The recent news about Red Hat is certainly taking the industry by storm right now, and it even led to me canceling a video that was already recorded. The video in question was a follow-up to my Debian 12 “Bookworm” review, in which I revealed that I was switching to Debian (which also means that Learn Linux TV is doing the same). In that video, I also promised a follow-up where I would explain why that decision was made. In my recent video response to Red Hat’s toxicity, I attempted to explain why in that video but that portion of the video was overshadowed by the, well, shadow that Red Hat is casting over Linux and open-source. So in this article, what I’m going to do is outline specifically why I moved away from Ubuntu, and I’ll do so while making sure that this doesn’t become another Red Hat article. Let’s talk about Ubuntu.
Learn Linux TV Represents the Entire Linux Community
Before I go into my reasoning for abandoning Ubuntu, there’s a mindset that I want to convey that’s an important part of this decision to the point where it forms the entire foundation of my decision. Learn Linux TV represents the Linux community.
Before I explain what I mean by that, let me first tell you what I don’t mean. By declaring myself and my company as representing the Linux Community, that does not imply that I’m the voice of the community, the most important member, or any kind of importance at all. I am a part of the Linux Community, not the Linux Community itself. Linux is all of us, I’m just lucky enough to have a platform within my favorite community alongside my favorite people. It’s a blessing, and one that I don’t take for granted.
While representing the Linux Community in my content and writing, I also have to recognize when harm is being done to it. If I love and adore a technology, like Ubuntu, then I’m naturally inclined to use it. After all, we always gravitate toward the things we enjoy don’t we? For my audience, the only factor in each person’s decision of which Linux distribution to use is a personal one, based on their interests and what’s important to them. And there’s nothing wrong with that – we make each decisions important decisions every day.
But for me, which distro I use isn’t simply down to personal choice. If a distribution or company that owns a distribution is dividing the community, then I just don’t feel good about continuing to use it personally. More on that shortly.
Learn Linux TV Still Covers Ubuntu
But regardless of how I feel, if something exists in the Linux community, it should be covered. My personal opinion about things is just that – personal opinion. When it comes to my audience, they want to learn Linux. Each person viewing my content has their own choice of software, and that should be respected. Even though I don’t use Ubuntu as my primary server distribution anymore, I can’t just simply stop covering something that’s heavily used within the industry.
Therefore, I’ll still provide Ubuntu tutorials. I’m still going to support the books I’ve written. Not one person that’s purchased my book should be worried – I feel just as strongly about Mastering Ubuntu Server today as I felt when I wrote it. It’s an informative, in-depth guide to Ubuntu Server. I’m super proud of it. And who knows, I may still do a fifth edition some day. That book was a labor of love, and if there’s going to be another edition, the next one will be written with that same passion. I haven’t made a final decision on a possible fifth edition – but I at least wanted people to know that if they use Ubuntu, I still support them. I’ll continue to do so. The only thing I can think of that would cause me to abandon Ubuntu completely and stop supporting it is if they become the next Red Hat – but we can’t tell the future. For now, Ubuntu hasn’t reached that level and is safe to cover within my platform.
What happened to make me migrate away from Ubuntu?
Let’s start out with the obvious – Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu) haven’t done anything on the level of Red Hat, but there’s still misleading claims that have been made and situations that have divided the Linux community that is centered around them. If anything, the situation with Canonical is one I’ve been watching for quite a long time, and it’s been developing slowly. When it all comes down to it, corporate interests are chipping away at the foundation of Ubuntu and it’s sad to watch. Let’s go over some more specific examples of why this decision was made.
Canonical is Hard to Trust
When it comes to doing business, as I’ve said many times, trust is everything. Even though my company is a hobby and passion that ultimately became a job, it’s a business all the same. When a company makes a statement and does the exact opposite, that’s worrying. Especially a company that creates software that I use personally. To be fair, none of the things I’m about to mention are very big. But keep in mind, it’s less about any one thing, and more about the bigger picture.
Anyway, let’s look a few quick example situations in which Canonical made a claim, just to do something else entirely:
- In 2017, Mark Shuttleworth mentioned that when the distro switched back to GNOME, they’d give us “GNOME the way GNOME wants it delivered“. The source is here. Instead, when they finally did release the new GNOME version, it was customized so much it barely even looks like GNOME.
