In September I tweeted a screenshot of something unexpected that has started to show up in the terminal when I ran system updates.
It didn’t enrage me at the time (and it kinda still doesn’t) but I did find it a little …Off.
Now, if you’re suitably tuned-in to the Linux newswire and/or an avid attendee of social media you’ll probably heard about the drama in question.
If you haven’t, then allow me to…
Yes, the furore is over an “ad” for Ubuntu Pro, Canonical’s revamped support offering that replaces/augments Ubuntu Advantage (which has been around for many years) that appears in the terminal when managing system updates.
Other people are calling it an “ad” (hence quote marks). I prefer the term plug (which, it turns out, some people aren’t familiar with; it means to mention something in order to promote it).
For although this sentence is technically advertising something, in this case Ubuntu Pro, the offering itself is free for regular users (on up-to five devices). Thus, it’s not like this is an “ad” that generates Canonical revenue. It’s more akin to a public service announcement to raise awareness.
How Outrageous is this, really?
But hey, I am not everyone — and the internet is not impressed. I might not find this egregious entry enough to switch distro over, but others say they will. And I can understand with why people are feeling uncomfortable a this (and other finding it the proverbial final straw…).
First off, this promo appears at the terminal when running an
apt update to manage the system.
Now, unless I’m mistaken,
apt isn’t a Canonical product/creation, it’s just something their OS happens to use. To “hijack” (to quote a disgruntled complainant)
apt to hawk a service (albeit one which is related to system updating) is a bit… cheeky.
The second cheeky thing is that ‘advertising’ is for a service of most benefit to people using an LTS that’s near the end of its support period. Hassling folks about extended support on a 22.04 LTS system (which gets updates until 2027) is premature, and borderline spammy.
Thirdly, Canonical has form for inserting stuff people have no interest in, in their wares.
You may recall the
motd drama from a few years back. This latest faux-pas is similar (in terms of how people are reacting), although the context is different. Back then, Canonical wasn’t promoting a specific something, but highlighting news, blog posts, and other online ephemera related to Ubuntu.
Thing is, Ubuntu (as a distro) already makes plenty of mention to Ubuntu Pro in the GUI for managing system updates. Is extending this mention to a CLI equivalent really a step too far?
I didn’t consider this a major deal when I tweeted about it in September. I raised it more as a bemused observation than a jibe. Since then, however, the story has blown up on social media and on Linux (and Linux-adjacent) news sites.
Now I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.
On the one hand, it’s an over-step to insert promo for a Canonical service at the command line (in a frickin’ terminal which people use to escape annoyances like this) and not provide any way to ‘opt out’ of it.
Update: An opt-out mechanism has since been added.
On the other hand …it’s just a line text. Ubuntu Pro is legitimately useful thing to let people know about, and as I mentioned earlier, the GUI already does it.
How do you feel about this? Let me know if I should be outraged or blasé down in the comments!