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What really happened to Ubuntu's Edgy artwork

By Nathan Willis on November 14, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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Casual Ubuntu users may have registered surprise when they first booted the distribution's Edgy Eft release this past October. Back at the beginning of the Edgy development cycle, much was made of the formation of a new, dedicated Art Team to develop a fresh look for the backgrounds and splash screens of the startup process. But when Edgy hit the shelves, the artwork was scarcely different from that of its predecessor, Dapper Drake.

In the intervening months, members of the Art Team had designed entirely new material, based on internal discussions and contributions from the Ubuntu community at large. On October 12, however, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth declined to accept the new package, reverting artwork to its Dapper Drake contents. Shuttleworth explained his reasoning on the ubuntu-art mailing list, but the action still provoked negative reactions from both list subscribers and Ubuntu forum participants, many of whom felt that Shuttleworth's veto violated his pledge to leave final decisions to the Art Team's leadership.

The public discontent was confined to non-participants; while accusations flew and argument ensued among outsiders, Shuttleworth worked with three core members of the Art Team to tweak and polish the existing Dapper artwork package in time for Edgy's release. Emotions run high during such a controversy, so it is difficult to get an objective account of what happened. The week after Edgy's release, however, Ubuntu Artist in Chief Frank Schoep agreed to give his take on the full story -- and try to clear up any misperceptions suggesting friction between the Art Team and upper management.

Edgy art rolled back to Dapper

Although some in the volunteer community had speculated that Shuttleworth or higher-ups at Ubuntu had been dissatisfied with the Art Team's scheduling or communication, Schoep said that the rejection of the team's proposed artwork was ultimately made on aesthetic grounds, though, he added, there were branding issues raised by the marketing team.

On the critical question of whether Shuttleworth's decision to reject the team's work violated the wishes of the community, Schoep insisted that the Art Team had always understood the Ubuntu sponsor's role as "client" to their "design firm" -- and in the professional design world, you work to the client's vision, not your own. "We weren't working as much to our client's vision as I thought we were," Schoep said. "Mark had a very clear view of what he was looking for in artwork for Edgy, and the direction we took with the artwork team didn't really connect with that in the end."

To a degree, that disconnect stemmed from the individual artists' interest in pushing Edgy's look in new, flashier directions. "We set out to start from scratch and to top Dapper, while Dapper was arguably very close to what Mark had in mind."

A prominent factor in much of the submitted artwork -- which is still publicly available -- is the use of visual effects, yet even as the feature freeze approached, there were still unsolved technical problems, such as inconsistency between color palettes. After Shuttleworth announced the rollback, Schoep, Jonathan Austin, and Jozsef Mak reworked the Dapper art packages for consistency, and limited the effects enhancements to a gloss finish.

Community versus Team processes

In spite of the last-minute reversal, Schoep does not regard the time invested during the Edgy process as a waste. "We learned a lot as a team. I learned a lot, being the Artist in Chief attempting something completely new," he reflected. "What we did for Edgy was following a totally new way to create artwork with our community. During the [Ubuntu Developers Summit] in Paris in July this year a small group of us -- consisting of Kenneth Wimer (the Kubuntu Artist in Chief), Troy James Sobotka, and me -- drafted a process plan similar to one you would find in a professional environment."

The plan involved multiple stages of defining requirements, proposing fixes, and iteratively developing solutions. Schoep credits the process with easing the chaos normally associated with creative brainstorming. "Instead of a scenario where you have 20 people dropping in with random designs and asking them to be the default, we had those people work together closely and build on their peers' work."

Nonetheless, the oversupply of interested artists made project management difficult, particularly as the release date neared and the team needed to focus its attention on refinement. "Instead of collaboratively refining artwork, we'd still have 20 different people working on 20 different designs, so to speak."

