back to article Canonical bungs kill switch onto Ubuntu's Amazon 'adware'

Canonical is reining in its Ubuntu Linux distro's new Amazon "adware" desktop search feature after penguinistas vented their rage. Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon has explained in a blog post how users can disable the controversial system that, by default, sends desktop search queries unencrypted to Amazon via Canonical's …


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  1. James 51

    Surely this is just a case of nerd baiting? I would never want any of my searches sent to amazon. If I wanted something from them, I'd go to their website first.

    1. John Bailey

      More like a case of "Oh crap.. Busted.."

      Remember Microsoft's threat to make even full retail Windows installs tied to one machine? Or the threat to remove functionality on the free .NET IDE? And I'm sure more little dodges I can't remember.

      Canonical got hit with the pissed off user stick, and is now back pedalling. Nothing new. They will keep trying this until they find an arrangement that is not too annoying, and claim they listen to users.

      Fedora tried to make the hardware report a compulsory thing a few years ago, but hastily reconsidered when users voiced their objection. .

      People don't like being messed around, and in Linux, there are plenty more distros to choose from, and it is not difficult to switch. .

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nerds...yeah, right

      Yeah, nerds are really miffed about this oh so terrible intrusion in their privacy by Canonical - and it doesn't matter that you can switch it off. That's why they vent their anger on Facebook, send two dozens tweets to Twitter, type in "life sucks" on Google and out of frustration click that cool ad on their favored nerd website.

      Telling the world where you currently are and what you currently think? - Cool! Letting that search engine know every keystroke you enter in their search field? - er...freezing cool! Ad Networks? - subzero cool! Let my smartphone track my whereabouts? - 0 Kelvin cool!

      In my opinion there is no other marketing target group more manipulable and seducible than those computer nerds who think they hover above the rest. All it needs is a "prophet" in blue jeans and black jumper, saying words like "never seen before", "best in market", mix it with "cool", "spaced", "loooove", "flower power", and they will queue around the block for some overpriced gadget, and even come running out of that shop waiving that thing in the air "Ai feeel soooo aliiiive!!!"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Canonical should have a care....

    When Ubuntu took off, it was because it was a more polished version of Debian, with more recent packages. Debian was having problems getting current on packages, due in large part to many packages being crap for any form of cross-platform compatibility, and Ubuntu was willing to focus more on the X86 world rather than the every microprocessor under the sun lack-of-focus that Debian had. The fact that Ubuntu was more willing to deal with non-Free packages didn't hurt.

    However, Debian has corrected much of that (mostly by doing what was needed to smack the crap packages' maintainers in the genitalia to get them to fix their packages), while Ubuntu is sliding more into the morass of being like Windows in all the wrong ways.

    Canonical had best start getting their act together, or more people like me will start just running Debian.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Canonical should have a care....

      Already jumped ship to Debian+XFCE a couple years ago, with the whole Unity debacle.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Canonical should have a care....

        Already jumped ship to Debian+XFCE a couple years ago, with the whole Unity debacle.

        Tried Unity and didn't like it. Went with Linux Mint until I realised that the upgrades stop after a while unless you wipe and reinstall.

        Back to Debian + XFCE and giving openSUSE a whirl.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Canonical should have a care....

          "Back to Debian + XFCE and giving openSUSE a whirl."

          I hope you will find openSUSE as pleasant a experience as I have. That's what I've been using for my personal computers for the last seven years (various other distros for the ten years prior to that). I also use other flavours at work and for specific purposes, and have no emotional attachment to any one vendor, but I do find openSUSE gets talked about less than it deserves, IMO.

          Anyway, good luck whatever your choice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Canonical should have a care....

            I hope you will find openSUSE as pleasant a experience as I have.

            Thank you. I agree that openSUSE gets talked about less than it deserves. It has some nice touches which I am still discovering and it has a proper set of manuals which I am finding very readable and informative.

      2. Chris Hawkins

        Re: Canonical should have a care....

        As did I!

        Running Debian on my new vps as well. Keeping well away from Ubuntu!

      3. Shanghai Tom

        Re: Canonical should have a care....

        I switched my Ubuntu desktop to XFCE , problem solved, unity is barking useless on a 26 inch monitor ! In fact without having to install tweak tools, you aren't even allowed to chose the font and size you want to use ! usability = -5 , code quality -9 , never had to deal with a desktop environment that freezes, blips, flashes as much as that does.

