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Goodbye Ubuntu

In 1999, I discovered GNU/Linux. Before then, I was a Solaris fanboy. Solaris could do no wrong, and it even took until about 2003 before I finally made the plunge, and removed Solaris off my Sun Ultra 1 (complete with 21" CRT monitor), and put Debian GNU/Linux on it. It was either Debian, or Gentoo that had SPARC support, and compiling software from source didn't sound like a lot of fun. I also had an HP laptop. It ran SUSE, Red Hat Linux, and various other distros, until it too settled on Debian. Then, in October of 2004, while at a local LUG meeting, I learned of this Debian fork called "Ubuntu".

I gave it a try. I switched from using Debian to Ubuntu on my laptop. I liked the prospects of using something that had more frequent stable releases. After which, I helped setup the Ubuntu Utah users group. We had install fests, meetings, and other activities. Our group grew fast and strong. Then, I helped to start the Ubuntu US Teams project, getting local state and regional groups, strong like the Utah group was. Eventually, I applied for Ubuntu membership, and in 2006, I got my membership, syndicated my blog to the Ubuntu Planet, and I have been here since.

Sometime around 2008, things started changing in the Ubuntu culture, and it was becoming difficult to enjoy working on it. I'm not going to list everything that Canonical has done to Ubuntu, but it's been steady. Not committing patches upstream to Linux mainline. Breaking ties with the Debian project, including rolling their own packages. Group development moved to centralized development. Copyright assignments. Switching from GNOME to Unity. Then Unity lenses and Amazon advertising. Over and over, things began changing, and as a result, the culture changed. I stopped really loving Ubuntu. Eventually, I went back to Debian for my servers, laptops and workstations. Ubuntu isn't Unix anymore. It's Apple, and I'm not sure I like the change.

Now, Micah Flee, who works for the EFF, put up a "sucks site" showing how to disable the privacy violations in Unity. Rather than take it in stride, Canonical has decided to abuse trademark law, and issue a cease and desist notice of the Fix Ubuntu site. United States courts have shown over and over than "sucks sites" are free speech, fair use, and do not infringe on the company mark. In fact, no where on the Fix Ubuntu site is the actual Ubuntu trademark. No logo, no marks, nothing. Just text. Yet, Canonical wants to silence their critics using a heavy hand. To be fair, their notice is less grumpy and bullying than most cease and desist notices. However, it doesn't change the principle.

I can't be associated with a project like this any longer. Effective immediately, my blog will no longer on the Ubuntu Planet. My Ubuntu Membership will be cancelled. My "UBUNTU" license plates, which have been on my car since August 2006, will be removed, in favor of my Amateur Radio callsign.

I wish everyone in the Ubuntu community the best of wishes. I also hope you have the power to change Ubuntu back to what it used to be. I have no ill feelings towards any person in the Ubuntu community. I just wish to now distance myself from Ubuntu, and no longer be associated with the project. Canonical's goals and visions do not align with something I think should be a Unix. Don't worry though- I'll keep blogging. You can't get that out of my blood. Ubuntu just isn't for me any longer.

Goodbye Ubuntu.

{ 25 } Comments

  1. Ian Nicholson | November 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    "In fact, no where on the Fix Ubuntu site is the actual Ubuntu trademark. No logo, no marks, nothing. Just text"
    You seem to be operating with incorrect information. The reason that the letter was sent was *because* the site was using the Ubuntu logo. You clearly saw the site after its admin removed it.

  2. mjblenner | November 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    "In fact, no where on the Fix Ubuntu site is the actual Ubuntu trademark. No logo, no marks, nothing. Just text."

    The logo used to be on the site. That was removed pretty quick though.

    And that's pretty much all the takedown notice wanted. Canonical didn't try to take down the whole site.

  3. Greg Grossmeier | November 8, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    It feels like more and more of the people from my Ubuntu "cohort" back in the day are leaving... At least we're all still together out here in Debian land.

  4. Jef Spaleta | November 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    mjblenner ,

    Actually... the takedown notice also asked for the word ubuntu to be removed from the domain site.
    So no... it wasn't just about the logo. The C&D demanded more than that.

    And as the response letter from the EFF lawyer states... neither removal of the logo nor the word mark are legally required. If the web site owner wanted to prove a point, they could have stood their ground and kept the website just as it was.

    Was sending a C&D letter the most appropriate mechanism for Canonical to use as their first attempt at a dialogue over the formatting of the website? Why wasn't a less legally formal, request to modify the site design used before the C&D letter?

    Having a paralegal send out a C&D as a first communication over any website is bullying. Are you okay with corporates doing that.. of making a standard practise of that regardless of whether there's a reasonable belief that there's actually a trademark violation going on?

