Open Ballot: is Canonical good for free software?

TuxRadar

Love them or hate them, the folks behind Ubuntu have changed the Linux landscape. Many users have discovered Linux thanks to Canonical's marketing efforts and free CD programmes, but recently we've see a lot of controversy such as the Banshee affair and spat with the Gnome team.

On the other hand, Canonical would argue that it's trying hard to give back to the community, for instance with the new DEX project. We want your opinions for our upcoming podcast: do you think, on the whole, that Canonical is a good or bad force for free software and Linux?

Let us know in the comments, and give yourself a proper name too. There's no fun in a flamewar if everyone is just Anonymous Penguin.

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Your comments

Sort of, but not completely...

I think that Canonical has been good for free software, as the stability and usability of the Ubuntu platform clearly has benefited the Linux community. At the very least, the testing population has dramatically increased in size, allowing more bugs to be found and solved. Further, it is becoming common knowledge that there is an alternative to Microsoft and Apple. However, when a club (and we can think of the free software community as a kind of social club) rapidly increases its membership, the massive influx of new members can change the club in ways that the original members never intended. I remember when people thought that MS Windows and computers were inseparable in many peoples' minds, and that was bad for computers. How many new members of our community still don't understand that Ubuntu and Linux are not synonyms? If Canonical screws up Ubuntu badly, how many people will not realize that there are other Linux distros available?

Hear me now!

In my opinion Canonical IS good for free software. Although in some cases they have been the big business rather then the caring friend.

As long as they keep things open to change, its better to have developers working on their own goals towards their own distro then no'one working on no distro.

Of course they are.

Of course Canonical is good for free software. I am usually one of the first to criticise them when they go wrong (which did happen increasingly in the last year or so) but I strongly think they are a force for good overall. Every company goes through some rough patches and makes mistakes (just look at the Red Hat of ca. 2001) but that doesn't mean they can't come out into the light again. We just need to be vigilant and tell them where they go wrong. And that goes for every company involved in F/OSS (just think of Red Hat/Fedora with SQLninja for an example from another company).

I believe we should encourage them to do the right thing and firmly say when they are wrong (ie. when they do a short-sighted move like taking money from the Gnome Foundation).

I think if we want to have

I think if we want to have support from the manufacturers and to have Linux being deployed mainstream on the desktop, then yeah Canonical is our best bet. the unity (pun intended) is needed for such cause!

Good

A huge proportion of the computing fraternity have no idea what free software is. Ubuntu has a high enough profile to tempt some of these folks into the water. That alone makes them a positive force in my book.

You said it all

I don't think I could have put it better myself: "Many users have discovered Linux thanks to Canonical's marketing efforts and free CD programmes..."

I know that personally, I tried a lot of Linux distros before I went full time. Mandrake, Debian, Knoppix, all good - but it was only when Ubuntu 6.06 came out that I was able to use Linux as my primary OS.

More people using Free software, aubergine or not, is a positive thing.

scm

Yes Canonical have made Linux more accessible to more people, definitely a good thing. Thanks Canonical for all your efforts in raising the profile of FOSS and GNU Linux.

I guess it depends where you stand

I had tried Linux 10 years ago and could not even get it too install properly. I tried again 2 or 3 years ago and found ubuntu and it just worked (mostly). At the time I knew there were differing flavours out there, some harder than others install but had no real experience to go on. I am not a developer but have definite nerd tenancies so enjoyed the challenge of Linux. I have found the ubuntu and wider linux community both extremely helpful and unbelievably rude and arrogant, (if I wanted to use a bloody command line I would not have asked the question about a gui aarrrggghh). As basically just a user I have read with interest the Gnome and Banshee controversy’s and can honestly say that I don't care about either but I can see why it rattles the cages of some people that have been into linux for years. If all the issues with Gnome was the reason Unity is being developed, then actually I think that's a good thing as it seems to me a little bit of strife has led to some innovation and truly original thinking about the desktop and to be blunt it was needed. So is canonical good for free software, if by good you mean does it gets more users to seriously use Linux and ditch Windows then yes.
Does it look to support all the ideals of free software I think probably not, a lot of them yes but not all.

