Monday, October 21, 2013

Elitist Mark Shuttleworth Exhibits Temper Tantrum

by Dietrich Schmitz

So, this past Thursday, October 17, 2013, Canonical Ltd. released Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander.

A post from Canonical's "Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life", Mark Shuttleworthappeared the next day.

Honestly, I think what Canonical Ltd. have done insofar as supporting Wayland from its inception up to the point of general release, only to then spring an announcement for Mir, was blatantly transparent and a power grab to seize strategic control of ongoing Display technology driver development. (Image credit:

The end result is that this decision has substantially left Unity on its own island with a 'one of a kind' display driver technology which, as it turns out, nobody is interested in adopting.  The crowd of Distros are all making plans to eventually move to Wayland, at the right time of course, but staying with tried and true for the time being.

Good Decisions, Bad Decisions

So, how exactly does a company make decisions of this kind?  At the very least, one wonders to what extent this is a company driven by any kind of Democratic consensus building.  It would seem, whilst Canonical Ltd. fill the heads of their Developers with the notion that they are 'community' and that their opinions matter,  actions speak louder than words, showing what has been largely regarded as questionable decision making and most likely coming directly from the top.

Smart Scopes, Not so Smart

Take Smart Scopes, for example.  Why would anyone want to forego using an Internet browser to do their web-centric tasks, instead, on the Desktop?  And, why would anyone want to have their privacy details shared with a Canonical Ltd. server to boot?  How does this make sense?  And how is that even the 'smart' thing to do?  Fortunately, Canonical Ltd. saw fit to allow the end user toggle Lens and Smart Scopes features off entirely with a global setting switch.  But this so-called 'feature enhancement' is there now, like it or not.

Arrogance, Elitism, We Know Best

It's one more 'in your face' example of the Canonical Ltd. 'elitist' 'we know what is good for you' mentality which is being fed to the end-user via a 'force feed' funnel method.

Arrogance is such that it can lead those in power to become reckless and lose sight of common sense practical ways of doing things.

It's Our Way or the Highway  

Starting with Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 came the 'parting of the ways' with upstream involvement on shared community decision making (regarding ongoing Gnome development).  Through a series of software revision cycles, Unity evolved further with Canonical taking key pieces of Wayland's infrastructure so as to ensure full control of their own branded Mir Display technology.   At present, Xmir/Mir is only an option with 13.10, but the next version and thereafter will lend full support to Mir display technology and quite possibly no 'fall-back' option for end users.

No, Mr. Shuttleworth is not a happy camper.  It is quite evident in his temper-tantrum post and he goes so far as to label in broad strokes anyone who challenges him as part of the 'Open Source Tea Party'.  Now, in my estimation, that is simply bad form and really underscores his lack of maturity.

No, he's not content to stop there.  He even takes shots at the fine work done by Lennart Poettering and Kay Sievers, on Systemd.

Here's an excerpt of what Mr. Shuttleworth wrote:

"Mir is really important work. When lots of competitors attack a project on purely political grounds, you have to wonder what THEIR agenda is. At least we know now who belongs to the Open Source Tea Party And to put all the hue and cry into context: Mir is relevant for approximately 1% of all developers, just those who think about shell development. Every app developer will consume Mir through their toolkit. By contrast, those same outraged individuals have NIH’d just about every important piece of the stack they can get their hands on… most notably SystemD, which is hugely invasive and hardly justified. What closely to see how competitors to Canonical torture the English language in their efforts to justify how those toolkits should support Windows but not Mir. But we’ll get it done, and it will be amazing."

Unlike Ubuntu, which still employs Upstart, many Distros have already adopted Systemd without hesitation.  There are hold-outs, but the vast majority appear to be in favor of it.

So, why is Mr. Shuttleworth firing volleys across the bows of so many?  It's an interesting question.

Might it be that Mir is encountering difficulties and the continued splintering of derivatives grows as opposition mounts against it use?

On-ramp to Wayland

What Mir has done is essentially drive a wedge into the community and a parting of the ways is occurring as Developers are forced to make a choice as to when to stop supporting and with what technology.  I reached +Aaron Seigo (image right) to have his view on the state of the art in Display Server technology.  Here's what he had to say:

"The KDE community has had a long-term roadmap for Wayland adoption that we've been executing over the last two years. We routinely reexamine such roadmaps to ensure they remain sensible. The broad community and industry support for Wayland, our confidence in the proven team behind it and the high quality releases we've seen thus far have convinced us to stay the course on Wayland. Foundation technologies such as Qt have had high quality Wayland support for several releases and key components for the Plasma Workspace such as the KWin window manager have seen initial work completed. We expect Plasma on Wayland to be ready for production support during the Plasma 2 lifecycle, the next major release which we are currently working on. Having a consistent experience across as much of the technology stack as possible is valuable to our users and partners, and so we are very happy to join the likes of Intel, Red Hat, Jolla, Tizen, GNOME and many others large and small on the road to Wayland."


That's a solid endorsement for Wayland and despite what the future holds for Xmir/Mir, the message is clear: there will be an 'on ramp' for Developers to take in replacement of

It's not a good sign nor becoming of an Executive Officer to be making such inflammatory statements about those with whom he must cooperate to ensure the success of Linux for many years to come.  Whether or not he intends to 'mend his fence' remains to be seen but it would not only be in his best interests to extend apologies for his inappropriate remarks but also the right thing to do.

-- Dietrich
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