Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Canonical's Latest Carnival of Mistakes

Filed under
Ubuntu

Mark Shuttleworth with magazine
Photo by Andre urbano

Summary: Mark Shuttleworth apologises for some recent controversial behaviour of the company he founded to make "Linux for human beings"

THE STORY at hand seems like a familiar one. It is one of those cases where by "mistake" one means "we got caught, so it's a mistake." Canonical already went after derivatives of Ubuntu, such as "Satanic Edition" (to name just one example where later on Jono Bacon and other community figures tried to quell and put out the fire). Trademark bullying from Canonical is not something new and the company is repeating old mistakes, so these are probably not mistakes.

Mark Shuttleworth posted this long response ("Comments are closed," but some comments can be read via "Shuttleworth: Mistakes made and addressed" at LWN). It's a bit of hogwash, but some people still appreciate this and consider it to be a sufficient apology. This apology does not please everyone, but we should give this man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the decision to go after FixUbuntu was not his at all. "In an encouraging and refreshing move," wrote Muktware, "Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu and Canonical has apologized for calling Mir opponents the “open source tea party” [...] He also apologized for the take down notice that was sent to EFF staffer Micah F Lee over fixubuntu website."

To quote Shuttleworth himself: "Last week, someone at Canonical made a mistake in sending the wrong response to a trademark issue out of the range of responses we usually take. That has been addressed, and steps are being taken to reduce the likelihood of a future repeat."

Muktware correctly points out that this created a controversy, but the author goes further by comparing Canonical to Apple. The author says: "That unprecedented move from Canonical (to sen[d] take down notice) had put Canonical in the league of Apple.

"All leading news sites criticized Canonical for this move and it turned out to be the worst PR disaster for Canonical."

Nothing actually gets done about the original mistake, which makes Ubuntu some kind of informant to the CIA/NSA (through Amazon) regarding local user searches -- a malicious behaviour that Windows has been 'renowned' for since about a decade ago (Microsoft is an exceptionally strong NSA ally, whereas Amazon is better known for its new CIA ties as official dossiers host/architect).

Bradley Kuhn (formerly FSF and SFLC) took note of Canonical's behaviour, having done so before when it comes to copyrights. He also wrote about trademarks in other contexts. Kuhn said: "I was disturbed to read that Canonical, Ltd.'s trademark aggression, which I've been vaguely aware of for some time, has reached a new height. And, I say this as someone who regularly encourages Free Software projects to register trademarks, and to occasionally do trademark enforcement and also to actively avoid project policies that might lead to naked licensing. Names matter, and Free Software projects should strive to strike a careful balance between assuring that names mean what they are supposed to mean, and also encourage software sharing and modification at the same time.

"However, Canonical, Ltd.'s behavior shows what happens when lawyers and corporate marketing run amok and fail to strike that necessary balance. Specifically, Canonical, Ltd. sent a standard cease and desist (C&D) letter to Micah F. Lee, for running fixubuntu.com, a site that clearly to any casual reader is not affiliated with Canonical, Ltd. or its Ubuntu® project. In fact, the site is specifically telling you how to undo some anti-privacy stuff that Canonical, Ltd. puts into its Ubuntu, so there is no trademark-governed threat to its Ubuntu branding. Lee fortunately got legal assistance from the EFF, who wrote a letter explaining why Canonical, Ltd. was completely wrong."

This trademarks issue/dispute which we previously covered (as did others, including some pretty major news sites [1, 2]) is not going away any time soon. Canonical is doing what's known as "damage control" right now. As Wired put it, even Ubuntu boosters shy away: "The editor of the Ubuntu news site, OMG! Ubuntu!, says that Canonical’s email to Fixubuntu.com “does make for uncomfortable reading,” but Joey-Elijah Sneddon believes that the company is trying to preserve its trademark rights, not silence critics. Although OMG! Ubuntu has been critical of the privacy issues, Canonical hasn’t sent him a nastygram. Were “Canonical really out to suppress criticism, they’d have given me a bit of a prod before now,” he said in an email interview."

The comments on this article -- like many articles of this kind -- have been rather hard-hitting too. To quote just the top 2 (not to quote selectively): "Canonical has become a total joke. What started out as a great effort, has degenerated to a disgrace for the whole Linux community." Another person says: "Canonical and Ubuntu have jumped the shark."

