Banshee and Ubuntu

March 2nd, 2011 by lucas

[ If you haven’t heard of this debate yet, you probably want to read Vincent Untz’s and Mark Shuttleworth’s blog posts. ]

Last year, I gave a talk at FOSDEM about Debian and Ubuntu (slides of a slightly updated version). One of my points was that Debian has better values, being a volunteer-driven project where decisions are taken in the open.

In contrast, Ubuntu is a project managed and controlled by Canonical, and recent history has shown that Canonical had no problem imposing some decisions to the developers community: first with the inclusion of UbuntuOne, then the switch from Google to Yahoo! to Google as the default search engine, both to increase revenue streams.

So one should not be surprised by the Banshee story. I find Mark’s justification quite difficult to buy, and similar to Apple’s model where 30% of the revenues from the App Store go to Apple, and 70% to the seller of the application.

For those wondering how much work was done by Canonical directly on the Banshee package: the banshee package in Ubuntu natty is based on the package currently in Debian experimental. The package is mainly maintained in Debian by an Ubuntu developer not paid by Canonical AFAIK, Chow Loong Jin. There are some differences between the Debian package and the Ubuntu package, which are fairly limited (full diff here) and mainly about enabling UbuntuOne and disabling the other music stores. That patch itself apparently was provided by Jo Shields, who doesn’t seem to be a canonical employee. (Feel free to correct me)

I think that one of the conclusions to draw from this story is that we now have several proofs that Ubuntu isn’t a volunteer-driven project, and that volunteer contributors should really decide whether they are OK with working for free for Canonical, or if their free time would be better spent on other projects where they actually have a chance to influence decisions. From the Debian POV, I’m still convinced that we should take the feedback that we receive from Ubuntu in consideration to improve our Debian packages (by looking at patches made by Ubuntu, or at bugs reported in Launchpad). But my motivation for contributing to Ubuntu directly has just diminished a bit more (not that it was very high before).

63 Responses to “Banshee and Ubuntu”

  1. Lukas wrote on 03/2/11 at 1:11 pm :

    I have nothing to say regarding the morality of these decisions, but please be exact in the numbers you quote: Apple gets 30% of the money people pay for apps and content. That’s a *vast* amount of money.

    Canonical and GNOME via Banshee get a share of the money that amazon pays to their affiliates – I don’t know the exact numbers, but that’s likely not more than one or two cents per song, if at all.

    So, we’re talking about 75/25% of 1% of what people pay, and not about 75/25% of 30% of what people pay when compared to apple. You’re not comparing apples to apples here, and yes, pun intended ;)

    Kind regards,

  2. foo wrote on 03/2/11 at 1:13 pm :

    By that argument, no-one should work on Debian since we are working for free for Canonical.

  3. regala wrote on 03/2/11 at 1:25 pm :

    @Lukas: frankly, whatever numbers are, Canonical taking 3/4 of what should have been donated to Gnome, whereas the contribution from Ubuntu/Canonical to this package amounts strictly to the patch that enabled that robbery and disabled any other store than Canonical’s, is utterly disgusting crappy behaviour.
    Legally, it is “right”, morally and ethically, it is fuck. Don’t play dumb, and just put away the morality lessons about freedom and so forth that lurk abusively on the Ubuntu website. Mark S. may be afraid that Canonical will never be afloat, but is not afraid to make fool of entire projects.

  4. 2s4u wrote on 03/2/11 at 1:36 pm :

    You might want to compare Apples Billions of profit to Canonicals not existing profit next time before You start throwing shit at people who did contribute MUCH more to Linux than You will ever do in Your whole life.

  5. wrote on 03/2/11 at 1:55 pm :

    Doing the right thing…

    Canonical is doing the right thing. Yes morally as well. By choosing the MIT/X11 license instead of the GPL the Banshee developer explicitly allow using Banshee in a closed-source for-profit project without giving back anything. To start whining about …

  6. merez wrote on 03/2/11 at 1:56 pm :

    Canonical is leech.

  7. merez wrote on 03/2/11 at 1:58 pm :

    Yes it’s legal, but morally broken.

  8. baubau wrote on 03/2/11 at 2:35 pm :

    Lucas, you’re so right on all fronts! Why would one want to contribute when he has no control over his contributions? He’d be better off with Debian, being a do-ocracy AND democracy, where who does the job gets to decide, and is respected rather than bashed.

    Canonical is like those leeches that get so fat from sucking blood around that sooner or later they burst in solitude. Or starve to death, once every living thing around chooses community survival rather than feeding the parasitic dictator of the pond.

    Canonical, I’m sincerely waiting for you to disappear from the Linux ecosystem.

  9. buntudude wrote on 03/2/11 at 3:26 pm :

    @merez: At least Canonical is providing me an excellent free OS which no one has ever done. How about you?

  10. Stefan wrote on 03/2/11 at 3:27 pm :

    I was so determined to not fall for the “there-is-someone-wrong-on-the-internet” again, but…

    It should be noted that your descriptions and your conclusions don’t fit together:

    desc1) The Banshee package is maintained by an Ubuntu developer.
    concl1) The Banshee package is copied from Debian and Ubuntu people do not work on it.

    desc2) This developer is not paid by Canonical but is a volunteer.
    concl2) Ubuntu is not a volunteer driven project.

    Really?! Read your post again. Add some logic.

  11. Lucas wrote on 03/2/11 at 3:31 pm :

    1) The Debian package is maintained by a volunteer who also happens to volunteer in Ubuntu. That’s a great example of Debian/Ubuntu collaboration. However, that volunteer is not affiliated to Canonical.

