind people to back up their data!

        Phillip.

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        That and once they decided to monetize our search results and share it with Amazon ... well, I'll never have an Ubuntu installation again.

        How is it different from Google?

        My perception of Canonical is now "greedy assholes who don't care about user's privacy"

        But it's open source, it's free software. If there's one little element there that you don't like then just turn it off, change it. That's the whole point of free software!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You're wrong. I like unity and I'm glad as a ubuntu user that they developed it. It disgusts me how many self claimed free software users get angry when someone wants to go off and make something different.

    • by quonsar (61695)
      adhere: stick fast to (a surface or substance).
      endear: cause to be loved or liked.
    • by ThePhilips (752041) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @01:02PM (#46585297) Homepage Journal

      ... they and Shuttleworth disappeared up their own backsides in a blinding flash of self importance and inability to listen to users (Unity - the OSS version of Windows 8 Metro, need I say more). I'm afraid their We Know Best doesn't tend to adhere them to many people and

      The same load of BS is repeated over and over again. That doesn't make it true.

      Unlike Metro:

      1. Unity actually provides some benefits. Like for example full screen zoom on smaller laptop screens.

      2. It breaks much less of UI conventions.

      3. You can actually replace Unity with something else within minutes. (Or you can even install the Ubuntu edition without it.)

      First two are also applicable to GNOME3 v. Unity comparison.

      I suspect they've now peaked in terms of their importance in the free software world and will slowly fade away as the years go by.

      Yeah. Ubuntu is going to be replaced by Mint. Oh wait, Mint *is* an Ubuntu-based distro.

      • Yeah, this is basically how I feel. I use Ubuntu with XFCE. I don't even have Unity installed so it doesn't bother me any. The main reason I use Ubuntu is that I can easily find answers with a quick Google search when I run into problems. I just don't have time to spend hours dealing with minor driver issues or finding out why my OS isn't playing nice. As much as the idealistic "fragmentation leads to competition which leads to more and better options" sounds nice, I think it's good that Ubuntu provides a m

        • Maybe CentOS will succeed in getting the community behind it while simultaneously extending Linux's popularity beyond its current niche, but I fear that if Red Hat succeeds in making CentOS more popular and accessible then the community will just turn on them the minute they try something new.

          That has already happened - with the Red Hat Linux 8 & 9, the predecessor of Fedora.

          I was there and the results were not pretty. I mean: it looked very very pretty, but the rest of it was turning ugly very often.

          Red Hat is too much of a mindless corporation to deliver any innovation. (On desktop one needs to tell users what to do - RH fails at that. Mindlessness works on server side, because there customers are engineers and can tell you what they need.)

          Canonical's problem is that they overplay a

      • by Anonymous Coward

        1. Unity actually provides some benefits. Like for example full screen zoom on smaller laptop screens.

        The start screen provides benefits as well. Larger shortcuts allow for information to be displayed (live tiles) which means I don't have to open some applications to get the information I need. The ability to customize the layout via drag and drop is a vast improvement over the start menu. The ability to deep pin shortcuts is another big advantage as well (i.e. I can pin shortcuts to websites, or shortcuts to albums that I frequently listen to). Also the start screen and all my preferences sync across all m

      • 1. Unity actually provides some benefits. Like for example full screen zoom on smaller laptop screens.

        LOL! full screen zoom! such advanced technology! its only been there in windows and linux for ~15 years.

        2. It breaks much less of UI conventions.

        no it doesn't. it breaks everything. at least windows has the decency of letting users switch between the desktop and metro.

        3. You can actually replace Unity with something else within minutes. (Or you can even install the Ubuntu edition without it.)

        forgive me if i don't want a neglected product without any sort of support. and the easily replaceable part is moot, that is a property of linux. if canonical thought they could get away with it, they would have locked that down too.

        Oh wait, Mint *is* an Ubuntu-based distro.

        yeah, one that cares for and upholds the principles

      • by maestroX (1061960)

        3. You can actually replace Unity with something else within minutes. (Or you can even install the Ubuntu edition without it.)

