"Copygate" Fiasco Exposes the Ugly Side of Ubuntu

Homer's picture

Typical Ubuntu User

Life isn't easy when you're an Ubuntu fanboy

First there was "Bansheegate", the scandal that saw space tourist, multi-millionaire tycoon and Linux opportunist, Mark Shuttleworth, deny the Gnome project 75% of the Amazon affiliate donations they would otherwise have received, courtesy of a Banshee plugin, by altering it to syphon the money into Canonical's bank account instead.

Then, to add insult to embezzlement, when Banshee developers complained about this misappropriation of their good will, Shuttleworth issued them with the stark ultimatum that they could have 25% or nothing, then threatened to withdraw the plugin completely. As you can imagine, that went down like a ton of bricks, and the Banshee devs told Shuttleworth to shuttle off, but he shipped the plugin, then ran off with the loot anyway.

But, incredibly, it gets even worse. Next we had the "Peanutgate" scandal, in which Jono Bacon (full time Windows evangelist, and part time Ubuntu Community Manager) described detractors' complaints about this misappropriation as the "views of the peanut gallery". It should be noted that the members of this "peanut gallery" included Banshee developers, Gnome developers and various highly respected Linux luminaries, such as Jef Spaleta and Chuck Frain, the latter of whom has just quit in protest, from his position as leader of the Ubuntu Maryland Local Community Team. In his own words, it was his "tipping point". I can't say I blame him.

And to think, it seems like only yesterday that Jono Bacon was lecturing all those nasty Open Sauce people about showing some Open Respect®.

Hmm, Bacon could do with learning some Open Respect® himself.

In the midst of all this scandal, it would have been easy to miss the furore, which I hereby dub "Copygate", kicking-off over in Ubuntu's proprietary new and improved Open Sauce Launchpad®, as fanboys ranted like mad ranty things about the evils of X.org, that stalwart of the Linux desktop, which Canonical has condemned to death for the crime of "Not Invented Here", to make way for their shiny new toy, Wayland.

In the tea-breaks between grinding axes and hoisting petards, Ubuntu's finest throw rocks and insults in X.org's general direction, like the following well coordinated attack, for X.org's heinous sin of lacking a persistent clipboard - something it was never designed to do, and rightfully so. After various people, including myself, pointed this out, and suggested using a clipboard manager like everyone else, we (and poor-old X.org) were subjected to a vicious tirade that would have made even Steve "fucking kill Google" Ballmer blush. I invite you to read their belligerent ravings for yourself, but the gist of it is:

  • First, this immortal classic: "open source idiots do everything they can to defend Linux and open source".
  • "Every Linux distribution just sucks"
  • Mac OS X is "a proper operating system"
  • "GNU" means "1970s command line instead of an interface". I guess that includes Gnome then, a member of the GNU Foundation [slaps forhead]
  • X.org's handy copy-on-select and middle-click paste feature is "abhorring"
  • ... and "stupid"
  • Only "programmers and advanced linux users" know how to click the middle mouse button
  • X.org developers are "arrogant" for not slavishly copying the Windows way of copy and pasting (although that might have been rather difficult, since Project Athena, the project that defined X11's protocols and fundamental standards, was created in 1983, two years before the first release of Windows)
  • X.org needs to do it the Windows way, to encourage Windows developers to "create their app on linux", presumably so Ubuntu fanboys can bask in the glow of all that wonderful proprietary Windows Linux blobware
  • Oh, and Windows and Mac fanboys demand Linux becomes like their proprietary operating systems, and they "refuse to give in" until it does. So there!
  • "X.org is ancient", and so like everything more than 5 years old (coincidentally, the average mental age of an Ubuntu user) it needs to be taken out and shot. Twice for good measure. Then burned at the stake, just in case
  • "It's not the 1980's anymore", apparently. Although it's doubtful if any Ubuntu user is actually old enough to have even seen the 1980s, so I'm not sure what their objection is. Personally, I didn't like it much, but that had more to do with Bananarama and bad haircuts than computers. In fact, now that I think about it, computing was a whole lot of fun back then, and people generally didn't want to take software out and shoot it, even if it did utilise the middle mouse button
  • "We got computers that are way more powerful then that with a lot more memory", which is an excellent (albeit grammatically perplexing) excuse to fill that memory with unnecessary crap, like Windows does. Oh wait, now I get it
  • A clipboard manager is evil, because "you need to install it", which is utterly beyond the capabilities of the average Ubuntu user, naturally
  • This "bug" proves that "programmers don't care" and "no one is paying them money" to fix it. Allegedly.
  • They dream of this being "the year of linux on the desktop", and hate that it only has "1% of market share", despite the fact that this is completely irrelevant to the goal of Free Software, and has no bearing whatsoever on their use of GNU/Linux. I mean, it's not like another couple of million archetypal Ubuntu users will help fix its bugs any quicker, given that most of them seem barely capable of even using a mouse. No, for that they'll need to turn to us "archaic" programmers, who actually know what we're doing. Looks like that "1970s command line instead of an interface" might come in handy, after all

And finally, having launched this tirade of Windows and Mac advocacy, in an Ubuntu bug report, the brave defenders of the modern age demand to know "why does Launchpad allow people to argue and leave advocacy comments?"

