Collateral Damage Due to Radical Change in UI for Ubuntu

A review of the beta release of Ubuntu 11.04 shows the problems that happen with regular releases and radical change. Things break and the system is rough. That’s the advantage of Debian GNU/Linux testing flavour. They put all that rough stuff in a separate branch of the distro until it’s ready. Ubuntu charges ahead like a bull in a China shop.

If this is what Unity and Weyland have in store for the standard-bearing distro for the GNU/Linux desktop, the world needs to shift to something smoother like Debian GNU/Linux. A larger distro with more flavours gives smoother transitions and more choices. That’s what end-users or OEMs need to supply a usable product.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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28 Responses to Collateral Damage Due to Radical Change in UI for Ubuntu

  1. Being valuable enough as a business to be bought, lock, stock and barrel, is cool for a small business. You get paid for the work you have done and the future value resulting.

    MySQL AB received $1billion for their efforts. That’s not chicken fee.

    One can sell software for something other than money. GNU sells software for the joy of having it out there.

    Oracle is not on the LibreOffice bandwagon, yet.

    IBM installs more desktops with GNU/Linux, particularly thin clents than just about the whole rest of the world. While RedHat will put some in if customers beg them, IBM has been doing desktops since the mainframe era and is trusted.

    see for example: CBRonline interview

  2. oldman says:

    “MySQL succeeded and was bought by SUN which was bought by Oracle… Isn’t that heaven for a small business?”

    Being used a lot is not success Pog. MySQL never had a very large pool of payimg customers, and certainly not enough to pay for the R&D they did. Small wonder the original “owners” took the money and ran.

    As far as SUN is concerned, a bigger pile of fail never existed! Hopefully Oracle will be able to do better with SUN’s assets than SUN did!

    “GNOME is a subsidiary of FSF, a registered charity/non-profit. The budget is over $1million and it holds thousands of copyrights.”

    Which by any definition makes it a non commercial venture and therefore NOT an ISV by any reasonable definition and certainly not much more than a niche played in the personal desktop space as a whole.

    “Oracle produces and distributes OpenOffice.org, the flagship of the GNU/Linux desktop. IBM installs or designs many thousands of GNU/Linux desktops. ”

    I find it particularly humorous that you bring up openoffice. I thought that LibreOffice was the one true version, eh Pog?

    No Matter. Both Oracle and IBM are oriented towards enterprise IT. Neither is a player in the personal desktop space that has been the scope of this discussion. They bring nothing to Canonical in its quest leverage its position as THE desktop Linux distribution into a money making proposition.

    I stand by my estimate –

  3. RedHat gets most of its business in USA. Canonical is global. I think that and “the cloud” will bring them to positive cash-flow this year.

  4. The GPL is quite friendly to business. It saves development costs which are huge.

    Zimbra has 50 million paid mailboxes as of 2009 and had 100% per annum growth. That’s pretty main-stream.

    MySQL succeeded and was bought by SUN which was bought by Oracle… Isn’t that heaven for a small business?

    Novell had huge growth on the Linux side of their business. It has been bought by a consortium that may or may not include M$ at arm’s length. As far as I can tell, there has been no slowing of their business.

    GNOME is an ISV for sure. They may not make huge bucks selling licences for the product but much of the world contributes to GNOME as the de facto GNU/Linux desktop. KDE is another. GNOME is a subsidiary of FSF, a registered charity/non-profit. The budget is over $1million and it holds thousands of copyrights.

    Oracle produces and distributes OpenOffice.org, the flagship of the GNU/Linux desktop. IBM installs or designs many thousands of GNU/Linux desktops. They probably put more GNU/Linux desktops up than all the other providers put together. They have 15000 business using their services and may are slurping up thin client systems by the tens of thousands at a crack. IBM has been doing that since the heyday of the main frame and businesses trust them to make it work. They make big bucks providing the servers behind those systems.

  5. oldman says:

    “People laughed at Google and RedHat too. They make a ton of money and so will Canonical.”

    Red Hat made 87million on 748 million in gross income. This is not Shabby, but it is hardly the pile of money that you allude to Pog. has not even broken the billion dollar barrier for all of its success. and Google’s bread and butter remains its search engine.

    Canonical brings to the table nothing that even close to the value add that these companies do.

    Do you really believe that Canonical is going to make money Pog?

    FYI – Red Hat Numbers are from 2010 Annual Statement.
    (http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/RHAT/1213398895x0x396285/ADF4C21A-48D1-4D91-8F43-8348C6D364FE/Red_Hat_2010_Annual_Report.pdf)

  6. oldman says:

    “You don’t count GNOME, Oracle, Novell and IBM as ISVs?”

    Oracle, IBM and Novell are focused on the server market. We are talking desktop here Pog, and that is a very different market with different expectations.

    GNOME is an open source project, ISV’s are commercial entities. Nice try Pog.

    “It’s all working. There is lots of growth.”

    I’ve looked at your list. All of these are would be Enterprise IT players, and some (MySQL, Zimbra, Novell) have effectively ceased to exist having failed commercially and been bought up by someone else. Of those very few of Cannonical’s software partner who are desktop oriented, none sell only for the Linux desktop

    How is that working Pog?

