Bradley Kuhn on switching back from Ubuntu to Debian

Jonathan Carter (highvoltage) jonathan at
Fri Jan 15 23:18:54 GMT 2010

Hi Matt

There's a saying that I like, "It's not a problem until there's a
solution" which isn't always 100% true, but I try to not complain
about something until I have an answer, unfortunately Ubuntu One is
something I don't have an answer for, but I'd like to share my views
here if it's ok.

On Fri, Jan 15, 2010 at 11:52 PM, Matt Zimmerman <mdz at> wrote:
>> I didn't take this decision lightly, and didn't take it for only one
>> reason. I've gone back to Debian for three specific reasons:
>> UbuntuOne's server side system is proprietary software with no prospects
>> of liberation. This has been exacerbated since Canonical now heavily
>> focuses on strong integration of UbuntuOne into the desktop for the Lucid
>> release. It seems clear that one of Canonical's top goals is to convince
>> every Ubuntu user to rely regularly on new proprietary software and
>> services.

Being included by default in Ubuntu ads some problems, many people who
develop will have a tendency to integrate with Ubuntu One instead of
other easy to use free tools such as an SSH server. Ubuntu One is also
really nice so users can adopt it quickly as well. Where does that
leave someone who doesn't want to use Canonical's proprietary hosting
solution when eventually, everything integrates with it and not with
much else? What does a large government organisation do if they're not
allowed to let their data leave the country, when they have thousands
of Ubuntu users who could really benefit from such software do? They
can't host their own Ubuntu One. I guess Canonical would see this as
an opportunity to sell Ubuntu One appliances to large organisations.
What about small to medium businesses who could benefit running one in
their own office for keeping things in sync between computers, but
don't have the bandwidth to keep running it over the Internet? What
happens a clients finds a bug in Ubuntu One which is server related,
and they ask me to fix it (since I promised it's all free software and
fixable by anyone who has the technical skills) and I have to explain
to them that actually, a large percentage of the software in Ubuntu
relies on a non-free piece of software where the bug actually lies?

At UDS Karmic some people found it strange that I was annoyed with
Ubuntu One's default inclusion. Some people said things like "You
visit don't you? Do you use gmail? Those are non-free
server stuff too!". The difference is that my web browser pretty much
uses open standards throughout, and I can visit any web pages I like,
whether they're non-free or free in terms of content and the software
they run on. It's completely different to the case of Ubuntu One that
relies on non-free software.

<snip blah blah blahs />
>> The line between ‘restricted’ and ‘main’ has become far too blurry. I was
>> very glad when I first saw Ubuntu's “you're about to install restricted
>> drivers” warning window, and I find that a good way to deal with the
>> issue. However, there are many times (particularly during initial install)
>> when Ubuntu doesn't even inform the user that proprietary software has
>> been installed. I realize that there's a reasonable trade-off between (a)
>> making someone's hardware work (so they don't think Microsoft is better
>> merely because “it works”) and (b) having a fully FaiF system. However,
>> this trade-off is only reasonable when the users are told clearly that
>> they own hardware made by vendors opposed to software freedom. If the
>> users never know, how will they know what hardware to avoid in the future?

I assume that he's referring to Ubuntu One there?

> There seems to be no comment facility on Bradley's blog, but you can CC him
> at bkuhn at if you like.

It's sad how some people kind of start discussions on their blog but
they don't allow public comments, it's like they're having a one-way
conversation which is quite rude.

Despite my feelings for Ubuntu One, I believe that Ubuntu has many
strong points and over time it will probably be sorted out. If Ubuntu
One becomes successful in any way there will be competitors and
someone would probably reverse engineer it and release free server
software for it. If if doesn't, Canonical will probably lose interest
in it and it would be set free or killed off.

I'm not sure if any bitterness or resentment about this issue will
actually help anyone. If someone wants to use Debian because it's more
committed to free software (or even open source, if you want), then
let them. Debian is a great project and probably still the most
universal operating system on this planet.

I'm going to leave it at that, I hope I haven't offended anyone.

(and I think it's kind of cool that Matt can bring this up, even
though he works for Canonical)


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