    And lets be clear... there is no trademark violation going on. There was a usage of the logo and the wordmark well within fair use. It's not confusing. Canonical could have made a simple request to add an explicit disclaimer that the site is not a Canonical affiliated web property before sending the blasted letter. It would have been the considerate thing to do. Instead they did the heavy handed, legally formal, scary thing.

    Canonical needs to apologize for sending the C&D, and needs to formulate a better policy which puts a less formal communication step in front of a C&D, to give people the ability to have a dialogue with Canonical over website design without feeling they are under undue legal threat.


  5. Aaron Toponce | November 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Ian Nicholson and mjblenner- It must have been pulled before the C&D then, because I saw the site well over 8 hours ago, and no logo was on it then either. Trademark law isn't difficult to understand. Just apply the "moron in a hurry" test. If a "moron in a hurry" can tel the difference between the offending site and the trademark holder, then it likely is not infringement. Even if the logo was on the site, it's not trademark infringement. In fact, even on the site, Micah made it very clear that he was not infringing on the mark:

    Disclaimer: In case you are either 1) a complete idiot; or 2) a lawyer; or 3) both, please be aware that this site is not affiliated with or approved by Canonical Limited. This site criticizes Canonical for certain privacy-invading features of Ubuntu and teaches users how to fix them. So, obviously, the site is not approved by Canonical. And our use of the trademarked term Ubuntu is plainly descriptive—it helps the public find this site and understand its message.

    Trademark law will side with Micah here. Canonical is acting as a bully, and clearly abusing the Ubuntu trademark.

  6. Benjamin Kerensa | November 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Although I never worked with you on anything in Ubuntu it is sad to see a fellow Ubuntu Community Member go. I have mostly cut my ties with Ubuntu and not Ubuntu as in the community but Ubuntu the project that is no longer Linux for Human Beings.

    Anyways best of wishes and hopefully I will see your blog posts on other Planet's because I really enjoyed parsing them.

  7. Jef Spaleta | November 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Aaron Toponce,

    There's the apology:

    Take a second and reconsider. Instead of walking away, can you stick around and help drive a policy change so that the C&D isn't the standard opening communication, making a need for a mea culpa post less likely in the future?

  8. Jo-Erlend Schinstad | November 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    A couple of corrections.

    «Ubuntu isn't Unix anymore. It's Apple, and I'm not sure I like the change.»

    Ubuntu has never been a Unix and will probably never become one. Apple's OS X, on the other hand, is. So that's a kinda ironic statement.

    «In fact, no where on the Fix Ubuntu site is the actual Ubuntu trademark. No logo, no marks, nothing. Just text.»

    Well, that's because it's been removed after Canonical asked for it. It used to be a big Ubuntu logo with the Circle of Friends.

    I personally feel that he FixUbuntu site is somewhat destructive in nature. Not because it advocates deactivating the online searches. That's a reasonable stance, and I've argued since 2011 that these things should be opt-in. However, this site makes it look like a very complicated thing to deactivate, when in fact, it's as simple as a flip of a switch. It's also quite revealing that the script manipulates the hosts file.

    What I don't like, is when people exaggerate in order to make something look worse than it is. It makes people angry, confused and frightened and this is not a good way to win an argument. The people who do this will focus exclusively on Amazon because this is a big company and this makes it somewhat scary. None of the critics mention Wikipedia, because this would break the impression that there is an evil and malicious intent. If you try to give the impression that Wikipedia has infiltrated Ubuntu in order to spy on its users, then people just won't believe it. If you say the same thing about Amazon, then it sounds much more convincing.

    I personally think Canonial made a bad move on this one, because of the Streisand effect. But I have no difficulty understanding why they don't want their logo to be used on a site that is designed to create FUD about Ubuntu.

    It's always kinda sad to see a long time member leave the Ubuntu project. On the other hand, there's lots of flavours in the GNU landscape. Hope you find what you're looking for.

  9. Aaron Toponce | November 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Jo-Erlend Schinstad- It's kind of funny that you think OS X is Unix, and Ubuntu is not.

    Unix is 3 things:
    1- source code from Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson, including source forks.
    2- A trademark owned by The Open Group.
    3- A "unix-like" operating system that follows the Unix philosophies and design goals.

    Solaris, HP-UX, AIX and Tru64 fall under point #1. Many of those, including OS X also have received the trademark blessing from the Open Group, so they can also fall under #2. However, OS X, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, GNU/Linux, Minix easily fall under point #3, as adhering to the scope, philosophy and design goals of UNIX without sharing any of the original source code.

  10. Buntu | November 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Yes i feel much of what you said. Ubuntu 10.04 was the last great Ubuntu for me after that things started changing.

    Privacy issues this is the only reason i don't feel comfortable anymore to recommend Ubuntu. If this issue would go away i would have no issues and would again recommend Ubuntu because overall it still is the best Linux distro out there.