Good question.

Let's just pause for a moment, and reflect on the sombre fact that these are Ubuntu users, not paid Microsoft astroturfers.

Hard to believe, isn't it?

But in the interest of fairness, let me leave you with this handy list that proves conclusively that proprietary operating systems like Mac OS X have far superior copy and paste capabilities, and we should all rush out immediately and pirate buy a copy:

'Nuff said.


Anony Mouse's picture


I looked over the comments on that bug report and was amazed.

In my opinion copy / paste on most 'nix systems is a lot better and more usable than most other OS's. I love the highlight and middle click feature. I wish Windows did that.

And anyone who thinks the clipboard in Windows works better, has obviously never spent any significant time using MS Office, especially Excel, and dealing with all of the damn errors that pop up.

Anony Mouse's picture


Are you sure Microsoft's astroturfers are not filling up Ubuntu forums and bug reports? Normal users really don't have the time, patience or inclination for Windows advocacy. Be careful that you don't help them make things worse by crapping on a popular distribution unfairly.

I understand the Canonical side of the Banshee mess. They did what every free software user has the right to do, make a program run the way they want it to. The big mistake was using mono in the first place. Mono people are trouble makers and they'd like to screw Canonical now that they have helped ruin Novell.

I'd also advise you not to say that Jono is a Windows advocate. He's vague and often foolish but I don't think he's pushing Windows. Having read the thread and his original blog post, it looks like he's only defending his use in a music studio. The quote you have makes it look like he advocates it for everyone and everything. In fact, his point was that the Windows 7 GUI is poor next to Ubuntu.

I agree that his use of Windows for music creation is lame and his defense of it was even worse and I also agree that Jono is a poor community manager because of these glaring communications faults. He should have simply said that he was using a particular program and computer for a single, dedicated purpose, the way people use a set top box or like the drums themselves. Language about the "inadequacy" of free software was a poor way to say that no one has managed to crawl up his particular drum set's secret interfaces. Even Richard Stallman will use a Windows computer if he's stuck, but he won't trust it and surely won't praise the disgusting thing. I've seen Jono pulled into a number of these embarrassing situations and not be able to rescue himself. Microsoft TE's must love the guy.

Homer's picture

Bacon's "innocence"

The fact is that most of the excuses Bacon gave for not using GNU/Linux for music production were patently false, and I even pointed to the specific resources that proved he could accomplish exactly the same thing with Free Software.

You may note from the discussion that he never responded to that list of resources.

He continually repeated that his use of Windows was not voluntary, that he had no choice, and that Free Software offered him no alternatives. He falsely claimed that Free Software DAW solutions were unsuitable for his type of music (heavy metal), and even went so far as to claim he'd need to give up producing music entirely if he used Free Software. I merely pointed out that was a lie, that it was clear from the evidence that he was merely expressing a preference for Windows and proprietary applications. I showed him a list of heavy metal musicians using Free Software, and explained to him in detail what he could do to avoid proprietary software, if he genuinely wanted to, including avoiding hardware that has no Free Software support, if that's what it takes. I mean it's not like that's the only drum kit in the world, is it?

But again, he completely failed to respond.

If that had been me with unsupported hardware, I'd have sold the damned thing on eBay, and bought one that actually works. In fact I'd have done my research properly first, and never bought unsupported hardware in the first place. And I'm just an average Joe, not a high-profile ambassador for GNU/Linux.

But Free Software is apparently not important enough to Bacon for him to bother with such trivialities. He'd rather expose the failings imposed upon it by the proprietary world, then succumb to the temptations of that proprietary world, actively promoting it whilst criticising Free Software, when what he should be doing is working to overcome those impositions, and doing everything in his power to help GNU/Linux.

He's clearly not doing that. Not at all.

If Bacon was Joe Nobody, I'd be annoyed but not entirely surprised by such apathy. But in his position he really needs to be doing it better than the average guy. If the Community Manager, for a distro that includes its own music studio edition, claims to be unable to use his own distro's software to do something that other Free Software people can do easily, then that is a pitiful state of affairs, and a damning and misleading indictment against Free Software. It's also a slap in the face to those who work so hard to produce incredibly professional Free Software DAW solutions like Ardour and Hydrogen, and distros like Ubuntu Studio.

What a poor ambassador for GNU/Linux.

Should we then be surprised when other Ubuntu users follow their leaders' contempt of Free Software, and post the sort of vicious tirade witnessed on the aforementioned bug report?

I'm inclined to believe these are not in fact Microsoft "shills". My reasoning is that this sort of attitude seems endemic within the Ubuntu community, in fact it's very rarely that I ever meet an Ubuntu user with any real respect for Free Software.

I think it's very clear why.