Why Ubuntu's Donation Model is Brilliant: Page 2

Ubuntu’s request for user donations could use some tweaks, yet it’s a system worth supporting.
Posted October 16, 2012

Matt Hartley

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Ubuntu's grabbing lots of attention – I love this distribution not because I think that everything the development team does is an absolute win, rather because Ubuntu has done what countless other distributions have failed to do – capture a whole new audience of users.

If it wasn't for Ubuntu, I don't see Linux gaming via Valve taking off like it is. Plus there has been an entire ecosystem of websites built up around this Debian-based distribution.

Ubuntu's solving problems – Despite the fact that I think Ubuntu One's music service needs some work before it's stable enough to replace other music sources, Canonical's introduction of the Ubuntu One Music store is awesome. And once they get a handle on the smart phone apps crashing when caching a song, I'll be able to happily recommend it to others.

Ubuntu's trying new things – Hate it or love it, the Unity desktop took guts to bring to fruition. Unity, bundled with its lenses, has shown us a whole new way to look at our applications and data. Once again, I think the Unity Dash still has some development ahead of itself before I would say it's perfect, but it's getting better with every new Ubuntu release.

Ubuntu, looking forward

While I am still fairly certain that the idea of a shopping lens for Ubuntu may not be as popular as Canonical may have hoped, I am quite sure that Canonical is on the right track with their donation page.

So where does this leave the services for the desktop that Ubuntu is hoping to make money with? At this point, a couple of them are ready to go right now.

The first item that I think Ubuntu needs to push much harder is Ubuntu One cloud storage. Backing up your home directory to Ubuntu One has certain advantages. Imagine how much cleaner restoring a "borked" Ubuntu upgrade could be if, during the reinstallation process, you're prompted to pull down your backed up Home directory from Ubuntu one?

Now before you go off and mention anything about Déjà Dup doing this already, there are a few reasons why Déjà Dup isn't an instant solution.

First off, Déjà Dup is not to be trusted (in its current state). A quick Google query or even reading the reviews in the software center will make you think twice about depending on this application for critical backups. My goto alternative would have to be Grsync.

With Grsync using the power of rsync to ensure nothing is overwritten unless it's by design, the added benefit of knowing that synchronizing a directory is going to be successful is more comforting than what Déjà Dup is offering.

Whichever application or method Ubuntu opts to use, Canonical's end goal should be to ensure a user's home directory is bullet proof. If the end user is hooked up to a broadband connection, their entire home directory should be sent to the cloud (opt-in of course). This way, should their computer crash or something else happens that leads to the purchase of a new PC, no data is lost.

Wait, doesn't any modern Linux distribution already offer this functionality with the right tools in place? Sure, if the end user happens to know about these options, where to find the commands needed and how to use them successfully. The shorter answer is an obvious NO. Most people have not put this together.

Surprise to the Linux purists: not everyone out there using Ubuntu is a Linux professional. So offering a simple solution to newbies is an obvious move for Ubuntu considering their growth audience is, in fact, newbies.

Taking into consideration everything above, if Canonical would like to double their subscriptions to Ubuntu One (and increase their revenue), all they need to do is follow this simple formula.

Installation – prompt the user to allow Ubuntu One to keep a backup of their home directory. If they have a home directory backup from another installation they'd like to sync up, allow this option as well. This means offering this functionality within the installer itself, not merely expecting newbies to wander around the Web looking for similar solutions.

Post-installation – Run a new user welcome alert page explaining that once they have installed all of the software they wish, they're free to use the Software Center to backup or "sync" their software titles. To the new user and even for many advanced ones, this option is largely unknown.

Canonical's biggest challenge is to make sure folks know what they're getting into. They do a great job on the Ubuntu website in this area, but they still need a little work post-installation in my opinion.

My advice – implement the tips above. Because as fantastic as the donation page may happen to be, it's not going to be residual income. Ubuntu One storage, however, is passive income for Canonical. The secret is to get users to use it.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu

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