    I don't blame Canonical for the decision to go with Unity i think Gnome 2 was great for desktop usage but Gnome 3 is something i don't want to use and if Ubuntu would stick with pure Gnome 3 i would not use/recommend it because i don't believe Gnome 3 in current state is something general public wants to accept. They did a bad job with Gnome 3 and they should fix it first if they want users actually using and enjoining it like it was in Gnome 2 times. I think it's fair we say this because it's not like Ubuntu went after Unity and the alternative was Gnome 2. No it went after Unity and the alternative was Gnome 3 and Gnome 3 is not something average (Linux) user wants to use.

    Basically privacy issues is something i can understand why you are leaving and i share your opinion on this. Not staying with Gnome 3 i can't share this opinion with you because Gnome 3 in current state is not something i would recommend to others or would use myself.

  11. Ian Nicholson | November 8, 2013 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Aaron Toponce-
    You say that Unix is 3 things, but the following link seems to provide a definitive definition that differs from yours:

  12. thg | November 8, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Here's the story from Micah himself, including his own screenshots of his site clearly showing the logo: and no disclaimer Logo removed and disclaimer put up after he got the "c&d" email. As far as people calling it "c&d", I have never ever seen a nicer wording on such a thing. IMHO he, you and others over-reacted on this.

    Oh, and my own disclaimer: I'm not a canonical/ubuntu-fan at all. I have not and will never ever use ubuntu or any distribution based on it (if it comes to my attention that it's based on ubuntu). That's because ubuntu delayed my adventure into Linux by about 2 years (from DD's to HH's) by hiding a bug which would trash ALL harddrives if there was more than one harddrive in the computer when trying out ubuntu.

  13. thg | November 8, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    re. "his own screenshots", nope, sorry remembered wrong, it's the lawyer's screenshots... 😉

  14. Aaron Toponce | November 9, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Ian Nicholson- The Open Group has a few things wrong.

    1) Novell never sold the copyrights to SCO. That was the result of a long ongoing legal battle between SCO and Novell.
    2) Of course The Open Group doesn't want to recognize that UNIX is also a philosophy. They've been defensive for people even using the terms "unix-like".

    Still doesn't change the matter that the community, and the rest of the world consider the open source BSDs, Minix and GNU/Linux a "Unix". So, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  15. Jo-Erlend Schinstad | November 9, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    You realize what GNU means, yes?

  16. Jono Bacon | November 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to see you go, Aaron! Thanks for your many contributions to the community!

  17. John Morgan | November 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    @J-E Schinstad "You realize what GNU means, yes?
    It means exactly what Richard Stallman intended - the name of a free software enterprise. It also means a Wildebeeste when written "Gnu".

  18. leon | November 10, 2013 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Sorry you are leaving the project. A big thank you from me for your contributions to the community. I understand your steps, and concerns. I am in the same process.

  19. Aaron Toponce | November 10, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Joe-Erlend Schinstad- Well of course. When you don't have a usable kernel, you can't even be an operating system, let alone a Unix.

  20. Steve Barker | November 10, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Whatever you want to call it, I feel it is a matter of attitude.

    I decided that there was a problem when I repeatedly tried ringing Microsoft about DOS 6 Upgrade not working. I just got patronised by a helpline that really did not have a clue because us consumers were doing the Beta testing.

    Eventually, I came to the conclusion that software that did exist to exploit, and let me make choices, was what I wanted.

    Sometimes commerciality oversteps the mark, such as when Mint alters your search setting, but overall I do not believe direct exploitation (and/or greed) is the motive such as with Microsoft, or iTunes.

    Ubuntu may not be perfect, but I do not believe it is malicious.

  21. Martin H | November 12, 2013 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Which operating system are you using instead of Ubuntu? Would be happy to hear from you.

  22. Martin H | November 12, 2013 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    I mean which distribution?

  23. Mark Devery | November 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    "Still doesn't change the matter that the community, and the rest of the world consider the open source BSDs, Minix and GNU/Linux a "Unix". So, we'll just have to agree to disagree."

    In all the years I have been using Linux, developing on/for Linux (and Solaris, and...) I've never heard any of my colleagues refer to Linux as "a Unix", at least not without some qualifier in there such as "like". Or when I worked for a university, or in any LUGs. "Unix-like" (or similar), but "a Unix" (something much more specific), no.

    You are also quite a few things wrong in regards to timing/webpage content.

    I agree with all of your sentiments re: Ubuntu, but things like this undermine your dramatic statement.

  24. Dave | March 12, 2014 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Much respect to the author. I'll be switching from Ubuntu to Debian for the same reasons. Ubuntu is becoming another Google/Apple/Microsoft and I'm not interested in supporting that.

  25. Cahya | May 13, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Honestly, I love using Ubuntu, they are good as "better" on Linux distribution of choice. But since some "privacy incident", and some other things, I felt no longer "connected" with Ubuntu.

    Now using only openSUSE for my daily work, and I fell "okay" with it. Well, its just about feeling in the end.

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