More on Canonical's Contributions

Apparently still troubled over the backlash sparked by Dave Neary's report of top (and bottom) GNOME contributors given at July's GUADEC convention, Mark Shuttleworth, posted his "Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption." As I reported previously on that report, Ubuntu was found to contribute less to GNOME than just about any other organization in the Open Source world. In response, Shuttleworth, et al., explained all the contributions Ubuntu makes to the community in other ways. The controversy had faded into the background and was almost forgotten, until the above-mentioned September 14 blog post.

In this post, Shuttleworth shared two stories of Ubuntu use that triggered the foundation of what he feels he and Ubuntu should contribute back. One was parents teaching their children to use a computer through Ubuntu and the other was the support contract for a large company deploying tens of thousands Ubuntu installations.

Shuttleworth acknowledges all those developers and companies who bring the open-source projects used in Ubuntu to life and says giving Ubuntu to the world for free is his contribution back to these companies and namely the GNOME Project. Ubuntu wasn't founded to write code, he explained, but to deliver Linux to the masses.

Shuttleworth continues to list how hard the Ubuntu team works for the idea of free software and how important their work is. He points to the Papercuts Project, which formed to simplify the interface and fix as many bugs as possible. He mentions their cutting-edge design department and how they (and he) are shaping the desktops of tomorrow. He points out that Ubuntu is where the action is.

In conclusion, Shuttleworth again praises projects from each corner of the community and urges members not to argue with each other because that is counterproductive.


Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of


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You all really want to know

Anonymous's picture

You all really want to know what the real fact is ? the real fact is straight Ubuntu is one of the best Distro's Linux has to offer without the need to pay even a $ to use it. The fact is that Ubuntu has become so popular among the non Linux masses that paid Distro's like Red-hat and their counter free fedora have become too unknown to the New Linux market. Companies like Red-Hat are burning in their own environment cause their Distro's do not have the same effect as Ubuntu. This war of words was started mainly at a developer meeting for Android and Linux Kernel at Google Where if you notice the speakers that represented Linux where mainly Full Time Red Hat Team Dev's who wanted to flame out at Ubuntu cause of their own personal massive failure in deploying Linux to the masses. How much Does or Did Android contribute to the development of the Linux Kernel until the community revolted ? But still Android grows @ 800%.. and the Linux community flames at them..! And for a fact IF UBUNTU DID NOT REACH THE MASSES LINUX WOULD STILL BE LIVING BACK IN THE DARK AGES. UBUNTU MAY NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE LINUX KERNEL BUT STILL DOES CONTRIBUTE A'LOT TO THE COMMUNITY BY SPREADING IT TO THE PEOPLE. If the people who use Linux did not use it or still use M'Win who would you develop for? yourself? for how long? Ubuntu Started a Revolution It Would be Better if Flamers would try not stoping it as it would JUST BE PUSHING LINUX BACK to where it was in the 90's or in the early 2000's.

linux newbie

papahonk's picture

i just recently got into Linux( little over a year now). a friend gave me a ubuntu 8.10 disk to try on a netbook that came with vista..ugh. now im far from being very smart in all this but, the ubuntu community helped me to work around a couple of issues. The pulsbo vid chip being one. It was very encouraging to be able to fix issues like this with the help i have received. I doubt i will ever write any code myself, But i've been checking out other distros and i will recommend ubuntu to anyone who asks when they see it on my computer.
Who knows which distro ill like in the end But, ubuntu got me into linux. Who knows what great minds might stumble in from ubuntu then check out other distos and turn out to be contributers. Just my 2 cents worth.
Oh and BTW, THANK YOU all for the Help ive gotten playing with ubuntu, Puppy, DSL, ect. even with some of the snobby attitudes you guys are a great help.

I tried to contribute...

gyles19's picture

A samba-common package came down into Ubunto from Debian last year and blew up during install because of a badly written install script. I spent an afternoon tracking down the problem and submitted a bug report with corrective patch to Debian about it.

They closed my bug report, ignored the patch, and blew me off.

I will never waste my time fixing a Debian package for Debian again, let me tell you.

Talk about linux snobs!!

bug report number

Anonymous's picture

Hi, do you mind to provide the bug report number?

Overlooked point

Scott P's picture

Forget all the arguments and temporarily re-set your bias to neutral.

