decoration decoration

When you want to know more...
For layout only
Site Map
About Groklaw
Legal Research
ApplevSamsung p.2
Cast: Lawyers
Comes v. MS
Gordon v MS
IV v. Google
Legal Docs
MS Litigations
News Picks
Novell v. MS
Novell-MS Deal
OOXML Appeals
Quote Database
Red Hat v SCO
Salus Book
SCEA v Hotz
SCO Appeals
SCO Bankruptcy
SCO Financials
SCO Overview
SCO v Novell
Sean Daly
Software Patents
Switch to Linux
Unix Books
Your contributions keep Groklaw going.
To donate to Groklaw 2.0:

Groklaw Gear

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Contact PJ

Click here to email PJ. You won't find me on Facebook Donate Paypal

User Functions



Don't have an account yet? Sign up as a New User

No Legal Advice

The information on Groklaw is not intended to constitute legal advice. While Mark is a lawyer and he has asked other lawyers and law students to contribute articles, all of these articles are offered to help educate, not to provide specific legal advice. They are not your lawyers.

Here's Groklaw's comments policy.

What's New

No new stories

COMMENTS last 48 hrs
No new comments


hosted by ibiblio

On servers donated to ibiblio by AMD.

Stallman Calls Ubuntu Spyware; Asks FLISOL Not to Recommend It at Events in South America ~pj
Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 12:39 AM EDT

I am, of course, researching Nokia, but while I am doing that (do send me anything of interest on that topic), I thought you'd be interested to see an email that Richard Stallman sent to Lista Nacional de FLISOL, the FLISOL mailing list. He asks them not to promote or distribute Ubuntu at their events, and it's in Spanish, so I'll put my translation, imperfect though it is, afterward, section by section:
Los eventos FLISOL frecuentemente promueven y distribuyen Ubuntu. Eso siempre era un problema. Aunque Ubuntu es una distro de GNU/Linux, contiene también programas privativos. Ha olvidado la meta de un sistema libre. [PJ: FLISOL events frequently promote and distribute Ubuntu. This is always a problem. Although Ubuntu is a GNU/Linux distro, it contains proprietary programs. It has forgotten the goal of a free system.]

Ubuntu ya hace algo peor: espía al usuario. Las funcionalidades malevolas, que son comunes en el software privativo, son inusuales en el software libre; pero nuestra defensa no es perfecta. Uno de los pocos ejemplos de spyware en el software libre es Ubuntu. [PJ: Ubuntu does something worse. It spies on its users. Malevolent functionality which is frequently part of proprietary software is rare in free software, but our defense is not perfect. One of the few examples of spyware in free software is Ubuntu.]

Véase por favor [PJ: Please read this (at the link). The same material in English is here.]

Les pido entonces que, en sus eventos FLISOL, no distribuyan ni promuevan Ubuntu. [PJ: Therefore I ask you that in the FLISOL events, you don't distribute or promote Ubuntu.]

When his request was turned down by that event organizer, saying that it limited users' freedom of choice, he followed up with another to the whole list, giving his reasons and asking them to reconsider. It has touched off quite a discussion, needless to say. Look for the theme on that page: [Flisol] Eventos totalmente libres (pedido de Richard Stallman) if you'd like to follow along. Google has machine translation here, if you wish to check it.

Here is his explanation, in Spanish, with my translation afterward:
El 24/03/2013 06:09, "Richard Stallman" Un organizador de un evento FLISOL me dijo que "no acataremos [mi petición] mientras se brinde la libertad de elección al usuario." [PJ: An organizer of a FLISOL event told me that they rejected my request as it would limit the user's freedom to choose.]

Pienso que mi respuesta a su objeción puede interesar a más gente, entonces la envío a la lista, aquí abajo. [PJ: I think my reply to your objection may interest more people, so I send it to the list and here, below.]