Schoep said that the team discussed traditional tools like Version Control Systems (VCS) but never found anything suiting both their unique workflow and non-source-code product. "The last phase, Polish, is the only phase where a proper VCS could have helped in theory. In practice it didn't get that far since by the time we got there it became clear we needed to start over again because of the direction we were heading."

On the other hand, Schoep cites Theme Teams as an overwhelmingly successful byproduct of the Edgy release cycle. Theme Teams are self-organized, independent theming projects that enjoy the freedom to pursue their own design philosophies, but still enjoy the benefit of shipping with the main Ubuntu release. The Edgy release cycle produced four; Schoep expects more next time around.

Gearing up for round two

All things considered, Schoep is proud of the work the Art Team and community contributors did in the Edgy release cycle, both as artists and as newcomers to the formal Ubuntu development process. He is quick to admit his own missteps as a first-time team leader, but remains positive in his outlook and focused on making improvements as the Art Team and volunteer artists start work on the next Ubuntu release, Feisty Fawn.

"The road was the destination. Although I fully understand the disappointment about the community Human artwork not being the default, I want to thank everyone in our artwork community for being around and sticking to the process for Edgy."

"For Feisty," he says, "a major improvement will be to have Mark's visual direction explicitly clear in advance of any work done by the community, so we can prevent working opposite of where we should be going. This will also allow the community to focus more on creating artwork instead of defining a design direction."

In preparation for Feisty, the Art Team has begun work on revamping the art.ubuntu.com site, which Schoep hopes will simplify community submissions and team coordination. Formalized style guides and documentation remain a possibility, though Schoep declined to go into detail. "In the end, I think Ubuntu will move towards a more formally described style, which will make it easier to contribute artwork, which in turn will result in more artwork available for inclusion." Feisty Fawn is slated for release in April 2007.

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on What really happened to Ubuntu's Edgy artwork

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Themes

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 04:31 AM
Well if this includes themes and wallpapers then maybe you can include them anyways as alternative stuff but it don't have to the default.

If its great artwork, I wouldn't want it to goto waste, there are people with different tastes and I am sure a lot of people would appreciate it.

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New Hope?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 04:59 AM
It would be cool if it meant the art team left Ubuntu and joined <a href="http://www.gnewsense.org/" title="gnewsense.org">http://www.gnewsense.org/</a gnewsense.org>

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Re:New Hope?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 05:51 AM
Or better yet gNewSense could come to its senses and work on Debian.

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Re:New Hope?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 16, 2006 12:11 AM
I do not agree with the statement that Mark's in the business for "the money". Any informed user should know that it costs thousands of dollars (rands in this case), if not millions, to create and maintain a distribution such as Ubuntu. I think that the whole Artwork issue should be a big embarrassment to the Art Team, as I trust Mark's judgment, so if he doesn't agree with it, I trust that it wasn't fit for the Ubuntu image.

Another thing: if Mark was in the business for "the money", he could easily have created a commercial clone of Ubuntu, such as Mandriva did...

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It's all brown to me

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 06:18 AM
No matter what they do I assume it will still be brown and I HATE brown. They really need to expand their collection of themes a lot.

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Re:It's all brown to me

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 06:58 AM
><nobr> <wbr></nobr>... and I HATE brown.

And I had my quote of blue backgrounds, that ubiquous Windows cyan and even SuSE green starts to become common.

Brown is a good variation, since red, orange, pink, purple and yellow are no-nos.

And, frankly, what difference it makes, since one can easily change colors?

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Re:It's all brown to me

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 07:16 AM
Brown is pure "racist exploitation"<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.... it attempts to evoke the African theme and the brown skin of most of the Africans.

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Brown is novel and good

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 01:41 PM
Many of my friends are deep brown. I'm Australian and white (Caucasian) and have a handful of Afro friends (Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia) with excellent permanent suntans, ranging from coffee-coloured to seriously dark.

I'm tired of the many blue or monochrome/pastel themes; it's good to see something neutral that isn't just wild colours. And if it's racial, what on Earth (or off it) are the blue-based themes?