If 90% of all desktops were linux there would be a awful lot of propriety stuff out there and commercial interests pushing on the free software ideals. Canonical seems to be trying to define what would acceptable and what's not before we get to that stage and actually I think that's a good thing. Better to sort out things like refferal fees when there is only a few hundred $'s involved than when there is thousands and thousands.

Without ubuntu and canonical there would be three more MS licenses in use in the world than there is today,as I have installed ubuntu on my mums computer and my son's and both the 75 year old and the 4 year old have no problems doing what they need to do and that may be ubuntu's biggest contribution to the free software world, new users in front of linux screens.

Just one more thought, if Banshee had been donating their money to the Mono project instead would there have been such a stink, I suspect not.

Yes I think they're good

Canonical seems to put the user experience first. They've been talking about "crossing the chasm" for a while. This means breaking the mold, "doing our own thing to make the user experience better", to lower the learning curve.

Yes, they have made some mistakes, the Gnome v Canonical debate has been horrible, but I think in the end Canonical will win more users.

Ubuntu will keep evolving to the point you can't tell it's a "distro" anymore.

It's all about the color

What happened to the color? Only reason I used Ubuntu was the nice color. Please go back to brown!

To be infuriating for a moment...

... and answering a question with another question: would Ubuntu have been as successful if there was a non-profit foundation behind it instead of a company?

yes it is

Actually I don't much like their distro myself, for a variety of reasons. However, many people I know and respect (and who know more about Linux than me ...) use it and approve of it strongly.

Most of all, Canonical are actually marketing Linux and putting it before the public - no-one else does this at all so far as I can see. I know that some readers may disagree with me but personally I think a bigger OS market share would ultimately benefit all Linux users. (Or, at least, Linux users who want to buy a printer, scanner or whatever and know that they'll be able to get it to work without an evening of hacking and forum-lurking.)

Hell no!

Of course Canonical haven't been good for free software, as they have massively contributed to ordinary folks using it!

Anyone who has ever actually read the GPL will know that we FSF neckbeards are only concerned about the rights of developers, and not those of the great washed[sic].

Canonical's evil plan to get real people using actually half decent software must be stopped at all costs, and soon -- worrying about this despicable organisation is badly eating into our circle-jerk time.

Give credit where credit is due

Canonical has done a wonderful job of trying to make Linux a mainstream OS. A lot of users have been drawn to Linux in the last 5 years or so because of the work they have done with Ubuntu and making it a good user experience for Nooob's. I think they (like many businesses) can make mistakes at times, but that does not detract from the work they have done in producing a Linux distribution that has attracted many to give Linux a go. Many like myself have stayed to learn more.

I'm not a fan of the new GUI they are using in 11.04 but that is because I don't use many of the internet tools that unity is aimed at and like to organise the desktop in a way that works for me. But for new users who just want the internet and the social networking tools, if they can get it to work it might be the next step in attracting new users. Myself I've moved on and am using Debian Mint but if it hadn't been for Ubuntu I might never have given Linux a chance.

Lets not forget that Canonical while bankrolled by MS is still a business and if it can make money and become profitable it will remain around to make long term contributions to the FLOSS community through its continued R&D. If not how long will MS continue to pour his fortune into a bottomless pit???

Canonical is unethical

Wow, all the comments are uncritically supportive!

I disagree. Ubuntu is a fantastic distribution and has an impressive track record of getting a vast array of hardware to "just work". Canonical, however, has fed little back to the package originators and has had little positive benefit for other distributions - it is a cannibal. That is what businesses do, and its aggressive market approach has undoubtedly broadened the appeal of Linux with a single reference operating system.

More recently, Canonical has deliberately undermined several competing developments, and undermined individual developers with personal attacks. Again, that is what businesses do to their opponents.

In the longer term, Canonical (and Ubuntu) will not always be there, and will not always be free. The principal investor's aim is to make money, not to promote free and open source software. Hopefully Canonical will permit a vibrant free community to thrive - in fact there seems to be a sudden turning point right now where non-Canonical developers are deserting Ubuntu and contributing all their efforts either to other distributions or upstream.

I certainly will always provide packages, tutorial, bug reports and patches to the broad community and never directly to Ubuntu.

