Ubuntu UDS – November 12 -14

The Ubuntu Developer Summit has been scheduled for November 12 – 14. UDS is a hotbe of ideas. It is where the Ubuntu community works to find creative solutions to problems with the intent to produce a better Ubuntu for everyone. Since moving to an on-line format UDS has enabled a diverse range of participants from across the globe to participate in the process.

As the planning for the summit continues your thoughts and ideas could help shape the next UDS. The discussion is taking place now on here.

Ubuntu 14.04: Subtle shades of success

I just completed upgrading four computers to Ubuntu 14.04 tonight. My testing machine has been running 14.04 since early alpha phase, but in the last two days I upgrade by work Lenovo W520, my person Lenovo T530 and the self-assembled desktop with a core2duo and Nvidia 8800 GTS that I haded down to my son.

Confidence In Ubuntu
On Friday of this week I will be involved in delivering training to a group of Boy Scout leaders at a Wood Badge course. I will utilize my primary laptop, the T530, to give a presentation and produce the Gilwell Gazette. I completed a great deal of prep work on Ubuntu 13.10 and if I did not have complete confidence in Ubuntu 14.04 I would have waited until after the weekend to upgrade. I needed to be confident that the multi-monitor functionality would work, that documents produced in an earlier version of Libre Office would not suddenly change the page layouts. In short, I was depending on Ubuntu being dependable and solid more than I usually do.

Subtle Changes Add Flexibility and Polish
Ubuntu added some very small tweaks that truly add to the overall user experience. The borderless windows, new lock screen, and smaller minimum size of launcher icons all add up to slight, but pleasant changes.

Here is a screen shot of the 14.04 desktop on the Lenovo T530.

14.04 desktop

14.04 desktop

Replacing Ubuntu One

As many of you know Canonical has decided to discontinue the Ubuntu One files. In my testing I have not yet decided what service to replace Ubuntu One with, but I have currently migrated all my files to OneDrive from Microsoft by making use of Storage Made Easy. Storage Made Easy has clients for Windows, Linux, OS X and mobile clients, but you can migrate files between services using their web interface as well. With a free account you can add up to three providers. Due to bandwidth limits I doubt I will use the service as my replacement, but it did allow me to transfer the files to OneDrive as a temporary home while I figure out what I will use in the future.

In the process of migrating files to Microsoft’s service I noticed what I assume is an oversight by Canonical. The Ubuntu One site does not have any notification that it is shutting down. Below are some screen shots.

Screenshot from 2014-04-16 19:20:00

worse is I can still click on sign-up without being told the file services are being discontinued.

Screenshot from 2014-04-16 19:41:34I sent an email to a Canonical employee and I hope this oversight will be correctly swiftly.

Binaries and copyright and trademarks, oh my.

For the last few months there has been an ongoing murmur about Canonical’s intellectual property assertions. What I find interesting is that while people accuse Canonical of violating the Open Source Ethos they say nothing of other companies. Before I go any further, I need to state that I am not a lawyer and have not played one on TV. The thoughts and opinions are nothing more than my thoughts and opinions.

Red Hat
Here are some of the claims Red Hat makes in regards to intellectual property:

2. Intellectual Property Rights. The Programs and each of their components are owned by Red Hat and other licensors and are protected under copyright law and under other laws as applicable. Title to the Programs and any component, or to any copy, modification, or merged portion shall remain with Red Hat and other licensors, subject to the applicable license. This EULA does not permit you to distribute the Programs or their components using Red Hat’s trademarks, regardless of whether the copy has been modified. You may make a commercial redistribution of the Programs only if (a) permitted under a separate written agreement with Red Hat authorizing such commercial redistribution, or (b) you remove and replace all occurrences of Red Hat trademarks.


I think that clearly asserts that a copyright over programs. I will make the assumption they mean both the binary form and source code. They also prohibit redistribution unless all of the trademarks are removed unless you enter in to an agreement with Red Hat or you remove and replace all trademarks.