    At any rate, none of these companies are in the mainstream for Desktop applications.

    Personally I am beginning to think that Shuttleworth has a problem. Ubuntu simply does not bring enough value add to the server space to be a player, and Ubuntu desktop as a commercial entity is hamstrung by the community in general and the GPL in particular.

    Lets see if I am proven wrong.

  7. You don’t count GNOME, Oracle, Novell and IBM as ISVs? GNU/Linux is popular with lots of folks who make software, and they love Ubuntu because Shuttleworth and his gang have opened up lots of accounts with OEMs and system configurators. It’s all working. There is lots of growth.

    Check out Canonical’s partners.

  8. Any sane business person knows you don’t bleed money for years. The fact that he is still on Ubuntu is because he likes what he sees. People laughed at Google and RedHat too. They make a ton of money and so will Canonical.

  9. oldman says:

    “Most users don’t care about Freedom. GNU/Linux has moved far beyond geeks.”

    Personally, I don’t think that Canonical has moved far enough. For all his peccadilloes, Shuttleworh deserves kudos for at least trying to make a commercial go of Linux. Ubuntu is in my experience about a close as you can get to a non geek ready Linux desktop.

    Unfortunately, I dont know if canonical has either the will or the resources to make linux attractive to software ISV’s

    We shall see…

  10. John Bilderback says:

    “You’ve forgotten to put either a citation”

    I’m just doing the same thing you guys do including and especially Pogson. Robert’s claim is that “Banshee is getting the cash, a lot of cash.”

    This is of course bunk. However, the claim that Mark Shuttleworth and his Canonical company are losing money (and yes it’s his company and so he is losing money) is true.

    The reason why no one except FOSS supporters believe in Mark or Canonical is that he’s not willing to put out his balance sheet. Any sane business person knows full well that the reason why he’s not willing to put out his balance sheet is that he’s spent 10s of millions of dollars and received a small trickle back. IOW he’s bleeding money, and fast.

    Face it, Canonical is Mark Shuttleworth’s pet project and when he burns through his assets, he’ll abandon Linux.

  11. The quality issues will be more important until M$ starts suing over Mono. Most users don’t care about Freedom. GNU/Linux has moved far beyond geeks. If Ubuntu made a major move in share this year, M$ would sue just to slow it down or tax it. I expect that could happen anyway if SCOTUS takes another look at software-patents. “Use them or lose them” kicks in.

  12. lpbbear says:

    “Banshee could go from thousands of users to millions.”

    Not this user.

    Canonical has been making a series of mistakes and miscalculations. Mono based Banshee is certainly one of them. Whether one likes the software or not the clear ties to Microsoft make the default inclusion of it in a major distribution far too dangerous. There are PLENTY of good music managers for Linux that could have been the one used here that do not have ties back to Redmond. Given the nasty attitude displayed around the net by Mono proponents it came as no surprise to me that there was even a controversy over revenue.

    Another Canonical decision that will likely be an issue is the move to Unity/Wayland. There have been years and thousands of hours invested in bringing Gnome and XOrg to the level of quality and compatibility we enjoy now. Common sense tells me that Canonical will not be able to achieve that level of quality and compatibility with Unity and Wayland in the short amount of time they have given themselves. I expect huge issues to pop up in the next couple of releases.

    In general the whole 6 month release cycle has not been all that smooth. Every release seems to be plagued with bugs and not just the type you have to hunt for. Many I have seen are really blatant obvious bugs that would require a blind Q/C department to miss. Even so they have released many recent versions with clearly obvious bugs.

    Even though I do admire the fact that Shuttleworth is willing to put his money where his mouth that is not enough for me to forget the above issues. I have gradually begun moving myself and any Linux using customers away from Ubuntu/Kubuntu and am exploring other options especially those that use a “Rolling Release” style of development.

  13. $5000 or $30000 does not matter. That’s money Banshee likely would not get if it weren’t for Canonical promoting them in Ubuntu. It costs Canonical money to do that and they see this sharing of revenue as just.

    see Banshee’s Revenue

    For a bit of history, see Banshee 1.8 Brings Amazon MP3 Support Back to Linux

    Ubuntu One revenue which is now going to be shared with GNOME does not stem solely from Banshee.

    100% of OpenSuse revenue from Banshee will be donated.

    Banshee will be getting plenty from Ubuntu’s promotion. 100% of a small slice is peanuts compared to 25% of a huge slice. Banshee could go from thousands of users to millions.

  14. Brian Page says:

    @John Bilderback:

    “Canonical is not making money, it’s losing money at an enormous rate.”

    sorry, but what is that comment based on?
    You’ve forgotten to put either a citation, or a: “In my opinion” in front of that – because I can’t find anything to support what you’re saying.

    also, you seem to be using “Mark Shuttleworth” and “Canonical” interchangeably. why would Mark running out of money and abandoning Linux matter to anyone?
    If he squanders his money and buys a macbook, who cares what he does in his own time?

    He works for Canonical – they are a Linux services development company – and they have money according to everything I found while looking up your claim that they don’t.

