We made some mistakes in our handling of the discussion around revenue share with the Banshee team. Thanks to everyone who helped make sure we were aware of ’em 😉

Money is particularly contentious in a community that mixes volunteer and paid effort, we should have anticipated and been extra careful to have the difficult conversations that were inevitable up front and in public, at UDS, when we were talking about the possibility of Banshee being the default media player in Ubuntu. We didn’t, and I apologise for the consequential confusion and upset caused.

The principles from which we derive our policy are straightforward:

The bulk of the direct cost in creating the audience of Ubuntu users is carried by Canonical. There are many, many indirect costs and contributions that are carried by others, both inside the Ubuntu community and in other communities, without which Ubuntu would not be possible. But that doesn’t diminish the substantial investment made by Canonical in a product that is in turn made available free of charge to millions of users and developers.

The business model which justifies this investment, and which we hope will ultimately sustain that effort for the desktop without dependence on me, is that fee-generating services which are optional for users provide revenue to Canonical. This enables us to make the desktop available in a high quality, fully maintained form, without any royalties or license fees. By contrast, every other commercial Linux desktop is a licensed product – you can’t legally use it for free, the terms for binaries are similar to those for Windows or the MacOS. They’re entitled to do it their way, we think it’s good in the world that we choose to do it our way too.

We know that we need a healthy and vibrant ecosystem of application developers. We think services should work for them too, and we’re committed to sharing revenue with them. We want to be entirely aligned in our interests: better code means a better result for both of us, better revenue means more resources to do what we love even better. Our interests, and upstream interests, should be perfectly aligned in this. So we have consistently had the view that revenue we can attribute to a particular upstream should create a revenue share for that upstream. We support Mozilla in this way, for example. The numbers are not vast, but nor are they insubstantial, and while we are not obliged to do so, we do so happily.

Those are the principles, the policy is straightforward: Canonical seeks to earn revenue from services delivered to Ubuntu, and we will share a portion of that revenue with relevant projects who help make that possible. Our interests, and those of the projects, should be aligned to the greatest extent possible.

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 apologise. 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.

We also made a mistake, I believe, as this blew up in private conversations, when a well-meaning person presented a choice to the Banshee developers, who then of course made a choice. But our position isn’t at all what was communicated. Our position is that we’ll deliver the best overall experience to users, we’ll derive services revenue from that, and we’ll share it with upstreams where we can attribute it efficiently. It wasn’t in the mandate of that person to offer a choice outside of that framework, but it was an honest mistake.

So, every free software project out there should be confident of a few things:

Canonical would like you to succeed, would like to make it as easy as possible for many, many users to adopt your software, and is willing to share the benefits of that with you. Whether your software is promoted as the default in Ubuntu, or simply neatly packaged for easy consumption, we’d like our interests to be well aligned. We have a bug tracker that helps us pass issues to you if they are reported in Ubuntu first, we have a revenue model which matches that with passing through a share of revenues, too. And that goes for any kind of revenue that we can attribute to your project; for example, if we offer a support service specially tailored to people using your code, you can reasonably expect to agree a revenue share of that with us.

Canonical invests heavily in creating a big, addressable ecosystem that you can easily reach. That’s worth something. We also want a big, vibrant upstream community that innovates and makes its own investments. We know that contributions come both from volunteers and paid staff, and it’s good to be able to have a bit of both in the mix, for the sake of both the volunteers and the paid staff!

Documenting this position is obviously a priority; we should have done so previously, but we just relied on internal precedent, which is a dumb idea when you’ve grown as quickly as we have in the past few years. So we’ll do that.

As for the revenue share we’ve offered the Banshee team, I would love to see them use that to make Banshee even better. That’s what it should be for. Don’t be shy, don’t be nervous of taking the money and using it for your own project. Canonical has already provided much more in the way of funding to the Gnome Foundation than this is likely to, through initiatives like the bugzilla.gnome.org work that we funded, and many other forms of support. I think money generated by an app should go towards making that app rock even harder. But the offer stands for Banshee devs to take up if they’d like, and use as they’d like. If they don’t want it, we’ll put it to good use.

This certainly won’t be the last word on the subject. I expect these situations to become more common, not less. But I think that represents a great opportunity to see sustained investment in desktop free software, which we have been sorely lacking. I think our model gives projects a nice, clear roadmap: build awesome stuff, partner with Canonical and be confident you will share in the success of Ubuntu. This is the model which catalysed the founding of Ubuntu, seven years ago, this is what we’re here to do: make free software available freely, in the best quality, to the widest audience we can. That’s an opportunity for every project that cares about how many people get to use their stuff, and under what terms.