    2) You might want to check your definition of “driven”.

  12. Stefan wrote on 03/2/11 at 3:55 pm :

    driven: Caused, sustained, stimulated, powered, operated, or controlled

    So: yes Ubuntu is driven by Canonical (e.g. caused, operated). But if you look at the amount of contributions (code, translations, promotion, …), Ubuntu can be clearly regarded as powered, operated, sustained, stimulated,… by volunteers.

    The main point is the question if a preference (something set to a default value) is better introduced by the one who develops the software, maintaines the package or by someone else. The answer is not always “the maintainer” or “the developer”.

    Why should I like the decision of the Banshee developers to give the money to the Gnome Foundation? I would like to either get the money myself, give it to a friend or to Canonical. Why should that be a better default?

  13. merez wrote on 03/2/11 at 4:20 pm :

    No, Canonical is providing you only a fork Debian.

    Debian is providing me an excellent GNU/Linux. How about you leeche?

  14. Normand wrote on 03/2/11 at 4:21 pm :

    Why are people mixing morality with this issue? Is it because Canonical is involved here? People like to sh!t on who is on top of the pile, and yes Ubuntu is top in Linux.

    The real issue, as I see it, is that Canonical gave the choice to the Banshee team if they wanted to take out the Amazon plugin or get 25% of the revenue donated to Gnome. Why did Canonical give the choice when they already had made up their minds for the 75/25 split? It would have been a lot better if Canonical did not give a choice to the Banshee team and simply taken the 75% or even 100% if they wanted, but they wanted to look good.

    The Banshee team chose the MIT/X11 license, they must live with that choice. Why hasn’t Canonical lived up with their choice?

  15. [mp] Ancora su Ubuntu e Banshee « Idl3's Blog wrote on 03/2/11 at 4:50 pm :

    [...] secondo post “contro-Canonical“ e’ di Lucas Nussbaum: “we now have several proofs that Ubuntu isn’t a [...]

  16. stapel wrote on 03/2/11 at 6:39 pm :

    All the software in the linux stack is built on top of other software. Even Banshee is build on top of amongst other things Mono. The license that Banshee chose (and as I understand it most open source licenses), gives anyone the explicit right to take that code as is and even sell it for profit. That is the beauty of open source! Otherwise no-one will ever be able to make any money from any open source software, because all the money would have to be distributed to the direct contributors by some very complex attribution resolution process.

    Canonical puts much more money in the Linux ecosystem than they currently take out (thanks to Mark). They happen to make Ubuntu possible which happens to be an excellent distro that tries to involve the community and even give 25% of their profit back upstream.

    Mark by way of Canonical is trying to prove a very difficult thing: That it is possible for a company to be profitable by making a totally free (as in beer) desktop distro that they give a way and then they try and make some money through services (like music store) around that distro. The only way that is possible of course is by using open source software.

    Apparently these open source licenses should be changed to: You can take the code and do with it what you like, but only if we like you.

  17. Jono Bacon wrote on 03/2/11 at 6:42 pm :

    “I think that one of the conclusions to draw from this story is that we now have several proofs that Ubuntu isn’t a volunteer-driven project, and that volunteer contributors should really decide whether they are OK with working for free for Canonical, or if their free time would be better spent on other projects where they actually have a chance to influence decisions”.

    That is unfair. Ubuntu *is* a volunteer-driven project, but that doesn’t mean that all decisions are made by volunteers. Your statement infers that Canonical makes all the decisions and volunteers just do the heavy lifting to implement them – that is untrue.

  18. buntudude wrote on 03/2/11 at 6:59 pm :

    @merez. You are just reiterating your point. I know Ubuntu is a fork of Debian but the latter cannot provide me the same experience the former can.

  19. oliver wrote on 03/2/11 at 7:08 pm :

    “…volunteer contributors should really decide whether they are OK with working for free for Canonical, or if their free time would be better spent on other projects where they actually have a chance to influence decisions”

    Influencing decisions is nice, and working for free leaves a bad taste; you’re quite right there. What’s left out is: many people actually use Ubuntu as their desktop system; and these people will directly benefit from any own work they do on Ubuntu. That’s a pretty good reason to work on Ubuntu: scratch your own itch, and improve the software you use daily.

  20. jg wrote on 03/2/11 at 9:45 pm :

    buntudude writes “At least Canonical is providing me an excellent free OS which no one has ever done.”

    Oh really? Spoken like the typical Ubuntu user. Ubuntu users seem to be woefully ignorant of Linux and its ecosystem, which undoubtably accounts for their undying support of a corporate leech like Canonical. Obviously, he doesn’t know about the multitude of free distros out there, including the one whose work Canonical most repackages as its own: Debian.

    And unlike Canonical, Debian doesn’t take the work of others, and then have the nerve to run off with their donations too.

    Let’s face it: The typical Ubuntu user is a former Windows gamer who got some trojan while installing pirated software, and then his WOW buddy gave him an Ubuntu CD. His buddy told him it was impervious to trojans and it was free. Now the guy’s that same annoying fanboi, but this time it’s Ubuntu instead of Win 7. He doesn’t know about, nor understand, the FOSS ecosystem. He just wants free software like he had pirating on Windows, and he doesn’t care who gets ethically screwed over for him to have it. Canonical is his perfect “partner”.