Here are some of the claims made by Canonical:

You can redistribute Ubuntu in its unmodified form, complete with the installer images and packages provided by Canonical (this includes the publication or launch of virtual machine images). Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries. This does not affect your rights under any open source licence applicable to any of the components of Ubuntu. If you need us to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will require a licence agreement from Canonical, for which you may be required to pay.

The disk, CD, installer and system images, together with Ubuntu packages and binary files, are in many cases copyright of Canonical

Canonical owns intellectual property rights in the trade dress and look and feel of Ubuntu (including the Unity interface), along with various themes and components that may include unregistered design rights, registered design rights and design patents, your use of Ubuntu is subject to these rights.

From what I read here anyone can redistribute Ubuntu in unmodified form, but if you are going to modify it and retain the trademarks you must seek approval from Canonical. You can redistribute it if you remove all trademarks and recompile. If you need Canonical to approve, certify or provide modified versions for redistribution you will need a license agreement.

The Case of Mint:
I want to remind everyone that this is my opinion only and that I am not a lawyer, nor have I played one in a movie. If I am to take the case of Linux Mint and apply what I have read from both Red Hat and Canonical what would Mint have to do? What I understand Mint does:

  • Uses Canonical’s repositories
  • Specifically claims that it is based on Ubuntu (and Debian)

If Mint was based on Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® they would need to remove all Red Hat® trademarks or enter in to a license agreement with Red Hat®.

In the actual case of Mint being based on Ubuntu they have the option of removing all Ubuntu trademarks and recompiling, or entering in to a license agreement with Canonical.

The Difference:
The only difference I see is that Canonical has explicitly claimed that one would have to recompile binaries. I am not a package guru nor a kernel developer… but I am under the impression that in order to remove trademarks and copyrighted art that the binary would need to be recompiled. This leaves me wondering what all the noise is about since it would appear recompiling would be necessary in the case of a distribution being based on Red Hat®.

One more thing:
To date I think Canonical has an outstanding record of working with redistributions of their software. They encourage such endeavors and want them to grow.

Then You Win!

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Mahatma Gandhi

I have read this quote many times and always wondered if I would see a tipping point to the ‘winning’ stage. Today I read an article that made me think there is a chance that the tipping point may be approaching.

But the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to software which can produce open-source files in the “open document format” (ODF), such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.

Once the reliance on Microsoft Office is removed the need for Microsoft Windows will also decrease. Imagine the freedom of innovation that can take place when funds are not tied up buying software that provide very basic functionality.

We weren’t just missing out on innovation, we were paying top dollar for yesterday’s technology.

Innovation is one of the amazing things about open source software. With Microsoft and Apple you have one path. With open source you have many paths. Major companies like Google drive their business advantage by using Ubuntu and other open source software. Apple made a comeback by making use of open source software. Will it be a tipping point when the UK government converts? If they find success I think it will be.

Planet Ubuntu Is Not Broken

Over the last few months, community members have discussed improving planet.ubuntu.com. Some of the conclusions were:

  • planet.ubuntu.com is important
  • planet.ubuntu.com serves to remind that Ubuntu is not just software
  • planet.ubuntu.com gives the perception that Ubuntu is not important enough for even its contributors to write about it
  • the planet platform uses us
  • the problem is really Ubuntu membership

Some suggestions were:

  • planet.ubuntu.com should not allow non-Ubuntu content since it waters down the site
  • planet.ubuntu.com should be moderated
  • planet.ubuntu.com should have a zero tolerance policy for posts that violate the Ubuntu CoC. Posts should be deleted in less than five minutes or 500 page views (whichever comes first)
  • remove authors who have not posted about Ubuntu during a span of one year
  • change the look for planet.ubuntu.com to be more modern and interactive
  • deactivate Ubuntu membership for those who are not actively contributing

I hold a different opinion on what planet.ubuntu.com should be like than those seeking change; though, I respect their right to have a different opinion. Here are some of my opinions and responses in reference to planet.ubuntu.com:

1. One of the conclusions from this data is seriously flawed as the data was incorrectly interpreted.


The conclusion posted by the polls author is that Ubuntu members outnumber non-menbers by a factor of two to one. Obviously, the author was incorrect. Despite being corrected in comments the author did not revise their summary or conclusion. They expressed shock that it was not ten to one. Worse this is the data that allowed them to draw the conclusion that planet.ubuntu.com is an echo chamber.