177 Responses to “Mistakes made, lessons learned, a principle clarified and upheld”

  1. mark Says:

    @Dave, no, you have it entirely wrong, and I was quite clear about this. The offer stands to the Banshee developers, who in turn can direct those funds wherever they wish including the Gnome Foundation. However, if they *reject* the offer, and I’m not sure what grounds they would do so other than in protest, then we’ll not send it anywhere else out of any sort of guilt.

  2. Allan Day Says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thank you for the swift response.

    ‘Patches from Unity developers get little attention, so they rot, and adding insult to injury they are forgotten when the “who contributes” stats are being created.’

    If you or any other Ubuntu contributor has a concern about a patch or a credit, they can message the relevant mailing list and it can be discussed in the open. And GNOME has been reaching out here. Please engage with us.

    ‘Proposals for Unity API’s as external dependencies are refused, which is virtually without precedent.’

    I have no knowledge of this, nor of precedents. If there are specific problems, let’s get them out in the open and get them sorted. This issue is obviously causing frustration. We can’t resolve it if we don’t know about it though.

    ‘I can appreciate that folk who have worked on Shell’s design feel that they have full ownership of the result. But that misses a key point: it’s easy to justify a particular path after it’s been taken, hard to argue for a particular path to be taken in the beginning. For example, I note in your blog post of March 2010 that you celebrate the multi-column layout of the Well. That layout was dropped as part of the “relayout” work, which was published sans explanation after Unity became public in May 2010.’

    You asked me what prompted the changes that you described. I gave you two clear examples (I could have given more). I did not indicate that I would document the entire design process, nor did you ask me to.

    I’ve given you a personal assurance that, as someone deeply involved with this, there was no mimicry, and I have given several examples of how the design process for this part of the shell was already on a trajectory towards what it later became prior to Unity being announced. I had hoped that that would be enough to enable you to understand the situation from our perspective.

    ‘The only way to correct the situation is for GNOME leadership to acknowledge that the Unity work can be considered a contribution to Gnome, if Gnome just looks at it that way. We are committed to our course, and determined to take it to its natural conclusion. We’ve ALWAYS said that we consider our work to be done under the umbrella of GNOME, but at the end of the day, only Gnome itself can acknowledge and embrace that. And we’re getting tired of being left in limbo.’

    Jef said this better than I can, but I’ll try and put it in my own words. 😉 What you are expecting of GNOME is contrary to the project’s usual ways of working. It is not how the project works nor how it has ever (to my knowledge) worked, and it is not (in my experience) how GNOME contributors understand their project.

    GNOME is a dynamic project and has been changing, however. We recently(ish) had an excellent, open discussion about reorganising our modulesets, for example, and there was a lot of participation in that debate from right across our community. That would have been an excellent time to have proposed the kind of approach that you are advocating here, but we never heard anything. Nor has there been a public case made for the kind of change that you are making. Nobody has presented how and why GNOME should do what you are saying it should do.

    This is obviously a source of frustration for you. If there are specific ways in which you think GNOME should be operating, please make public proposals and suggestions, and let’s have an open discussion. Misunderstood or little known expectations are only going to create friction.

    ‘There is no doubt that we disclosed the work we felt needed to be done on the panel/indicators. There’s also no doubt that the people we disclosed it to *subsequently* decided they wanted to explore something else. That’s bad faith. It came across as a very deliberate attempt to prevent the adoption of something in which Canonical had made an investment. Think of it this way: if you said to Jon McCann that you wanted to do a bunch of hard work on an aspect of Shell which was unspecified, and he said “go ahead sounds great”, and then when you actually deliver not just the design but a full working implementation he says “nah, I think I’ll explore something else”, wouldn’t you feel shafted? Of course you would.’

    Discussing the actions of individuals is inappropriate and unhealthy. The point should be – how can we prevent recent history from reoccurring? Ubuntu and GNOME are huge projects. We need to be communicating in resilient and transparent ways.

    ‘There are MANY important elements which GNOME simply consumes from elsewhere. In most cases, that’s appropriate because it enables smoother collaboration across desktop environments. PulseAudio, for example, was not hosted on GNOME infrastructure, yet it was accepted enthusiastically. This is especially true of pieces which should work well across other environments. In the case of the indicators, it’s obviously preferable that apps written in other environments have a good result in Gnome. That’s why we specifically (as we said we would) pursued the FD.o standard which KDE had sketched out.’

    Zeitgeist’s use of Launchpad was seen to be not ideal for a module which wanted to become a part of GNOME. I am not aware of any criticisms of its hosting choices since it withdrew that application and set its sights on becoming an external dependency, however. (PulseAudio is also an external dependency.)

    This point about hosting is one that is recurrently misunderstood. GNOME obviously has work to do to explain the rationale for how our modulesets are organised and how the project operates.

    ‘The argument that GNOME should pre-judge any proposal before it becomes working code is deadly. It’s a recipe for the sort of horrible interactions that we’ve seen between ZG and the Indicators efforts and GNOME. It enables distros with influence in GNOME to prejudice ideas that come from elsewhere.’