  21. Jono Bacon wrote on 03/2/11 at 11:07 pm :


    “Let’s face it: The typical Ubuntu user is a former Windows gamer who got some trojan while installing pirated software, and then his WOW buddy gave him an Ubuntu CD. His buddy told him it was impervious to trojans and it was free. Now the guy’s that same annoying fanboi, but this time it’s Ubuntu instead of Win 7. He doesn’t know about, nor understand, the FOSS ecosystem. He just wants free software like he had pirating on Windows, and he doesn’t care who gets ethically screwed over for him to have it. Canonical is his perfect “partner”.”

    What is wrong with Windows users wanting to use Ubuntu? Also, why on earth should we require our users to have an understanding of the FOSS ecosystem? Our contributors and developers, maybe, but why can’t our users just enjoy the product of the FOSS ecosystem?

  22. Jef Spaleta wrote on 03/3/11 at 3:08 am :


    Why do many western societies require that civics be taught in schools. Why do the same western societies require that immigrants looking for citizenship be required to learn about the political structures.

    Why can’t they just live there and enjoy the product of the political system?

    Maybe because ultimately an informed community that understands the social-political pressures which shape and form the community-at-large is vital in sustaining and nurturing the framework that makes the it all work. Because ultimately the FOSS ecosystem is a participatory culture. It may not be democractic..but it is participatory and its in its own best interest to have those who use the results understand why the FOSS culture is what it is..even if they don’t have the technical skills to participate.


  23. Paul McGarry wrote on 03/3/11 at 3:30 am :

    If you want a volunteer driven OS then one which only uses volunteers seems like an obvious choice, no great surprise there.

    If you want a community driven OS then I think Ubuntu is a reasonable choice but only if you are willing to consider Canonical as part of the community.

    From what I have seen everyone in Debian doesn’t agree all the time! There are disagreements but at the end of the day (or beginning if changes are made from which disagreements later emerge) the people empowered to make the decisions do so for reasons that make sense to them.

    I don’t really see how Ubuntu is much different. Perhaps Ubuntu has more diversity in the motivations of it’s community members but in my opinion that is what makes it so interesting.

    The additional commercial imperative to get the software in front of as many people as possible that Canonical brings has clearly helped greatly in getting Free Software on more peoples desktops and also caused them to undertake some interesting (and sometimes successful) new directions.

    That imperative may sometimes lead to results that would be different from a purely non-commercial distribution. But even if you consider those differences as “negatives” I think it is a mistake not to also consider the attendant positives.

    (Which isn’t to say that the Ubuntu community is necessarily the right one for you, just that it is one that many might consider interesting)

  24. Anonymous Coward wrote on 03/3/11 at 7:00 am :

    I looked at your FOSDEM slides. Debian is irrelevant? C’mon, man. Saying Debian is irrelevant is like saying water is irrelevant because everyone is drinking Kool-Aid. You have emails for both organizations, so you should realize such talk might be insulting. You could say instead that Debian is “not as popular” which is actually true, vs “irrelevant” which is totally false.

  25. Aoirthoir An Broc wrote on 03/3/11 at 7:06 am :


    Serious, you’re joking? First the commenter wasn’t claiming they be REQUIRED to learn the Free Software ethos. Rather was pointing out why so many think that Ubuntu is the only Operating System EVER offered for free. This is an ENTIRELY FALSE claim. EDUCATING people about Free Software ideals is not REQUIRING people to learn about it.

    I’m on Canonical’s side in all of this frankly (as far as the donation thing goes). Had they instead been Xerox or IBM or some other corporation that instead proprietarized some code that used a “less restrictive” license than the GPL (thereby making that code actually MORE restrictive) we’d not be hearing a peep. How do I know? Because it happens ALL OF THE TIME. In fact it’s one of the things that causes these other licenses to be lauded as “MORE” permissive than the GPL. But Canonical does something FAR LESS restrictive and all of hte sudden they are rotten evil immoral people. It’s a ridiculous claim to make about Canonical.

    However, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t rightly point out that Ubuntu and Canonical need to do a FAR BETTER job about explaining Free Software ideals to people.

    Kind Regards,

  26. Phoenixskywalker wrote on 03/3/11 at 2:56 pm :

    Everyone seems to be bashing Ubuntu lately about stuffs that seem kinda trivial to me, IMHO. I’d like all that are bashing Ubuntu to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Ubuntu might not be contributing s lot to FOSS in terms of codes and stuffs like that but there is one (at least to me) major area they have no rival and to some extent no close second (if there’s any second). That area is availability. Before Ubuntu came around, 1% or less of Africans have heard of Linux nor actually used it. But thru Cannonical, Linux has been delivered FREE OF CHARGE to millions of people worldwide and has given people like me the opportunity to try (thanks to it as well) and come to love it. Where was Debian and the other distros then? Do you honestly think that everybody has access to the internet like you do, let alone a fast and cheap one to download a distro that you might regret even trying? Mark might not be contributing to FOSS the way or as much as you all expect him to but he is still contributing heavily the way he knows how to. Yes, you might argue he has the money and can afford to spend it so but so does REDHAT, NOVELL and some others but they don’t do it. I’m not totally down to all decisions being made by Cannonical on Ubuntu but I have a choice. I either live with it, (try to change it, if its a feature change or something like that) or jump ship. I suggest to all those not happy with Ubuntu to do the same and not come online and whine about it. After all, if you don’t like, then simply FORK it like Linux Mint, Pinguy and a host of others. Just my 2 cents.

