Ubuntu and its commitment to software freedom


Before you read:

This post was originally written to present the judgement passed on by Free Software advocates in Venezuela about Ubuntu and how We, the Ubuntu-ve LoCo Team, feel about Ubuntu and its commitment to Software Freedom. In our country, this topic has been around ever since Ubuntu was founded, but the health check on some of the statements hadn’t been as publicly as it needs to be. Some of the comments with which Ubuntu is judged by some Free software advocates are very outdated and this post rather highlights Ubuntu’s ever-growing commitment to the Free Software ecosystem. It was originally written in Spanish and part of it still makes references to discussions in mailing list in ubuntu-ve (spanish). Some comments from the Ubuntu community have made me want to put this out in English as well. big thank-yous to all in the community, your synergy really helps in tough times.


With regards my references to Gobuntu.

Jeremy Bicha writes: 

 “Gobuntu was discontinued as it was believed there is no need for a separate distro for “free software only” as the Ubuntu disk itself (as you mentioned) supports that option. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Gobuntu

Thanks to Jeremy and Steve Fagan for this correction.

With this post I would like to publish my ideas on a issue we face when we promote Ubuntu, however I am almost certain that the same applies for various distribution projects. Whenever I participate in events, I hear people say “Ubuntu is not free” and after many years of reflection, I would like to add a comment on this.

Ubuntu is a project of Debian-based operating system, a universal operating system based on GNU / Linux. The project is sponsored by Canonical LTD. Ubuntu allows derivative works and allows collaboration across all aspects of its development. With regards to any ethical considerations in Ubuntu-ve discussed this some months ago and I think the result was an analysis of Ubuntu’s commitment to the free software movement. I don’t seek discuss the phrase “Ubuntu is not free” but I would like to add comments.

Ubuntu does not include “Non-Free” desktop software in a default installation: When installing Ubuntu, there is no desktop software that can be considered “Non Free” and that’s the main premise of Ubuntu today. Ubuntu provides the best free software to millions of people using it daily. Ubuntu never promotes proprietary applications over Free Software. However, it allows people who want to use non-free software, such as Skype. This is something that is true for Debian, Fedora, OpenSuse, ArchLinux, and even in the considered free distributions like gNewSense. The user chooses. Ubuntu does not force the user to use “non-free” software.

Ubuntu allows the user to choose what to do with propietary hardware: With a friendly interface, Ubuntu informs the hardware is not free and even makes the author of the driver responsible if you need support on it. It is important to emphasize that there is non-free modules in the Ubuntu kernel that allow a lot of hardware to just work.

Ubuntu installation allows only Free Software and has a 100% free official derivative: Gobuntu is a distribution made by the Ubuntu project to promote a 100% free operating system, has served as the basis for 100% free derivatives because it is easier than to remove the “non-free” bits to allow some proprietary hardware to work. There is an option in the live CD to install a 100% free (press F6 twice). This easily enables you to have a 100% free system.

Ubuntu highlights the importance of Free Software in its philosophy: As a project, Ubuntu is quite vocal about their role in the world of free software. His philosophy is based on the principles of free software and it is also the task of the local community (LoCo Teams) to disseminate these principles.

There is much judgement passed in Venezuela with respect to Ubuntu and the recurring phrase is “Non Free”, however I am sure many agree with me when I say “Ubuntu is committed to free software”. It has proven for years that is capable of carrying the flag and fight battles side by side with proprietary giants in a less political and legal level and more concrete and tangible basis.

My compliments to those who today can say they have 100% freedom in their desktops and laptops in a world where 90% of users think about bad apples and broken windows.

Our commitment to software freedom is why we will converge on the road.

P.D. I am willing to discuss this matter with the seriousness it deserves and I hope your comments stay up for a healthy discussion.

17 Replies to “Ubuntu and its commitment to software freedom”

  1. I’ve also read your mail to the loco-contacts mailing list and frankly I find the attitude of GNU/FSF Venezuela insulting. It insults the hard work Ubuntu VE does, it insults the hard work we, the community, do and it insults the intelligence of GNU/FSF Venezuela.