    Indicators were before my time, but Zeitgeist was greeted with a huge amount of enthusiasm at GCDS and, in all my time spent around GNOME, I have never seen any evidence of prejudice. But again: if there are specific issues, let’s get them out in the open and discuss them.

    I think that it is fair that design considerations can trump running code. It makes no sense to include a module if it doesn’t accord with an overall design or integrate at the level of user experience. Just because code runs does not oblige any project to accept it, including GNOME. Do you agree with that statement?

    ‘In short, it’s right at the heart of the close-mindedness that I think has made GNOME rotten at the top, despite retaining a wonderful community across its breadth.’

    Can we have a conversation without resorting to inflammatory statements, please?

    ‘It’s easy to backpedal now. ZG has managed to engage, bit by bit and app by app, with enough of the ecosystem that it’s inclusion is inevitable. Those who set out to block it have failed. So it’s convenient for them now to say “oh, we were just arguing for it to get in a different way”.

    I asked for clarification on why you think Zeitgeist has ‘been actively blocked’ and why you think that ‘multiple requests for inclusion have been declined’. We need to work towards mutual understanding here.

    I am in no way back-pedalling, and nobody else is. Public statements were made at the time of the GAJ application that the Release Team wanted desktop integration and not a standalone app, including the official decision announcement that I linked to. Were you aware of those statements at the time? I said that there are things we could do to increase understanding and effective communications in these situations – what do you think of that?

    ‘In practice, many of the apps which engaged with ZG have apparently been challenged behind the scenes. The political nature of that game is, in my view, inappropriate in an organisation that holds the value of “code talks”.’

    This is the first time I have heard this accusation, and I’m surprised by it. *If* it is happening, it would obviously be against GNOME’s ethos. Again, we can deal with these perceived problems in the open, however. We can’t if we don’t hear about them.

    ‘Allan, please understand that I don’t mind Shell’s resemblance to Unity one bit.’

    You profit from such statements while, in my opinion, the GNOME Project is portrayed in a negative light. That is one reason why I am trying to engage with you.

    ‘let both Unity and Shell compete, and ensure that both carry the Gnome brand forward.’

    GNOME Shell is an official GNOME module which was approved after an open discussion in which anybody could have participated. There were no objections to its inclusion at that time from yourself or other Canonical employees. Can you be clear – you want the GNOME project to effectively eject an official module and the key part of a major new release, a month ahead of the release date? My point is – isn’t it a bit late to be making these kinds of proposals? GNOME 3 is in full swing and our project has made a substantial investment in that release.

    Many thanks – let’s keep the conversation going!

  3. Dave Neary Says:

    @mark: It was a question for a reason – there was room for misinterpretation, and I just wanted to be sure I understood correctly.

    Thanks for clearing that up.


  4. Dave Neary Says:

    @mark: Also, in response to “Unity work can be considered a contribution to Gnome, if Gnome just looks at it that way” – I still think this is entirely possible, if only Canonical could agree to dropping copyright assignment on developer contributions – or require assignment to an independent third party (like the GNOME Foundation). I would love to see Unity & Shell compete & have the best man win over the course of the next year (as I mentioned to you in November).


  5. Stephen Munster Says:

    Hello Mark,

    I just heard about you today. I wish I had time to wander around your website, but I am so busy at work and my website, that it will have to take a back seat till tonight. I can’t wait!

    Anyway, I wrestle with time and have it successfully pinned to the floor. Picture this: I have one hand on its neck, leaving the other hand free to ping -t the net. Imagine what I could do with both hands free. Such is life.

    LOVE the dragon logo.

  6. Raymond Yeh Says:

    I believe that this is going to be just great, if conversations above keep going on and on.

    Just as the words said,”The truth becomes clearer through debate”
    The software become better through patches or something else.

    I see this crisis as a chance to establish better relationship between Canonical and other FOSS organizations.

    So, Mark don’t lose your chance for bringing the sweet couple (Canonical and FOSS’s) some words of warm.

    Keep up! Everyone! We’re talking about making the world better aren’t we? So let’s keep open source rock! And make our trick works better.

    Best regards!

  7. Jef Spaleta Says:


    Let be very strongly suggest that you refrain from commenting on backstabbing situations without evidence. Seriously Mark, that’s high school. Statements like that bring nothing but drama. There’s nothing even remotely constructive in that statement.. nothing in that statement which can be used for an objective self-evaluation of the GNOME community.

    If I played by those rules, if I just repeated every single little petty thing I overheard without naming names without at least giving those I would accuse the benefit of the doubt and a chance to defend themselves in public…would people think less or more of me?

    If you really think there is an injustice… you need to start being specific… in public.