8.5/10 could do better

Although i've never used ubuntu as my distro of choice, I do respect the work they've done. They've definately showN a lot of distros and devs the way that Linux should be going. I'm not saying they are the only ones doing this, but they are quite high profile for Linux anyway, and they have a good quoteable figure head in Mark Shuttleworth. They could do better, but so could we all. I think their heart is in the right place, it's a difficult line to tread (open source/commercial success).

And they give bungs to the tuxradar podcast team, of course!!

z

Ubuntu FTW

The reason I use Linux is because of Ubuntu. It gets you set up with no hassle, has an excellent support community and just looks good. It's al thanks to Canonical and until they turn evil, I'll stick with them.

That warm fuzzy Microsoft feeling

I remember when I thought Microsoft were the bees knees, and Windows 98 (SE) was awesome. Here was a company who was bringing awesomeness to the wider world with versatile applications and an operating system that worked so well.

In recent years, Apple have done the same with their beautiful products and streamlined apps.

Five years ago I discovered Linux. Gnome 2.x and KDE 3.x were great, but didn't have much to differentiate from Apple amd MS's offerings, and whilst infinitely more versatile, would have struggled to compete in a true consumer market. Although I've stuck with Linux, I have to admit there were times when I wish it worked as well (or looked as good) as Apple and MS. I admit, at times, I felt some shame.

So, now Canonical are making a break for it. The Unity desktop might not suit die-hard Gnome users, but it may just be different and interesting enough to capture the imagination of a wider public. If this commercial push succeeds, then it will be good for free software. Unity, by the way seems very much in the same vein as Apple's iOS - it'll work well with mobile devices and hopefully with touchscreens, but as a full desktop environment (if such a term still applies) it is quite a departure from the default desktop layouts Linux has been copying from other OS's for the last decade.

Finally Canonical may have found a shortcut to take Linux and FOSS to the forefront of the end-user computing experience. I think we've become used to playing second-fiddle to the big boys, but I think we should also feel very proud to support Canonical with their endeavours. If we hadn't made Ubuntu the top distro, and allowed it to innovate, we wouldn't be having this discussion. What's worse: questioning Canonical's support for free software, or sitting in our basements wishing that we had such a big issue worth discussing?

Proprietary MP3 and DVD playback

...is validating software patents, and selling proprietary music, and they use proprietary server-side software for their cloud storage... no good.

They also seem to be doing their best to give the impression that Linux is 'buggy' and 'unpredictable' by hiring terrible software engineers who create 2 bugs with every bugfix, and rarely release those, either.

No they are not a good thing for free software.

Ultimately Canonical are a business.
Money is in charge of Canonical not freedom.

In the short term it's all been great but every time you took a piecemeal gift they where filling there future coffers.

Canonical are the free software version of a self service checkout. You do the work so they don't have to.

This happens in organizations

Historically churches have split in America over picayune issues like whether or not the church building should have indoor plumbing or if there should be Sunday School classes. The recent news erupting about Canonical is nothing new and is found in any corporate entity whether it is a community of faith or a community of software. Then again, how often are those two things different in the F/OSS world?

In our imperfect world Canonical is a good thing for free software. Fumbles and fouled steps are part of life especially relative to the operation of organizations.

Duh! Have you been paying attention?

Cannonical and Ubuntu have been saying from the beginning that they intend to be a for-profit business. Did you not see the writing on the wall? Eventually, all this free-as-in-beer goodness is going to take a back seat to making money.

Cannonical has never been a good friend to OSS, other than putting their name in front of the charge, in the spotlight. The adoption of Linux has not climbed at a higher rate since before Ubuntu, so even that argument is gone. They've never been big contributors to any major OSS project, including Gnome and the kernel, and they even got flack from Debian, from whom they owe everything to, for not being a good citizen in the Debian camp. They're plain bad for Linux.

Honestly, as much as I love Linux, it has come to the point that it's going to be purely community distros, and we have the likes of Ubuntu to thank for that. Prior to Ubuntu, companies like Suse, Mandrake, and Red Hat had commercial boxed solutions that actually brought some money in, which was much needed for the development of Linux. Now, after Ubuntu gave away CD's with their distro on them, stole the market completely out from under those companies, there is little revenue at all funneling into those companies from the users, and those are some of the, once, big names that developed a lot for Linux. Now, Novell is dissolved, Mandriva is virtually bankrupt, and that leaves just Red Hat spearheading major development for OSS projects. I hope they can soldier on...