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Should also mention...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 01:47 PM
I have Aboriginal, Asian and other friends, too, including halfies, Euros, Indians, Russkies and Americanos Sul.

I suspect that the idea of "race" is a very dodgy one. Yes, there are common cultural differences but even so you'd be hard pressed to tell them apart at the other end of an IRC channel.

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Re:It's all brown to me

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 04:10 PM
Hmmmm, it is totally different to me - I LOVE Ubuntu Dapper/Edgy theme. And you know why? Because I want to "shoot" those people who invent that very bright blue color and bright icon colors of Windows. My eyes are TIRED of three hour use of Windows or KDE. With Ubuntu default theme, i can work at least for five, six hours not caring about that.

Maybe let's understand that desktop design isn't that what looks pretty - I thought we are over this already now - but what makes sense and are really calm for eye.

In fact, Ubuntu team added PERFECT background pictures with desert threes, etc. to Edgy. Thanks them for that.

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I'm okay with Ubuntu-brown

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 10:41 PM
Usually I am like you, I hate brown, I find it to be the ugliest color there is.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)
But in Ubuntu it actually doesn't look bad, the brown color in Ubuntu looks alright.

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Re:It's all brown to me

Posted by: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier on November 15, 2006 06:25 AM
I prefer the Outdoors theme, which is very green. The Peace and Blubuntu themes, and probably more, are available from the Ubuntu repositories. I tend to agree with you -- I'm not fond of the default brown, but it's easy to change. Just fire up the Theme Preferences and pick one that suits you more.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 07:00 AM
I like Ubuntu, and Shuttleworth is doing a nice management job.

You are wrong. Understand this and be happier.

Peace, bro!

Take care.

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Mark Shuttleworth is cool

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 10:52 PM
What is this FUD about Mark Shuttleworth is evil or a bad person?

The guy prior to Ubuntu contributed to Debian. The stuff that is made for Ubuntu is free software code, its not proprietary as in Linspire, etc.
In space he participated in AIDS and genome research.
He formed Shuttleworth Foundation which is a non-profit organisation. He funds open source projects.

He is a big time sponsor for KDE.

And he also manages to make money of Linux, and is one of the people who are pushing Linux forward and spreading it the most!

The guy is a huge resource for the Linux and open source software community!

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 07:14 AM
Wait for and year or two and see what happens. Ubuntu has already deviated from some of its original goals - now they want to get into servers and commercialization!
The formula is simple<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... start doling out stuff for free<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... build a user base<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... kill competitors and you are the KING! The Microsoft formula. Only it will not work for Shuttleworth because the moment he goes commercial someone else would offer a repackaged version of Ubuntu (much like gnewsense) for free.
I don't think there is anything wrong with commercialization<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... but when one takes adavantage of other people's (read Debian) labor to make money and glorify it with names like UBUNTU it is just not right.
Shuttleworth's true colors will soon be evident all you got to do is wait.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 07:25 AM
Mark Shuttleworth started programming for Debian, before Ubuntu. He may be a businessman but he sure is an open-source enthusiast. Besides, if he should turn all evil as you so moronically predict, the software is still free, so no stress. Enlighten yourself, man.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 11:31 AM
Morons are those for who Shuttleworth is a Messaih!
Where is the question of him turning evil - he already is!

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 08:51 AM
well, so what? he is in there to make money. I don't really see the problem. Anything he says (that appears on news websites) is just marketing BS. Use ubuntu if you like it, do not use it if you dont. Is not like you dont have a choice. And its not like you can't customize it to your liking. I personally like Fedora more but I dont have a problem with Ubuntu. They are just there on the stage as well (along with countless others).

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Ubuntu .... with or without commercials?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 10:58 AM
"I don't think there is anything wrong with commercialization<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... but when one takes adavantage of other people's (read Debian) labor to make money and glorify it with names like UBUNTU it is just not right."