        Stop using phrases ".. replace with something else". XXX is alright, because you can replace it by YYY. Something default is not optional, it is the DEFAULT. Here, have this ton of spam; no problem, you can opt out right?

    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@co[ ]ll.edu ['rne' in gap]> on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @01:47PM (#46585803) Homepage

      Yup. I suspect Canonical is going to continue down a path towards irrelevancy. They've got a solid userbase and a pretty good lead for now, which means it's not going to happen soon, but I can't see anything but a decline in the future for them.

      I'm seeing a lot of parallels with Cyanogen Inc, the company that was formed by some of the CyanogenMod leads. They're delusionally self-important and consistently speaking things in direct conflict with their actions ("Everything you see now will remain open-source" at the same time they're trying to force a contributor to dual-license a major GPL work so they could have commercial rights to it. Fortunately their CLA wasn't as powerful as Canonical's). I suspect they're going to wind up going down the same road as Canonical.

      Cyngn is doing EVERYTHING in nearly the exact same way Canonical has - and seems oblivious to the fact that Canonical has been doing a good job of alienating all of their potential partners and many of their contributors. Canonical should serve as a shining example of how NOT to monetize open source software in a sustainable fashion (especially by coopting existing projects), yet certain people feel that Canonical's example is the best one to follow.

    • by Tempest_2084 (605915) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @02:14PM (#46586077)
      Am I the only one who LIKES Unity? Ubuntu is the distro that got me to switch from Win 7 to Linux (still have to keep Win 7 around for one or two things though). I really don't understand all the hate other than the stupid Amazon search lens thing (which I disabled). My best guess is that it might be because I'm a new convert to Linux rather than a long time user.
      • by Arker (91948)
        "Am I the only one who LIKES Unity?"

        No, there are at least 6 others, and that is not counting the ones who are drawing a paycheck from canonical.

        "Ubuntu is the distro that got me to switch from Win 7 to Linux (still have to keep Win 7 around for one or two things though). I really don't understand all the hate other than the stupid Amazon search lens thing (which I disabled). My best guess is that it might be because I'm a new convert to Linux rather than a long time user."

        Yes, that's likely to have a lot t
      • by styrotech (136124)

        Am I the only one who LIKES Unity?

        Nope. I hated it at first, and held off really using it until 12.04. But it has steady improved and as I've got used to it I've come to like (most of) it.

        I'm not emotionally invested in it though - every now and again I'll think I need to switch to something else and I'll go back to Debian with some other desktop, but the others just seem less polished and I end up back on Unity again.

        It's not just me either - recent Ubuntu releases have meant the small software company I w

      • I really like it too, but obviously not enough to post "OMG I LOVE UNITY AND PONIES" every time this discussion comes up. Dislike of the status quo/a future direction is more motivating to make people speak up.

        But yeah, I've been using it since the netbook remix days, in which it was a godsend for my eee pc (clawing back my 7" screen, 24 pixels at a time). Until the end of last year I was primarily a mac user though; Apple's direction post 10.6 combined with unity's superior experience (tiling, super-A for

    • It's always seemed to me (since they started pushing Unity, anyway) that Canonical is mainly concerned with pushing their own in-house software out as open source. It's like they want to point everywhere and say, "See, RedHat uses an init system we created, a display server we wrote, and a desktop environment we built. We ARE the Open Source Desktop."

    • by andydread (758754)
      I thought the OSS version of windows 8 Metro was GNOME 3. What a disaster that is and Nautilus has been dumbed down to the point of annoyance.
  • As long as they don't push changes just for the sake of pushing them...

  • Unfortunately it has spread to other distros.

    • by 0racle (667029)
      systemd is from Red Hat. It was adopted by other distros because they believed it solved a problem, not because Red Hat tried to tell others that they must use it.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        yea the problem it solved is ensuring there will exist continued access to udev and udisks which are a hard dependency a long way up the stack now. The systemd folks are doing everything they can to make sure the udev and udisks projects end up having systemd as a dependency.