If you love Linux, you owe it to yourself to shed the leeches of Cannonical and Ubuntu. That's just my opinion.

No

They used to be good, but as they're heading off in their own direction with the new user-interface etc. I think they'll be fragmenting Linux. I think they're trying to ape Apple, which IMHO is a bad move.

I'm seriously considering dumping Ubuntu and moving to Mint which as I understand it, has a more conventional UI.

They pointed the way

I think that Cannonical have pointed the way and provided a Linux OS for the common people to use pushing simplicity of use to the head of the list. Luckily many other distributions have picked up the gauntlet, with many being based upon Ubuntu itself, to provide a similar experience. Some have even expanded upon it, as in the case of Linux Mint.

Only time will show if Ubuntu's current direction is a good one but, as Linux Mint develops their Debian edition, the future will be secured, independent of Cannonical and Ubuntu.

Let's all support Canonical!

To write in a single sentence: "Ubuntu has made my life easy". One of the major critisicms from my hardcore Debian user friends is Canonical gives nothing back to the Community/Debian of which it's a derivative. Whatever they say, being a non-IT guy I am with Ubuntu for the simplicity it has brought about in all stages of usability. You go to Ubuntu website, and you are warmly greeted and easily led to the download options. Anyone who visits Ubuntu site would definitely like to give it a try. On the other hand Debian's homepage itself is too technical and the download options provided again need time to understand.

I firmly believe that if there is a large growth in the Linux user community its only because of Ubuntu. The six-month release cycle is very nice. You can stay updated with latest packages. With Debian like distros unless you know the differnce between stable and various other releases available, user's be driven away from Linux when they find an older version of office package in a stable release. Such a situation will never arise in Ubuntu.

Regarding usability and UI, Ubuntu always stands way above other distros. I have personally introduced Ubuntu to several of my friends and all of them admire Ubuntu. Also Canonical's focus on Business users and their newly updated business page gives in depth insights on how corporates and foundations derive benefits from Ubuntu. Seeing all this will make a user feel that "I am using an OS used by such large corporations". This will definitely boost one's faith on Linux.

So finally I would strongly suggest "Let's all support Canonical in its efforts to popularise Linux! Keeping aside the differences amongst ourselves, let's stay united and work towards taking Linux to Numero Uno position".

Well...

I don't really understand most of the arguments regarding them being "bad".
"Fragmenting the community" well first of all I don't think half the community knows what that word means and second of all with over 600 distributions I fail to see the problem.
"They only want to make money" well that is the goal in business no? And that has been clear from the beginning as well so it cant be that much of a surprise.
And my favorite complaint of all time "They have done nothing in the way of patches to the kernel". I'm going to make a wild guess that is probably an understatement in that 90% of the distributions never have.

In short I do not believe that they are doing anything that is worse then anyone else. They are on the other hand making one thing better then everyone, marketing. New users are never bad, it makes me seem like less of a noob.

Ultimately for the good of Free software

Firstly, in recent years I have had random coworkers telling me how they have installed Ubuntu or how they want to try out Ubuntu. Getting more people in itself is not good for Free software, but it is the other things that Canonical does that makes it better.

Ubuntu makes it easy to file meaningful bugs through launchpad and even moves the bugs upstream. Sure not every new user will file bugs, but it helps to lower the barrier.

Ubuntu developed a web framework to do translations. This goes back to the first point about increasing the number of users. Each user is a potential contributor to Free software.

Ubuntu is very welcoming to users. I have been in the Ubuntu IRC channel where most responses are extremely helpful. I see many LoCo communities that reach out to areas. The hope is that these new users will then start to participate and reach out to more new users. Remember, we were all new users at one point.

Recently Ubuntu has made waves by being featured in the media for making bad decisions. They will work through it. They will also realize that the more patches they maintain, the harder it is to be profitable.

