Is Canonical Becoming The New Microsoft?

Whoah! Hold on everyone. Let me don my asbestos suit first will you.


Right then. I have been thinking about this post for some time and I think the time is probably right for pressing the old “publish” button.

I am not trying to incite riots or wars in the halls of residence or corridors of power but Canonical/Ubuntu is starting to catch more “bad karma” than is healthy for it IMHO.

  • Let’s start with Mono. Yep. It’s been a prickly thorn for many and the concerns expressed are not going away. There’s no point in raking over the old ground; it is just one of the bad-karma attractants in a growing list.
  • Then we have Ubuntu One. Proprietary, closed, caused much debate and friction when announced and now the possibility of a Windows version too.
  • Next comes dumping GIMP, OOo and other much-loved applications from the default installation of versions of the forthcoming distribution.
  • Then the discussion about what closed/proprietary applications should be made available in the Ubuntu repositories.
  • Then we have the change of the default search engine from Google to Microsoft Yahoo.
  • Then Matt Asay joins as COO which should be, and probably is, good news. Matt is well known, respected and experienced, yet some of his prodigious public commentary tugs at the heartstrings of many a Freedom Fighter.

I don’t really want to comment on the individual points above; the point is that this list is growing…

I really like Ubuntu. I use it everywhere, I help in the Ubuntu-uk irc channel when I can and we [our company] promote Ubuntu to our customers and I [as an individual] to friends and family.

What concerns me is not any particular item in the list above: some I care about, others I do not; as I am sure many of you will do too. It is the increasing volume of criticism and vitriol as a whole. It is getting louder. This, I believe, is indicative of a turning tide that, if we are not careful, will result in Ubuntu losing popularity and more of the FOSS community exercising it’s freedom.

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22 Responses

  1. Not open source doesn’t mean it can’t be good, I like Ubuntu One and I don’t blame canonical at all for it.
    And of course, the GIMP debate, I think it’s an excellent idea to remove it from the default install, for all I care I think they should remove xspot, gnome-games, totem, transmission as well. After all, I think most of the Ubuntu users use the “apt-get install” line a LOT. All of these applications can be easily installed by just one single line. The idea of canonical is speed. Less applications means less files and less files is always good. Because after all, we don’t want to reach windows’ 10gb on clean install do we?

  2. Hmm.. if anything it means Ubuntu is relevant beyond free/open source quarters.

    Anyone can implement an U1 client BTW, and having a Windows version (and Mac) would only help expose more of Ubuntu.

    Honestly other more urgent matters need our attention, like DRM, copyright issues and open formats for example.

  3. Paradiesstaub says:

    I do not like mono and can’t understand why the do not replace Tomboy with gNote and F-Spot with gThumb. Kicking mono would save some disk space!

    Removing GIMP is okay because its to complicated for averaged users. Also it is okay to remove OO from Ubuntu Netbook Edition.

    Having Ubuntu One clients for the other OS’s would be great!

    „Then the discussion about what closed/proprietary applications should be made available in the Ubuntu repositories.“ <- A lot of people want to install Skype, so why not let them get it easily?

    Canonical is on the right path.
    Don't forget the slogan: “Linux for Human Beings”

  4. Hmmmm says:

    Well, if it leads to Ubuntu being as usable and stable as Windows, I’m all for it. Ubuntu has a long way to go, though.

  5. Ade says:

    I somewhat agree, There is alot of take and not alot of give in the Ubuntu scene these days. By that I mean there’s a great community out there, but alot of thing’s that get improved for Ubuntu tend to stay with Ubuntu. Why not give it back to greater good of the Linux community as a whole.

    I’ll admit i’m tinkering with the idea of just using standard Debian disto soon because of this.

  6. @Ade

    I tried to use Debian, but I gave up after a while, too much to install that is default in Ubuntu, too much to update that is pretty up to date in Ubuntu. I admit, I do love to use the terminal a lot, but some simplicity isn’t bad, after all, its my working desktop, it’s not a server.

