Bradley Kuhn on switching back from Ubuntu to Debian

Dustin Kirkland kirkland at
Sat Jan 16 05:38:05 GMT 2010

On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 1:17 PM, Steve Langasek
<steve.langasek at> wrote:
> I respect the views of those who are concerned about Ubuntu being linked to
> proprietary services, but I think your emphasis on open standards is
> misplaced.  In any attempt to reimplement, gmail, *or* UbuntuOne,
> the network protocol would be the least concern.  It is precisely because
> most of the software complexity sits *behind* the protocol on the server
> side that "software as a service" is seen as a threat to Free Software.

I was just formulating my own "Google" argument when I read Steve's.
Here's my take.

I think you'll be hard pressed to find an Ubuntu user who doesn't use
one or more Google services (search, gmail, maps, earth, voice, news,
blogger, youtube, wave, etc. etc. etc.)  Every single one of these
services have proprietary back ends.

And I don't mean to pick on Google.  The same can be said for Yahoo.
Amazon.  Ebay.  Paypal.  Craigslist.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Myspace.

  *NB* Actually I can only think of a 4 websites I visit on a daily
basis who's source code is freely available: Launchpad, Wikipedia,
Slashdot, and Identica.

But every one of these provide a service.  A *web* service.  A web
service that you opt into using if you choose to go to their site.
And if you do, you "pay" for it in one way or another.  Either by
looking at their ads, or forking over some percentage of the goods you

Ubuntu One is no different to me, than using Yahoo Search, Gmail, or
Facebook.  The client I use to access these service (firefox or
ubuntuone-client) is free software.  The server is not.  The service
in all of these cases is ultimately a web service.  I can either
choose to use the service, or not.  I rarely think twice about it,
except when I see a page fail to load, and I wonder if it's something
I could fix for them (and me).  I applaud the sites that publish their
server's source code.  I wish more did.  But I do not denigrate those
that don't.

Ubuntu One is installed by default on the Desktop, but it's hardly
shoved down anyone's throat.  I installed Ubuntu 9.10 for numerous
relatives over the Christmas holidays.  Most of them are just ignoring
it, peacefully.  If it really bothered me (or them), it's trivial to
uninstall.  Many thousands of users, on the other hand, have found it
phenomenally useful.  Some (presumably) have (or will) decide to pay
for it.  The same can and should be said about the music store under
development.  If you want to buy DRM-free music through your Ubuntu
desktop, great, please do so.  If you don't want to, then don't.

Any person lobbing stones at Ubuntu One needs to take a big step back
and consider the other proprietary web services they're using on a
daily basis, and ask themselves if they're really being fair.


p.s.  A few months back, a meme circulated on Planet Ubuntu where
people ran "vrms" [1] on their system, and many people proudly showed
how little non-free software ran on their system.  Imagine running
vrms against your firefox cache, and it telling you how many of the
websites in your history have source code available for those web
services.  Those numbers would be very, very different.


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