2. The pool size for the data is very small

Some of the other data is interesting, but with the total number of responses being less than 300 I am not sure that the sample is statistically significant. Considering that there are currently 756 Ubuntu members listed on launchpad, that means that less than 12% of the Ubuntu members responded to the poll. The number of people associated with loco teams on launchpad is 17766; that would mean only 1.4% of those people responded to the poll. Canonical announced that there were 12 million Ubuntu users in 2010; if we assume that there was no growth, then 0.0014% of them responded to the polls.

3.  Ubuntu is about more than software

This was one of the conclusions that I agree with the poll author on. What I find interesting is that the author suggests that removing content that helps make individual contributors and users feel part of a community waters down the planet. For me if the site was just information about the latest build of Unity or a report on a loco team event in Saskatchewan it would lose that community feel. It would be more sanitized than a typical work place. Most people get to know their co-workers by talking to them about non-business items over the course of the work day. With the Ubuntu community being spread out globally, planet.ubuntu.com is where that interaction happens.

4.  Ubuntu members should have their membership revoked if they are no longer actively contributing

Membership is currently granted for life with the only requirement being that a person will take the time to renew their membership every two years. Changing that is not a decision that should be taken lightly. I also doubt there is a need to do that in order to help clean up posts on planet.ubuntu.com. The Community Council has been working with members of the community since August, 2013 to remove non-Ubuntu members from the planet.ubuntu.com feed. There are also significant issues with defining an actual process to determine who is active and who is not. I think a cost-benefit style analysis would yield a result that spending community resources (people and time) reviewing membership activity is worth the possible benefits (cleaning up planet.ubuntu.com posts), especially since the planet feed can be managed without changing membership. In short, too much energy would be expended on something of minimal value.

5.  Zero tolerance for CoC violations

I agree with this; however, it is not always an easy item to resolve. During my time serving on the Community Council, this issue has been addressed three times. In most cases, the offending posts were removed quickly and the author was contacted. In at least one case it was possible the author’s blog had been hacked and they were not responsible for the offending posts.

6.  Offending posts should be deleted in five minutes or less

While that would be a fantastic goal it is unrealistic and likely not achievable given the volunteer nature of the community. As was stated above this is an issue the Community Council has dealt with and in all cases the posts were remove quickly.

7.  Negative action vs. positive growth

The negative suggestions of membership removal and moderation indicate a defensive posture to me. I would rather take a positive approach and try to encourage community growth through more people earning membership and more people posting on their blogs. Moderation and removal of membership is not a way to support and encourage an open community.

In closing I would like to end with a quote that I find great value in:

Vision without action is just a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.

~ Joel A. Barker

Plugable USB 3.0 Dock

The Plugable (USB3-SATA-UASP1) USB 3.0 dock is a bit different than the most docks because the drive lays flat instead of standing straight up. I compared this to a Thermaltake BlacX Duet 5G. One of the first things I tested was how the dock and drive behaved when I suspended the computer. With the Thermaltake the dock and drive stayed on and spinning. With the Plugable the drive powered down and the dock indicator light turned from blue to red. I was quite astounded with the difference in the results when I tested both docks. I tested two drives using the built-in disks utility in Ubuntu.


Thermaltake – HD


Thermaltake – SSD


Plugable – HD


Plugable – SSD

Update: I tested the dock to see if it supported SMART data based on a question posted in comments. It does, indeed, support SMART.


SMART data is supported by the dock

The results were roughly the same for the traditional HD, but the Plugable dock got significantly better read results than the Thermaltake. The performance is even more amazing when you consider that the Plugable is $29.95 vs the Thermaltake $57. The dock, as you can see picture below, works with both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives.

Plugable Dock


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