In the end, bringing a new user to Free software is bringing a potential contributor to Free software. As long as they continue to encourage participation (hopefully in decisions, too) and continue to bring more users, they will be helpful to Free software.

Yes, Canonical have opened up Linux to millions

Canonical have opened up the world of Linux and FOSS to millions of computer users who might otherwise have steered clear of something that was not made by Microsoft or Apple. Linux is better for their contributions via Ubuntu and I have benefitted greatly.
When I decided to give up MS Windows some years ago, I knew that Linux would be a suitable choice. I had previously used RedHat, and had some issues with that, but after waiting a few years I expected Linux to be much better. I tried Xandros at first, which was okay but still had a few things that required a steep learning curve. Then I subscribed to Linux Format, and read about Ubuntu, and decided to try that.
Although Ubuntu has never been perfect, it does make using Linux so much easier than most other distros have done in the past. In more recent years, a lot of distros have made an effort to make things more usable, and this is good.
I believe that Canonical's contribution by giving us Ubuntu has made Linux in general better, and given us more usable operating systems. I even persuaded my girlfriend to give up Windows and get a new laptop with Ubuntu a couple of years ago, and she has no serious problems with it.
Ubuntu is the usable Linux that people like me waited a long time for. I also now use a derivative of Ubuntu (PinguyOS) on my netbook, with which I am writing this post.

I don't care

I don't care if Ubuntu is good or not for free software. Ubuntu works for me and it's my only OS. I can make my work, surf in the web, read my e-mails, listen my music, chat with my friends, view my pictures. And I do this in a friendly enviroment, highly customizable.It's enough for me.

Patches to the kernel

First of all, I just want to say that, yes, 90% of all the distros out there have not submitted patches to the kernel, or develop for it at all. The difference is that those are community distros. There is a certain burden when you're the number 1 distro: You need to contribute to the ecosystem! They don't.

Second, the kernel isn't the least bit of it. Their submissions to Gnome, KDE, and other projects are dismal. The only development they've done is for their own good, period. They even go so far as to act like technology they begin adding to their distro, such as Wayland, is something they created - except that they didn't...

Ubuntu is a distro that take all of the glory, but doesn't do the work to earn it. It was done by others. Red Hat and Novell, on the other hand, are/were pioneers in OSS development, creating projects like Mono, Plymouth, and Xgl, which began compositing and led the way for Compiz and native compositing in KDE and soon Gnome. Novell is sadly no longer.

If you have to ask you have

If you have to ask you have to ask.

Canonical is as good for free software as Google is.

Neither Google and Ubuntu are black or white cases simply because things are rarely black or white.
Id rather have them with us than against us but they do too many things which gives people ammunition.

Im not sure about how much they contribute to Gnome but the kernel and KDE contributions are meh...

Theyre not as bad as some claim but they dont get the royal handjob either.
You know, like with Google and Linux.

@LinuxLover: nothing like praising Mono in a discussion about free software. Im surprised you didnt throw in Microsoft MVP de Icaza in this discussion as well. We all need humour in the world. Why else would you mourn at the end a company who helped perpetuate the myth that Linux stole MS IP? When Steve Ballmer says that RH users like myself owe MS money because Linux steals from them, he mentions that Novell has paid their extortion scheme and they have the 'Legit' Linux. For that fake and false division, may they burn in Attachmate hell.

Progressive Distro

Ubuntu is a progressive distro that helps pave the way for improvement. It implements new features like mono and unity and provides a platform for distros like Mint and Jolicloud. Unique and friendly systems like Jolicloud make Linux better and more accessible to newcomers; therefore, I think Ubuntu serves as a source for good in this way.

Keep it short

Well, the guys at LXF Towers certainly know my opinion on this subject, so I'll keep it short and simple.

In the beginning, Canonical/Ubuntu did all the right things (as far as the end user is concerned). As I have stated before, if it wasn't for Ubuntu, I would never have transitioned to Debian, and now Arch, and would probably still be using that other wall orifice installation.

But lately, well, let's just say we have seen Dr Jekyll in the past, but over the last year or so, Mr Hyde has certainly been rearing his ugly head.

Cheers.

canonical is bad

My problem with Ubuntu and Canonical is that they do all things their way only.

