Saturday, June 1, 2013

Control Your Own Destiny: Fork Ubuntu

by Dietrich Schmitz

I read yet another review by none other than Dedoimedo of  Distro SolydK, and whilst reading thought, gee where have I seen this before? 

Am I experiencing Deja-vu?  No, I am afraid not.

You see, SolydK is yet another knock-off, copy-cat, cookie-cutter, Distro with substantially nothing unique in the way of innovation that sets it apart from the growing 'thatch' of weed-like Debian/*buntu derivatives. (Image credit:

Mind you, it's pretty.  But that's not innovating.  It's boring actually.

Someone please answer the fundamental question: Why do we need another Distro?, when, for example, Kubuntu would work just fine, and does, I might add.  Even Dedoimedo gives Xubuntu/Kubuntu rave reviews.

So, this phenomenon continues unabated.  There's nothing illegal about it but to my mind it is silly.  Yet my real concern lies with the purity of Ubuntu itself which I feel is greatly at risk.  Allow me to explain.

For the readers who have been following my string of stories centered around Canonical Ltd. and Ubuntu up to this point, I thank you for your active feedback in the comments section, and I hope you take what I wrote in the preceding stories and here constructively.  The whole picture can't be summarized in a single story. 

I greatly respect their loyalty and efforts to promote Ubuntu, despite writing stories which might be construed otherwise.  My biggest concern for the Ubuntu community has been that Canonical Ltd will skuttle/forsake the community's interests in an effort to monetize parts of Ubuntu.  To be specific, Canonical Ltd (for profit) has moved sideways for several years with Ubuntu on the Desktop.  It's accurate to say that their mass-market penetration in the U.S. has been ineffectual and thus had no effect on their profitability.

Canonical Ltd. has now turned to developing a smartphone running Ubuntu Touch.  This is a diversion from the Desktop markets which were front and center in their business plan up until only recently.  The ultimate success of a smartphone for Canonical remains to be seen and faces strong competition.  The risk of failure is high.  

For example, one need only look to Microsoft's initiative to create a successful market for Windows Phone to gauge the level of risk and associated high cost.  MS has poured billions of dollars into their partnership with Nokia yet today hold only a small market position against dominant Android OEMs and Apple's iPhone.

As each and every decision gets made, by Canonical, without true community consensus, I fear that Ubuntu will become sidelined to Mark Shuttleworth's ever-changing business plans.

In "Fork Ubuntu to Preserve Community Participation", I offered up the idea that Ubuntu is NOT a Community Project, yet Canonical Ltd. wish to have loyal community members believe that such is the case, even though Canonical is making all business-critical decisions on the future development of Ubuntu.  Unfortunately, the environment at Canonical is one driven by elitism and favoritism.

I submitted for your consideration in the same story the idea that the Ubuntu community should have an "arm's length" relationship with Canonical Ltd. by establishing a 'fork' of the Ubuntu code base to another 'community' managed Distro, say with the name "openUbuntu".  This would afford community members the same benefits that Fedora and openSuSE enjoy with their relationship to Red Hat and SuSE respectively.

The Ubuntu community could then exercise full control of obtaining consensus in making future changes to the direction and development of openUbuntu 'open source' applying all FOSS principles without conflict of interests.  Supported by Canonical, Ubuntu community members could interact with their governance but would retain full source code control of the open source version of Ubuntu.

I strongly believe that Ubuntu is at risk of losing a major portion of what made it a great Distribution in its early years.  The character is what made it so popular to begin with.

Please give this developing story your full consideration and let me know what you think.

Thank you.

-- Dietrich
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