a step back

(standard junk: this is my personal opinion and i’m possibly ethically compromised because i’m currently on contract working for canonical, etc. etc. blah)

canonical does a lot of things that i would classify as pretty boneheaded in terms of their relationship to various free software communities. they have an interesting and colourful history with quite a lot of projects and our project is pretty close to the top of that list.

it’s my opinion that canonical takes a more pragmatic approach than most free software projects have. they have a bit more of a “…and damn the consequences” attitude. they’ve made a lot of decisions that have put them at odds with a lot of people. i’ve found myself on both sides — defending their choices when i agree and calling them out when i don’t.

binary drivers so that it “just works”? win. copyright assignment? not such a win. this mess with banshee? ya. that’s pretty lame.

i’m sure everyone can think of a few more “situations” off of the top of their heads.

canonical gets a lot of flack around these parts, and rightly so. they often make decisions that leave a lot of us scratching our heads and wondering why. they need to be called out. i’m glad to see it happening. i’d do more of it myself, but actually i hate writing blog posts.

to some casual readers of planet lately, it might seem as though the opinion of canonical in the gnome community is quite negative. i think that even those deeply involved in our community, in heated moments, get pretty pissed off.

taking a step back though, i think that it’s clear that just about every poster here would agree on one thing: that canonical is a net positive to the world of free software and that they are helping us achieve our most important goals.

as a fun thought experiment, imagine if even the worst dreams came true: next year canonical takes their copyright ownership of their qt rewrite of unity and makes it closed source to make lots of money selling it on embedded devices. imagine one of these devices is actually awesome and reasonably priced. i can tell you one thing about that: i’d be the first in line to get my hands on this device. i’d be excited as hell about it. a few closed components on an otherwise totally open os sounds pretty good to me. better than, say… android (that everyone seems to love so much). pretty comparable to meego (which everyone loved even more until quite recently).

now snap back to reality and remember that these worst dreams are just dreams and actually canonical is actually even better than that. there’s no closed source component at all. they’re actually taking a pretty high road with just about everything that they’ve done so far.

when you think about the amount of slack that we’ve cut companies like google and nokia and stack it up against the amount of condemnation that we’ve seen hurled at canonical it becomes easy to forget one thing that i think most of us would agree on: canonical is a very close friend.

the paradox is true: you save your strongest criticisms for those you love most.

One Comment

  1. Ciprian Mustiata
    Posted March 1, 2011 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    As a side viewer (I use Ubuntu) I always associated the image of Banshee with OpenSuse and Gnome Shell with RedHat.
    So in my view the breakage is mostly a communication, in which Ubuntu will have to show where it sits.
    I do believe that Unity is a great project, but also it will break community. Probably small changes like make it sure it will work on second three distros for desktop (I talk here about Fedora/OpenSuse/Debian) will make people to consider and unite.
    Is not about selling, even may be a good thing (like to buy today an Ubuntu/Dell system that works), is just to know where it stands.
    Also as a side viewer I’ve always seen Fedora, OpenSuse, Debian as Linux, and Ubuntu as a brand, did I get it wrong? Or this is the mission? To became the Linux desktop’s Android that break phone Linuxes in two: like Android and non Android (embrace, extend, extinguish)/Ubuntu and non Ubuntu?