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Is nothing sacred: Ubuntu goes commercial?

 First off, I want to give a shout-out to my Ubuntu-using fans. Every time I write about an operating system, I get lots of responses from government workers who have switched to the Ubuntu flavor of Linux for their jobs or for use at home. Unlike some other groups of people, (cough, cough, angry Mac users) the Ubuntu folks have always been courteous.

I’m sure I will hear from the Ubuntu Army after my Windows 8 review runs in the October issue of GCN, especially with the realization that hardware built for that OS won’t allow itself to boot if another operating system is placed on it. It can be done with a little modification, but I bet it won’t sit well with Linux users.

Ubuntu is actually one of the cleanest versions of Linux out there, with all the advantages and flaws that go along with that status. And it was approved in 2010  by the General Services Administration for use on federal systems, joining flavors from Red Hat (in use by the White House, Army, Navy and other agencies) and Novell.

Ubuntu users are proud that their OS is the least commercialized, and the least bogged down with bloated programs and features that aren’t needed. It’s kind of the opposite of Red Hat in that respect, which seems to be doing everything it can to make itself look and act like Windows, with all the advantages and flaws that come with that.

So I was pretty shocked to hear that Ubuntu (after an ancient African word meaning “humanity to others”) was adding Amazon-sponsored search links directly into the Dash part of the Home Lens page, which means they come up whenever a user performs a search. That’s kind of like selling $15 bottles of Pepsi-branded water at the modern Woodstock festival and claiming that there is still a connection to the past.

So why is Amazon suddenly showing up on the browser of the most counter-culture OS in the world? Easy answer: money.

The folks who make Ubuntu get a small percentage of every sale made from one of those Amazon links, and that money is needed to help further develop the OS, according to company officials.

So in a sense, if you happen to be a hardcore Ubuntu fan, the best thing you can do actually is buy things from those Amazon links to help keep your OS as clean and bloat-free as it is today. You can hold your nose when you do it if you want, or simply buy something really fun. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, after all.

Posted by John Breeden II on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 thomas

Funny how you completely missed the point, the issue is PRIVACY. I don't want Amazon.com knowing every goddamned search I make for files on my computer! This is an absolute deal breaker for me.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 Paul

Is nothing sacred: Ubuntu goes commercial? Well, if Ubuntu doesn't watch its bottom line & balance its budget how will it pay its bills. I support the fact that Ubuntu must be financially viable.

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 MD

Love Ubuntu. But everyone needs to eat. Ubuntu is open source and staying that way. That is what matters. This is a great revenue idea that helps support the development of a great operating environment. I am shopping on Amazon anyway, why not support Ubuntu as well?

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 Randy Brinson Albany, NY

Thanks for explaining the Amazon search links in Ubuntu. John, you said, "I’m sure I will hear from the Ubuntu Army after my Windows 8 review..." Here's my 2¢ worth a little early. This Ubuntu foot soldier's response to the Microsoft Secure Boot "feature" is to not buy my (third) Dell this fall but rather to switch to System 76. We little people are well aware we can't outshout the giants, but guess what? We can still vote with our feet.

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 Shawn Richmond, VA

A little more clarification: http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/1182 They are not ads, but searches Amazon for products. This is just the start of great things down the road where you can search through the dash for just about anything. You can turn this off if you wish. Amazon is just the first to get in.

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