01.24.10

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Humanity to Others’ Agenda

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Ubuntu at 9:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Health check of democracy

Summary: Analysis of some of Canonical’s recent moves, which give rise to Novell’s Mono and proprietary software (at the expense of Free software)

“If you want to watch the mischief,” says one of our readers, “this might be the place to begin. The very harmful stuff is probably not as obvious as overt mischief.”

The page says: “Ekiga is not longer installed by default [in lucid]. Added link to download beta version for Windows in switching guide, and added an apt url for download in Ubuntu in internet section. LP: #508572″

Recently, Canonical floated the idea of adding proprietary software to Ubuntu rather than get rid of Mono, which is problematic just like Moonlight. We receive mail complaining about that.

Then there is the GIMP incident (to be replaced by .NET/Mono), which we covered in:

Groklaw points to a somewhat old article about Ubuntu, which notes that Canonical “has had its CEO discard the executive mantle to “focus [his] Canonical energy on product design,” [...].” Pamela Jones believes that “it partially explains some of the decisions, by clarifying the goal.” That was a few days ago.

A poll from Ubuntu Forums (shown by Groklaw) indicates that Ubuntu users oppose the removal of the GIMP and a petition on the subject has amassed 768 signatures of people who oppose the removal of the GIMP. Is Canonical listening and paying attention to the users? The worry is that warning signs from people like Jeremy Allison get ignored for temporary convenience [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Shooting down messengers who show something that they do not want to see is not a wise decision. Messengers include the Free Software Foundation, users, and developers [1, 2, 3].

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26 Comments

  1. MegaMania said,

    January 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Gravatar

    wanted to warn you that it seems Ubuntu Lucid 10.4 will also include another new MONO [cr]app gbrainy.

    http://bobthegnome.blogspot.com/

    dyfet Reply:

    Oddly enough, gbrainy might be an example of something where Mono could be a harmless choice by itself (though there are arguably better ones, including Java) for writing, as it is not something that is being forced to serve any core or mandated function of a free desktop, but as a purely add-on application in a restricted repository.

    Freedom is not about defining what applications people can or cannot choose to write in, as some may yet choose to write proprietary software, but rather must become much more about assuring people do receive a core GNU/Linux distribution that people can depend on as being fully free to use, to learn from, to participate in as they may choose, without artificial or false barriers and hidden landmines or submarined traps including actual and potential abuse of third party licenses and controls, and without artificial restrictions on field of use such as “non-commercial only” (referring once more to the Debian social contract).

    If non-free applications exist but are placed in a separate repository and users are educated what that means and why, that can be reasonable. Even if people have tools that enable easy installing of blobs, this would not be entirely bad if it includes warnings and a means of contacting said vendor(s) of hardware. Freedom, Responsibility, Empowerment, and Education should really be combined as part of what is called the user experience, not just ease of use and convenience.

    your_friend Reply:

    There are two harms done by projects like this. The first is to waste developer time on Microsoft’s framework. The second is to build the library of GNU/Linux applications dependent on that framework. The net result of both is to entice people to Microsoft’s trap. This divides and wastes the resources of the free software community. Those who point out the trap are called enemies of freedom and other bad names.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It should not be too hard for C# developers to adapt to the real thing (Oracle’s Java). Why use an imitation of it?

    I’m talking about building applications from scratch here, as opposed to porting some.

    “Shouldn’t we leave the [Microsoft] elephant alone and stop poking it with sticks? Well, the problem is they aren’t going to leave us alone.”

    Jeremy Allison, LCA 2010

    dyfet Reply:

    It is VERY true that we do not need newly written GNU/Linux applications that have proprietary dependencies. I was looking at this as a cross-platform application, and there may be reasons why the author(s) made this choice that are unknown, even if they are ones I may personally not agree with. One thing I fail to understand is why it is even in GNOME, or of course why tomboy, etc, are, either. Hence, it speaks to me of the continued failure of the GNOME project.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I think it’s more of a Novell/Microsoft problem, not a GNOME one.

    MegaMania Reply:

    gbrainy is not in a seperate repository, it will be installed by default. I guess this why they got rid of GIMP, so they could taint their distro with more MONO!