  8. Aanjhan Ranganathan Says:

    @mark, your reply to Srini (4th comment) was epic WIN. Just wanted to say that 🙂

  9. Jef Spaleta Says:


    As to the work and discussion on indicators which we know know was a commissioned work as part of a Unity Light delivery…paid for by a 3rd party contracting with Canonical…

    Let me make sure I have the timeline of events correct:

    2008 GNOME Summit/Hackfest: It is your contention that face-to-face conversations with GNOME dev/designers encouraged you to explore the indicator approach with the mutual understanding that it would be welcomed for integration at a later unspecified date with no agreed on deadline for consideration.

    Second half of 2008: No public record discussion in which any Canonical employee touches base with GNOME dev/designers to get feedback on the indicator implementation as it stands to start vectoring towards having it be suitable as an external GNOME dep that GNOME components could make use of. But there are ongoing private discussions in this timeframe with the entity that commissioned the work?

    All of 2009: No public record discussion in which any Canonical employee pings GNOME/designers to get feedback on the indicator implementation specifics to vector towards having GNOME modules start relying on it? But there are ongoing discussion in this timeframe with the entity that commissioned the work?

    Anything wrong in that timeline that you would like to publicly comment on?


  10. Máirín Duffy Says:

    Hi Mark, you said “every other commercial Linux desktop is a licensed product – you can’t legally use it for free, the terms for binaries are similar to those for Windows or the MacOS” and further on in the comments you specifically called out one of Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux products.

    Your assertion is simply not true. It is true that if you have one Enterprise Linux subscription from Red Hat, all of your copies of Enterprise Linux are required to have subscriptions as per your agreement with Red Hat. If you have no subscription agreements with Red Hat or if your subscriptions have lapsed, however, you may absolutely use it for free under the GPL (you won’t get updates from Red Hat, of course, but you are free to use it.) This is specifically stated on Red Hat’s website:


    Neither Windows nor OS X to my knowledge allow this kind of free use of the product. Another key difference between the Red Hat model here and Windows & OS X is that to my knowledge, you must pay a fee to both Microsoft and Apple to upgrade your OS. I believe Apple charges $30 per major upgrade, and Microsoft as far as I am aware does not provide free upgrades from say Vista to Windows 7. A Red Hat subscription allows you to run any currently-supported version and upgrade at any time without charge.

    Red Hat provides more information about this on their website. If you would like to read up on it, you could start by visiting this page: http://www.redhat.com/about/understanding_subscriptions/

    I tried to find more information about Canonical’s support model to compare the two for your benefit, but it appears your “Buy professional support services” link on ubuntu.com resolves to a 404 error:


    I would be curious to see how your terms handle cases where a customer purchases one support contract for 100+ systems and requests support.

  11. Debian or Ubuntu, which is the best place to contribute? Says:

    […] a few days ago with the story of Banshee and the associated Amazon affiliate revenues. I liked Mark Shuttleworth’s clarifications on the topic, but it’s still a proof that the power of the Ubuntu community has its […]

  12. mark Says:


    The right to use a product without security updates is of little value – an OS with no updates is actively harmful. The only purpose that can serve is as a teaser trailer to the commercial product. In my view, that’s not a free solution, and while it’s wonderful that Red Hat has been successful with that model, it fall short of what I think free software is capable of achieving. Clearly, saying that and proving are different things, but I hope you’ll agree I’ve at least been willing to put my money where my mouth is in that regard.

    In the case of Ubuntu support from Canonical, we regularly agree to support parts of a company’s Ubuntu deployment. That means that you can deploy Ubuntu, free of charge, with all updates, on as many machines as you like, and agree a support contract for the portions of your network where that is a requirement. Of course, we won’t sign a support contract for a single machine in a class of thousands, but we will sign one for a class of machines in production, leaving aside test, dev, staging and other classes of machine.

  13. Máirín Duffy Says:

    Hi Mark,

    Actually a product without updates is still kind of a useful thing. This is true for both desktop and server situations, but I’ll stick to desktop cases since that’s what we’re talking about:

    – In some cases you actively may not want software updates, because they will break something you rely on. Think IE 5.5.

    – Not everyone who uses computers has access to the internet. Nor does every installed system have a connection.

    – You may need the OS simply as a support for some application for a one-time particular use case and not need it later. See my ‘taxes’ example below.

    Actively harmful without updates or not, you still cannot argue that Enterprise Linux’s model here is as restrictive as Windows and OS X’s. I do not have a copy of Windows or OS X but I needed to do my taxes, and the tax software I use only works on Windows or OS X. I had to buy the tax software and install it on a friend’s computer, and do my taxes on his computer. Using his license in itself may be legally questionable (please don’t sue me, Bill!) but certainly the alternative of downloading a Windows ISO from bittorrent and installing it would have been a big problem legally. Had Enterprise Linux been a supported OS for the tax software and I had no subscription to it, I could still obtain a copy with a clear legal conscience.