        XFCE brings back my little widgets that I rely on to monitor my system, and other systems, and as for the "new" gnome shell, I can't think of anything to say that's printable, as an example, here's a clock widget, it goes top centre, What do you mean you want to move it? I'm the developer and it goes where I say !

        Bottom line is that everyone is setting up "operating" systems to run on tablets and phones, not desktops and big screens.

        Fine for punters with handbags, absolute b*llocks for business and serious users.

        1. bailey86

          Re: Canonical should have a care....

          Agreed - Xubuntu is very clean and efficient.

    2. Peter Mount
      Thumb Up

      Re: Canonical should have a care....

      I'll probably be joining you soon. I've already swiched to Mint for the desktop - except it's using ubuntu as the base & sometimes these things do get through - whoopsie crash reporting on by default is one.

      For server side well I'm already using debian on the raspberries so I'm probably going to look at debian on the next round of servers rather than ubuntu.

      I'm just about having enough of canonical with this sort of thing & basically just want something that works without any baggage associated with it.

    3. solidsoup
      Thumb Up

      Re: Canonical should have a care....

      This is following a tired script that has played out many times in different businesses.

      1. Do something boneheaded and immoral to monetize a free product at the expense of users.

      2. Once the negative reaction occurs, pretend you don't know what the fuss is about, further antagonizing users.

      3. Climb down proclaiming mea culpa.

      4. Do the same thing in a less obvious manner when the attention and most vocal opponents have moved on.

      Canonical will pull this again soon enough. Perhaps they should ask Facebook for advice. They've become proficient at it, bitch.

    4. Euripides Pants

      Re: Canonical should have a care....

      Last Ubuntu version for me was 10.10, will be moving to Mint Debian edition this fall.

  3. mickey mouse the fith


    So the top search results will be polluted with shopping crap I dont want then?, much like the old aol clients doctored google results. If I want to buy something from Amazon, Il go to bloody Amazon and search thank you very much.

    Has Ubuntu still got that awful unity thing and the shit mac-like windowing system?, It used to be good before they added all that crap.

  4. Amorous Cowherder

    Sorry but the fact that they're even considering this as a reasonable thing to do has already made me make up my mind and vote with my feet. No skin off my nose, the joy of Linux is to just find a new distro and spend no more than an hour or two getting settled in to a new home!

  5. auburnman

    Is this a new development?

    I could swear the initial article said the new search 'not-ads' could be turned off. Surely this is just Canonical restating what has already been reported?

  6. Martin 47

    Couple of years since I last used Ubuntu, looks lime its going to be a long while before I have a look at it again.

    Search results full of Amazon tat? FFS who ever thought that's a good idea?

  7. Scaine

    Nice baiting article. This feature can be turned off with a command, will have a kill switch in the settings and will be fully encrypted when it ships. It's called "beta" so that mountains don't form out of mole-hills, but hey ho. Mountains it is.

    I suspect that the people who indignantly leave Ubuntu because Canonical is trying (how dare they!) to add features are the same set of people no-one will miss when they're gone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You missed it by a mile or so!

      This feature can't be turned on even using those Windows keys to restrict search, they say it will have a kill switch but using that will take away your possibility for online search. And it will be encrypted, like they really didn't know it's your personal info. And why should I see Amazon stuff in my search results ? I never visited that site in my life so it is safely to assume I will never do that. Mr. Shuttleworth should be a man and ask me to pay for Ubuntu instead of sneaking this in. He should try to monetize Ubuntu instead of monetizing me.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To whom, exactly?

    “'Canonical is beginning to see that many, many Linux users care about their control over their own private information. Money making schemes that compromise this are not worth it,' veryannoyed wrote.'

    "Worth it" to whom exactly? You parasites have been living on Shuttleworth's generosity for years and years; and now that he's thought up a scheme to get a little bit of that money back, you're whinging like little girls. Just suck it up, you leeches. Or do you really think that you can live on charity forever?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To whom, exactly?

      So now you suggest they should become Shuttleworth's slaves for that ? Was it all a trap to capture Linux users with free software and then starting milking them ?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. William Hinshaw

      Re: To whom, exactly?