  2. faltu said,

    January 24, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Gravatar

    I think there is going to another distro coming soon that will disrupt the canonical market very badly. Canonical is no longer FOSS supporter but just another commercial company.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The issue I see here is that if Ubuntu becomes more like Linux Mint, it will struggle to be better Mint than Mint.

    I personally use Kubuntu at the moment.

  3. faltu said,

    January 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Gravatar

    I thought if users want to use all those proprietor apps they would as well buy a mac or windows machine. why even bother with bunts ?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    That’s the point raised by some Fedora users when ESR made a scene.

    Dennis Murczak Reply:

    You are hitting the nail on the head: In their hunt for more end user market share, they now try to appeal to people who don’t specifically want freedom but a replacement for a proprietary platform. It will backfire on Canonical and make more users badmouth Linux because they expected a Windows/Mac ripoff.

    dyfet Reply:

    True. If you offer to run “X”, then you immediately open yourself to a comparison to users asking why “can’t I run both X and Y then” like they can “there”. It both confuses users about what the point was in the first place, and disappoints their expectations. At the same time it looses marketshare from those who did care primarily about freedom.

    Having thought about it, this may well be why most of the distro’s that had tried being partially proprietary or offering some or select proprietary applications had failed miserably in the marketplace to date.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Xandros/Linspire is a good (or bad) example.

    dyfet Reply:

    Yes, those were the ones I was thinking of. I think there were a few others as well that went down that path to oblivion. Of course, the Novell/Microsoft patent deals are clearly a means of passage to such oblivion. And it seems regardless of how strong, successful, and effective once Suse was an enterprise distro before, Novell has clearly managed to drive it toward a similar fate. Maybe they see their future as a Microsoft subsidiary; Mono Inc?

    your_friend Reply:

    You would bother with Ubuntu because it’s technically a better platform, is not owned by a malicious company and has a richer collection of software and features. Every step towards software freedom that a user takes, the better their computing environment gets.

    The seductive question is, “With all of these applications running on GNU/Linux, why does anyone bother with Mac or Windows?” That is a market tarpit that can suck down a healthy company because Microsoft will continually move the goal posts. The answer to the question is that you really can’t run all of those applications like you want and are better off with free software that you can. Non free software will never give you exactly what you want.

    dyfet Reply:

    Put another and more broad way that the MBA’s might understand, you are no longer being focused on what actually differentiated you in the market, and your at best able to do something poorly that others already do very well. It seems a loss-loss proposition.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Mark Shuttleworth warned about it himself around 2007… or maybe it was O’Grady in a Ubuntu event. Maybe both. I can’t recall for sure.

    your_friend Reply:

    I would not say that Microsoft does anything very well but the more you deal with their ecosystem and non standards, the more power they have over you.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Privately, it first came to my attention that Shuttleworth had interacted with Microsoft 2 years ago in order to discuss codecs. But he never really gave up; I just hope he wakes up and acknowledges the Mono/Moonlight problem.

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    @dyfet : That was very well put and would be the essential part of the message to Canonical’s management, if it can be gotten past the monoguard.

  4. NotZed said,

    January 24, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Gravatar

    Ekiga now too? Damn. What are they trying to do, turn it into default microsoft windows install?

    Pretty soon all you’ll end up with is a couple of crappy games, a ‘ms paint’ clone, a browser and a ‘notepad’.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    No, I think the problem here is Skype proliferation. SFLC might have something to say about it, as they did when people cheered/celebrated other proprietary software coming to GNU/Linux.

    your_friend Reply:

    Skype has it’s own repository, so there’s nothing Ubuntu has to do. This is one of those areas where the forces of evil have free software backed into a corner, no video chat client in Lenny seems to work. Ekiga works but their server site has been DDoS’d or has other technical problems. I tried for months and will try again but Skype has something that works for people who run out of options.

    A better solution would be to find a way for Skype to be free software. There are many services the company offers that have nothing to do with the client – ordinary phone connection, voice mail boxes – that are the sources of their revenue and should not suffer from client freedom. In a free world, they will soon enough have competition and might as well keep building a business model that can survive rather than one built on patent litigation and other foolishness that no one wins.

    dyfet Reply:

    Well, my whole presentation at LibrePlanet2010 is about how to replace Skype with free software, for voice and video, as a distributed user controlled participatory network with security and privacy :).

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