    Certainly if you want the updates you can build the SRPMs yourself and the aforementioned Red Hat FAQ mentions that as an option for folks who no longer wish to continue their subscription but would like to continue running their machines with Enterprise Linux. This isn’t an option for Windows / OS X users.

    Keeping copies of Enterprise Linux running without a subscription isn’t not really comparable to a ‘teaser trailer,’ because it’s something you can do indefinitely; there is no time limit to how long you may operate that way and again, if you need updates there are other ways of obtaining them.

    I personally agree that the model isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly sustainable and has fueled a lot of awesome stuff. I have tried to think of a better way that is still sustainable for a few years now and I really can’t.

    “Of course, we won’t sign a support contract for a single machine in a class of thousands, but we will sign one for a class of machines in production, leaving aside test, dev, staging and other classes of machine.”

    Are there any written materials regarding this that I could take a look at to learn more? How do you handle if additional production deployments take place; there are no audits to true up the support license? It sounds like you do require a support license for all production machines, which is a bit nuanced from “you can deploy Ubuntu, free of charge, with all updates, on as many machines as you like.”

  14. sadig Says:


    I’ll try to comment on your points below. I’m sorry to comment so late, but I was on holiday, and I stay away from the Internetworks while I’m with my family 🙂

    You wrote:
    > Yes, the Canonical approach does seem like a better value for consumers. But is it sustainable? Who really likes paying for
    > anything if you can get something similar at a reduced cost elsewhere?

    TBH, I don’t cate paying bucks to a service which is really usable to me. But having no possibility to a) download RHEL 6 e.g. or do any work on “really evaluate this product and service”, is really a mess.
    Why should I spend hundreds of bucks for this, when I can have the very same or better quality for less hassle?

    > Canonical’s business strategy is a classic-loss leader strategy. They delibrately give away something valuable at a loss to
    > themselves (that other companies charge for in a self-sustaining way) to delibrately undercut the business of those competitors > and to drive them out of the market.

    Really? Well, that’s really bad. Actually it sounds like simple, free enterprise, which one of the german leaders of free enterprise prayed after 1945…could be wrong, wasn’t it that the US wanted to actually have that?
    Seriously, no ironic undertone, if someone is doing that, and undermining someones business plan, shouldn’t it be the right thing to do to think about someones business plan, and eventually change it?

    > Wal-mart does this with gasoline in some locations. They sell gasoline at a loss, something everyone values…to attract
    > customers to their stores and pull customers from competitors. Wal-mart can sell some items at a loss, because they make enough > money from other items to make up for it. Ethical? That is debatable..but very effective at pushing other retailers out of a
    > market.

    I know that from germany too..it works well, without letting BP/Aral/Shell/and other petrol stations die.

    > Canonical does it by giving away integration services and package updates instead of charging form them in a self-sustainable
    > way. The absolutely most valuable service Canonical provides are those integration and package update services….and providing
    > those services come at an expense to Canonical. The only problem is Canonical hasn’t figure out the second half the loss-leader
    > strategy. They haven’t figured out yet how to make enough money to overcome the losses inherent in using a loss-leader
    > strategy. So Canonical continues to bleed money year after year after year while at the same time devaluing the integration and
    > update services for the whole marketplace as the bounce from revenue idea to revenue idea looking for something that will catch > fire and grow into sustainable dollars.

    Do they? Honestly, I really don’t know how Canonical wants and earns money, I don’t really care, it’s not my money, and what Mark actually did with his earned “selling Thawte” money and what Jane and others are spending today, I don’t know and care, as said.
    I do care, that Canonical will stay as it is. If that means, buying Music from a store via Banshee plugin, if I really need that music, why not.
    If it means, to fork the project with a competitor with more money, hell, yes.

    But only with a working distro system like Canonical introduced. You can’t earn money anymore with selling software..you earn with support and good services. Sad to say so, but RH doesn’t deliver good services anymore, they did when Bob was still the boss, and when Matthew took over, there was a problem. Sad enough. Many people don’t even know those names. Pity. But since then, RH was acting like a linux based MS, and now we are going more to a linux, jboss based Oracle.

    > In some very significant ways Shuttleworth’s cashpile is actually distorts the competitive marketplace for services in damaging
    > ways (not unlike Wal-mart as a retailer does). Who else but Shuttleworth would be willing to lose money for a decade+ before
    > seeing a a single break-even quarter?

    Well, again, I don’t care about Marks money, it’s his and he can do what he wants with it. In terms of competition, when Mark is damaging the market, why nobody else did this? RH and Novell could have done this long time ago..but they didn’t. Why?
    Competition means: “Do something new”. And while I’m not agreeing with Marks and Canonicals steps 100%, I do like the “we are kicking the markets ass” attitude. You see that with the ARM market. (Really, RH could have gain a lot of marketshare when they knew how to bond RH Linux + Compaq IPaq in a commercial way, they could’ve kicked Palm these days).
    Anyways, the “problem” here, what we do see, Canonical is not a public traded company…so nobody knows, what exactly Canonical is earning, which is right now a good thing, or a bad thing regarding competitors.