  27. Phoenixskywalker wrote on 03/3/11 at 3:17 pm :

    Kinda forgot to add this. Have anybody ever asked how Cannonical has mannaged to stay afloat for the last 7 years without making a single profit and yet they keep sending their cds to remote places around the world for free? Personally, I don’t think Mark has a goose that lays a golden egg for him, so what’s wrong with making a little bit of money now since he has been losing for the past 7 years. RedHat and Novell has been doing the same and no one is complaining. One can’t even download a RedHat iso and try it out without subscribing first, at least that what I met with when I tried downloading it when they released RHEL6 and please don’t tell me that Fedora is Redhat community fork or stuffs like that cos I could easily point to Linux Mint for those not happy with Ubuntu commercialization efforts.
    @Jef Spaleta. I bet you are well informed on every manufacturer you use their products right? Including clothes, cars, groceries etc. For crying out loud, you are the type that makes people think that FOSS ecology are filled with communists and such. We the simple users just want to use the products without involving ourselves with the intricacies of manufacturing it. We usually expect that to be settled within the producers and its employees. Do you go to a restaurant and order steak and then proceed to ask how the animal was killed, if it was done humanely or not? Come on, that sort of thinking wouldn’t get the community very far and it was such that kept it from being mainstream in a long time before the advent of Ubuntu.

  28. regala wrote on 03/3/11 at 3:35 pm :

    @Phoenixskywalker: please read carefully. No problem with Ubuntu here, problem is with Canonical (only 2 “n”‘s) management.
    I will try and repeat slowly.
    1) They proposed 2 deals to the Banshee team.
    2) The Banshee team chose one.
    3) Canonical hoped secretly the Banshee team took the other choice. They took back their WORD. How any business could TRUST Canonical on any agreement ? How ?

    The other problem that may strike you here. Yes Canonical has to make money, else it won’t stay long. But leeching money that otherwise would have gone to a NON-PROFIT organization to insert it into a PURE CORPORATE organization that responds to n one of any of the advocates of the spoiled non-profit organization cannot be accepted. And no, Canonical never assured (actually they can’t) that money would be used on FOSS projects.
    The problem is not Ubuntu, and somehow, only Ubuntu fanboys like you tend to be cool with this robbery of a non-profit organization. Some of the Ubuntu developers that aren’t Canonical employees aren’t at ease at all with this. But keep the blindfold where it is, you make a perfect noddy Canonical advocate. They screwed up things because Canonical management doesn’t care about the ideas behind Ubuntu.

  29. Lucas wrote on 03/3/11 at 3:53 pm :

    @regala: I disagree that it is robbery. Robbery is illegal. What Canonical is doing is legal. The problem is with morality.

  30. Lucas wrote on 03/3/11 at 4:01 pm :

    Also, interesting fact: indicates that the GNOME foundation received $1,227 from affiliate programs for Apr-May-Jun 2010.
    I’m surprised that Canonical takes such a destructive decision (for their image) for such a low amount of money.

  31. Stefano Zacchiroli wrote on 03/3/11 at 4:16 pm :

    @Jono Bacon:

    That is unfair. Ubuntu *is* a volunteer-driven project, but that doesn’t mean that all decisions are made by volunteers. Your statement infers that Canonical makes all the decisions and volunteers just do the heavy lifting to implement them – that is untrue.

    I don’t think Lucas comment was unfair, rather, it seems to me that what you’re proposing here is an oxymoron. My own definition of “$something $foo-driven”, is that $foo is enabled to drive $something, i.e. $foo is enabled to make all *relevant* decisions about $something. Maybe I’m nitpicking too much, but I don’t think you can claim that $something is $foo-driven if there are relevant choices that $foo cannot make (and even less so if that routinely happens).

    Disclaimer: clearly I’ve an interest here in promoting the Debian model, which *is* volunteer-driven according to the above definition. But I don’t think all this Canonical/GNOME/Banshee mess is lame bashing. Rather I believe it shows how difficult it is to mix corporate and community governance models.

    If this mess shows anything, is that (at least some of) the current mixed corporate/community governance models we have are not yet good enough to make all stakeholders happy.

  32. regala wrote on 03/3/11 at 4:39 pm :

    @Lucas: yes, you’re right, I’ll try and refrain myself from such ill short-cuts from now.

  33. Phoenixskywalker wrote on 03/3/11 at 6:53 pm :

    @regala, well, I think its nice to be a fan boi of a company that I have gained immensely from. From your response and I quote 1) They proposed 2 deals to the Banshee team.
    2) The Banshee team chose one.
    3) Canonical hoped secretly the Banshee team took the other choice. They took back their WORD. How any business could TRUST Canonical on any agreement ? How ?” end quote. Correct me if am wrong but from this response the problem you have with Cannonical is that they “SECRETLY” hoped the Banshee team took the other choice and that is supposed to be bad? When you give someone a choice, you naturally hope the person would go with the one you favour most, its part of what makes us human unless programmers like you have writen a code to suppressor terminate that. At least, they gave them a choice and it wasn’t imposed upon them in anyway, besides, don’t you think that Banshee has a lot to gain from this arrangement? Being the default music player sometimes means being the only music player for some, and that means reaching to far more users than it did before. And I have seen debates about Banshee using mono and some people not wanting to even install it cos of that. But by being the default, some of these folks can actually use it while they wait for their favorite player to be installed, and while at it, they might see one or two reasons to use it a little longer, try out one or two features that it has that their favorite player doesn’t. I myself prefer banshee to rhythmbox, but due to the terrible internet access we have here, I sometimes stick to rhythmbox and by doing that, I’ve come to appreciate rhythmbox more than I used to before. If something like this could happen in the case of banshee, that means more users and possibly, more income generated. Now, whats bad in Cannonical proposing a percentage share of the income since it was largely due to its product influence? You call it robbery, I don’t. It somehow makes me wonder if rhythmbox is donating to the gnome foundation like banshee is, and if not, what would folks like you say if cannonical approached rhythmbox with the same offer? I bet you would manage to find a way to call it robbery too. Maybe I am missing something here and I doubt you would be kind enough to point it out without being rude.

