Why I Ubuntu

I thought I’d share my source of motivation for working on Ubuntu in the hopes that it might inspire others too! (Note that this is my personal opinion; I don’t speak for Canonical in this blog.)

I believe that the world is moving in the direction of widespread technical savvy and ubiquitous technical companions (think smartphones or tablets).

I want such technology to be a force of empowerment, and thereby a force of good for humanity. To me, empowering means cheap, trustable, adaptable, and easy to use.

Open source software trivially fulfills the first three, in ways that proprietary software cannot. And Ubuntu is doing it’s best to fulfill the last.

Cheap

Yes, technically Open Source doesn’t have to be free. But in practice, it is. Proprietary software can be too, usually through ads. But Open Source always is and, more importantly, always will be.

Trustable

With Open Source, it’s easy to have complete confidence even without being an engineer. As a consumer, Open Source means it won’t spy on me and will do only what it says on the tin.

Adaptable

Proprietary software can be adaptable, no question. Not all adaptations require source access, though it does help.

But importantly, Open Source reduces the opportunity cost for creating or even using software. You can stand on the shoulders of giants. Anyone can provide support or contract work.

There is no barrier to entry to modify Open Source software. And most such software is designed specifically to interoperate with other software, so it’s easier to mix and match.

By way of example, think of a fictional school system in India that wants to create a customized version of Ubuntu. Very trivial to do, and they don’t need to seek anyone’s permission.

Ease of Use

This last point has generally eluded the open source community. But it’s the most important in my mind. What good is the most capable technology in the world, if it never improves lives because it is so hard to use?

My goal is empowering, in a utilitarian sense, as many users as possible. I rarely write code for me alone.

This, more than the rest, is why I support Ubuntu. Ubuntu specifically focuses on users and expanding Open Source beyond the chasm. And more than that, Ubuntu has the best chance of all the current efforts to cross the chasm.

Conclusion

When I think of empowering, I don’t tend to dwell on the modern first world. They don’t especially need empowerment. I’m thinking of the less-franchised or even our own sci-fi future, when our relationship with technology becomes even more important. Do you think Geordi would run code on the Enterprise for which he doesn’t have source access?

Also note that this is not a moral argument; I don’t especially consider Open Source a moral directive for these purposes. Users won’t flock to us because Ubuntu is open source, but rather because Ubuntu delights them.

I understand why people work on splinter efforts or other projects, but for me, I think the work that Canonical does with pre-installs, enterprise support, for-purchase apps, Ubuntu One, and user testing is an invaluable addition to the main Ubuntu project. These are how we reach new users.

7 thoughts on “Why I Ubuntu

  1. Exactly the reasons I use and spread Ubuntu, its Linux for all, have been a programmer, educator and Linux user since 1998 so am familiar with all them hardcore distros. However to spread linux to commoners, distros like Ubuntu, SuSE, Mint and PCLOS go a long way.

  2. You should not underestimate the moral dimension of free software. The trust people have that free software won’t screw them is all about morals. The control that non free software demands is also a moral issue. No one should demand that kind of power over other people. If Ubuntu embraces non free software and digital restrictions, they will undermine everything free software is all about.

    Thanks for your interesting article and inspiration.

  3. I think for us in the opensource users community, the more important issue to adress is why did we not use linux or any other open-source software earlier & dispell some myths. This is by no means comprehensive but here goes;
    1. In order to use linux OS, one has to be very technically savvy, download code for drivers, compile them, implement & troubleshoot them.
    2. it’s a huge investment of time to do #1
    3. other opensource applications are really buggy, u may lose data & one has to learn a new system all over again.

    To adress #1, this may have been true in the late 80s right up to early 2000, not any more! Most OS come with ready compiled drivers & the installation programmes are intelligent enough to identify the type of drivers appropriate for ones hardware.
    #2 In the proprietry world, one has to update software 1 at a time as & when the software is used. If the software is not used for a long time & the next time u use it is when you’re offline, you’ll have to live without all the bug fixes. Therefore the investment in time is larger in the proprietry world now.
    3.1 Let’s talk about MS Word 2003 & before. Anyone remember how to do outline numbering? Even it was not buggy, it was really difficult & i dreaded it! For openoffice & libreoffice, i would say that at least the help is readable!
    3.2 I use planner for project management. It doesn’t have as many cool features as MS project 2007 or 2010, but i can do most of the project work that i need to. Best of all, i don’t need to consciously go into download.com to download patches & updates!
    3.3 ctrl-l in firefox? is this the same as ctrl-l in ie? BTW, what other platform does ie run on? I have a windows, mac, & ubuntu pc & i’m looking for a browser platform that can support all. firefox is the hot-favorite, chrome is a close 2nd.

    It’s refreshing & reaffirming to reflect on why one uses linux in general. 1ce in a while at least i don’t feel like an odd-ball amongst windows-bigots!

  4. Hello Michael,

    thank you very much for your hard work on deja dup and other projects.

    Bless God we have so nice people like you out there ;D

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