Now ask yourself the question: "Does Ubuntu MARKET Ubuntu for Enterprise servers?"
... why, yes, they do.

Now go find out how many kernel developers Ubuntu sponsors.
Answer: VERY FEW, and last I checked they had NONE in the filesystem space.

Filesystem engineers are critical to have on any distro claiming to be "enterprise".

Next, I would say that the GNOME issue is a smokescreen, and the real issue is selling an enterprise product without contributing back or having the in-house expertise necessary.

Next, As for Ubuntu's contributions to GNOME, people should cut them some slack as they are doing lots of OTHER work in the "desktop user space".

Next, people give Ubuntu too much credit for fixing the Linux desktop. They haven't. Look, I use Ubuntu for desktops and I swear by it. But much of the credit given to them is due to the other distros exiting the desktop market. So it was inevitable that one vendor would get most desktop users. As new Ubuntu versions come out, people still compare them like "Oh Ubuntu is SO much better than that desktop Red Hat put out [huh? You mean Red Hat 9??]"

Ubuntu's desktop benefits from a willingness to provide restricted codecs, whereas profitable Red Hat does NOT want to become a target for lawsuits so they avoid the issue as best they can with Fedora and RHEL.

The most funny argument is:

Anonymous's picture

The most funny argument is: 'they make money by the other's work'... Canonical makes money?! where??? they are a failure of company.. a joke for linux business.. only Red hat and Novell makes money , infact they are the best contributors to many projects.. And , of course, they have the better open desktop distro too.. opensuse, and fedora, largely superior in every circustance (installation out of the box too)..

I have read Mark's

vikram's picture

I have gone thru Mark's blog, and I fully agree with him. Everybody has contributed to open source movement. And open source movement is above all projects. Canonical has marketed open source most successfully in the form of Ubuntu, and if they are reaping the benefit now, What is wrong in that.

if ubuntu wasn't around,

DiggyDO's picture

if ubuntu wasn't around, linux would still be in the dark ages lurking in the shadows. but you haters are f'ing idiots who only think you know about open source and what it truly means. go away and masterbate to your Stallman posters. idiots.

If Ubuntu wasn't around there

Anonymous's picture

If Ubuntu wasn't around there would be more people using other distributions.

Sure, Ubuntu may be easier to install than others, but Aunt Tillie the English Teacher wouldn't even install windows 7 on her own. If she is using Ubuntu is only because: 1. The school decided to make savings, adopted Linux and a technician installed on her laptop; 2. She bought one with Linux preinstalled.

Having a large user base doesn't make Canonical a large contributor to the OSS community.

If it was that easy TiVo and other set top boxes producers would be the greatest of all, are they?

I don't understand why you and others take it so personal, Canonical doesn't contribute back to the community as much as it should: they have the largest user base but are the one who contributes the less.

Ubuntu is 90% repackaged Debian, Canonical makes money on their work and it gives little back to them.

These are the facts, why take offence?

Please stop being a troll.

Andydread's picture

Please stop being a troll. At least have your facts strait. Canonical is not making any profit on Ubuntu. That is a fact. Secondly If you are not a troll then please explain regarding your statement "Canonical doesn't contribute back to the community as much as it should" Who are you to determine what anyone should contribute to Linux? Are you Linus Torvalds? And How much have you determined that they should contribute? Do you have a citation? And do you use Linux? Do you load it on people's computers? you know .. distribute it? If so then how much kernel code or filesystem code have you written? Where in the GPL does it say the if you use or distribute this product you are obligated to write kernel code? Have you written any?

Thank you Mark Shuttleworth

Sum Yung Gai's picture

I haven't agreed with every decision you've made, e. g. the one about proprietary video drivers, but I understand the reason for it. That said, I thank you profusely for Ubuntu. You took Debian and made it much more user-friendly for Aunt Tillie the English Teacher who is not a hacker. That's what we need.

To those who would criticize Mark Shuttleworth: let's see *YOU* come out with a very user-friendly, desktop-oriented GNU/Linux distro as he as done. Let's see *YOU* market it successfully as he has up against the combined billions in marketing dollars of Microsoft and Apple. Then, you might have a place to criticize, but until you do...well, the acronym "STFU" comes to mind....


Anonymous Super Hero's picture

I fully agree with this response. If it wasn't for Ubuntu I would still be using Windows.

Thank you Mark.