    > Maybe this new app platform idea for Ubuntu that competes with Android will catch on. Maybe it won’t. The track record for
    > execution for Canonical isn’t particularly bright. So far none of Canonical’s previous efforts at growing a sustainable revenue > stream have caught fire. They even shuttered their training services entirely in the last year. If you are giving away the
    > binaries, and you can’t even sustaining an optional training service to compliment your products..that spells real trouble to
    > me for your overall business plan. But I’m just a part of the peanut gallery so I don’t expect my analysis to resonate inside
    > the Canonical fenceline.

    And you think that the RHCE is a good training? You think that having some training at a training facility + exam gives you, as an newbie, the experience to deliver good SysAdmin services for your company for linux based OS?
    Sidenode, I do not think that an LPIC gives someone a better experience.

    And Jef, I don’t think you are part of a peanut gallery…that’s why Mark still answers you 😉

  15. sadig Says:


    Can you do me a favour and ask Bob Young why he never released an Enterprise desktop product before 2002, oh sorry, Bob went before 2002..yes. And RHEL was introduced somewhat around 2002.
    Can you ask Matthew Szulik, why he said, during a meeting in Raleigh/Durham, 2001 why he thought, that Linux is not ready for the desktop?
    And can you ask him further, why he released then RHEL Desktop Linux, even when he knew that Linux on the Desktop is a no go?

    I’m sorry, but RH has a history of not listening to the market, not because of the Developers, but mostly because of the management. And really, since Bob “Under The Brim” Young left for Lulu, RedHat made a lot of mistakes.

    They tried to stop at least some mistakes behind when RH thought about Fedora Core as a broad QA testbed for RHEL…which works quite well, because food for the masses is always a good testbed. But somehow RH can’t stop their mistakes in selling OS support in a strange way. Instead of pure knowledge in terms of helping companies improving the OPS business, they are still selling old style security updates.

    As said, it’s not a problem of development, it’s a problem of management…

  16. Jef Spaleta Says:


    I’mn not sure how I can comment on the meat of your reply to me. I am in no position to comment on the value of any particular service offering as I have not been nor do I have any immediate plan to be a customer any services provided by either Red Hat or Canonical. And since I’ve never knowingly been a customer for either Vendor’s revenue generating services I can’t really add anything to the comments you make about value. Not with regard to the update subscriptions or with regard to engineering consulting nor with regard to training nor with regard to any online services. Nor do I make any recommendations as to the purchasing of any such services to anyone because I have not used them from any vendor.

    But I will say that “sustainability” is most definitely something consumers can and will think about when making purchasing decisions. There is a growing acknowledgement in the brick and mortar purchasing habits about food production sustainability for example. There are most definitely industry practises that help lower the acquisition cost of food which work against sustainability of the entire industry. Some consumers don’t care..others care very much. You personally may not incorporate a view of sustainability into your purchasing habits but it would be wrong to suggest that others do not. And I will continue to argue that supporting businesses which aid in the sustainability of the entire FOSS ecosystem is in your best interests even if you yet think it is so. And yes, I know exactly how big of a hypocrite I am for arguing that without myself being a paying customer for anything. I have to save my money for the peanuts that I throw at people. This seat my be cheap, but the cost of the peanuts sort of sneaks up on you.


  17. Máirín Duffy Says:


    “I’m sorry, but RH has a history of not listening to the market, not because of the Developers, but mostly because of the management. And really, since Bob “Under The Brim” Young left for Lulu, Red Hat made a lot of mistakes.”

    Bob Young was in charge of Red Hat when I was in high school and during my early collegiate years. I remember quite distinctly when Red Hat made its first profit – it was LinuxWorld 2004 in New York, they were handing out red ballcaps with the Shadowman logo that said “Proof” because it was the first quarter the company had made a profit; it was proof that the open source model could work. If Bob Young left Red Hat in 2002, he left without the company having made a profit. Amazing work happened under his guidance and leadership building a brand, but it just hadn’t gone into the black. Giving things away for the benefit of others is nice, it’s not sustainable and the well will dry up eventually, potentially leaving the recipients worse-for-the-wear. (And don’t forget the employees; I have many friends whose paychecks bounced in the dotcom bubble aftermath.)

    I have been nothing short of impressed of the management of Red Hat. The people in charge are brilliant, technically-savvy, inspiring, *good* people who believe deeply in software freedom and respect and listen to their staff, talking to folks regardless of job title or organizational chart position. I believe every company makes mistakes and no company (or person for that matter) is perfect, but I cannot agree with your sentiments about Red Hat’s management, my personal experience over the past almost 7 years now has been far too overwhelmingly positive.

