As Canonical continues to try to deal with the flak from existing users on Unity, it has decided to open a new front in its quest to harvest criticism by opting in Ubuntu 12.10 users to receive adverts from Amazon when searching for applications and files in the Dash desktop search tool.
Canonical claims that Amazon's results are not adverts but that is hard to believe when the user is presented with a list of calculators along with price tags from Amazon when merely searching for the calculator application.
Canonical's decision to sidle up to Amazon isn't new. It is widely known that the firm's Ubuntu One storage locker service uses Amazon's S3 cloud storage service, but now the firm is publicly showing off its ties. Ubuntu users who upgrade will find an Amazon shortcut on the Launcher, which when clicked opens a web browser straight to Amazon's online storefront. Of course this isn't too offensive, given that the shortcut can be deleted from the Launcher within seconds, but it highlights the commercial direction in which Canonical seems intent on taking Ubuntu Linux.
Thankfully it is easy to disable Amazon's shopping adverts in the Dash search tool through the Privacy section in Settings. If that isn't enough, going to the command line and typing sudo apt-get remove unity-shopping-lens will remove all Amazon adverts from Dash regardless of how the slider on the privacy settings is set.
Canonical has told The INQUIRER that it will integrate further third-party services in future Ubuntu releases and while there's nothing wrong with having adverts on a free operating system, what is likely to grate on traditional Linux users is the fact that Canonical is operating an opt-out scheme.
Few Linux stalwarts begrudge a firm such as Red Hat making money from Linux support services given its involvement in both the development and support for Linux and its surrounding community, but Canonical might want to reconsider how it goes about making money if it doesn't want to totally alienate those users that have made it arguably the most popular free Linux distribution around.
Ubuntu 12.10 is, aside from its easily removable Amazon integration, a fine operating system. Canonical's support of Unity is a good thing, since the Gnome and KDE projects have been going for well over a decade and still haven't been able to make major inroads in the desktop market, and while many people dislike Unity, Canonical deserves credit for trying something new.
What Canonical doesn't deserve any praise for is the automatic opt-in to Amazon adverts. Canonical might anonymise data being sent to Amazon to return results and it might have made it easy to disable and remove the Amazon shopping lens, but fundamentally, serving up adverts goes against the grain for many faithful users who adopted Ubuntu Linux before it became fashionable.
Ubuntu 12.10 is still one of the most easy-to-use Linux distributions around. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS users will find little reason to update their distributions going beyond kernel and application updates and those that do should hit the privacy settings to disable Amazon's adverts before doing anything else. µ
Still a good desktop Linux distribution, UEFI Secure Boot support.
Little to offer over Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on pre-Windows 8 hardware.
Amazon integration by default.