El asunto que planteo se trata del comportamiento de un evento FLISOL. ¿Da copias de Ubuntu o no? ¿Recomienda Ubuntu o no? Pido a los organizadores del evento que adopten la política que el evento no distribuya ni promueva Ubuntu. [PJ:The issue I raise is about what should happen at FLISOL events. Give away copies of Ubuntu or not? Promote Ubuntu or no? I asked the organizers of the event that they, as a policy, not distribute or promote Ubuntu.]

La libertad del usuario es otra cosa y no hay ningún conflicto entre su libertad y mi petición. Si algún usuario decide instalar Ubuntu, lo considero un error, pero es asunto suyo porque actua él. Les pido a ustedes que se nieguen participar, ayudar o sugerir que lo haga. No les sugiero actuar para impedirle de hacerlo. [PJ: Freedom of users is somthing else, and there isn't a conflict between a user's freedom and my request. If someone decides to install Ubuntu, I would consider it a mistake, but it's his own choice to do it. What I ask is that you don't participate, help or suggest that he do it. I didn't request that you block him from doing so.]

La libertad no es "la libertad de elección", es algo mucho más amplia. La libertad es tener el control de tu propia vida. Si usas la informática en tu vida, tener el control requiere que los programas que empleas sean libres. [PJ: Freedom isn't "freedom of choice". It's much deeper than that. It's having control of your own life. If you use a computer, it's having control by requiring that the programs you use are free.]

Como asunto de principios, no creo que nadie tenga moralmente derecho de publicar software privativo, es decir, software que priva de la libertad a sus usuarios. Pero no pienso prohibir que alguien lo instale. Cuando el usuario tiene el control cabal de su software, puede instalar lo que quiera porque nadie tiene el poder de decirle que no. Pero el asunto de hoy no se trata de qué hace él, sino de qué hacemos con él. [PJ: As a matter of principle, I don't believe anyone has a right, morally, to distribute proprietary software, that is, software that deprives the users of freedom. When the user controls his own software, he can install what he wants and no one can stop him. But today's issue isn't about him, what he does, but rather what you do with him.]

Entonces me parece que su regla de respetar la libertad del usuario no implica el rechazo de mi petición. Mi petición apoya la libertad del usuario, hasta de instalar un sistema que lo espíe, si quiere. Les pido reconceptar. [PJ: Therefore, it seems to me that your rule of respecting users' freedom doesn't conflict with my request. My request strengthens the liberty of the user, even to install spyware if he wants to. So I ask you to reconsider.]

Dr Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation
51 Franklin St
Boston MA 02110
Skype: No way! That's nonfree (freedom-denying) software. Use Ekiga or an ordinary phone call

Flisol mailing list ______________


Stallman Calls Ubuntu Spyware; Asks FLISOL Not to Recommend It at Events in South America ~pj | 188 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Stallman Calls Ubuntu Spyware; Asks FLISOL Not to Recommend It at Events in South America ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 12:59 PM EDT
Before the usual haters come. This is not about something simple such as RMS
saying that proprietary drivers/codecs in ubuntu are bad. RMS hasn't asked
FLISOLS to stop promoting ubuntu when it made that jump.

This is about something that from RMS' perspective is worse. It is the abuse of
users. RMS' has taken the conclusion that this is a form of user abuse.
Canonical is collecting your desktop searches. For RMS this is very bad for free
software in general because we can no longer claim that a free software OS will
protect you from this sorts of abuses.

The data collected from desktop searches can be abused and is very valuable for
advertisers. So this is not at all a small concern.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ubuntu has done a huge amount of good in popularizing Linux
Authored by: TiddlyPom on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 01:03 PM EDT
Firstly a disclaimer. I run Ubuntu myself (12.04 at the moment as I want to
keep my system stable for an extended period) although I do use other distros,
notably RHEL and CentOS for work purposes and Debian for embedded work + Zentyal
(which is an Ubuntu Server remix) for servers + Linux Mint (which I tend to
recommend to people migrating from Windows to Linux).

I am also an RMS fan although he does tend to shoot from the hip and does not
shy away from making enemies (look at the showdown between him and Theo De Raadt
over Linux and BSD-Unix).