Ubuntu is a project that I install a lot for clients, even on the servers (not my choice), so I sure hope that Canonical will get its act together and make it comfortable -- ethically -- to do this. KDE developers, who have just reached some new milestones [1,2], feel similarly. Upsetting KDE developers [3,4,5] is not a smart thing to do, especially by comparing them to far right-wing politics. Based on a link that Will Hill shared with us (development portal), even Debian developers are growing increasingly impatient with Canonical/Ubuntu.

Muktware, a longtime Ubuntu booster (until Canonical called it a "troll" for not towing the party line 100% of the time), said:

Canonical has sent Micah. F.Lee, a staff technologist at EFF, a take-down notice for a website he started to educate people about fixing the privacy invasive feature Canonical has built in Ubuntu.

Lee started a website called fixubuntu.com, which he describes as “a place to quickly and easily learn how to disable the privacy-invasive features that are enabled by default in Ubuntu.”

He received an email from Canonical which asked him to practically shutdown the site as it uses the name Ubuntu in the domain and also showcases Ubuntu logo.

People who accuse Canonical critics of being "divisive" should take a deep look at Canonical itself. Calling people "trolls" or "Tea Party" for simply not agreeing is not just divisive; it is offensive.

Canonical could save itself a lot of trouble by just listening to many users who are upset about the privacy violations of trust, which are probably not worth the money Canonical gets from Amazon (its partners in other areas too). Why this insistence despite the backlash? Is Canonical telling the full story? We don't know the terms of the deal/s between those two companies and we know that the CIA funds US companies to help spy on customers (based on a new report from the New York Times). The behaviour of the search bar has been controversial and widely vilified well before the EFF spoke out about it (the FSF weighed in much later, and only after I had spoken to Stallman about the subject). The solution is simple and the mistake is well known; the big mistake is not trademark bullying, it is privacy violation. It is worth focusing on the real mistakes. They are technical -- not just ethical -- mistakes.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. KDE Ships First Beta of Applications and Platform 4.12
  2. KDE 4.11.3 Officially Released with Over 120 Bug Fixes
  3. KDE and Canonical Conflict over Mir Finally Bursts into the Open

    The conflict that has been brewing between the KDE developers and Canonical has finally exploded in a flurry of statements which show just how many problems the Mir display server has caused.

  4. Major KDE Developer Says Goodbye to Ubuntu

    One of the most important KDE developers, Martin Gräßlin, has written a message to the Ubuntu developers, saying goodbye.

  5. KDE Developers Continue To Be Frustrated With Canonical

    Following Mark Shuttleworth's critical comments about those opposed to Mir and his statements being challenged, multiple KDE developers in particular have been expressing their outrage.

    Aaron Seigo was the KDE developer to challenge Mark Shuttleworth to a public debate over his colorful comments regarding those opposed to Canonical's Mir Display Server for Ubuntu. Two weeks have passed since suggesting this public debate and there's still been no public response by Mark Shuttleworth, though Jono Bacon and others have commented on the matter.

Good to see things aren't changing...

You have every right to change the site, but I was reading this (and the other recent stories) and thought about the "No Changes in Tux Machines" a few days ago and it's clear that it's not just a new writer but clearly you.

You're an activist and that's how you write. It would be a shame if every story has to be like this. It's enough to present the news without needing to include your opinion.

Sadly, I'll have to agree

Sadly, I'll have to agree with Oli here. What made Tux Machines so attractive to me was the fact that it was just text-only summaries and links to original articles (the "some odds and ends" or "some leftovers" didn't even have a summary). That's just my humble opinion though, it's your site after all Wink

+1

Definitely +1 here. And please don't play around with the theme.

Returning to links

I will post only links. I've come to accept it would be better with no personal opinions added. Thanks for the input.

Strength of Tuxmachines

That's sound good to me. I might not be an advocate of Ubuntu and I've with some interest followed the disputes you link to. What I like(liked?) about Tuxmachines though was it's neutral approach and that I can pick headlines I'm interested in. Susan did also write more opiated articles, but not here. I even think she managed to include both negative and positive articles about the same subject, leaving it to us readers to decide for ourselves. I wish to be able to visit Tuxmachines, maybe even support it, without feeling guilty for taking a side I don't fully agree with.

Hence I don't see a need to shut down all writing here and just provide links. If you can handle it, some neutral summaries of certain subjects wouldn't hurt.

Point taken

I thought twice (or even thrice) whether I should write and publish this particular article. My employer is a Canonical partner and Canonical is also our customer. I spoke to people at Canonical at all levels and I always try to give them the benefit of the doubt. People who have read Techrights for a number of years know this; I defended this company and its staff quite a lot even when everyone shouted at them. Some people used to call me a "Ubuntu shill".

