March 27, 2014, 10:05 AM — Canonical has had a rocky relationship at times with the rest of the open source community. The company has sometimes gone in its own direction and rather blithely disregarded criticism from others in free software. Datamation takes a look at the root of Canonical's problem and thinks that it's more about relationships than it is about specific software issues.
Admittedly, the larger community can be slow to change and quick to defend the way things are. You could argue with some success that an attempt to innovate and to do things differently is long overdue. But while Canonical has helped to transform the Linux desktop, at times its rashness has made its failures (and partial successes) as significant as its successes.
The bottom line is that Ubuntu and Canonical's relationship with the rest of free software is severely dysfunctional -- and that no one on either side appears to have the will to fix it.
For some reason Canonical has always reminded me of Apple. There's a certain level of arrogance in both companies, with both behaving to one degree or another as though every decision they make is the right one and those who don't agree are somehow beneath concern. This has the potential to really turn off some users who then make it a point to avoid products and services from such companies.
We saw some of this when Unity was first released, and many Ubuntu users balked at using it. Some fled to Linux Mint, while others embraced Debian or other distributions. And there was an enormous amount of angry and negative feedback in various online forums and sites across the Internet. Such is the risk a company runs when it boldly disregards user feedback in favor of following its own internal compass.
Apple's iOS 7 update caused a similar reaction among some of its customers. iOS 7 freaked out a lot of people who could not believe that the company would make such drastic changes in one release. Apple and Canonical are similar in the sense that neither company did a very good job in preparing users for big changes in user interfaces.
I suppose that strong conviction can be a good thing in some ways since it lets a company move forward aggressively toward fulfilling a larger vision, but it can also turn around and bite the company in the rear end if the vision they are working toward is flawed. There's just no way to guarantee a positive end result with companies like Apple or Canonical.
All of this can sometimes have the effect of leaving users feeling that a company they formerly trusted has become high-handed and arrogant. In the case of Canonical it seems that that feeling may have also taken root among some other free software developers and companies. And that's probably not a good thing for Canonical's long term reputation or business relationships.
Canonical should remember, however, that they are not Apple. Apple exists in its own universe, at the very top of the premium market. It can mostly do as it pleases, and it can get away with doing things other companies could never do. Canonical's situation is very different, and it's a good idea for them to remember that and act accordingly.
At this point I think Ubuntu is a take it or leave it affair. You either like and support what Canonical has done with Ubuntu or you don't. Fortunately there are plenty of fantastic alternatives to Ubuntu, and nobody is forced to embrace Canonical's vision of what Linux should be on desktop computers or mobile devices.
I don't know if Canonical will ever be able to fix its relationships with the rest of the open source community at this point. I suppose time will tell though and we'll just have to wait and see. Much may depend on the future leadership of Canonical, as times goes by there may be a generational change that could work toward improving the company's relationships with the rest of the open source community.
In the short term it looks as though things will more or less stay the same.
Should Microsoft open source Windows?
Wired has an intriguing editorial today that suggests that Microsoft should open source its Windows desktop and mobile operating systems.
Yesterday, with permission from Microsoft, Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum published the source code for MS-DOS, the text-based operating system that ran so many personal computers in the ’80s and turned Microsoft into one of the industry’s dominant software companies. For computer geeks, the move can provide a bit of fun — a glimpse into how software was built in the past — and it provides a nice metaphor for a Microsoft that’s evolving with the times. Microsoft was once vehemently opposed to open source software, believing that it would cut into its core business, but in a modern world where open source is so very important, the company is changing its tune.
But the company shouldn’t stop at symbolic gestures. We love that the MS-DOS code is now available to the world at large (even if you can’t distribute your own changes to it, as with truly open source software). And we love that Microsoft has also released the code behind another seminal piece of software: Microsoft Word for Windows, originally released in 1990. But if the company is to regain its place at the head of the tech table, it needs to start open sourcing operating systems that are used today, not 30 years ago. Microsoft needs to open up the Windows Phone mobile OS — and maybe even desktop Windows.
I admire Wired for making this suggestion, but I doubt anybody in Redmond will take it seriously. It took the company thirty years to release the source code for MS-DOS, so I can't imagine they'd even consider doing so for Windows Mobile or Windows on the desktop.
It's just not in Microsoft's DNA to act in such a way. The company has made billions and billions of dollars by keeping its code closed, and I doubt the new CEO will be bold enough to reconsider that policy. Still, you just never know. Stranger things have happened and it's possible that Microsoft could change someday.
GNOME 3.12 released
GNOME 3.12 is out and it looks like there are some significant changes in this release.
The GNOME Project has released GNOME 3.12 today. The next milestone release in the GNOME 3 series includes many new features, enhancements and updates, as well as new capabilities and APIs for application developers. The new version continues to improve the GNOME 3 user experience and includes many small bug fixes and enhancements.
Major features for this release include:
A significant update to the experience for finding and installing applications.
Major facelifts for the Videos and gedit applications.
Greater high-resolution display support.
Big updates for the Software and Web applications.
Improved start up times as well as more efficient resource usage.
A new application folders feature, which lets you organize your apps.
I haven't had a chance to use GNOME 3.12, but I'm impressed by what I saw in the video and in the release announcement. It looks like GNOME 3.12 has brought some useful changes in this release. You can get more details about new features and changes in the GNOME 3.12 release notes.
So far most people seem to like what GNOME 3.12 has to offer. You can check out some of the reactions by Linux users in the Reddit thread about GNOME 3.12.
What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.
The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of ITworld.