  34. nnonix wrote on 03/3/11 at 6:56 pm :

    I’m surprised that anyone is surprised. Nothing here was done in the dark. Mark spoke years ago about proving that business can make money from free software without trial software and restrictive terms and conditions. Ubuntu remains free for both the code and updates and only “service revenue” has been claimed by Canonical. Ubuntu was created for exactly that purpose. Simply, if you don’t like the defaults, install another package, change the search engine or turn X feature off. You retain all rights outside the defaults.

  35. Phoenixskywalker wrote on 03/3/11 at 6:59 pm :

    @nnonix, that’s the most surprising thing about this arguement. It’s open source, if you don’t like anything about it, feel free to change or fork it. You ALWAYS have a choice.

  36. Martin Owens wrote on 03/5/11 at 7:09 am :

    The vitriolic comments here are one of the big reasons why people are scared of Debian and other FOSS project. Can super fantastic programmers please stop yourselves from being so vile in your social conversation?

    merez, If you can’t learn from the Ubuntu community; at least learn from Jef Spaleta, who always seems to be able to keep his cool and give interesting, poignant and worthwhile criticisms.

  37. jeremy wrote on 03/5/11 at 7:32 am :

    It is funny how heated these debates get within the Linux ecosystem. It makes me tired some days to read any news on Linux. I personally promote Linux at every turn, going so far as to help people adjust from Windows or Apple to Linux. I am starting to get the feeling one gets when inviting a friend over to a dirty house. You just don’t want to do it because you don’t want them to see the mess. When individuals attack entire user bases on a companies choice.

    How about we make some new rules so we are true purists why don’t we.
    1. If you didn’t write it, you can’t use it. This upholds the purist beliefs within the Linux ecosystem.

    2. If you have ever used an OS other than Linux, you are no longer allowed to use Linux. This should take care of all the newbs and RTFM problems.

    3. Force people to provide technical credentials before they can post on any Linux support forum. This should help keep down the newbs and RTFM problems again.

    4. Change all open source licenses to closed source so that no one can make changes. If someone wants to work on the software they can sign a non-disclosure form first. Because we all know that open source is not about freedom as in speech.

    Does everyone agree? These four rules should leave only those who have provided patches to the Linux Kernel and never used an OS other than Linux (don’t know how those patches are getting tested).

    I support the Linux OS, but I am tired of the puritans always bashing on people that are new to Linux. Open source is about trying new things, and incorporating other ideas. It is about community. If we don’t have the Windows and Apple newbs entering the Linux ecosystem, then Linux is already dead.

    If an open source project doesn’t want their work taken and changed for the benefit of a different company, then change the license, and close the source. Don’t allow forks, and get a team of lawyers to sue anyone that does something you don’t like. At least Microsoft and Apple are upfront with what they will do. Within the Linux ecosystem you just get mudslinging and name calling.

    Grow Up.

  38. nnonix wrote on 03/5/11 at 12:07 pm :

    Wake up.

  39. Santiago wrote on 03/5/11 at 12:28 pm :

    Just few words: You are fucking right.

    For a year I’ve been saying that Canonical was betraying the meaning of the word “ubuntu”, because the fact is that Ubuntu community is subaltern to Canonical. They are subordinate to a firm. come on! the slogan or the catch-phrase that professes “ubuntu is me and you and everyone else” is a lie.

  40. Santiago wrote on 03/5/11 at 12:51 pm :

    @Jono Bacon

    That is unfair. Ubuntu *is* a volunteer-driven project, but that doesn’t mean that all decisions are made by volunteers. Your statement infers that Canonical makes all the decisions and volunteers just do the heavy lifting to implement them – that is untrue.

    Excuse me, but I have to point out a clear contradiction.
    It’s easy to say that you have already said when they pay you to work at Canonical. Actually, you’re not (really) a volunteer. You are one of the few developers who are paid to be part of Ubuntu.

  41. bill wrote on 03/5/11 at 1:24 pm :

    I keep getting the feeling Shuttlworth wish to be the next Steve Jobs. To create and design a thing of beauty and functionality in his image. Unfortunately he’s no Jobs and like some otheres I’ve not partaken of either’s kool aid.

  42. Dave Mawdsley wrote on 03/5/11 at 2:13 pm :

    If you write FOSS code because you want to share it and it makes you feel good, fine. You benefit and so does the community if the code’s any good. Ethically it’s an improvement that also motivates more work from everyone. You decided what was needed and focused on that. If the community doesn’t like it, they’re free to change it or have you fix it and you can do that. No one raises an ethics problem here.

    However, once you start to write code and take a paycheck for it, the focus is now on what the employer wants you to do if you want to keep your job. In this circumstance, you’d better hope that the employer can convince the community to like it, because you’ve lost almost all the ways to answer primarily to the community and deal with the complaints. If the community doesn’t like the “improvements” the code causes, there’s little you as the employee can do to make it feel right. If a stink occurs, the employer has to find a way to fix it and hope that the ethics of the fix feels right before some kind of fork appears or people lose motivation and move on.