Some people develop the

Anonymous's picture

Some people develop the kernel, others develop Gnome or KDE and others...

Make money on their work.

Which is as it should

Martin Owens's picture

Which is as it should be.

Please, make as much money as you can from my work. The only thing I would object to is doing it via deception or not abiding by my licensing terms.

It may be compliant with the

Anonymous's picture

It may be compliant with the license but it's still called leeching and few open source developers think it's the way it should be.

FLOSS is not about making money on someone else work, it's about contributing (and why not, also making money in the process).

The programmer develop software and let everybody use it hoping they find it useful, the users contributes back the way they can. Some contributes back patches and code, some report bugs and help with the testing, others make donations. Others just use it.

It's a delicate balance between all this kind of users, the higher the contribution the healthier the project.

When there is not enough support from the community soon or later the developer loses interest, in most cases because like anybody else he needs to make a living and, like many of us, also to take care of a family. There are plenty of examples of great open source projects that died or stalled because of this.

So... Not, it is not ok to make money on someone else work without giving anything back. Sure, it's not against the rules but it doesn't make you look good in the eyes of the community.

As I see it, Canonical is getting more from the OSS community that it gives back.

I'll be the first to

LazyO>'s picture

I'll be the first to criticize Ubuntu, but I'd love to see you point me to all this money Canonical is making. In fact, it wasn't too long ago (well, okay it was but...) that Red Hat was in the exact same position as Canonical is in now. And look how the hordes criticize Canonical for not contributing compared to Red Hat.

Then change the GPL

Dan B's picture

If you don't like how Ubuntu uses the GPL to make money, then get it changed. Ubuntu is doing exactly what the GPL was created for. Without Ubuntu, I and many other people would never have even heard of Linux, much less started using it.

people know ubuntu

djfake's picture

When I where an Ubuntu tshirt in public, people say "oh cool, linux". It's the brand they recognize, and that is no small feat. Thanks Mark & Ubuntu

I tried Ubuntu flavours and

Anonymous's picture

I tried Ubuntu flavours and found them full of bloat, poorly designed, and just wrong. If you want lean, get Debian, if you want it to be easier then make it so. The only person stopping this from happening is you.

I tried Debian. It was lean

Anonymous's picture

I tried Debian. It was lean alright. Infact, so lean that I didn't even have drivers for wireless (It's okay, most don't) OR the wired ethernet. Kinda kills it right there.

Ubuntu serves a great purpose by 'Just working.' Most of the general public doesn't have time to sit around and compile and tweak to get an OS running. Provided they could even understand it. Most have house to clean, commuting, working, picking the kids up from school, cooking dinner, doctors appointments, classes, the family laundry, etc. etc. Along with trying to find some downtime in all this whirlwind for themselves.
It's a time sensitive world out there, for most.

Kudos to Ubuntu.

Perspective Bytes

Joe Flynn's picture

"I tried Ubuntu flavours and found them full of bloat, poorly designed, and just wrong. If you want lean, get Debian, if you want it to be easier then make it so. The only person stopping this from happening is you."

Are you really expecting everyone to learn how to recompile a kernel, for example? Reality check....Most people don't care - they just want it to work, just like they want their car to run without them having to know anything about the engine. Every second spent 'tweaking' and 'configuring' and etc etc to get the OS to work is time them.

Good for you for learning so much about *nix. Now, please learn how to make productive commentary and support the movement....if you can manage that.

Honestly... fighting that near-sighted, condescending attitude seems like a larger hurdle than any other on this subject.

You're completely missing his/her point

LazyO>'s picture

Well, choosing compiling the kernel as an example is a poor choice, it's literally a couple lines of commands.

But anyway, that wasn't his/her point, the point was that Ubuntu was horribly bloated and poorly designed in places (Notify-OSD anyone?) and that Debian isn't. Hey lookie here!:

I know lots of people using

Anonymous's picture

I know lots of people using Ubuntu like Debian Sid (Unstable) with better releasing cycle. That means half year peace, then adrenalin, etc. You dont have to worry about every upgrade like in Debian Unstable, but you have newer software than Stable/Testing. And big bonus of Ubuntu is their PPA.
Sry there's not nowadys better all purpose, newbie friendly and stable distribution than Ubuntu. And that is their best contribution to open source comunity.

openSUSE (well presumably

LazyO>'s picture

openSUSE (well presumably that's getting sold to VMWare now but whatever) is just as user friendly as Ubuntu.