After being an active Debian developer during 1998-2001 and using only Debian Unstable, I've switched to Ubuntu around 8.10. Around 9.10 I've started to be annoyed by the direction Canonical imposed to Ubuntu and how they "improved" the software stack. Around 10.04 I've switched to Fedora.

For me, the worst thing Canonical has done is that a lot of projects are releasing now their software packaged only for Ubuntu or "tested only on Ubuntu".

Yes, it is not the end of the world, but it constantly annoys me.

Canonical: a for-profit organisation

Canonical have been good for FOSS imho - ignoring any lack of back-contributions to the projects they use, they undoubted have raised the profile of FOSS. If you look at pretty much any general computing magazine, and find a reader letter that asks about trying Linux, the advice will be "try Ubuntu". And if that wasn't enough, where's the "Debian User" or "Fedora User" magazine? Because my local newsagent stocks "Ubuntu User"!

I get really hacked off by folks saying how Canonical are evil, but Fedora is good. This conveniently forgets that Fedora is used as a testbed for RHEL - which definitely isn't free! So to slag off Canonical for wanting to make money is a bit hypocritical.

As to their arguments with Banshee and Gnome, well the former got settled in a pretty even-handed manner, and I've no reason to think that the Gnome one won't also be the subject of a similar amicable meeting-of-minds.

What I _will_ hate Canonical is for less-than-exemplary quality control, and for foisting that abortion called Unity on the world. I also get a little concerned that they're heading towards an Apple-like "we know what's good for you, now shut up and drink the kool aid".

That said, I use Ubuntu pretty much every day (64bit 10.04LTS - it's the host OS for the VM's that I use for my work), and other than Debian itself I have no real alternative on the horizon. Although Ubuntu Netbook Remix recently got demoted on my laptop because Meego is just so much better (no Unity claptrap for a start!)

Canonical: a for-profit organisation (part 2)

Ahem, I also forgot to mention that you shouldn't be reading Ubuntu User when Linux Format is also available. ;-)

Overall Canonical have done

Overall Canonical have done a good job in bringing Linux to forefront. The distribution that we currently have is brilliant. I use it all the time, both personally and for work. I also recommend it to anybody that will listen. Sometimes even those that don't ;)

Obviously they have also done things recently that a lot of people don't agree with. Some of these I don't agree with too. But obviously I don't know everything about has been going on and how much is actually propaganda.

But I have a few comments.

1.) Banshee - If Canonical wanted to change the referrer code, they should have run it by the Banshee team first. To at least get a yes, no or a compromise.

2.) Gnome - The tech press seems to be saying that there is a certain level of difficultly working with the Gnome team to get things done or agreed. Maybe it would have actually been a good idea to get the Canonical and Gnome people in the same room to address some of the issues. Maybe even to get Canonical people to go to Gnome conferences.

3.) Upstream - Ubuntu owes a lot to Debian and others. Committing changes back upstream is a requirement. It is not optional.

4.) Unity - It was a bold step to change the user interface. I tried the Alpha 1 and found it unusable. That has probably changed by now, as I know it was moved on a lot. We will only really find out if this is accepted after release. I will give it a my best shot though. I hope everybody else does too. :)

I am sure that Canonical will listen and do their best to have a more community driven focus in future. However they are also a business and need to make money. Which is fine and I support that. Everybody goes through teething pains. But everybody gets over it. Canonical will too. They have done so much more that is positive than things that aren't. Hopefully they can continue to make linux great.

DEX

Just to clarify, DEX is not a Canonical project. It is a joint project between Debian and Ubuntu developers.

- mdz (DEX co-founder)

I am going to sit out this

I am going to sit out this one, as I see myself as too much of a Ubuntu fanboy.

YES

Canonical is the best thing that could happen to FS. I very much hope it is part of the natural evolution of FS and not an episode.

What controversies?

It is inevitable in any community that there will be some disagreements between people. If we to take one step back we might realize that all our flamewars are no more then minor disagreements, and in the grand scheme of things - polite disagreements. It is simply Canonical's footprint that allow relatively large number of people to disagree with their decisions.