    Unfortunately folks as I see it, that’s just the way things are.

  43. BrianC wrote on 03/5/11 at 3:06 pm :

    Listening to people like jg “Let’s face it: The typical Ubuntu user is a former Windows gamer who got some trojan …” blah blah blah ….

    …One might get the idea that Linux users don’t even really want there to be more Linux users. They get a little resentful when new people come along and don’t think exactly like they do.

    I could be called a “Typical Ubuntu User”. I began with Ubuntu by installing a dual boot partition on top of Windows on a netbook I had. I loved it. And now I have Linux Mint as the default OS on 3 computers and Ubuntu Server on one. I didn’t know anything about FOSS philosophy when I started, although I have come to know and respect it the more I read about it once getting into Linux.

    But the resentment from the FOSS absolutists is really misplaced. Canonical is not taking anything from anyone in this situation. They have offered to make Banshee their default music player. That means there will be NEW Banshee users. And of those, Canonical deserves LEGALLY and MORALLY to be compensated for that because of all the money they are pouring into the promotion of FOSS.

    FLOSS purists need to understand that, if they wish their dream of Linux to be mainstream to be realized, Canonical must make a profit. Let’s give them the space to do that. And stop tearing them down at every step as they work to make their business model viable.

  44. LinuxCanuck wrote on 03/5/11 at 3:09 pm :

    Let me get this straight. Banshee is open source. Canonical could have stripped out the Amazon store and GNOME would get nothing. But they chose to keep it in and take a cut. So, where is this a question of morality? Open source means that you can change it.

    Debian users need to get off their high horse. You condemn the commercialisation of Linux and now you defend Banshee for its commercialisation and slam Ubuntu for its take on it. I wish they gave nothing to GNOME. But I also wish that Ubuntu would remove Banshee because it is Mono. It is not a perfect world, unfortunately.

    Banshee is Mono and you don’t have a problem with that. I recently installed Debian 6 and could not get my internet working because they stripped the binary blobs from the kernel, but the DVD could not download the missing bits because I had no connection. There was no attempt to give me an open source driver. I got NO driver.

    So you are against proprietary, but have no problem with Mono. Is there any bigger fanboy for Microsoft in open source than Miguel de Icaza? The Mono license is hard to understand. Its legality is questionable. Microsoft is mum on the subject, but alleges unspecified patent infringements by Linux. And it tries to strong arm distributions into agreements on that basis. The source code is not ECMA compliant and de Icaza dithering on it. So the best Debian can do is make my ethernet card not work and then force me to do something that they should have done and remove Mono.

    I am tired of all the hypocrisy and holier than thou pretensions coming from Debian. I don’t use GNOME because of Mono. As long as it is included in Debian they are no better than openSuSE, Novell and Microsoft. You cannot stand on principle selectively.

    Let’s call this piece what it is, another tiresome opportunity to slam Ubuntu. It is a driveby shooting.

  45. nnonix wrote on 03/5/11 at 5:26 pm :

    The upside is that NONE of this philosophical masturbation means much of anything. It’s just old-guard elitism & sour grapes.

  46. jg wrote on 03/5/11 at 6:53 pm :

    Ubuntu fanbois are tiresomely predictable, as usual. Anyone who has something negative to say about Canonical/Ubuntu is always a “jealous elitist”. So for example, when Canonical rolls out its UbuntuOne service, using the Ubuntu trademark to promote proprietary lock-in software/service, you’re jealous if you don’t think that proprietary lock-in is great for Linux. And if you don’t like the fact that Canonical has the right to take your GPL Ubuntu contributions proprietary at any time, you’re just an elitist. And when these lists come out showing who contributes how much to all the projects that make Linux actually usable for consumers, and Canonical’s contribution is practically non-existent, you’re just jealous for griping that Canonical spends all its money on its own self-promotion instead, all the while standing on the shoulders of people who do the real work. And if you complain when Canonical skims the donations of a non-profit, to use those funds to become “profitable”, you’re a close-minded elitist.

    Here’s the bottom line: The only thing that Canonical/Ubuntu is doing for Linux, is trying to turn it into a lock-in corporate product just like Windows and MacOS. Don’t you jealous elitists realize just how valuable a “contribution” this is? Look, we’ll soon have all these endusers flooding to Linux just as soon as Canonical succeeds in dominating the app store market with its new policy of taking a 70% cut of everything. It will out-Apple Apple. Microsoft will be so jealous when Ballmer sees just how easy it is to herd the new Linux sheep (ie, Ubuntu’s “community”) into the most shocking “deals” imaginable. Not only won’t the community complain, they’ll actually go out on the internet and defend this stuff from those evil, jealous elitist. I just can’t wait for the day when we see the uPad, running Linux but requiring enough proprietary trademarked bits that it’s available from only one vendor of course. And we’ll have “Ubuntu Genuine Advantage” software that scans your system and patches all software to redirect donations to a Canonical “service” that skims 70%. Can’t you elitists understand how much Linux _needs_ this to succeed because we all know endusers won’t use Linux until there’s one company marketing it the same as an Apple product?

  47. Martin Owens wrote on 03/5/11 at 7:25 pm :

    jg – As much as a I hate Canonical’s code attribution policy and UbuntuOne trademark wrangles. I think I might hate you more for being a bad commentator. What’s with the nasty? can’t you put your mastications on a leash and stop the frothing at the mouth?