10.10 Will Only Add to the Popularity

Kenny Strawn's picture

And as much as I have been testing the Maverick Meerkat (ever since Alpha 1), I have noticed that it only adds to Ubuntu's ease of use. Take the partitioner for instance: All you have to do to partition your HDD is set a slider (the boundary between the very large bars that in turn show you just how big each partition is going to be) to the desired disk setup that you want and then click "Next" -- in some ways it's similar to Mac OS X's Boot Camp.

Same thing with the Software Center: It now has the option (if the user doesn't know of any FOSS that meets their needs) to purchase proprietary software. So far, the only thing there is the Fluendo DVD Player, but as soon as the major software vendors find out about this, they will realize that they don't have to FOSS their code to make it available for Ubuntu and so will decide to support Linux.

TANSTAAFL - the cost of marketing

katto's picture

I also agree. While it may seem like there is all take and no give, the PR contribution is valuable. The more interest there is: the better, as long as the ideals of the open source model are maintained.

Moreover, as a linux snob, I can feel superior about joe public using an "easy" version, while I have to hack away to get things working - yes, Debian's so difficult to work with. So I too benefit from the Ubuntu PR phenomena.

I would also argue, regarding Lorin's point about lack of increased linux awareness, that perhaps more work has to be done in this area. Although, maybe this is the way to increase market share. Linux has a reputation as a complex/hobbyist/developer OS that is not suitable for general use. Maybe the best way forward is getting it out there under the radar. This is also happening with mobile phones - how many people realise the extent of linux usage in smart phones?


Lorin's picture

What Mark says makes sense until you start asking around and find that most people still do not know what Linux is, but they sure know what Ubuntu is and just because many people use it doesn't directly translate to more Linux awareness or use outside of Canonicals products, the people I talk to at work think Ubuntu is a Mac clone.

I agree too

markh's picture

I primarily use Ubuntu based distros for my own know why? because I can friggin type 'sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras' and almost everything I want flippin works! Out of the box BTW not to mention plug and pray is ALOT better with ubuntu than most I have tried years ago OH and 1 click gets proprietary drivers going as well.

now dont misunderstand.....I like fedora too and its "almost as easy" thank goodness for yum (wasnt around back in the day).

also I have 2 debian servers I setup at work because it needs to be the most stable, but a desktop should be EASY :)

I have disagreed with some things they have done (copying mac interface etc, not having gimp standard, gnome shell) I use kubuntu and slightly modify a few things but its the EASIEST linux I have ever used and its the only linux I have ever been able to setup winusers on successfully.

Ubuntu wasn't founded to

Anonymous's picture

Ubuntu wasn't founded to write code, he explained, but to deliver Linux to the masses

Translates to

Ubuntu was founded to market/sell a product, making Linux popular/unpopular is not the objective, just a side effect.

stop trying to start flamewars

Anonymous's picture

The fact that you dislike ubuntu doesn't mean that it has become unpopular. Call it a "sell out," but it's still free software, which is what matters, and it's exploring new audiences/markets, which is something that hasn't been done before.

It's not like Ubuntu is actively trying to kill debian and gentoo and fedora and all the other distros. It's trying to fill a niche they don't fill, and if you don't like it, shut up and stop complaining and let the rest of us who enjoy ubuntu enjoy it.

stop trying to start flamewars

Anonymous's picture

The fact that you dislike ubuntu doesn't mean that it has become unpopular. Call it a "sell out," but it's still free software, which is what matters, and it's exploring new audiences/markets, which is something that hasn't been done before.

It's not like Ubuntu is actively trying to kill debian and gentoo and fedora and all the other distros. It's trying to fill a niche they don't fill, and if you don't like it, shut up and stop complaining and let the rest of us who enjoy ubuntu enjoy it.

I have read Mark's

Francisco J. Bejarano's picture

I have read Mark's declarations and I absolutly agree with him.

Some people develop the kernel, others develop Gnome or KDE and others develop Ubuntu and disseminate GNU\Linux culture to ALL people. All of them exersice their right to contribute to the Free Software with total freedom.

Canonical has achieved with Ubuntu one thing that other distributions haven't achieved. Now GNU\Linux is much more well-known for ALL people.