  15. John Bilderback says:

    “No one squabbled. Banshee is getting the cash, a lot of cash.”

    LOL. Apparently your idea and the business world’s idea of “a lot of cash” are different. The amount is less than $5,000 USD.

    It’s pennies. Canonical is fighting over pennies. They are losing hundreds of thousands per month and it’s only a matter of time before Shuttleworth runs out of money and abandons Linux for good.

    Canonical is not making money, it’s losing money at an enormous rate.

  16. Like M$ is hurting, forcing folks to pay for VFAT.

  17. No one squabbled. Banshee is getting the cash, a lot of cash.
    So what happened? Shuttleworth explained, “In engaging with Banshee leads at UDS, we should have been absolutely clear about our expectations and commitment. Apparently, we weren’t, and for that I apologize. There was certainly no conspiring or maliciousness, it apparently just never came up. But it was my expectation that we would share revenue with Banshee, I mentioned it briefly to someone closer to the conversation, but I failed to follow up until I heard rumours of a potential disagreement on the subject in recent days.”

    see SJVN

  18. John Bilderback says:

    “Do you think a paying customer, saving that kind of cash is not going to pay Canonical?”

    And yet they’re squabbling over a couple of thousand with the Banshee crew.

    Looks to me like they’re hurting.

  19. Canonical is now making money on Ubuntu both desktop and server.
    “Asay says Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud now has 12,000 active deployments, with 200 new ones coming online each day. (Still, we didn’t get into deep details about how many of those deployments are monetized.)”

    see TheVarGuy

    That was a year ago. Has anyone seen a slowdown in cloud or server work? How about desktops? They are flourishing too. Canonical is a very lean company. Most of their staff are engineers, not salesmen. The salesmen they do have make big deals with the likes of Dell and IBM.
    “Gold Partners benefit from our highest level of partnership. These partners receive engineering, support and marketing services, but require higher revenue and support commitments. As a result, Canonical works extensively with these partners so they can benefit from a more strategic relationship with us and become closely involved in our business processes and strategies.”

    There are a bunch of “Gold Partners”.

    Here’s a happy customer that reduced their running servers from 100 with that other OS to 30 running Ubuntu (same hardware, they now have 70 spares). Do you think a paying customer, saving that kind of cash is not going to pay Canonical? Of course they pay.

  20. John Bilderback says:

    LOL. More flailing fail for Linux on the desktop. It’s just a matter of time before Canonical runs out of money and realizes that FOSS is dead end.

  21. ray says:

    @Richard Chapman

    True, but some of them are genuine, and highlight te problems of Linux.

    BTW, Boycott Novell are probably creating more discord, and more infighting than the flamers themselves.

  22. The cadence business is important/useful but it does break things. That’s why they have LTS releases so people who abhor breakage can stick with one release for years.

    Mark Shuttleworth does have a passion for making things user-friendly and featureful.

    I don’t think either of those aspects of the UI issue could possibly be a conspiracy with the dark side. They could be a reason why Ubuntu should have an even/odd release system, or a dual-stream release system. I expect Canonical’s partners are probably doing something like that effectively by using a previous release and not the current release. It’s all good. Keeps us awake.

  23. Richard Chapman says:

    It would be just too easy for some miscreants to seed hate and discord in a Linux community. I can never accept that all those flames are genuine. I would certainly be remarkable for Microsoft to leave that stone unturned.

  24. When you get 1000 people in a room, you are bound to have some disagreements. In an organization where everyone agrees on everything creativity is suppressed.

  25. Bob Parker says:

    When I retired from work a few years ago with some programming and admin skills I thought I might try for a Debian developer. So I joined the debian-devel list and lurked for a few months. After reading the incessant flame wars for that time I decided I was not sufficiently socially retarded to make the cut so I just quit. Ian Murdock is a giant in computing as far as I am concerned but he is long gone from his brilliant conception. I still subscribe to debian-user but really reading stuff like “I know how to do X but What Is The True Debian Way?” is just sickening. It’s a Linux distribution not a religion. Maybe I’m wrong about that, maybe it is a religion albeit without a tithe. Kudos to Ubuntu for getting it out to the masses and if they stuff it up too badly I’ll just move onto Mint or Slackware.

  26. Mats Hagglund says:

    Just like Linux Mint, my fav for beginners. And after what Canonical are doing Mint could be even better choice.

  27. Ray says:

    On the bright side, more people can use Ubuntu as a beginner’s distro.

  28. Mats Hagglund says:

    I tend to keep 1-2 LTS distros in my desktop and 1-2 more or less testing releases. When they asked me to install Linux to computer owned by person never used Linux before, i’ll always favour LTS and stable one (couple of months after release day). Debian could be a fine one but honestly – i haven’t used it before. So i guess Squeeze is my next project. Have to learn it before offering the others.

    BTW there was pretty embarrassed experience with Ubuntu Karmic Koala 1½ years ago. Many USB-modems which worked fine in 9.04 broke in Karmic. As i remember some of uss had to wait for kernel update. Not nice one for reputation of Ubuntu.

    Linus has mentioned that ½ year cycle is rather tough task. And that’s the case with Canonical too.

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