Also the notion of "helping free software" or "helping Linux" is nebulous. Phrasing this discussion in those terms invites more disagreements.

Personally, I can testify that Canonical helps me to use Linux and Free software, even though my distribution of choice isn't one of the *buntus nor a *buntu derivative.

* It helps me because I use the same upstream software as the *buntus, and enjoy Canonical's changes and patches.
* It helps me to find solutions to my computing problems, because more people are likely to come across them.
* It helps me find more Linux compatible hardware.
* It helps me to put pressure on web sites to support something other then Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer.[1]

____
[1] Perhaps one day someone from my credit card's website will understand that installing the IE-Tab Firefox extension is not a substitution for standards compliance.

Canonical Used to Rock

But they're polarizing the community now and trying to become the new Open Office of the linux world.

I like what they've done for FOSS; Just try using a distro other than Ubuntu, and you'll find yourself missing many of the little things you take for granted in Ubuntu (example, enabling desktop effects with the click of a button).

I really hope they stop this copyright assignment thing with Unity, and/or work with the GNOME community to make GNOME 3 the most daring and awesome desktop in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Good, But With Reservations

While Canonical may have introduced some people to Linux, it seems to me that Canonical introduced people to Linux in much the same way that AOL introduced some people to the Internet.

So, I would like to suggest that Ubuntu may be the AOL of Linux.

Yes, with a window for greater transparency

It's a great thing for free software, and a lot of the necessary code is out there in public branches, and so is the decision-making (ayatana mailing lists, irc) - but I'd love a greater degree of respect for opposing views (global menu? love that it's easily removable, but it's not an option per se).

Well,

Ubuntu brought me to the world of Linux - surely that's the best thing to have happened to free software so far?!

Even if they are bad its still good

What Canonical have done is introduce many to Linux, love or hate Ubuntu you cannot argue that it has helped grow the user base of Linux, this has the effect of hooking people to open source and free software.

what they do next is up to them, but if people don't like the direction they are taking it is unlikely that they are going to migrate back to windows or Mac Os.

The next release of Ubuntu will introduce even more users to Linux, people who use it now will either upgrade, stay with a old distro or migrate to another Linux distro, it will not turn that many away though.

My bet is that Fedora and Mint will benefit from all of this.

Canonical, Ubuntu and fanboys

Of course it is.

Canonical brought us Ubuntu, the first shed of light since the Mandriva glory days. "Linux for human beings" was great and every linux geek came out of the closet to show the world that linux was a real desktop option. Canonical made some decisions based on the opensource way (change code as you see fit), like the Banshee changes, and they got burned by the community because it was not an ethical position (it was legal, but it was a cheap shot).

Then Ubuntu user base grew and it became the Microsoft Windows of linux. Every hardcore geek just hated it because he/she had the right to do it (either for the changes they introduced or because an average Joe was able to use a linux box). Ubuntu became not only a linux distribution, it has become the linux every non geek knows about.

With the users came the fanboys, they roam in identi.ca, twitter, facebook and any social network you can think of. They rub in your face that Ubuntu is the No.1 distro because it is easy to use, most searches on google than the term linux, distrowatch click counts, etc, etc. They are the ones that make people think that Canonical+Ubuntu are bad for opensource, but then again, we also have opensource fanboys.

They could be much worse.

Canonical is better for free software than Apple is, and that's good enough for me. Then again, just about any company is good for free software when compared to Apple.

On balance, yes.

Lots of good comments here. I tend to see people's views on FLOSS/Open Source software falling somewhere on a spectrum:

Bill Gates---------------'meh'---------------RMS

And I suspect that their view on Canonical is quite tightly linked to where they are on that spectrum; the closer to the RMS end, the harsher view they are likely to take on some of Canonicals actions.

I take a pragmatic view and, although I greatly respect RMS's position, I like stuff to just work, so I happily use the closed nvidia graphics drivers, for example.

So I think Canonical have done a fantastic job in promoting an easy-to-install-and-use Linux environment that really does act as a lot of people's first step away from Windows and towards the Open Source arena. For me, that is enough. It will never be enough for the hard freedom advocates and I hope they carry on such that a completely free-as-in-freedom Linux distro comes about that works on all hardware, everywhere.

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