- Additionally, around that same time, Mark Shuttleworth mentioned “I respect that markets, and community, ultimately decide which products grow and which disappear“. Source here. despite saying that, Canonical is actively pushing Snap packages to succeed rather than letting the market decide.
- On Canonical’s own website, they claim that Ubuntu flavours are developed “with their own choice of default applications and settings”. Except, they’re not. Canonical is forcing these leads to abandon Snap’s biggest competitor, Flatpak. This is in direct opposition of what they’re entire website claims.
Again, each one of these issues by themselves won’t seem like all that much of a big deal. However, here we have three situations in which Canonical said one thing but is clearly doing another. This is how Red Hat acted before going full-toxic. I’m not necessarily saying Canonical will ever get to that level, but let’s look deeper at these points.
First, as a business myself, it’s hard to justify using a distribution backed by a company that can’t be trusted when it comes to their own official statements. If I’m going to use something in production, I need to trust the solution as well as whoever developed it. Making misleading comments, no matter how small, makes it harder for me to be on board. Say what you mean, and mean what you say – why is that so hard?
Regarding Snap packages, I’m not going to criticize the technology – despite what people may say about them, snaps aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. At least from a technical sense. But my opinion on this matter is completely irrelevant. The Linux Community has made it clear that it will never embrace snap packages. Rather than accept the decision the market has chosen (the second bulletpoint) Canonical just pushes snap packages even harder. So much for accepting the market stance like Mark said they would.
Regarding the third point, where Canonical mentioned on its own website that flavor leads own the project and make decisions on what’s included, it put a very bad taste in my mouth that they would go as far as to ban Flatpak since they’ve been unable to compete with it. That’s a very desperate thing for a company to do.
Of course, the argument here is that each flavor could have different technology under the hood making the entire Ubuntu ecosystem more fragmented, but it became fragmented the minute they offered different desktop environments as stand-alone spins, Flatpak has nothing to do with that. They’ve already created the fragmentation. Worse, if Canonical wanted to streamline the Ubuntu experience, they would do well to tackle bigger more egregious examples of this inconsistency – such as some spins going as far as to use different installers. I’d say that would be a bigger and more important target. But after the Flatpak ban, they have yet to mention anything else they’re doing to streamline Ubuntu which just adds even more credence to the belief that it was just to strike a blow to Flatpak, and that decision was made for no other reason than that. Based on history and what’s been happening, that’s very clear to me.
Again, nowadays these things aren’t nearly as toxic as what a certain other company is doing – but misleading statements and questionable competition practices are anything but pleasant.
Ubuntu has Become a Conflict of Interest for Learn Linux TV
With Ubuntu working against the Linux community, you know, pushing a technology that the community doesn’t want along with direct strikes against Flatpak (not to mention corporate meetings behind closed doors to convince companies to adopt Snap) it just doesn’t feel right to use it internally anymore. I’ve always used Ubuntu because I genuinely think that despite the drama, it’s a great distribution. Just as I critique Ubuntu I’ll also praise it – its engineers are doing great work. But for a company that’s part of the Linux Community to use a distribution of Linux that works against it, that doesn’t feel right.
Also, this decision has been a long time coming. Ubuntu’s actions over the years have made me nervous, but to be fair, nothing is happening to the point where I’d recommend other people to avoid it. Therefore, I won’t make that recommendation, and I won’t try and convince people to change. If you’re using Ubuntu, and it works for you, then you’re in good hands. But the question is whether or not using it makes moral sense. I’ll leave that up to you, I won’t try and sway you either way. But when it comes to me, I can’t use something in good conscience that’s made by a company that actively works against the community I serve.
Learn Linux TV’s Servers are Already Migrating to Debian
So, my company is switching to Debian. And unlike Red Hat and Canonical, I’m not going to make a misleading claim. It’s happening. This migration will take a while, but the majority of my servers have already made the switch. For full transparency, you can check this yourself. There’s tools online and ways that you can inspect websites and see for yourself what they run. I think the biggest question mark in terms of servers is the community forums site, which still runs on Ubuntu as of the time of this post. That’s planned to move to Ubuntu as well, but I don’t have a timeline, since that’s one of the more “involved” servers to migrate. All the other main websites though (including this one) are already running on Debian.
