Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Ubuntu FOSS Community: Merely Chumps on the Outside Looking In

by Dietrich Schmitz

Oh Dear.  I am at it again. ;)

This is a continuation in a series of stories examining the current state of affairs with Canonical Ltd. and Ubuntu.

Note, the use of just the word Ubuntu.  Canonical Ltd. prefer to call it that, not Ubuntu Linux.  They even prefer to call the Linux kernel the Ubuntu kernel.  There is no acknowledgement to the fact that they are using Linux.

How is this possible?  

Let's start with the fact that Mark Shuttleworth, a wealthy billionaire, established Ubuntu as a fork of Debian Linux.  Don't loose sight of that Folks as you read further.  See if you can follow my thought process.

He forked Debian Linux, which, by itself, isn't a crime. But keep in mind the notion that they took advantage of the 'good character' of Debian to begin with on their very first release.

But he has since done much 'harm' to the original good character of Ubuntu, which made it so popular to begin with.  You can read some of my previous posts to see how much of that good character is now gone replaced by a vision, mind you, of what Ubuntu 'should be', to the exclusion of the FOSS community.

How so?

Even now, Canonical Ltd. give lip service to having an interest in the community, but, their deeds contradict, and with each step taken, Ubuntu moves further away from its original good character, derived from Debian.  It no longer resembles the original product.

No, elitist Mark Shuttleworth has seen to that.  Unity replaces, at the expense of throwing the baby out with the bath water, an otherwise perfectly good, common-sense GUI that was perfectly intuitive, industry-standard that even today is the basis for other popular GUIs including Xfce, KDE Plasma Workspaces, and Windows 8.1 even.  Even Microsoft saw the errors of their ways and has backtracked on Windows 8 by throwing the magic bus in reverse, going back to what 'just works'.  No, when things aren't broken, don't fix them I say and so do millions of other people.

Yet, fix Mark Shuttleworth did break Ubuntu, and much to the complete exclusion of feedback from the FOSS community.  He went head-long into first deploying Unity with Ubuntu (Gnome 2.34) classic as a fall-back GUI, and through a series of version releases has today arrived at version 13.04 with just Unity.  Mind you, Unity (with 3D graphic effects) has no fall-back to 2D either and if your machine is one which Unity deems 'incompatible', your chance of having a usable operating system will be in the hands of something called llvmpipe, a graphical software emulation which will simulate in your cpu a graphics chipset so as to achieve Unity's 3D effects.  The result of this collective unilateral elitist decision making is that your machine in all likelihood will run like a 'sloth' under llvmpipe graphics emulation with your cpu overloaded by gpu emulation calls.

This is all mentioned to underscore a point.  Elitist Mark Shuttleworth chose to employ a new method of programming development called 'skunkworks' for a reason.  Canonical Ltd. are not the least bit interested in FOSS or much less community involvement.  Instead, they are on fast-track like a speeding locomotive to becoming second place only to Apple for the "we know what's best for you" category in the world of high technology.

That's right, and FOSS, community be damned as they get led around like cattle with rings in their noses on every capricious decision made exclusively by Canonical Ltd.  The FOSS community is misled into thinking they have an effect in supporting Ubuntu, but in reality, they are simply 'chumps' as Mark Shuttleworth runs his privately held company and does as he pleases.

After all, he is putting funding into the company right?  It's his right.  Or, is it?

Dear FOSS community members, 

I implore you to look at the situation for what it is.  You are simply 'on the outside looking in'.  You have no part in effectuating important FOSS-based decisions for the outcomes in any decisions currently made on the future development of Ubuntu.

What can be done?  

I'd ask you to consider stepping over to the Fedora or openSUSE projects to see what goes on there.

The stated goals for each project and the relationship of each to their respective commercial governance counterpart are clearly stated objectives.  To quote from the openSUSE project page:

"The openSUSE project is a worldwide effort that promotes the use of Linux everywhere. openSUSE creates one of the world's best Linux distributions, working together in an open, transparent and friendly manner as part of the worldwide Free and Open Source Software community. 
The project is controlled by its community and relies on the contributions of individuals, working as testers, writers, translators, usability experts, artists and ambassadors or developers. The project embraces a wide variety of technology, people with different levels of expertise, speaking different languages and having different cultural backgrounds."
Makes perfect sense, does it not?

Then, how come this isn't being done with Ubuntu?  Because you are chumps maybe?

Sad to say, but, it is true.  Your sincerety, good will, and integrity are being taken advantage of by a commercial entity which does nothing but give lip service to community involvement and FOSS.

Let's take a look at the relationship of Red Hat to the Fedora Project shall we?  Sure why not.  What do you have to lose?  Nothing.  This is an exercise in helping you see things as they are--a wake-up call, if you will.

"Both the Fedora Linux® distribution and Red Hat®Enterprise Linux are open source technologies. Fedora is built by the community ( for the benefit of the community. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is developed by Red Hat with the explicit intent of being used as an enterprise IT platform. 
Developers and Linux enthusiasts flock to Fedora for the latest features and the opportunity to directly collaborate with Red Hat engineering. Banks, stock exchanges, hospitals, and businesses that run the world's leading websites choose Red Hat Enterprise Linux for the platform's performance, stability, and security, which lets them implement mature and well-organized IT infrastructures across the enterprise."

Okay, I could go on ad. nauseam because there is plenty of well-documented reasons for creating a legal separation of community vs. commercial aspects which may be at conflict of interest with each other.  But I think I hit oil, so I will stop drilling.

What should be done about this?  

For starters begin a discussion in your community and bring together key figures who can moderate the discussion and reach your own conclusion as to whether having an 'openUbuntu' will be in the best interests of the FOSS community.

I submit that it is urgently needed because, one day, either Ubuntu will be gone, or, you won't even recognize it anymore, for the worse.

Do it today, begin talking about a plan to fork Ubuntu to put in place a FOSS version over which you exercise FULL CONTROL.

Don't be chumps on the outside looking in.

-- Dietrich

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