        So in short no I guess nobody held a gun to any other distro maintainers heads and forced them to package systemd but its been made abundantly clear that not doing so means they will have to devote enormous resources to maintaining com

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Once dubbed the official version control system of GNU (partly because of Git's GPLv2-only licensing and stuff), it's been sunk into oblivion, mostly by Canonical pulling off their own workers and nobody wanting to fill the void given Canonical's assignment policies and contracts (in contrast, the FSF at least gives guarantees regarding free-only use in return for an assignment).

    Now even Emacs, once the poster child for Bazaar, is organizing its transition to Git.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @12:07PM (#46584671) Homepage

    '... probably the most important single reason for the reservations about Ubuntu is its frequent attempts to assume the leadership of free software ... [S]ome of those who opposed it, like Aaron Seigo, have re-emerged as critics of Mir â" another indication that personal differences are as important as the issues under discussion.'

    Seeing the same critics reappear does not necessarily mean it is a personal difference. It really only indicates that the underlying disagreement remains. Mark Shuttleworth believes in centralization of authority, Open Source is implicitly about decentralization of authority. That is a difference with Mark Shuttleworth's world view; as long as he holds it, and particularly when he tries to be the central authority, he will not fit in the Open Source world. That is not personal in the sense of holding a grudge, but it won't change unless Mark genuinely embraces the decentralized nature of this method of software development.

    • by spacepimp (664856)

      What is the purpose of benevolent dictators for life then? (Torvalds/Stallman/ blender/drupal/mullenweg etc.)

      • by Arker (91948)
        I will disagree with those that say there is no place for it.

        I was actually hopeful when Shuttleworth first got into the OS business he would provide a much needed benevolent-dictator function in exactly this way. And he's tried to. But I am afraid they have bungled it so badly and often his credibility is shot.

        What's he actually produced? A distro with advertising, and a UI even more broken than is typical.
      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        What is the purpose of benevolent dictators for life then? (Torvalds/Stallman/ blender/drupal/mullenweg etc.)

        To continue to curate the projects and organizations they founded, for as long as the community continues to trust them to do so. Sort of like Shuttleworth directing his distro, if his position were dependent on grassroots support instead of a corporate charter.

  • As a KDE user... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Parker Lewis (999165) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @12:09PM (#46584693)
    ... I gave a chance to Unity about 3 months ago, with 12.04 LTS. I liked the desktop disposition (Mac global menu with side launcher), and the general integrated look and feel. Use of apt-get is really nice (as in Debian), and with use of PPAs I can keep almost all my software update to date in a global way. Almost all configurations are simple, which helps new users. Driver support is good (I just had to setup the hybrid graphical cards with Bumblebee). In the other side, I thought the fonts were a bit big, and I don't like the dark theme. How to text font sizes? Install third part software. How to install new themes? Install other third part software (themes is one of the most cool features of Linux DEs!). Can I change the duration of notification? Re-position launcher? No, no, only using more third part softwares. But ok, in my mind, all the problems can be fixed in the future. Then I started to look into launchpad to see the bugs opened, and the future plans. Almost all important issues related to Unity are still open, with almost no comments from Canonical (usually in KDE we have an official dsposition after few hours). Most of Canonical efforts then are focused in "convergence", which my question is "who asked for?". As the future Ubuntu phones will not use the same desktop applications, why I need a new Linux based device? I'd love if Canonical works in better integration with Android: the MTP support is a joke (stop to work after few minutes), and would be nice to attend my mobile calls with my desktop headset, read my SMS on systray, etc. I think that offer a better support for the most popular linux based mobile will be a nice flag. And then, I tested the new Ubuntu version. And I saw that I have Amazon over all the places: in desktop search, in the launcher, all activated by default. Why this? In these days of all the concerns about NSA and privacy, why not sell the "you're using an open source product with all the privacy concerns" flag? If they want financial support, why not allow users to donate, like on KDE? (I'm a KDE e.V. member). I remember too, the old Mandrake club, where users have access few days earlier than "normal" users. In my minds, it's a shame that the most talked Linux distribution has enabled, by default, a shareware scheme. And the worst: the dash search do not works well. I have avidemux installed, and if I type "demu", I got nothing. If I want to run the calculator, and I type "calc", I'll get "OpenOffice Calc" as first result. So, I mean, I can understand when Canonical choose the Unity way. Gnome team is out of this planet, removing all basic features from applications, and forcing a tablet/mobile interface too. But I cannot understand why force the shareware behavior, or other duplicate efforts, like Mir, Ubuntu mobile, etc.
    • by geek (5680)