    Canonical is doing shit things, but Canonical are not the devil. Most of the people there try to do the right thing, they just sometimes need to be reminded what that is.

  48. nnonix wrote on 03/5/11 at 8:24 pm :

    Your arguments are honestly void of any reality. The Ubuntu trademark has ALWAYS belonged to Canonical AND they have always exercised control over it. How you somehow came to the conclusion that it wasn’t theirs to utilize as-they-see-fit is beyond me.

    UbuntuOne is a service which you are FREE to use or not. it’s as proprietary as using a Search Engine with an Open Source browser. It’s installed by default but you are free to uninstall it. Calling it “lock-in” is a far reach.

    Your GPL contributions are just that. How they will ever become the property of Canonical is a fairytale I’d like to hear about.

    Canonical has never made any secret of the fact that it’s standing on the shoulders of giants ( By definition, this is what Open Source licenses have always promoted. Take it, change it, share it.

    You call it skimming donations yet if Ubuntu succeeds the net result will be an increased level of donation to Gnome. Imagine a Free software project generating revenue for itself simply by developing good code. How is this a bad thing? Isn’t that the dream?

    As I see it, the grand experiment here is whether Canonical can sustain the real costs of Ubuntu (development, community & infrastructure) by developing services around a free operating system. Canonical’s commitment is to keep Ubuntu free (both the code and software updates). My commitment is to let them try. If I don’t like a default setting I change it. If I don’t like a service, I don’t use it. The day I can’t do either, I jump ship.

    If I call you an elitist it is because I don’t see how you are not incredibly interested in how this plays out? You appear more worried about keeping things the same than the wide expanse of possibilities and growth this ‘could’ bring. Considering some of the ‘sins’ you speak of haven’t even happened yet I can liken it only to fear mongering.

    Ballmer, upad … really?

  49. MarkG wrote on 03/6/11 at 2:21 am :

    nnonix – I differ on your opinion that Canonical/Ubuntu don’t attempt to hide the fact that it “stands on the shoulders of giants”… find a mention of debian on Ubuntu’s homepage.

    Indeed, all I see on that page is a claim that Ubuntu is an “Operating System”… erm, I thought the Linux kernel and the GNU toolset constitutes the OS part of Ubuntu… neither of which seem to merit a mention either.

    Ubuntu is NOT an operating system… it is a “distribution”.

    That said, I see little wrong with what Canonical/Ubuntu are doing in this particular case… Banshee would have got nowhere with a closed source licence… seem a bit feeble to whine about being open sourced now.

  50. nnonix wrote on 03/6/11 at 11:45 am :

    Not only is Debian mentioned on their website, it warrants its own page. “Debian is ‘the rock upon which Ubuntu is built’.”

    Ubuntu is an Operating System AND a GNU/Linux distribution.

  51. David (FSF Supporter) wrote on 03/6/11 at 8:37 pm :


    The wikipedia link you cite to claim Ubuntu as an operating system was very muddled in its text and in one part said it was a distribution of an operating system and in another, mistakenly, claimed it to be an operating system in its own right. I’ve corrected the errors. MarkG was completely accurate in his posting in this regard

  52. nnonix wrote on 03/6/11 at 10:04 pm :

    Oh nag. I’ll call Linux “GNU/Linux” when you start calling GCC “Linux/GCC” for the exact same reasons. I mean really, where would GCC be without Linux? Blah blah blah. Let’s not go there.

    In truth, I believe you damaged that article in at least one regard. While I won’t argue with the addition of GNU almost everywhere else, the “generic name” remains LINUX. You know this, even if you hate it.

    I don’t know about you or anyone else but the Operating System running on my laptop is Ubuntu (a GNU/Linux distribution).

  53. David (FSF Supporter) wrote on 03/6/11 at 11:00 pm :


    The Free Software Foundation has an excellent explanation of why the generic name is GNU/Linux not merely Linux which is specific to the kernel on its own We could have called the operating system simply GNU but out of respect for Mr Torvalds and his (and all the others who have worked on the Linux kernel) work we seek to give due standing to that too. GNU is the major part of a GNU/Linux operating system so it is deserving of the order being GNU/Linux rather than Linux/GNU…that way of stating it simply tries to be fair and considerate to all concerned. Surely giving due recognition to them both ensures the continuance of support for both and thus the future of all distributions of same including Ubuntu.

    The GCC was ported to several platforms before Mr Torvalds came onto the scene (from 1984 onwards) and thus it is not restricted to being run with the Linux kernel, though that would likely be the most common implementation. As the GCC has a number of possible targets (both native and cross targets see for details) there is no logical reason to call it GCC/Linux. As you can see GCC would survive perfectly well without Linux and had Linux not come along it was planned to use other kernels that were either available at the time or in the planning stages. The FSF doesn’t seek to downgrade the work done by Mr Torvalds or any others who have worked on Linux (the kernel) but there is no reason to think that an alternative (the last link I gave shows you that there are quite a few possible alternatives) would not now be in place had it not been for Linux. There is no way to know what effect that would have had on the growth of usage of the GCC and the GNU project.

    I’ll put your last statement right for you…I don’t know about anybody else but the software system running on nonix’s laptop is Ubuntu (a GNU/Linux distribution.) I couldn’t resist…

    My personal view would be that Ubuntu and its supporters do themselves a disservice by claiming there products to be operating systems given that making a distribution is no small task and calling their products as they really are highlights the work done to enhance and distribute the GNU/Linux operating system. What is so wrong with highlighting that work rather than claiming to be something it isn’t?

