04.02.14

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No More Opposition to Ubuntu Over Spyware

Posted in GNU/Linux, Ubuntu at 3:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Spying

Summary: Canonical did the right thing by removing a controversial behaviour which was facilitating remote user profiling by Amazon, demonstrating yet again that users’ feedback counts

Our coverage regarding Ubuntu's departure from Amazon search in Dash (by default, in future versions) was followed by a lot of articles in general news sites [1] and a lot of blogs or GNU/Linux-oriented news sites which say “it seems that the online search paradigm in Unity is about to end.” Actually, this is pretty much confirmed now. Back in the days when Ubuntu had Mono (we lobbied hard to remove it, by default) and Ubuntu was about to have a Yahoo (Microsoft) search bar we found that Canonical does listen to its users; it’s just that when it takes action accordingly (corrective action) it never admits that it is due to users’ pressure. The bottom line though, Canonical listens. Just before Christmas of 2012 I contacted Stallman and asked him to address the issue of Amazon spyware, whereupon he wrote an article and started to tackle this issue (in his public talks too). He called it “malware”, but I advised him to call it “spyware” instead. 16 months later Canonical took action and a lot of people are exceedingly happy about it. Pressure from users acted as a moral compass, or a regulator. This is the power of Free software. We no longer rely on derivatives of Ubuntu (none of which had this behaviour) to give Canonical a run for the money.

I can happily install Ubuntu again. The weak attempts [2] to describe the end of Windows XP support as a “Bad for Linux and Open Source” [3] don’t quite correspond to what I am seeing. At this moment, after setting up Puppet to mass-remove Amazon from search in Dash (upon request), I know of a company (client at work) that is right now moving hundreds of desktops from Windows XP to Ubuntu (due to XP EOL). Let’s hope this is one example of many. Let’s also hope that Canonical keeps taking users’ needs seriously. It is apparent that even large companies did not like Amazon search in Dash; it’s not just to do with a bunch of opinionated Free software proponents.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Ubuntu to ditch Amazon product suggestions from its search results
  2. Death of XP Bad for Linux? Nope.

    Christopher Tozzi wrote, “The sad reality is that everybody needs to run a Windows app now and then” in an article about the increasing difficulty of virtualizing that other OS on a GNU/Linux system. He’s right about the RAM/CPU/storage burdens of that other OS increasing but he’s wrong that this is bad for GNU/Linux and FLOSS.

  3. Why Windows XP’s Demise Is Bad for Linux and Open Source
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