It is pretty trivial to take out the extra 'lenses' if you want to and almost
everybody who uses Ubuntu knows about Mark Shuttleworth's love of integrating
ofline/online searching. It isn't to everybody's taste (it is true) but it is a
fairly reasonable distribution. You could always use Linux Mint as an
alternative! I actually quite like Unity myself but obviously it is not to
everybody's tastes. Considering that the code is available and that what it
does is well known, calling it SPYWARE is a bit harsh I think!

Support Software Freedom - use GPL licenced software like Linux and LibreOffice
instead of proprietary software like Microsoft Windows/Office or Apple OS/X

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections Here
Authored by: SilverWave on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 01:32 PM EDT

RMS: The 4 Freedoms
0 run the program for any purpose
1 study the source code and change it
2 make copies and distribute them
3 publish modified versions

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Here
Authored by: SilverWave on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 01:33 PM EDT

RMS: The 4 Freedoms
0 run the program for any purpose
1 study the source code and change it
2 make copies and distribute them
3 publish modified versions

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Pick Here
Authored by: SilverWave on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 01:35 PM EDT

RMS: The 4 Freedoms
0 run the program for any purpose
1 study the source code and change it
2 make copies and distribute them
3 publish modified versions

[ Reply to This | # ]

There will always be a problem...
Authored by: albert on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 03:16 PM EDT
when you try to monetize something that users don't pay for. What is there to
sell, besides information collected from your users?

Microsoft, Apple, Red Hat, and Ubuntu represent different ways of making money
by 'selling' operating systems. (Granted, greed may lead some companies to
collect user data as well)

I think Ubuntus unity-shopping-lens was a fiasco, absolutely. Mark could make a
lot more $ this way than by charging for the OS. User-data is the Golden Cow
that keeps on giving. (I was going to say Golden Calf*, but I'm not certain you
can milk a calf!)

I ask myself two questions:

1. Is it possible to obtain a 'libre' OS that respects my privacy?
2. What would I be willing to pay for it?

Does monetization always lead to unethical behavior?

If so, then libre may depend upon gratis.

* in keeping with my penchant for biblical references.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Companies should not be allowed to sell or trade the personal data of their customers.
Authored by: Nemesis on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 03:26 PM EDT

Information about me is personal and should not be sold or traded except by me.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: rnturn on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 03:47 PM EDT

What does the "F" in the acronym mean? If it stands for Freedom, I can see why Stallman is concerned. His use of the word/term is more strict than most peoples'.

Or maybe one of those "L"s could mean "Liberty", either way I can see where his dispute might be coming from given Ubuntu's lack of concern about alleged passing along user's use patterns off to third parties. I am close to terminating any further use of a Facebook account because of the ridiculous ads. ("Like" something? Be prepared to start receiving ads about that even if your "like" is only that you thought it humorous.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Festivals? - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 03:56 PM EDT
Dispelling FUD About Ubuntu
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 05:27 PM EDT
Found in the FLISOL mail list:

[ Reply to This | # ]

Free vs Non-Free
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 06:25 PM EDT
This discussion on the Flisol list may have started in late January when RMS sent a message to Quiliro Ordóñez along these lines:
Estimados amigos.

Richard Stallman (el padre del movimiento del software libre) nos pidió recopilar una lista de eventos que promuevan solamente software libre. Estos eventos serán promovidos por la red de la FSF (incluyendo FSF América Latina, FSF India y FSF Europa). El requisito es que estos eventos promuevan solamente software libre; es decir: que no promuevan software no-libre ni tampoco combinaciones de software libre con no-libre. Las ciudades que estén interesadas en ser promovidas por esta iniciativa, por favor manifiesten su interés con un correo electrónico a:
info [arroba]
con el asunto:
Evento libre.