    BTW Red Hat provides a lot more than security updates with a subscription, you could read about that at their website if you cared to learn more.

  18. René Says:


    I would like to use Ubuntu One for buying music and storage space and what ever. The only thing that bars me from doing it is that the music store only offers music in MP3 format. I am not a MP3 fan, among other things because of the bad quality (even if encoding with high bitrate). There are some better audio codecs (OGG, AAC, …). I decided that AAC is my favorit music format. It’s quality is nearly the same as OGG but it is better supported on sound/audio devices. So if I want to buy music online I would like to decide in which format to download. If the Ubuntu One Music Store offers AAC formats I will buy all my music there and spend more money for online storage space.

    Perhaps You should upgrade the flexibility of the Ubuntu One Music Store (for example in offering more audio formats). This could be an advantage compared with other music stores (for example Amazon) and a reason for the users to buy music at Ubuntu. The more advantages the Ubuntu One Music Store has compaed with others the more users using it. As a result You don’t have to kick the other plugins from Banshee and You have less trouble with the community.

  19. Lococast Episode 14: Sitting at the same table « Lococast.net Says:

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  20. CHRSB Says:

    It makes me sad to read these comments. Many of you here are applauding “competition” as a way to a better product. And it is complete bullsheet.

    Competition is a race to the bottom. In appealing to the “common” user you will always create a worse product.

    It is people working together and sacrificing for a common cause that makes greatness. That is the essence of open source. That is the essence of freedom.

    Imagine if all the effort that went into making Ubuntu was put to use in Debian and Gnome…

    You have been divided, and so you will be conquered.

    Gnome developers, I am glad you held your own, it is Canonical that is damaging open source by trying to limit software freedom by controlling so much of the desktop. But I see the creep of it in Gnome as well; making totem and evolution a dependency for gnome-core, for example.

    So Gnome peeps, just make a basic desktop, with no hooks, that a user can build upon as they like. Ignore the children who walk away like spoiled children because they did not get their way.

  21. srinivas v Says:

    Aanjhan Ranganathan, can u pls elaborate.

  22. sadig Says:


    You wrote:
    > […]
    > But I will say that “sustainability” is most definitely something consumers can and will
    > think about when making purchasing decisions. There is a growing acknowledgement in the brick
    > and mortar purchasing habits about food production sustainability for example. There are most
    > definitely industry practises that help lower the acquisition cost of food which work against
    > sustainability of the entire industry. Some consumers don’t care..others care very much.

    Well, it’s a matter on how you “define” “sustainability”. If “sustainability” is defined as: “We do have lot of SVs or HVs who are certifying their software/hardware on our OS”, and if you settle your business on this behaviour, then I think something is wrong.
    To take your example of “sustainable food production”: I’m living in Germany, and I buy my food from different vendors, mostly but, from discounters where I can buy the food for my family for less then upper class “discounters” (e.g. Aldi vs. REWE). What I learned from comparing the producers of the food products of Aldi and REWE is: It’s just the name. The producers are mostly the very same.

    So, what do we have in our Linux Business.
    We have old, known and “sustainable” vendors of Linux OS namely RH and SuSE (today Novell) (business)
    We have a old and known and “sustainable” “vendor” of Linux OS namely Debian.
    And we have a “new kid on the block” namely “Canonical” and “Ubuntu”.

    Most of the software comes from larger OpenSource Communities like Kernel Developers, KDE and GNOME Developers, ALSA etc.

    In the past (before Canonical and Ubuntu), people were forced to eventually use the “free” Linux OS Debian (after Debian was created), or to buy “commercial” Linux OS’ RH or SuSE. Some companies who were in the “Internet” business, they settled with Debian, disregarding all the problems they stumbled upon. Other companies or government near organisations settled with RH (mostly in the non european market) or with SuSE (mostly in the european market).
    But the software came from the same sources, only the integration for the different OS distributions were done inside the different distro companies or communities.
    In the past, SuSE and RH did that in “private”, Debian in public. Today, RH and SuSE(Novell) do (mostly) the integration now in the public (via Fedora and OpenSuSE).

    In the past, when only RH and SuSE were the real stars of Linux Based OS, many hardware and software companies (HP, IBM, EMC, Oracle, SAP etc.pp.) were certifying their software and hardware on those distros. Even today, there is no real alternative. You have to run Oracle on RHEL or SLES when you want to have support from Oracle. You need to have RHEL or SLES when you want to run EMC SAN storages on your Linux servers. Or having Adobes Flash Media Server, it’s only certified on RHEL. So you don’t have any support from Adobe when you are running Adobes FMS on other linux OS then RHEL.

    Remember, the software which is used on all of our available big Linux Distros comes from the same source.