  54. nnonix wrote on 03/7/11 at 12:07 am :

    I’m sorry man. I try to give the FSF & GNU due credit but I’m in the “Linux uses GNU utils and libraries” camp (as it was described by GNU back in ’94) rather than the “GNU uses the Linux kernel” camp (such as it has been described since the “oh shit, this thing is taking off, our kernel blows, we better jump on this train” moment).

  55. MarkG wrote on 03/7/11 at 1:54 am :

    I didn’t say Debian wasn’t mentioned “somewhere” on the Ubuntu “site”.. it would be hard not too, just that it’s buried, at least to most first time users.

    Ubuntu *contains* an OS but isn’t an OS in its own right.

    So they shouldn’t claim it is…

    I quote:
    “Ubuntu is a secure, intuitive operating system that powers desktops, servers, netbooks and laptops.”


    Ubuntu CONTAINS a secure, intuitive operating system AND powers desktops, servers, netbooks and laptops.

  56. MarkG wrote on 03/7/11 at 2:21 am :

    I’m “on the fence” as far as the GNU/Linux naming convention thing goes, I can see GNU and others deserve credit but think the name could easily get out of hand if we started calling it GNU/X/Gnome/KDE/Samba/Linux/ect.
    But can see no harm in giving credit to the “main” contributors to the OS part of Ubuntu and other distros on their respective homepages.

  57. David (FSF Supporter) wrote on 03/7/11 at 2:51 am :


    With regard to naming getting out of hand…my own view is not really …the operating system is only GNU and Linux while the rest are enhancements and additions as is, for example, (in the sense of it being part of many distributions) Open/Libre Office and we wouldn’t class that as part of the operating system either. Again, this is not to downplay the superb efforts of the many people who create such software nor the work done in making any distribution (just so we make that clear to anyone else reading this Mark…I realise that you know it very well already.)

    The view of the FSF is a little different from my personal view and so I don’t misrepresent them I’ll give you the link to that, official, view

    As to your last point personally I again concur with you (my opinions not that of the FSF); I’d rather like to see a clear list of all the contributors that form part of each distribution and that this be prominent within the distribution both on the websites and somewhere in the system itself…an “about” link with that information would do the trick but isn’t the only way to do it.

    BTW @MarkG and @ nnonix

    Even if we don’t always see eye to eye it is a pleasure to have such a civil and respectful discussion with you both. Sadly when I raise such points on Ubuntu related sites I’m generally met with a vastly different and rather shameful response that does no credit whatever to the distribution concerned.

  58. Paul McGarry wrote on 03/7/11 at 2:56 am :

    I can’t believe people are going on about what constitutes an “Operating System”.

    It’s 2011.

    Users (ie a pretty significant category of people the Ubuntu website is aimed at) expect much more from an OS than a kernel and toolchain.

    Users understand Windows to be an OS. Ubuntu is trying to compete with them and is right to promote itself as an OS.

    The OS/distribution terms may provide useful distinctions in some situations but I can’t much value in using a term unfamiliar to many looking for an alternative to Windows.

    No doubt some might take my viewpoint as ‘dumbing down’. I’d view usage of the term “distribution” instead of ‘OS’ on the main Ubuntu web pages as a pointless barrier to entry.

  59. David (FSF Supporter) wrote on 03/7/11 at 3:20 am :

    @Paul McGarry

    What you see as a barrier to entry I see as honouring those whose work is made use of. For me it is a parallel to the actions taken over Banshee in that it shows disrespect for the rest of the software ecosystem. No matter the date these are current and pertinent issues.

    If the nature of a distribution is well explained (surely not beyond the capabilities of Canonical) why need it be an issue, apparently, so deadly to adoption of their product?

    IMHO Giving due credit might go some way towards lessening the very low level of positive feeling towards Canonical and its products that is all too apparent in many other parts of the wider GNU/Linux world….not giving due credit greatly reinforces such views.

  60. SOURCES.LIST Aggregator » Blog Archive » [mp] Ancora su Ubuntu e Banshee wrote on 03/7/11 at 11:59 am :

    [...] secondo post “contro-Canonical“ e’ di Lucas Nussbaum: “we now have several proofs that Ubuntu isn’t a [...]

  61. MarkG wrote on 03/8/11 at 4:02 pm :

    @David (FSF Supporter)
    I’ll agree that the other contributors I listed are “enhancements”… but at least in the case of X and Samba pretty significant ones… but I get your point (GNU/Linux can be used without them).

    @Paul McGarry
    Canonical simply claim “Ubuntu” to be something it’s not, and give little to no credit to those that developed the OS they claim Ubuntu to be.

    Windows doesn’t come bundled with other peoples work except for a few codecs etc., and the owners of the codec patents wouldn’t be able to claim *them* as an OS just because they tend to come bundled with Windows.

    But this was never really about what constitutes an OS, I was simply pointing out Canonical/Ubuntu are in no hurry to give credit where it’s due but are quick to claim others work as their own… to the extent that finding the words “Linux”, “GNU”, and “Debian” on the Ubuntu website takes some work.

  62. Carson Wardinsky wrote on 06/4/11 at 9:25 am :

    Very good blog article.Really thank you! Awesome.

  63. google wrote on 08/15/11 at 8:30 pm :

    It’s arduous to seek out educated folks on this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re speaking about! Thanks