This time I was perhaps a little too hard on them but the real "mistake" that I made is that I expressed my opinion in a site where I oughtn't. I won't be interjecting such personal opinions again. So as Mark put it, "Mistakes made and addressed" Smile

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

More in Tux Machines

Linux Devices, Tizen, and Android

Leftovers: OSS

  • SAP buys into blockchain, joins Hyperledger Project
  • foss-north speaker line-up
    I am extremely pleased to have confirmed the entire speaker line-up for foss north 2017. This will be a really good year!
  • Chromium/Chrome Browser Adds A glTF Parser
    Google's Chrome / Chromium web-browser has added a native glTF 1.0 parser. The GL Transmission Format, of course, being Khronos' "3D asset delivery format" for dealing with compressed scenes and assets by WebGL, OpenGL ES, and other APIs. There are glTF utility libraries in JavaScript and other web-focused languages, but Google adding a native glTF 1.0 parser appears to be related to their VR push with supporting VR content on the web. Their glTF parser was added to Chromium Git on Friday.
  • Sex and Gor and open source
    A few weeks ago, Dries Buytaert, founder of the popular open-source CMS Drupal, asked Larry Garfield, a prominent Drupal contributor and long-time member of the Drupal community, “to leave the Drupal project.” Why did he do this? He refuses to say. A huge furor has erupted in response — not least because the reason clearly has much to do with Garfield’s unconventional sex life. [...] I’ll unpack the first: open-source communities/projects are crucially important to many people’s careers and professional lives — cf “the cornerstone of my career” — so who they allow and deny membership to, and how their codes of conduct are constructed and followed, is highly consequential.
  • Hazelcast Releases 3.8 – The Fastest Open Source In-Memory Data Grid
  • SecureDrop and Alexandre Oliva are 2016 Free Software Awards winners
  • MRRF 17: Lulzbot and IC3D Release Line Of Open Source Filament
    Today at the Midwest RepRap Festival, Lulzbot and IC3D announced the creation of an Open Source filament. While the RepRap project is the best example we have for what can be done with Open Source hardware, the stuff that makes 3D printers work – filament, motors, and to some extent the electronics – are tied up in trade secrets and proprietary processes. As you would expect from most industrial processes, there is an art and a science to making filament and now these secrets will be revealed.
  • RApiDatetime 0.0.2

Security Leftovers

  • NSA: We Disclose 90% of the Flaws We Find
    In the wake of the release of thousands of documents describing CIA hacking tools and techniques earlier this month, there has been a renewed discussion in the security and government communities about whether government agencies should disclose any vulnerabilities they discover. While raw numbers on vulnerability discovery are hard to come by, the NSA, which does much of the country’s offensive security operations, discloses more than nine of every 10 flaws it finds, the agency’s deputy director said.
  • EFF Launches Community Security Training Series
    EFF is pleased to announce a series of community security trainings in partnership with the San Francisco Public Library. High-profile data breaches and hard-fought battles against unlawful mass surveillance programs underscore that the public needs practical information about online security. We know more about potential threats each day, but we also know that encryption works and can help thwart digital spying. Lack of knowledge about best practices puts individuals at risk, so EFF will bring lessons from its comprehensive Surveillance Self-Defense guide to the SFPL. [...] With the Surveillance Self-Defense project and these local events, EFF strives to help make information about online security accessible to beginners as well as seasoned techno-activists and journalists. We hope you will consider our tips on how to protect your digital privacy, but we also hope you will encourage those around you to learn more and make better choices with technology. After all, privacy is a team sport and everyone wins.
  • NextCloud, a security analysis
    First, I would like to scare everyone a little bit in order to have people appreciate the extent of this statement. As the figure that opens the post indicates, there are thousands of vulnerable Owncloud/NextCloud instances out there. It will surprise many just how easy is to detect those by trying out common URL paths during an IP sweep.
  • FedEx will deliver you $5.00 just to install Flash
    Bribes on offer as courier's custom printing service needs Adobe's security sinkhole

GNOME Extensions Website Has A New Look

Every GNOME Shell user will visit the official GNOME Shell Extensions website at least once. And if those users do so this weekend they’ll notice a small difference as the GNOME Shell Extensions website is sporting a minor redesign. This online repo plays host to a stack of terrific add-ons that add additional features and tweak existing ones. Read more