      You clearly fail to understand that not only is he selling user data to Amazon but sending it unencrypted for everyone under the sun to slurp up. The data isn't anonymized in anyway for all we know. Don't you get it? Making money off of our personal info is to me an invasion of privacy that we as a nation should seize back from the people that stole it from us. All the big time companies with billions to bribe our congress and President need to see that they can't use us in that kind of way.

      But while Google, MS, Amazon, Apple, Oracle, ect keep doing more to erode our privacy remember privacy was at one time part of our constitution. But everyone seems so eager to throw it a way because they don't understand its importance.

      Bah ignorant people that insist on staying ignorant can't see that and never will. Do you see the irony here Mr. Anonymous Coward?

      Cleaned up a little =)

    4. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: To whom, exactly?

      ...and Canonical have had testing on a wide range of hardware, bug reports by dedicated testers, and documented work-arounds posted by people who want to get stuff working for themselves and who will put the hours in for nowt. The backs both get scratched that way.

      I'm still wondering what happens when the lawyers get going on this search thing...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Half-arsed solution

    They were so brilliant to bake it in and now they are so dumb they can' remove it without breaking your online searching. Yeah, sure like we're all that stupid!

  10. Schultz

    When will they learn?

    Do they think their users are too stupid to switch between consume / work / leisure / whatever mode at their own volition? The software should empower the user to do what he wants to do with minimum effort, not trick him into stuff he didn't search for.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When will they learn?

      Your last sentence is along the definition of Free and Open Source Software, something that doesn't have too may admirers in the software industry.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    I'll give it a whirl

    If the kill switch is easy to find and use and

    If turning it off doesn't break something fundamental and

    If Wireshark shows nothing going out that I'm not expecting

    Then I'll give it house room.

    Otherwise, bye-bye.

  12. Roger Stenning

    Oh joy.

    There I was, deciding on which distro I'd look at when i leap from Win to linux, and whoops, Ubuntu just hit a banana skin right into a tree. That's gonna hurt some, I suspect. Certainly dropped off my interest list in a hurry.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Oh joy.

      Try Debian Wheezy (parent of Ubuntu with a similar package management logic, still in testing at present) if you want the 'new' desktop experience (XFCE4 by default or Gnome3/Gnome Shell by choice)

      Try an RHEL clone (CentOS, Scientific Linux, PUIAS) if you liked XP and are feeling conservative.

      Have a look at Crunchbang for a 'mad scientist on holiday' sort of feel - based on Debian Squeeze (stable)

      But, Ubuntu 12.04 has none of this ad stuff, has 5 years support, and Unity is actually quite OK in my opinion. Ubuntustudio 12.04 is an Ubuntu flavour aimed at creative types and that uses XFCE4 as the desktop, nice.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    How about grep?

    Will that start returning results from Amazon?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about grep?

      Ubuntu grep and find will bring you Amazon adds, sorry I meant offers, courtesy of Mark Shuttleworth. Oh, and a simple ls -a will do that too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about grep?

        Someone's already filed a bug report for grep:

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: How about grep?


          I should have known that my poor attempt at humour would have been already thought of, and done far, far better than I could ever imagine

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here is my answer.

    Bye Bye Ubuntu. Yeah it was nice knowing you but I won't put up with that kind of crap even once. Not once. My GF screwed me over once and that was it, end of story. So it is even easier for me to say BYE BYE to Canonical for screwing me over like that. I never signed on for that kind of crap and never expected it to ever happen.

    SO yeah no more. Screw me once shame on you. I won't let it happen again. Cause if it did it would be shame on me at that point.

    So Canonical can take its apology and stick it right up its ass and never darken my computers HD ever again. You can damn well bet that it will do this again and the fact that they haven't removed this "feature" in a hotfix or simply rolled out a new point revision that changes the default is BS big time in my book. It is just a back handed apology at best from them and tells me that they want to follow after M$ who is following Apple in trying to track us and chain us down.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here is my answer.

      What's your "GF" (girlfriend?) have to do with any of this, if I may ask?

      And if she's only screwed you once, isn't that more like a one-night stand?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Thank goodness I'm running Windows and don't have to worry about this kind of thing!

    But seriously, folks... I think I'd rather pay money for my OS than keep up with the distro war politics and fragmentation of Linux. I have to think that quite a few potential converts look at some forum flame wars and nerd-baiting articles, and crazy shit like "ubuntu is kinda debian but not and debian users hated when debian screwed them to help ubuntu and etc etc", go "ewww" and head rapidly in the other direction.

