Mark Shuttleworth’s PR stunt to make Canonical not look like a leecher

I read Mark Shuttleworth’s long and boring post “Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption”, and I have to say it’s a very good PR stunt, waving the issues, repeating mantra, and trying to focus on irrelevant stuff.

So lets concentrate on the real issue; collaboration. Collaboration is quintessential for open source; if you don’t have it, you are playing a different game. So is Canonical collaborating? Well… No. Mark tries to wave the issue by saying that the fact that “but Canonical doesn’t do X” is not relevant, what is relevant is that they do so much more (X being collaboration). That’s like saying “we are a good light bulb, except that we don’t produce light”, well, no, you are simply not.

That should be enough to convince anyone with half a brain that Canonical is not really an open source player, but let’s see some of the other arguments (not that it can bring back his case to life).

Canonical’s main contribution is attracting many users. Really? A company tries to have as many users as possible for their product… shocking! Let’s imagine a hypothetical twin company called Selfish Canonical, how would they differ in this respect? They would also attract users, and therefore spread open source, just like Tivo, but that doesn’t make them members of the community; that’s just self-interest.

Mark also tries to make a looong list of things they do in Ubuntu, and all those things are very welcome… by the Ubuntu community. But what about us? The rest of the linux community receives virtually nothing from Canonical. They like to compare themselves to the linux kernel, GNU, GNOME, X, KDE as part of a bigger thing, but they are not. Each part of puzzle on a linux ecosystem collaborates with each other, including the distribution, like debian, fedora, archlinux. Ubuntu is nothing like that. Whatever Canonical develops for Ubuntu, is for Ubuntu alone, and they couldn’t care less if other people are able to use it or not, in fact, they most probably would rather not.

And finally, Mark tried to explain that they fill a niche nobody else is filling, in being able to bring linux to big organizations… Here he is just lying through his teeth, as I think he most probably has heard of RedHat, who by the way somehow manages to collaborate with “upstream”.

How can anyone swallow any of this? Canonical is a leech, and that’s that.

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6 thoughts on “Mark Shuttleworth’s PR stunt to make Canonical not look like a leecher

  1. I do believe they have benefited the Linux community in general _a shit lot_. Without ubuntu, most company wouldn’t have that many Linux desktops (including Nokia!). Fedora or Debian are just the same we had 10 years ago: not good enough for the rest of us. Ubuntu has been rising that bar, making sure it runs well on most laptop & desktop freshly installed, be appealing and easy to use, with the right tools pre-installed etc… You just can’t deny the big benefit it has been (and still is) to bring millions? of people in the Linux world. I think that’s the kind of contribution Mark is talking about. And the proof of this success is that Canonical is growing, and is devoted (the company and the employee) to making things on Linux works better. The fact that they have their own projects/forks is really not that big of an issue, anyway, a large majority of it is open-source and could be used in the future. The upstream contribution figures should be taken with distance: they clearly do not reflect the truth about contribution to Linux in general.

  2. @marc-andre Fedora is most certainly not the same than 10 years ago. Pulseaudio, KMS, plymouth, PackageKit, systemd, udisks, all these are innovations that are funded, or encouraged by RedHat. Once all the work is done in Fedora, Ubuntu picks them, quite often dropping their custom solutions, like Usplash. And there are many other companies that contribute to the linux ecosystem, something Ubuntu benefits from.

    Sure, Ubuntu gives a lot to their “millions” of users, the argument is what do they give to the linux community… not Ubuntu users. That’s like a priest trying to argue against pedophile acts in the basis of being a good priest. How does Canonical wave the complaints that they are leeching and not collaborating with the rest of the community? “We are successful” they say, well duh! that doesn’t make them any less selfish or evil.

    The fact that they have their own project/forks might not be a big issue to you (perhaps because you benefit from them), but let’s translate that to “the fact that they don’t collaborate is not a big issue”, maybe it’s big, maybe it’s not, maybe you can argue that it’s not an issue at all, but the fact remains that they don’t collaborate, that’s all people are saying, and that’s what Canonical wants to spin.

    A company that takes from the community, and doesn’t give back is by definition a leecher, regardless of how successful they are in fulfilling their own self-interest.

  3. Yeah, Canonical is not playing the Open Source game. They are in other field: the common software packaging, QA and distribution. Yes, it’s unfair for the open source community, yes they are leeches under that analysis.

    But, on the other hand, without Canonical, my parents would be using MS Windows, crying at me each time they were stuck with virus and malware. And I, personally, appreciate that.

    Canonical efforts are only in one direction: make the users forget about their software and focus on their tasks.

    But I hope some day Fedora, SuSe or whatever would achieve the same and, at the same time, play well with the community.

  4. @ceyusa Indeed, they definitely do some good (or so I’m told), just not in the linux community, and mostly due to self-interest.

    If they said “we don’t collaborate, we are busy building something different”, well, that would be fine, they would be honest, and people wouldn’t expect them to contribute. But if they try to paint themselves as members of the linux community, that’s where the picture doesn’t fit; they shouldn’t do that. That’s just a PR stunt.

    I do wonder exactly why people say Ubuntu just works, my Fedora system does the same, my only guess is that they haven’t tried Fedora. I have cousin that is a software engineer (@kluzter ;)) and couldn’t get his Ubuntu system working properly… after hours of fiddling around, which involved googling the problem, and trying to find an option to disable 3D effects, I had to manually create an xorg configuration and disable aiglx there so that 3D couldn’t be used from the desktop, of course first I had to find a way to boot to console which wasn’t trivial because Ubuntu doesn’t have console terminals like any other linux system does. I wonder how any grandparent is supposed to find that friendly, or a software engineer for that matter. In Fedora you go to preferences, desktop effects: off.

    But that’s a separate discussion, first people should accept the fact that Canonical doesn’t collaborate, but apparently they are too good at indoctrinating their users to deny that truth.

  5. Truthfully, I think they’ve all gone a bit COO COO.
    You’ll see what I mean soon.

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