  7. munky9001 says:

    Mono is alright to be included in a distro. Should it be an integral part of the OS? Hell no. Which is what makes gnome so outrageous for suggesting they might switch to mono.

    ubuntu one isnt special. Dont like it? Dont use it.

    dumping gimp… this is the first one that frayed my edges; they are dropping it because it’s harder to use… but for some reason; they have no replacement software. FSPOT is a piece of garbage.

    dumping open office was only on netbook remix. Which for all I care that distro can die. Never gunna use it.

    The ultimate reason I’m pushing away from ubuntu is their direction toward social networking based stuff. Which frankly is so useless to me.

  8. slumbergod says:

    Some good points have been raised above.

    I’d be happy if they released a smaller version of the distro stripped of all the main applications. First thing I always have to do is remove the crap and install the ones I like.

    And definitely stay away from the social networking stuff.

    Finally, I came to Linux a few years ago because I was sick and tired of Microsoft. I will never let them fill my laptop with their crap so mono can die a miserable death for all I care. Ditto for Yahoo junk.

  9. Paradiesstaub says:

    Would you like something like this:

    I also don’t need/like all the social networking based stuff.

  10. PunksUndead says:

    “Well, if it leads to Ubuntu being as usable and stable as Windows, I’m all for it. Ubuntu has a long way to go, though.”

    Please tell me this was sarcasm…please.
    Since when has Windoze been stable? As far as Windoze being usable… every OS has a learning curve. Just because people have been using Windoze longer, doesn’t mean that the time to figure it out for a new user is any less.

    As far as this article goes… meh. I can see them going the Suse route.

  11. Brad says:

    A few personal points:
    * I was also a bit distressed by Canonical switching to Yahoo Search (Powered By Bing), and hope they’re getting paid really well for that..
    * I can understand GIMP, but I agree there doesn’t seem to be a suitable replacement.
    * I can understand MONO, and am interested in the project, primarily because I am currently getting paid to do .NET development. It’s my personal bias I guess.
    * I would like to use UbuntuOne, but there are other services out there with Linux clients that are at least as good, probably not going to be a paying user anyway.

    Overall a good article, I agree there are some questionable things Canonical is doing in search of funding. Just my two cents, but I hope they don’t take things too far.

  12. edlt says:

    The switch to Yahoo is probably the only one that concerned me but these types of huge projects need funding so I guess you can’t blame them for being business men.

    I was all for the removal of GIMP but have had a change of opinion. It’s really not that big hard-disk wise. I used f-spot pretty regularly before I found something better so I don’t understand why people can’t wrap their heads around it.

    Ubuntuone NEEDS a windows client. It is one of the bigger reasons people use alternative apps like dropbox. You want to be able to share files across all computers & platforms.

  13. dael99 says:

    sorry, but it’s pointless.

    It’s in the right direction, give people FREEDOM to install FLOSS and privative

    and if you ask me: Adobe Creative Suite is really needed on the Software Centre.

  14. Brie says:

    The fact that the list of criticisms is growing is *NOT* a bad thing, in and of itself. This is largely due to Canonical becoming more well-known and more of a threat to the very institutions it challenges. This kind of thinking is dangerous. I wish simply to iterate here that more criticism (alone) is absolutely, hands-down NOT a bad thing!!


  15. papukai says:

    Ubuntu One is open source, only the server stuff is closed source.

  16. Allan says:

    I totally agree with your comments, in fact I will go one step further and say that Ubuntu is becoming the next Windows.

    I mean, lets look at the previous versions. Ubuntu just “worked”, was unobtrusive, and let me got on with my job.

    9.10, means that theres no xorg.conf, its generated “on the fly”, meaning I can’t set specific options for my graphics card, I have to mung along with the same defaults as everyone else, that the “maintainers” considered “good”.

    Every two days I get windows forcing their way to the top, especially synaptic notifications about updates, requiring me to stop work, and take action over them. Either dismissing them, or clicking the update button. FFS, if I wanted a windows update clone, I’d have installed Windows!

    They need a clear option to stop synaptic forcing its way to the top to tell you there are updates available, or even go back to the old method, and just a simple task-tray notification that let me carry on working, to action it when it was convenient to me.

    Ubuntu 9.10 = The Next Windows.

    I’m actively looking for a new distro too.