    Forget technical pluses or minuses, ease of use, whatever... Linux also needs to sort out its -politics- to be truly mainstream viable.

    1. Ken Starks

      Nice handcuffs.....

      With all the problems that Linux may have, if you can actually read the Microsoft Windows EULA and agree to it, then I really don't know what to say. Linux may have some rough spots but they are nothing in comparison to the absolute ham-fisted restrictions that Redmond wants to lock you into. If you are OK with that, then I suppose you are right where you belong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice handcuffs.....

        I made no judgment about Windows - aside from the first line, which was a joke, playing off the arrogance of FOSS users who say, "Oh, it could never happen to US!"

        My point was... well, what I wrote: That the pervasive and often poisonous politics of linux are a real problem; it's not just technical issues.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "distro war"? Where did you get that from?

      And may I ask what is the extent of your involvement with Linux distributions to back up your knowledge?

      Myself, I have been packaging stuff for one mainstream distribution for many years now. I also do non-distro specific development and translation work, some of the former is paid-for but most is as a volunteer. "Distro war" sounds like something from "Wired" or another of those stupid IT "lifestyle" magazines.

      Point being, at least from the point of view of developers, there is no "distro war" (whatever that means) that I'm aware of. Maybe it's a consumer thing? Then again, consumers will be consumers... just look at all the inane comments re. Apple vs Android / Windows vs Linux / Liverpool vs Manchester United / Toilet paper over vs under, on this very website.

  16. William Boyle


    Canonical should follow Red Hat's example. RH doesn't need to pwn us with ads. They make their money on support, and they provide it in spades! If Ubuntu continues on this course, I will have no option but to stop recommending Ubuntu to anyone interested in Linux, and will encourage my friend Kathy Malmrose of ZaReason to drop Ubuntu also, in favor of Mint or Debian.

  17. Mage Silver badge


    This is just the latest in Ubuntu losing the plot.

    Also Phones, 7" tablets and regular screen+keyboard+mouse need different GUIs. The one fits all approach with GUI best for a Touch 7" tablet is as stupid as MS putting regular windows GUI on a 3.5" 320x240 PDA Windows CE.

  18. Ray 11

    Is this really any different from Google Now?

    If people had bothered to actually see how it worked rather than towing the "AMAZON ADS" FUD would see that it is just an extra set of results at the bottom of the dash in the other results section.

    What is wrong with a universal search in Ubuntu? That is what Google Now is on Android. For the average user being able to hit the super key and type in something they want to search for is useful. The local results are prioritised at the top and other web results at the bottom.

    It is a new attempt. I see other search engines being able to be plugged in and a management screen to configure everything.

    Give it a try and see how it works.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Happy Days

    Though I no longer use a Linux distro every day, I have happy memories of using Ubuntu as my only OS. But that was back before Canonical/Shuttleworth got too big for their boots. They thought Ubuntu's popularity gave them freedom to introduce the rubbish that has led to it losing it's way.

    "Ubuntu is free and it always will be." It's ironic that Canonical seem unable to grasp that their statement can work both for and against Ubuntu. It may be free and so are it's users. Free to drop it at any time and move to another distro.

  20. Ken Starks

    Port In The Storm

    The Unity thing, coupled with Gnome Devs losing their fecking minds, got me the h3ll out of Ubuntu-land and Gnome as well. I found a distro called SolusOS that finally gave me what I wanted without compromise. The current supported release is running the last stable version of Gnome but the 2.0 release coming out in 2013 will be Gnome 3, written to act and appear exactly like Gnome 2. The beauty of SolusOS 2 is that unlike the Mint derivative Mate, the Solus desktop will use Gnome 3 under the hood while being fully backward compatable with GTK2.

    I am personally looking forward to the 2.0 release and our organization will use it on every computer we install.

  21. Old Handle

    I don't understand why anyone would think integrating local and online searches was a good idea. Even advertisers. In most cases the result would be based purely on coincidental terminology (e.g. search for "index.html", get ads for index cards), but even in the cases where something can exist both on my computer and in a store, say music or software, if I'm searching for it locally it means I'm pretty sure I already have it, not that I'm in the market to buy.

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