      Its sad that these days it is easier to theme Windows than it is Linux. It's also sad after so many years of mocking Windows users for their unstable desktop experience that we're now stuck with Unity, GNOME 3 and KDE 4 which are less stable than Windows ME. It's like Linux on the desktop is going backwards instead of forwards. I have all my hopes on Wayland but if I don't see major improvement in Linux desktop distro's within the next year I'm just going to give up and move to FreeBSD for servers and Mac O

      • Exactly, it's so cool use a custom theme on desktop... of course, just eyecandy, but this was one of the cool features about open source desktops: configure it in your way. Gnome 3 is the worst case, in my opinion: they're removing a lot of important features, saying "nobody" uses, aiming the "convergence".

        KDE4, in the latest releases, become stable and fast, but this was what we got on KDE3 years ago...

        So, basically, now each 2 years, we have the same cycle where Linux desktops starts a migration to a
  • Is this different from how Sun tried to become the defacto standard UNIX? I never cared much for their tactics, eventually they burned out too.
    • Re:As the Sun sets (Score:4, Interesting)

      by unixisc (2429386) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @02:12PM (#46586049)
      I thought that Sun was the de facto UNIX standard. SCO lacked a proprietary hardware platform that could have locked them in, IBM had too many options, same for HP, DEC was more into VMS and NT, SGI was a niche player initially in visualization workstations and later in supercomputing. Essentially, Sun was the standard, until Linux came along.
  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @01:14PM (#46585459)
    I think rather quickly, Linux Mint Debian Edition will rise to greater prominence, eclipsing even the Ubuntu-based Mint for the same reasons.
    • by geek (5680)

      Not likely. You can already see most people moving to Arch, Gentoo or one of the RPM based distros in greater numbers. Linux Mint is just a slightly less ugly Ubuntu and the Debian edition doesn't offer any compelling benefits over the Ubuntu edition for end users. I'm sorry to say but apt/dpkg really haven't aged well and are replaced nicely by yum/pacman and other tools.

  • After the Unity GUI issues (didn't the Windows 8 One GUI to Rule Them All FUBAR show them anything?), the Mir/Wayland disputes, etc etc, I shifted over to Fedora 20 late last year and haven't looked back. I haven't had any problems finding any desktop packages I wanted to install as RPMs, and it Just Damn Works, which is why I run a Linux desktop to begin with. With the upsurge in interest in both Mint and Fedora, I think Shuttleworth/Ubuntu should be feeling a little pressure to return to the fold rathe
  • That's for sure a trouble with the free software movement!
  • Weasel words (Score:4, Insightful)

    by peppepz (1311345) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @03:02PM (#46586655)
    Just some days ago we were already told that the Free Software Community hates Canonical. Then again, who is this Free Software Community? I've been using free software since before it was fashionable to call it thus, so I think that I use lots of software coming from the Free Software Community. Today I happen to use some pieces of free software from Canonical. Of the works by some of the persons spotted in TFA as speakers for the "Free Software Community", I use nothing, so I see more contribution to the Free Software Community from Canonical than from them.

    Don't like software form Canonical? Don't use it. They're a commercial company, so they have to break even ultimately. I understand if, after listening to everyone, they make their own decision. Their Mir project is all about Ubuntu phones: should that platform be successful, they'll take the merit, should they fail, the Free Software Community will still have Android as their reference platform. Even if Google is a commercial company, too, and compared to them Canonical is Candy Candy.

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