  17. querido says:

    The world isn’t free. So, being free always involves flying under the radar and avoiding the masses to some extent. Human nature being as it is, as Ubuntu becomes more popular, at some point it will be made non-free, just like nations.

  18. Ashley says:

    Are you serious, querido? Ubuntu will never be a closed-source, proprietary operating system. Sorry, that’s just foolish.

  19. Captain Anonymous says:

    “9.10 means no xorg.conf”
    YES finally. And if you know what xorg.conf is and how to configure it, chances are it isn’t hard for you to turn off the auto management of it.

    “synaptic notifications about updates, requiring me to stop work, and take action over them”
    Disabling the checking of updates actually disables the checking of updates (unlike Windows)

    Re the article…yes, mono should not be installed by default. The direction of .net being decided by MS clearly does not match the “open” Ubuntu way.

    Not sure about Gimp going, rather they should have tried to get Gimp’s interface improved. Just because Windows only comes with the POS known as “paint” does not mean that Linux also must come with a substandard piece of crap like that.

    The other points are really nothing.

  20. Warp says:

    Although a user can install OO, Gimp,Sun Java, etc, it does mean that when it’s no longer in default repo, it’s no longer updated.

    I do not see my clients adding a repository before they install e.g. OO to exchange MS-format documents, or Sun-Java when some website asks for it and have them choosing between two JRE’s.

    Ubuntu should not forget that it is challenging Microsoft hegemony on the home-user desktop.

    From Ubuntu 9.10 on I advise(d) my clients to jump to Linux Mint.(or any distro as long it is Debian based and holds and maintains “mainstream” app’s)

    As for the argument of “bloated as Windows”, I see it that all extra app’s in Ubuntu might count up to 10GB, as that is the amount where windows starts off with, but who cares when todays hardisk size starts at +1TB, and in Linux the apps are not stored in memory when not in use.

    Another matter : GRUB 2
    I dread the day when a client loses it’s bootmenu!!

    While reading several articles where this “bloatware” is considered a plus, I just cannot see the advantage yet.
    Delivering and booting a system with a text bootmenu opposed to the nicer gfxmenu always sparks “a remark”.
    I now that the showing of grubmenu is not compulsory but it is/was always a nice feature to present.

    I’m testing and installing distro’s all the time (some with grub 0.97 and others with grub2) and yet I got to see a grub2 (re-)install that probes all the operating systems immediately with the right UUID’s and root’s.

    It appears to be more efficient to install a small distro with grub2 on an auxiliary partition than using a live cd to either reinstall grub or to participate in a search party in order to find all the right syntaxes again, even when I do have to change or amend some parameters.

    I’m not a programmer and I would welcome an easy approach (be it gui or cli) into changing this grub2 circus.

  21. Josh says:

    There is an eternal struggle between ease of use and in-depth control. I think Ubuntu strikes a very good balance.

    Like many of you have mentioned, I run through and uninstall a handfull of applications right from the start, and then replace things as needed. It is only a minor inconvenience, and one which I feel is far smaller than the reverse (starting with nothing and needing to add everything manually to make the system of any use).

    I have no interest in social networking and will be removing that too, however I would be remiss to claim I share the majority view. This is clearly a prudent direction for them.

    GIMP? I use it, sure, but most people don’t edit photos beyond cropping and resizing, and wouldn’t know how even if they wanted to. Those of us who diddle around with digital-everything are plenty capable of running apt-get.

    Really the items listed in this article need not cause alarm. If anything, I see them as a sign of Ubuntu’s growing accessibility among the sorts of nonexpert (and even nonenthusiast) people that “just want shit to work” (e.g. Microsoft’s stronghold). Linux For Human Beings indeed!

  22. ic_fly2 says:

    Aite, I ll get killed for this. I used Ubuntu since hardy, I think, and most new releases were nice but never such that i though oh got to have that. Then Thunderbird 3 got released and I really wanted that. I got it to run of 9.10 and it ran nicely. Then came 10.04 which had it in the repositories. And for the first time ever the new release is Junk. Not because were the buttons are or the new menu, But it just crashes a lot, freezes, the wireless dies etc, its worse that my 4 year old microsoft xp install.

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