Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Ubuntu: there was never any love to start with

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Was the Ubuntu GNU/Linux project set up because the founder had some kind of deep love for the FOSS community and wanted to become a folk hero of sorts?


Or did Mark Shuttleworth create the project because of a degree of idealism - but also a steely determination to make it a paying concern so that its future would be ensured?

It's funny that six (corrected) years and a bit after Ubuntu came to life in October 2004, people still write about the project in a dreamy wide-eyed way, even mentioning the word "love" in doing so. Naive is the description that immediately springs to mind.

Or is it that such people are willing to use any, and every, means to attack Shuttleworth simply because they don't like him? Separating the personal from the professional has always been a major problem for those who claim to be part of the FOSS community. Especially when marketing droids are trying to pose as journalists.

Shuttleworth is a shrewd businessman; Canonical is registered in a known tax haven, the Isle of Man. He made a few hundred million dollars by first nurturing, then building up, and finally selling a very successful business, Thawte. At that point, he was in a position where he needed to do nothing else for the rest of his life - and he would still have been in a position to hand down enough moolah for the next three generations to enjoy a life of leisure.

Why did Shuttleworth start the Ubuntu project? There is anecdotal evidence to indicate that he did so because he was riled up about the cost of software supplied to parts of his own country, South Africa - in this case proprietary software aka Microsoft. He wanted to provide something that could replace it so that the poor in his own country were not exploited in this manner.

But still, one can't run a business on love and fresh air. Some of Shuttleworth's doings have been criticised by the FOSS community - and even by people outside the community like yours truly.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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