But why Debian? While no distribution is perfect, Debian is a community-based distribution. And as we’ve seen, distributions outside of those created and owned by the community have varying levels of trustworthiness. Let’s be honest though – is Debian exciting? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s downright boring! But with everything going on nowadays, boring feels really good!
Also, I spend quite a bit of time producing Linux content. If you knew how much work goes into these videos, you’d probably wonder how I do this at all. But no matter what, it takes a ton of time. If I have to keep altering or fixing something on my servers every time a company makes an unpopular design choice (without notice) then that’s less time I can spend making content. So, Debian is a clear winner here – if there’s any distribution you can use that’s going to stay out of your way, Debian is definitely it!
What about my Desktops and Laptops?
I’m already being asked whether or not this also means I’ll stop using Ubuntu on the desktop. I actually use Pop!_OS, but it’s based on Ubuntu, so you can still argue I’m using Ubuntu while using Pop even though it’s designed differently. And my honest and transparent answer here is that I’ve barely even had time to think about my laptops and desktops. I mean, these are the very tools I’m using to perform the server migration work from Debian to Ubuntu, so changing them, right now at least, isn’t possible.
However, I think I’ll come to a decision sooner than you might think. While I’m migrating servers, I’m also testing the Sway window manager on Debian in parallel. I quite like it so far. That’s the number 1 contender for my eventual desktop distro replacement, but I can only make a change on the desktop after the server work is done. But if you’re curious where I’m leaning, then that’s your answer. I’ll try my best to follow up on my decision at a later date, but I’m not sure if I’ll do that here, in a podcast, or in a video (or some combination).
Stay tuned on that.
What does this mean for Learn Linux TV’s Content?
Right now, nothing will change. In full transparency, my plan is to continue supporting Ubuntu from a learning and teaching aspect. And as long as the situation with Canonical doesn’t get worse, that won’t change. If the situation does change, then I’ll need to revisit my stance. Until then, I just want to be clear that my plan is to continue supporting Ubuntu with content but I also reserve the right for this to change if I feel at any point the situation has become more toxic.
That said, the majority of all of this change is just on the back-end and won’t be user-facing or even content-facing. But I do feel it’s important to talk about internal decisions from time to time, if for no other reason than to answer your questions (and yes, I am being asked about this). Transparency never hurts anyway.
When it comes to content though, you can expect to see the same things you’ve been seeing. This year, I’ve updated the branding animations a bit, and even updated the theme within my videos. I even upgraded the camera. But other than animations and equipment, the content being recorded behind the camera is no different. And how do I know that? Well, I have over 20 videos in my editing queue right now and I can tell you as I edit this footage – it’s more of the same, but the quality is even better than before!
What about the Flatpak Remix?
Somewhat recently, I created my own distribution. Something I’ve always wanted to do. What I’ve created is the Ubuntu Flatpak Remix, which is Ubuntu as you know it – but edited to have built-in support for Flatpak instead of Snap. Even though this is a distribution of Linux I created myself, it really wasn’t that much work. All I did was edit an existing Ubuntu release by changing software selections.
But “easy” was part of the goal, actually. What greater way to get my feet wet maintaining a distro, than one that’s relatively easy to produce? Ubuntu is doing all the hard work here, I’m just modifying it. But with the experience I’d gain from maintaining the Ubuntu Flatpak Remix, I felt that would be a very gentle entrypoint into the world of distro-building. But alas, my current mindset made it hard to even do that.
The thing is, the Flatpak Remix is essentially just me going behind Canonical and altering it – but as easy as that was, with Canonical working against the community, it just didn’t feel right. I legitimately meant to keep this distro going but if my heart isn’t in this, and I’m also working against Canonical which could just as easily work against me, I just don’t see it as something I can keep going. Therefore, if anyone wants to take ownership let me know, I can sign over the domain. Create a message in the forums if you’re interested and we’ll go from there.
For the most part, this is a developing story, and this article is clarifying where I am today at publication time. I’m hoping to share my desktop distro decision when I finalize it. There’s a very good chance it will be Debian, but you never know at this point. Also, it’s not my goal to disparage the Ubuntu community in any way – I do still feel that the technology is quite good. But for someone in my position, someone that represents the Linux community and provides it with content, what’s important to me might be a bit different than what’s important to you.
But no matter what, expect the same Linux-related goodness on this platform and enjoy it as a safe refuge from whatever the heck is going on in the news at any given moment.