Why Ubuntu

I’m generally wary of posting controversial opinions online. Backlash can be orders of magnitudes worse than expected, and dissension is not possible, but probable. Nevertheless, I will be describing what went through my head when I installed Ubuntu desktop recently for the first time since high school (some eight odd years ago or so).

Opaque installation

I decided to install Ubuntu to gain some additional familiarity with the package manager. After all, I planned on running a cluster of tens of Ubuntu servers in the cloud. In addition, Ubuntu introduced me to the world of Linux in a fairly accessible manner. I remain grateful to Ubuntu for this to this day.

The first thing I noticed was that the installation seemed professional and “neat.” However, beyond letting me set up the partitions as I would have liked (which is something even Windows lets the user do), I had no way to know what was being installed, let alone change it. “Fine,” I thought. This is just Canonical’s way of making the operating system more usable for the average user, and while I might have preferred a more transparent installation process, I was ok with it as it was.

The Travesty

Amazon Ads, Amazon Ads Everywhere

Admittedly, I’ve had my head under a rock when it comes to Ubuntu news. Needless to say, my jaw dropped when I saw the Amazon icon on the left toolbar. I removed it immediately and attempted to launch a terminal from the Ubuntu launcher.

Are those ADS under the launcher search result?

I clicked one of the links. Sure enough the browser opened to an Amazon product page.

Why this is sad

This is sad for a number of reasons.

  1. Ubuntu is no longer free. I had generally thought of Ubuntu before as the flagship Linux distro for the average consumer. It was to be the “canonical” example of a distro that would appeal to the masses, proving that FOSS principles work. However, with the inclusion of ads, Ubuntu is no longer FOSS.
  2. This means that Canonical’s business model could not sustain itself. I can only imagine that this move was their last card. But was it necessary even then? In traditional economics, a lack of demand for something doesn’t mean you “raise the price” of that thing (which is effectively what has been done here). It means that perhaps a downsize was necessary, or a refocusing to services that actually make sense. As a server engineer, I am interested in cluster management and monitoring for example. I would gladly pay for those services. Couldn’t they have attempted to provide that? If they are, advertise it to me!
  3. Ubuntu desktop misrepresents the Linux world and the FOSS world as a whole. Being a prominent choice among a plethora of distros, it is sad that Ubuntu cannot uphold FOSS ideals (this is probably a whole series of blog posts).

I have since gone back to my trusty old Arch install. I’m not sure that I will use that platform to run my server code just yet (due to its rolling release system), but I don’t want to support what I consider a defilement of what was once a great operating system.

Rest in peace, Ubuntu.