I'm sorry but you just contradicted yourself (about not having a problem with commercialization). Of course you also just bolstered the "you can't make money with open source" crowd as well. Good job on both counts.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without commercials?

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 11:38 AM
"Open Source" was not dropped on the door-step by a stork - it is the collective work of an open source community. One such community is the Debian community. When people like Shuttleworth are going to hijack this work for personal monetary benefit without giving back anything to the community with phrases like "for humanity" it makes it real sick.
In biology such beings which feed on other living beings are called parasites. At least the bacteria and viruses of the world don't advertise that they do what they do for the good of the humanity!
What really is required is symbiosis.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 11:56 AM
Hahahahaha.... thanks, I needed a laugh...

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Re:It's all brown to me

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 12:29 PM
Are you serious? If so, please, get a life.

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linuxcircle10 i5 t3h dUm80r2

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 12:31 PM
63+ 4 c1U3 n00b...

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 01:11 PM
Good lord man! I hope you are living completely off the grid & eating only things that you grow & raise yourself or you're just another exploitation artist, Worse actually because you feel you have the "moral authority" to criticize others for trying to do what you are obviously incapable of.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 01:17 PM
Oh. My. God.

You are such a fucking open-source hippie faggot douchenozzle.

Die in a fire, cuntface.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 02:56 PM
You are such a fucking open-source hippie faggot douchenozzle.

No he ain't. Well, he may be fucking, most of us do that from time to time. As far as him being "faggot", I don't know and neither I care. What is "douchenozzle" I have no idea. But if he were an "open source hippie", he wouldn't care what Mark does, as long as he follows the GPL.

I think that this linuxcircle guy is simply a troll. YHL. HAND.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 02:28 PM
Yeah, he steals it. Except for the fact that the Debian community *gives it away*. As long as he complies with the GPL, he's not stealing any code, any more than the Debian community are stealing code from Linus Torvalds. If the Debian community wanted to stop him, they'd just have to licence their future code with a "No Mark Shuttleworth" clause in their license.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 10:47 PM
Plus it makes over 10 years that he is a debian developer and that he maintains the appache packages<nobr> <wbr></nobr>...

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 03:06 PM
^^^ I call troll.

This is free software we are talking about. If Canonical "commercializes" it, someone is going to launch "freebuntu" or something, and everyone's getting on his boat.

Look at what happened with Xfree86. Hardly any distro hasn't switch to x.org by now.

"I don't really give what you think a damn, bcos I am right." Wow. Just wow.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 04:32 PM
That's not strictly fair. Shuttleworth made it clear at the start Canonical was aiming to make money in the corporate support market, and that the free community distribution was part of that plan. On the plus side for users, you get an easy to use and install Debian derivative.
If you don't want a commercial distribution, use Debian.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without commercials?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 07:32 PM
If you had half a brain in your uneducated head, you would also know that a lot of the work Ubuntu does, is committed back into the main Debian archives, and many Ubuntu developers are active Debian developers.

If we follow your wild rant "reasoning", that would mean Debian is indeed quite evil itself.

If anything, Ubuntu is currently *good* for Debian, and Debian is obviously very good for Ubuntu.

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Never argue with an idiot...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 09:54 PM
At some point, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the idiot and the normal person...

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Re:Never argue with an idiot...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 16, 2006 11:45 PM
Nah! It's still easy to tell the normal person from the idiot here.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 08:58 PM
Life is hard.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 15, 2006 11:50 PM
Your absalutely right.. he's Evil.. not bent on earning money or producing a free OS along side a financially viable business model.

He eats small children alive
He boils puppies and kittens to make his stew
He's outside your door right now with bad bad things in mind for you indavidually

come-on.. it's freaking software. It's one of over a hundred viable and mature distributions and oh wait.. no one was charging you personally for using it..

