Ubuntu is also no friend to Microsoft. The company behind the Ubuntu project, Canonical, has worked hard to make the end user first on their list. Canonical also has the advantage of being based off-shore, away from U.S. IP law. This is not to say that Ubuntu or Canonical encourage users to ignore these laws, rather the fact that they encourage users to understand that its a use-at-your-own risk kind of deal.
Ubuntu's often unspoken truths
Despite the massive success Ubuntu has seen as a Linux distro for the masses, it's still not going far enough for some Linux enthusiasts.
These individuals charge Unbuntu with everything from working off of the labors of Debian Linux to watering down desktop Linux too much. Clearly, not everyone can be made happy when attracting new users to the desktop Linux experience. The folks behind the Ubuntu project have tried to take the approach of supporting a FOSS compliant alternative called gNewSense, but despite this, some people are still not pleased.
Then there is the proprietary codec problem. Unlike Linspire, which worked overtime to make sure users had this available out of the box, Ubuntu requests that you seek this functionality out via software repositories or other sources instead of accessing these proprietary codecs out of the box.
Often, these repositories are just a check-box away and are easy to access, yet the fact remains that Ubuntu opts out of the IP law debate and leaves this in the hands of the end user.
And then finally, there is the now famed Ubuntu Software Center. We'd love to think this was all Ubuntus in the making. Perhaps not, though, based on the fact that in 2007 Canonical actually hired both the lead engineer in charge of Linspire's CNR Warehouse, and Linspire's VP of Business Development Randy Linnell, who now handles Ubuntu Partnerships for Canonical.
Think about it do you really think that the guy behind Linspire's CNR warehouse didn't have a hand in the development of the Ubuntu Software Center? I think the answer is self-evident if you really stop and ponder it.
Harvesting from Linspire
When news first came in about Xandros buying out Linspire, it was hardly news to me. I knew this was coming simply based on the fact that there was a heavy re-staffing going on at Linspire.
Kevin Carmony departing, in addition to others, due to various internal issues that its best to allow Kevin himself to explain.
What I can tell you is that almost immediately upon Linspire's purchase from Xandros, all progress came to a dead stop. Any possible positive outcomes went south and Linspire's users knew it.
So did Xandros take Linspire and run with it? Hardly, instead it's completely dead as a brand and it appears that Xandros was more interested in other aspects of the company. Brand, destroying competition, money?
Who knows for sure, but it is clear that both Ubuntu and Microsoft came out big winners here. Microsoft for having the last laugh over the Lindows issue while Ubuntu is free to pick and choose from the now dead Linspire ideas such as an improved face to the apt-get software delivery concept.
Success and failure from lessons learned
Anyone who makes the claim that Ubuntu didn't have some kind of benefit from how Linspire did things would be mistaken. The fact is, Linspire provided Ubuntu with a perfect model to see what worked and what doesn't when it comes to bringing a successful distro to fruition.
Both of the two distros have substantial differences in their goals for the end user. Yet at the same time, Linspire and Ubuntu both shared commonality for a vision of a successful OEM builders program while also making sure community outreach was a high priority.
Still, there can be no question that Linspire, Xandros, Simply Mepis, Knoppix among other distributions blazed a path that allowed Ubuntu to pick up on the shortcomings of each distribution listed.
Targeting both the new user audience, in addition to those looking for a bleeding edge Linux distribution, Ubuntu has taken the original vision from the users/creators of Linspire and provided an updated experience.
One Mistake Lives On in Ubuntu
Sadly there is one mistake made by Linspire that Ubuntu is currently repeating. Back in 2005, I reached out to a Linspire's community representative and then later, spoke to one of their engineers about the importance of branding a supported USB wi-fi dongle. I even went so far as to introduce them to a vendor who already provided open source drivers and was willing to work out branding. Never happened.
Flash forward to today, Ubuntu is repeating the same mistake, by supporting a mismatch of open source and proprietary driver driven chipsets. Revision numbers, complete lack of consistency, all avoidable with one concept: branded Atheros or Ralink USB-based dongles.
The Ralink vendor from back then is still supporting Linux, yet Ubuntu support of their 802.11N chipsets is a joke. I can compile the needed code easy enough, make a couple of simple modifications and it works very well. But why should I need to? Instead, all of this effort is put into supporting various big brand wi-fi devices that work for some folks and not for others. It's sad because its avoidable and genuinely easy to rectify.