[Google & I translate:] Richard Stallman (the father of the free software movement) asked us to compile a list of events that promote free software only. These events will be promoted by the network of the FSF (including FSF Latin America, FSF India and FSF Europe). The requirement is that these promote free software events only, ie: not promote non-free software nor open source combinations with unfree. The cities that are interested in being promoted by this initiative, please express your interest in an email to:
info [at]
with the subject:
Free Event.
Discussion of this item started on March 9, and degenerated slightly (on my meagre understanding of Spanish) into a discussion on whitelists and blacklists and whether the FSF had any right to dictate terms to event organisers. From where RMS himself had to remind listers March 22 that
Quilirio said he wanted to collect a list of FLISOL network events that install only free software.

Rather, I [RMS] proposed that FSF keep such a list.
Then came the reminder March 22 that PJ has taken as the lead for this story, that it's not just the propietary driver in Ubuntu, it also spies. Posters kept on about RMS' and FSF's polical and or moral standpoints, and it wasn't until RMS' third reminder 24 March [PJ's second quoted msg above] that people realised his point about the spyware. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Spanish should read both threads, [Flisol] Eventos totalmente libres (pedido de Richard Stallman) and [Flisol] Ubuntu spyware from the FLISOL mail list. The discussion is ongoing ...

[ Reply to This | # ]

I Really Like RMS
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 06:59 PM EDT
Stallman may be thought of as an extremist, but his positions are always well
thought out, and usually quite perceptive and prescient. He created the GNU
project, and later the FSF, to make the kinds of things Canonical is doing
harder, but they cannot prevent it without restricting liberty and freedom. A

I have used kubuntu for a number of years on laptops, because the drivers
usually just work. I use Gentoo everywhere else. I regret that I cannot do
Spanish to follow the discussion. (I can get through German, if pressed)

I don't always DO what Stallman requests, but I always pay attention. His
concerns give me pause, they point out the need to reconsider. We discount his
concerns at our grave peril.

-- Alma

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ubuntu or Google?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 08:31 PM EDT

I find it a bit ironic to see this post on Ubuntu at the same as the following "newspick" on Google:

Google's Google problem
What Google has actually done is create a powerful infrastructure. The shape of that infrastructure influences everything that goes online. (...) That's a lot of power to put in the hands of a company that now seems interested, mostly, in identifying core mass-market services it can use to maximise its return on investment.

How many people raising complaints about Ubuntu use Google every day? For that matter, how many people who are raising complaints about Ubuntu are actually using Ubuntu? Or is this just another case of "any stick is good enough to beat the dog with"?

I've yet to see any post from any Ubuntu-hater who actually has any idea of how search works in Ubuntu on a practical basis. I use Ubuntu on a daily basis, and my experience with it bears no resemblance to what I see people saying. Are these posts that I see coming from an alternate universe which has something called Ubuntu which is different from what is on my computer?

For the people who aren't familiar with Ubuntu, here's how search works in practice. You click on the Ubuntu logo at the top left of the screen, and a window flies out which shows you your more recently used programs, files, and downloads. It keeps track of all of these using something called "Zeitgeist", which is a Gnome project (and is also part of Gnome 3). If you see what you want, you just click on it. Most of the time, what you want is right there, so there's seldom need to do any searching.

If what you are looking for isn't there, and what you want to do is to run a program, then you can just click on the applications icon, which gives you a selection of program categories. These are the exact same categories organized in the same way as in Gnome 2. It's just down an extra menu level in Unity. Click on the program you want, and it starts.

If what you want is a file, then you click on the file icon, and it displays more file options. Off to the right is a set of menus for filtering by date, type, or size, Again, once you find what you are looking for, just click on it. It gives you a lot more depth and choice than the "recently used files" list in Gnome 2.

Of course you could also just fire up Nautilus and navigate to the file the same was as you always did before. That is what I would normally do, as I would want Nautilus open in that directory anyway.

If none of those suits you, you can, if you wish, use the search feature. I use it occasionally to find a program that I seldom use. The programs and files selection updates dynamically as you type. I've never had to type more than one to three characters to find what I'm looking for. Just exactly what someone would do with knowing that I typed the letter "s" last week is not something that I'm particularly worried about.