Run the FSF's distribution if you just gotta make your computer OS a religion

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 17, 2006 11:34 PM
FSF distribution? what distribution..

ha!

yeah mang, I run GNU - oh wait, that doesn't exist.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 16, 2006 12:02 AM
You are terribly misinformed. Mark is a python coder and former Debian developer (first mantainer of Apache, actually). Search youtube for his debconf speach, watch it, and learn.

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Troll

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 16, 2006 02:38 AM
Linuxcircle, you actually made me laugh out loud on that one...

Good troll! Way to suck people in. However, the racist sub-troll theme probably needed to be dialed down a notch to match the rest of your troll and really hook these readers - not many of them are going to respond to a garden-variety racist troll.

Hmm... perhaps you could make some kind of comment that implies that the Shuttleworth artwork contains totalitarian symbols? (Nazi, skinhead, etc)

Just a thought. But fun reading, nonetheless.

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Ubuntu, a modern African word for REPLY URGENTLY

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 16, 2006 04:49 PM
...and jump happily that you've replied, and DON'T THINK.

Well what I can collect from hangling several months at sounder@lists.ubuntu.com is that the "humanity" there is largely artifical among the community (since it's a culture/habit issue, not being really enforceable by e.g. CoC in its roots), and is very special for key people like Mark Shuttleworth or Jeff Waugh, and dirrefent enough from mine to start with (for me, naturally).

E.g. Mark was pushing naked woman body on some earlier cover artwork telling that "hey it's nice", and I for one consider that inappropriate even from an old lovelace who's nevertheless telling about community and cooperation. [...]

Jeff is nice OTOH but he seems to still believe in ultimate freedom, which is waughable on this same ol' Earth. That is, freedoms collide in practice.

Even if looking at personalities might provide enough controversy for me to still consider working with/within Ubuntu, the interesting and original mixture of business and community approaches came quite surprizing at times like this one.

In short, the conclusion was: "canonical/ubuntu will be successful since it's primarily a marketing project like microsoft waving the same cheapest guy on the block flag at first". And no, I don't have expectations on them to get ruined by another smart vision, shocking decision or any other moves of any business type pretending to play these games. Pushing the pendulum too much to the right results in it returning way too much to the left... and buzz per result ratio of ubuntu is way worse than even for gentoo.

Berkeley is known for LSD and BSD; South Africa is now known for AIDS, SCAM and UBUNTU. What a drag.

--
Michael Shigorin

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without trolls?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 16, 2006 11:51 PM
"Hijack" the work of the open source community without giving anything back? Sounds like most users (commercial or otherwise).

Shuttleworth, on the other hand, is contributing servers, bandwidth, free CDs, code, fixes, marketing, artwork, documentation, infrastructure for free community support forums, and so on.

And, for those who care about such things, he's offering support contracts (but not forcing anyone to pay for support).

Only a troll would claim that makes him evil!

Wait... that means I've been feeding a troll...

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Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 06:07 AM
What people don't understand is that Mark Shuttleworth is a businessman and got into Linux to make money - that "humanity" thing is BS. Just like the colonial powers exploited Africa and ruined it Shuttleworth is going to exploit the African word "UBUNTU" and demean the word .
The only art in operation is "the art of exploitation"

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 01:31 PM
At least Microsoft make their own code - Mark Shuttleworth steals it from the Debian community.
Y'all are using Ubuntu bcos it is free. Let us how many of you are left standing by if Shuttleworth commercializes it. And some of you who cannot articulate are rsorting to abusive language. I don't really give what you think a damn, bcos I am right.
People like Shuttleworth (masked evil), Larry Ellison (pure evil) and Bill Gates (Dr.Evil - well he does some genuine charity too) have only one thing in mind - MONEY and y'all are fodder to their minting machines.

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Re:Ubuntu .... with or without artwork

Posted by: Administrator on November 15, 2006 01:43 PM
And in the end the day will come when you hear the news that Shuttleworth sold Ubuntu, Canonical, et.al. to Microsoft. Don't be surprised then, because that is what he does - that followed by a space trip.

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