    Actually, being an OPS guy, dealing with a lot of “commercial” software running on Linux, I’m able to state here, that all of the software, which is certified on RHEL or SLES, does run on Debian or Ubuntu or other not so big linux players. And sometimes much better then on the certified distros. Adobe FMS is one of the examples. Adobe FMS had(has still?) a problem with a security kernel update of RHEL. After the update FMS could only handle 512 user connections, instead of the documented 1024.
    Adobe reacted with a comment: “Downgrade your kernel”
    Installing and Running Adobe FMS on Ubuntu didn’t have the problem at all, and having stress tests on those machines, I came even higher then the documented 1024 user connections.

    Regarding this example, many people were complaining, and they didn’t know what to do now? Downgrading the kernel, having a remote exploit not fixed, or asking RH what to do now?

    So, end of story here was: RH people were saying: It’s Adobes problem, and Adobe saying: It’s a RH problem.
    Who should I trust now?

    I could give you other examples with EMC drivers certified for RHEL or SLES, which were running “unmodified” on Debian, having the same problems on Debian as they had on RHEL or SLES. EMC never supported any customers of EMC machines with EMC drivers running on Debian. So you had to buy a RHEL license to show EMC: It’s your problem and it’s happening on a certified distro.

    “Sustainability” is a very good business goal, when you listen to your customers. If you don’t there is no such thing as a “sustainable business”. It’s just “gaining revenue” like the others do, too.

    > You personally may not incorporate a view of sustainability into your purchasing habits but
    > it would be wrong to suggest that others do not. And I will continue to argue that supporting
    > businesses which aid in the sustainability of the entire FOSS ecosystem is in your best
    > interests even if you yet think it is so. And yes, I know exactly how big of a hypocrite I am
    > for arguing that without myself being a paying customer for anything. I have to save my money
    > for the peanuts that I throw at people. This seat my be cheap, but the cost of the peanuts
    > sort of sneaks up on you.

    Of course, I need an OS which will be available for a long time. But it’s all about experience.
    With Debian and/or Ubuntu I’m able to change everything to my needs. Even when Canonical will collapse (hopefully not), I’m still able to take the project and use it, change it, evolve it.
    RHEL or SLES i’m able to use it but changing it, evolve it? Yes, someone can work inside the Fedora and OpenSuSE project, but the last resort is still in the managers hands. There is no direct involvement of outside users and devs inside the commercial area of RHEL or SLES. (At least not that I know of).

    Ubuntu, it’s not all gold, but most of my problems I can solve directly or with discussions with the devs in question. And 90% of my problems are solved directly, or in one of the releases in between the LTS releases, without big troubles.

    So the difference here is “direct involvement” and “indirect involvement”.

    So, my payment to the FOSS world: Using the software the FOSS world is producing and changing bits and pieces to make a users life even more happier. Especially trying to solve the problems for the server side of the world.

    And the desktop? Quoting Jono here during a keynote at LinuxTag 2008: “Who is still using xterm or the text console?” “Oh, Yes, \sh who else” (imagine the ironic smiley). Anyways, I’m testing in my sparetime most linux distros (openSuSE, Fedora, Slackware, etc.pp) and no desktop release of the mentioned products came near the experience of Ubuntu today.
    Therefore, Canonical is doing the “right thing” to change the Linux Market. Hopefully others are jumping on the same bandwagon, to have real competition. Right now, for me, and I’m only speaking for myself, Ubuntu + Canonical are the leaders of the pack.

    And as always, when there is someone who is really good in something, there are others who try to critisize the work. But the world is changing, and especially in our “FLOSS” world, we need new ways of competing with the real “competitors” to FLOSS.

    Time will tell, who will still be the “star” on the Linux distro market and I hope that the example of Canonical and Ubuntu will be taken as the new way of doing the business. Eventually we see some developer communities being more “business alike” (when they are not already part of a business), but what we will see in the future is more competition between FLOSS projects being integrated in Linux distributions, being a first class project for Distro X and not for Distro Y.
    Hopefully this will increase the quality of FLOSS in general.

  23. jonj Says:


    For me, Canonical deriving revenue via MP3 sales is a non-issue. Instead, it would be unfair (unethical?!? immoral?!?) if those few upstream apps capable of generating an income decided where all the money went. If an upstream depends on revenue for sustainability then that should be explicitly communicated.

    However, when it comes to criticism of GNOME perhaps more politeness and understanding wouldn’t go amiss (a point made well by Dave Neary http://blogs.gnome.org/bolsh/2011/03/11/lessons-learned/ ). If the GNOME shell took its best ideas from Unity, either back that up with good evidence or don’t mention it at all. That comment is sure to create offense where none is necessary.

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  26. inekke Says:

    Shorten it PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. brian Says:

    great article and post, very nice info!