Apple has a search function like this called "Spotlight", although the details are a bit different. In fact, Apple even has a patent on it, although I assume that Ubuntu has worked around that aspect of it. Anyone who is familiar with Ubuntu knows that they look to Apple rather than Microsoft for new ideas.

Now lets take the common statement that "Ubuntu sends all your search results to Canonical". First of all, the feature in question isn't even in the current LTS release. It's in the experimental 12.10 release, but unless you are someone who wants bleeding edge features, then you don't even have it.

Secondly, let's look at how it works. The search function defaults to "search everything that is search-able". That includes the Internet if you are using 12.10 (but not the current 12.04 LTS). If you want to just search your installed programs, then you click on the programs icon. If you want to search just your local files, then you click on the files icon. So if you don't want to search the Internet, just pick the local category that you want. This is assuming that you even use the search function, which as I've said isn't something that in practice I find sees much use.

Thirdly, let's look at what gets searched if you decide to "search everything that is search-able including the Internet". A lot has been made of the Amazon search plug-in, but it's only one of many which are or will be available. Ubuntu included an Amazon plug-in as an example of what can be done, but their current goals are for around 100 search plug-ins to be available in the near future. Most of these will be by third party developers. You can install or un-install plug-ins as desired. What each plug-in does is up to the author. Whether those search terms go to Canonical or they go to someone else is again up to the author. You can un-install the Amazon plug-in if you want, and install a Github search plug-in, or have both, or as many search plug-ins as you want. It's kind of like installing any Linux distro where the first thing you do is get rid of the programs you don't want and add in the ones you do. If you don't like to search the Internet when "search everything" is selected, then well, just don't do that.

At the beginning of this post I quoted a "news-pick" about how powerful Google has become. I sometimes wonder, what would an Internet without an all-powerful centralized search giant look like? You couldn’t' search the entire Internet on your own, but you could do some sort of decentralized search of smaller sources which you select. You would need some sort of client on your PC that had a plug-in system that would let your search terms adapt to the myriad different sources of information. I guess it would look something like the Ubuntu search feature. So, if you don't like the idea of Google (or Microsoft or Baidu or Yandex) knowing every search you do, then the future you should be looking to is Ubuntu.

So, when you see people spewing their life's thoughts on their FaceTwit stream about how they are concerned about their privacy if someone they decided to use a feature in a distro that they don't even have installed on their computers, you have to wonder just how much they really know about it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Stallman Calls Ubuntu Spyware; Asks FLISOL Not to Recommend It at Events in South America ~pj
Authored by: tredman on Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 11:16 PM EDT
There's a radio station here in the Tampa Bay area that I listened to for a
couple of years, that played modern progressive rock. Just recently, they
changed their format, and in my opinion, the result was not nearly as good as
what it was originally.

You know what I did? I changed the channel. It's about choice. You can either
make the choice, or kvetch about it.

"I drank what?" - Socrates, 399 BCE

[ Reply to This | # ]

The FLISOL Fun Continues
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 25 2013 @ 08:39 PM EDT
Amidst the dying embers of the flame war came a brief flurry of attempted unsubscribes in response to a mistaken belief that FSF had spammed the list. However someone pointed out that amongst the many distros available there are only eight recommended by FSF. Just for fun I have listed these in order according to the DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking for the past 12 months, which we all know tells us nothing.

trisquel, 94, Ubuntu base
parabola, 147, arch base [Warning: https certificate problem]
dragora, 153, from scratch
ututo, 188, Gentoo base
blag, 228, Fedora base
gnewsense, 247, Ubuntu base
dynebolic, not listed
musix, not listed

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • correction - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 26 2013 @ 08:08 PM EDT
Groklaw © Copyright 2003-2013 Pamela Jones.
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners.
Comments are owned by the individual posters.

PJ's articles are licensed under a Creative Commons License. ( Details )