    They say we don’t contribute enough and are not fully free and therefore Ubuntu VE is not welcome on their conference, right?

    The idea that Ubuntu doesn’t contribute (enough) to the (upstreaM) projects has been stated by several peoples a few times now but most of the times I found their message to be reeking of a combination of jealousy and being uninformed.

    1. they say we are not free and we are just as bad as any propietary os :S, they said we can participate in the conference as long as we introduce ourselves as a Non-free OS.

  2. Hi Efrain,

    Consider this my contribution to your message, in support:

    The measurement of success/importance of a “GNU/Linux based distribution” should not be based purely on whether it passes a “freedom” (or “purity”) test. Other dimensions are vitally important.

    As a thought experiment, imagine the purest, free-est distribution that almost no one knows about. Imagine a distribution that would make even the FSF envious of its respect for user freedom, but takes a degree in computer science (or a friend with one) to install and run. Finally imagine a system that is technically brilliant in its avoidance of proprietary blobs but nearly impossible to integrate into an ecosystem of broken windows… Now imagine these hypothetical distributions have no community. No one in your city runs them. No one even talks about them.

    Ubuntu is more than freedom. It’s about taking this freedom to everyone, without prejudice. It’s about forming local communities to collaborate and make it even better. It’s about awareness. It’s about deserved popularity.


  3. Efrain if I’m not wrong, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Brasil are seriously compromised with open source in South America. Can you track how many computers in the government and the education system are using Linux in Venezuela? . How many project are running with open source in Venezuela? . The rate is increasing very fast.

    This is the work not only of the Ubuntu community, the FSF-Venezuela, or the other lonely souls or distributions. This is the work of all of you, and all of you deserve credit.

    Ubuntu project is Open Source, Canonical is a private company that energize Ubuntu project and they have their own interest. There is nothing wrong with that while the project is open source(I do not work for Ubuntu).

    As you mention “I am willing to discuss this matter with the seriousness it deserves”, is the solution for any misunderstanding.
    Also, it will be better with a few .polars. 🙂

    1. I believe we do not have statistics on this. it would be very interesting. and It’s true. It is all of our efforts joined that has achieved this. Polar ICE FTW 😀

  4. Thanks for pulling this together Efrain. There are many points that are glossed over when people talk about Ubuntu and its supposed disrespect for freedom.

    In addition to the the actual software, Canonical regularly sponsors events and organizations that promote free software, such as Software Freedom Day (http://softwarefreedomday.org/), and Open Source For America (http://opensourceforamerica.org/).

    This is not a community, that has rejected freedom. We embrace it as part of our daily lives.

  5. Ubuntu One’s server-side code is not open-source. Desktop Ubuntu has numerous tie-ins with it, with more slated for upcoming versions.

    Having said that, I run into very few people who are concerned about this, and they probably aren’t either (although it might not improve their opinion of Ubuntu if someone were to point it out to them).

  6. I stopped using Ubuntu because it does ship Non-Free software by default. In fact it increases Non-free content with each release. The fact that it labels Non-free software as Free is worrisome to me and many others. I am referring to Mono.

    If you understand the Mono license then you deserve an award. It is released under several different licenses and none is the GPL. It is murky at best and a Microsoft trojan horse at worst. They play it cute when asked and say that Novell is protected. That means to me that Canonical isn’t. All the while they continue to allege that Linux infringes on its IP.

    Mono should be available to those who want it, but it should not be forced on those of us who do not want it. It should be placed in the restricted repositories and not be in the default installation. In every survey that I have seen the pro-Mono and anti-Mono camps are roughly equal in size which makes Mono a divisive topic and if you understand the legalities involved then you should go to the head of the class.

    I now use Kubuntu which means that I can be Mono-free. I want no part of Mono or Microsoft, who are opposed to software freedom and want to destroy that which we are trying to protect. I am not only Mono free, but Microsoft free as well.

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