Bad Stuff on Ubuntu

Spyware -vs- Feature

Ubuntu 12.10 (and newer) ships with a “feature” that sends desktop search results to Amazon (via server) and returns shopping results as well as that file or application you were really looking for. This has many negative implications in our opinion for privacy and usability.

Our default desktop environment (XFCE) doesn’t use this feature and during installation we ensure the package that provides it is removed. If you choose to install the default “Unity” desktop (part of the “ubuntu-desktop” metapackage, we strongly recommend you remove the the “unity-lens-shopping” package:

sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping

We take the position that this is a mistake that Ubuntu can and hopefully will fix in line with what the EFF is asking of Ubuntu:

Our own Richard Stallman has taken a very strong position against Ubuntu for this change calling Ubuntu spyware and asking “If you ever recommend or redistribute GNU/Linux, please remove Ubuntu from the distros you recommend or redistribute”:

Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical (the commercial parent of Ubuntu) sees things differently accusing Richard of spreading FUD and declaring this feature a blessing unto geek kind:

Obviously, since we are deploying CSAIL Ubuntu but not Unity, we take an intermediate position. We don’t like their desktop, and especially don’t like them sending our local-seeming queries off to the internet. We do think that having new kernels (and thus new hardware) backported to the stable release over its lifetime, longer term security support, and intermediate releases that allow users to get at newer software faster when they need it and us to figure out how to work around the next dumb thing they try to make default, is worth the effort of cutting away the rotten bits.