Open Source Advent Calendar: The Ubuntu Linux PC Operating System

It’s an advent calendar for tech-savvy people. In the fully commercialized digital world, almost everything is owned by a large internet company. Their software is neither open nor free. As an alternative, there is this small island of the open source world: software whose code is publicly visible and can be independently verified for possible security breaches and backdoors. Software that can be freely used, distributed and improved. Often the motivation for work is simply the joy of providing something useful to the company.


Short portraits of open source projects will be published on heise online from December 1 to 24. These are the functions of the respective software, pitfalls, history, context, and funding.

Short portraits of open source projects will be published on heise online from December 1 to 24. These are the functions of the respective software, pitfalls, history, context, and funding. Some projects are supported by an individual, others by a loosely organized community, a tightly managed foundation with full-time staff, or a consortium. The work is completely voluntary, or it is funded through donations, cooperation with internet companies, government funding, or an open source business model. Whether it is a single application or a complex ecosystem, whether it is a PC program, an application or an operating system, the diversity of open source is overwhelming.

In the small Linux desktop operating system market, Ubuntu is the largest. The open source project focuses on the Canonical company, which is developing Ubuntu with a large community. The main decision-maker is a “benevolent dictator for life”. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux desktop operating system. Relative to the overall market, distribution is manageable. Linux has a market share of only 2% worldwide and throughout Germany. In the Linux cosmos, however, Ubuntu is a leader. There are no reliable figures. If you look at the number of visits to German language articles on popular Linux distributions as a guide to their popularity, you see the following benefit: Ubuntu is ahead (with about 17,000 monthly article views) ahead of Debian (12,000) and Mint (11,000). Ubuntu is a desktop operating system for end users, but it is also used on servers. The software is available under different, mainly open source GPL licenses.

Ubuntu, for its part, is an ecosystem that integrates a wide range of open source software: well-known programs such as the Firefox browser or the LibreOffice office suite are always supplied ready to use. Additional programs can be installed through an integrated software center. By default, Ubuntu uses the Gnome graphical user interface. But you can switch to alternatives like Xfce or Cinnamon. Ubuntu is part of the big linux family tree and a descendant of the Debian branch on which most Linux PC operating systems are based. Ubuntu, for its part, started a family and spawned dozens of derivatives. These include the versions released by developer Ubuntu Canonical, such as Ubuntu Studio, which focuses on audio, graphics, and video editing. Linux Mint is an external Ubuntu fork. Ubuntu was developed by former Debian developer, South African IT entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Mark Shuttleworth. In 1999, when he was in his mid-twenties, he sold his IT security and consulting firm Thawte to the US company VeriSign for $ 575 million. On October 20, 2004, he released Ubuntu, with the goal of creating a Debian distribution that was easy to use, even for computer scientists. In the spring of that year, he founded the Canonical company, which has been at the center of the Ubuntu cosmos ever since.

It is difficult to find numbers and general information on the company behind Ubuntu. The provider is noisy Privacy Policy Canonical Group Limited, based in London. The company is part of a small Corporate Cosmos. The parent company is Canonical Limited, based in the Isle of Man. The semi-autonomous island state of the Irish Sea is a popular tax haven, where business figures are difficult to research. For the Canonical Group Limited in London are due to the British legal situation Annual Report accessible. According to the report for 2020 (“Company Group Accounts” of June 26, 2021), the company had 441 employees and a turnover of 141 million US dollars with a profit of five million. When asked by Heise Online, Canonical wrote that the group of companies has a total of 750 people in more than 50 countries. The company isn’t revealing how high the total revenue is, but Canonical has been profitable since 2019.

The company has a typical open source business model, comparable to Automattic, the company behind the WordPress blog and web software: company employees develop and market free software in collaboration with a community. , Canonical earns money with related services and products.

Among other things, Canonical is working with various partners that offer Ubuntu support, as well as with PC manufacturers such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, the company explains. And Canonical licenses Ubuntu with additional security features for use in embedded systems, for example in the software as a service domain or in the cloud domain. Canonical also provides direct support and infrastructure for business customers to. Canonical said goodbye to a revenue model directly in Ubuntu Desktop last year: an Amazon integration that was introduced in 2012 after an update to Ubuntu. A search of the local office provided Amazon’s product suggestions via the “buy lens.” Canonical has been heavily criticized for this for years and has even been called “spyware”. In 2020, integration finally disappeared again.

Most of the development work for Ubuntu is done by Canonical employees. When Heise Online asked what Canonical’s share of code production was, the company didn’t respond, but wrote that 50 employees were working on Ubuntu Desktop. Canonical estimates the size of the global community at 50,000 people. They take on different tasks: they participate in code development, fix bugs, do technical documentation, organize local Ubuntu events or answer questions in the Ubuntu forums such as Discourse.ubuntu.com.

Originally there was a foundation for Ubuntu. Shuttleworth had the Ubuntu Foundation in 2005 based and endowed them with seed capital of ten million US dollars. As Canonical Heise reports online, that no longer exists. The foundation was just a financial safeguard that was supposed to build trust. She needs to make sure long-term Ubuntu support continues regardless of what happens to Canonical. This structure is no longer necessary since Canonical is cost effective and can guarantee long term support for the software itself.

The power of the Ubuntu ecosystem is highly concentrated at Canonical. Importantly, Canonical owns Trademark rights on Ubuntu and related terms. This had caused discontent in the past. In 2013, an American Eletronic Frontier Foundation activist posted a script called “Fixubuntu” on a website that could be used to suppress Amazon’s integrated search. Canonical informed him that the use of the Ubuntu logo on the website and the use of the term Ubuntu in a domain name infringed Canonical’s trademark rights. After public criticism, Shuttleworth apologized and wrote that the company’s “exceptionally permissive” branding policy actually allowed such a thing.

the Administrative structure of the Ubuntu ecosystem, as described on the Ubuntu website, has several components. There are thematic teams and about 200 national and local communities. The German Ubuntu community discovered the association Ubuntu Germany organizes and operates, among other things, a German speaking company Ubuntu-Wiki. It is the highest control body

Ubuntu Community Tip, which ensures compliance with a common code of conduct, settles disputes and organizes the elections of subordinate bodies. The board consists eight people, including Shuttleworth and the president of the Ubuntu Germany association, Torsten Franz. The board is elected through an online vote by the community. Anyone can nominate a candidate. However, Mark Shuttleworth decides who gets on the shortlist and can actually be elected.

There is also technical expertise body with six members, including Shuttleworth. If there is a stalemate in the votes, Shuttleworth can decide. There are comparable structures in most open source projects. Third governing body after the municipal council and the technical body, the Governance declaration page Also on Ubuntu.com: SABDFL, short for “self-proclaimed benevolent lifelong dictator”. This “self-proclaimed benevolent dictator for life” is Mark Shuttleworth, who is said to play the “thankfully undemocratic role of godfather”.

The work on the article series is based in part on a grant “Neustart Kultur” from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, awarded by VG Wort.


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Disclaimer: This article is generated from the feed and not edited by our team.

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