An invitation, not a conspiracy

Monday, November 27th, 2006

A number of people have commented on my invitation to OpenSuSE developers to join Ubuntu Open Week, some have expressed dismay that I would risk creating discord in the free software universe by inviting developers to leave one project and join another. There have also been plenty of reasonable comments and suggestions, and I hope the net effect is to leave both communities better informed about the efforts of the other.

I think it may be worth having public “town hall meeting” in the usual Ubuntu style to discuss the invitation and make sure everyone has a fair chance to air their views. Feel free to continue to comment on this blog – I do the spam-moderation thing about once a week usually, will try to get to it more this week. Till then, let me say the following:

  1. No offense was intended to SuSE – it’s a great distribution. This is about Novell’s extraordinary decision to legitimise Microsoft’s IP claims over Linux in general. I have serious concerns about the Novell-Microsoft deal – and so do other people who make huge contributions to the body of free software. Novell and SuSE are of course deeply linked, and so the actions of one do have consequences for the other. I would expect the same sort of consequences in Ubuntu if Canonical made poor decision. In the past two weeks I’ve fielded many mails from SuSE developers in regard to this, so I believe it was reasonable to point out the timely Ubuntu Open Week. I very much hope all of this helps to bring home to Novell executives the folly of their course, and results in the termination of the patent-related aspects of the deal.
  2. Collaboration between SuSE and Ubuntu is welcome, and I would support efforts to make that collaboration happen in practice. Most free software developers want to see the whole free universe succeed, not just one or other distribution, and collaboration is a good step towards that goal.
  3. Ubuntu is not free of controversy, and neither is Debian. I was not suggesting that Ubuntu or Debian are somehow perfect – only that we would have nothing to do with Ballmer’s offer and are deeply conscious of the impact of this sort of deal on the long term future of free software.

Apologies to anybody who was offended by my extension of the invitation to OpenSuSE developers, it was certainly not my intent to upset you. Thanks to cool heads on both sides who have kept the discussion focused on our shared goals of improving the quality of free software and ensuring that it continues to be widely and freely available.

78 Responses to “An invitation, not a conspiracy”

  1. Colpo di tacco « Ubuntista Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth ha recuperato con eleganza una brutta situazione: “Non sono contro OpenSuSE. Sono contro l’accordo Novell-Microsoft.” […]

  2. Alan Jones Says:

    Hi Mark,

    I think it was important that you did vocally let the developers know they would be welcomed. Far better than having them wonder if they’d be stigmatized by Novell’s decisions.

    Thanks again for your continuing contribution to, and support of, the free software community.



  3. houghi Says:

    So if this was just an invitation, aren’t other developers welcome? If so, where are the invitations to them? To Fedora developers? To Mandrake Developers? To all others?

    Why were openSUSE developers isngled out?

  4. Sum Yung Gai Says:

    I agree that there is nothing wrong with an invitation to the SuSE developers. I hope that they do leave until Novell wakes up.

    However, the invitation to a “Free Software” project (i. e. Ubuntu) is somewhat hypocritical given your willingness to have Feisty install binary blob video drivers by default when ATI/nVidia cards are detected. Those cards work just fine in 2-D mode, today, with Dapper.

  5. Jason Quintana Says:

    Andreas — In response to: “Why is there a problem with rich western kids? ” You said :

    “They’re the ones most likely to not care about anyone else. Your framerate doesn’t help dissipate knowledge and equality, Free Software does. Catering of non-free software towards a privileged demography just for popularity undoes a lot of good work.”

    This is a nonsensical point of view because it views “equality” as an intrinsic value. The rich world will continue to be on the cutting of technology use and creation. Almost all new technology (including free software) is the result of actions taken by people in wealthier parts of the world. That is a simple reality. These are also the people who are most likely to have a computer and so it would be silly not to cater to them if you want to market to a broad audience of computer users. If poor kids had computers they would want cool graphics too. The critical thing is that all of this work and technology being created in the developed world allows people in less developed parts of the world to gain ground FASTER (the “rich world” gets bigger every day for precisely this reason). The world’s economic standing does not improve as a result of charity it improves as a result of productive work. While some probably think that free software development should take on the feel and purpose of charity work I believe this is a flawed concept.

    It should be about making people’s computers run great — and that includes cool 3d effects, multimedia and all of the rest. Like anything else, the free software author should aim to please himself and his end users by creating something that works well, is fun to use, and offers some competitive advantage over other solutions for the widest audience of computer users possible. That seems to be exactly what Ubuntu and its developers are in the process of accomplishing. Considering the fact that it is FREE I don’t think your argument has any ground to stand on. It is available to EVERYONE FOR FREE.

    – Jason

  6. Jay Says:

    I’m not a developer so I don’t know how I would feel if I considered myself part of the OpenSuse community and received the invitation to consider joining a different community. But from the outside looking in it seemed to be polite and respectful. I really appreciated all the thoughtful and respectful comments made on both sides of the controversy and wish all posters had exhibited the same class as Mr. Shuttleworth.

    On the issue of binary video drivers I’ll throw in a vote for including them in Feisty Fawn. As I said, I’m not a developer (I can handle spreadsheet functions and that’s about it). I can find the command line and follow instructions that spell out all the details but one misplaced character and I’m lost. As one who has run Dapper and now Edgy for a few months I consider myself a typical representative of the non-developer, secondary wave of Linux adopters. But if you want to reach computer users below my level of computer experience you’ll need to package it up with a nice bow and that may mean binary video drivers.

    I’m sure many Linux developers have no such goal of expanding Linux usage to users of my technical caliber or less. They would dearly like all Linux users to know the joys of getting inside the system to customize and tune it. And I can understand and respect that stance. But anyone who keeps dreaming of this year being the “year of the Linux desktop” is probably going to have to adopt a flexible attitude.

    And by the way, I’m not a rich western kid…just an average, middle-aged, western office worker. Is that OK? :-)

  7. Sum Yung Gai Says:


    I agree with you except for one part. In your last paragraph, above, you are mistaking Free Software for “free as in beer.” That is not correct; please see

    When we speak of Free Software, we are referring to Freedom, not price. If it happens to be “free beer,” then fine, but “free speech” is more important. You’re right; cool 3D effects are cool…BUT only when you don’t have to use binary blobs to do it. If you want people’s computers to run great, then start encouraging folks to use Intel graphics instead of ATI and nVidia. You get your “cool 3D graphics” and avoid the blobs.

    Now, *that*, I believe, is the true way to help make the “rich world” bigger, at least when discussing computers. Let’s remember that Ubuntu is “Linux for human beings,” not “Linux for selling uncooperative vendors’ hardware.” If some folks want those blobs installed by default, then that’s what Linspire/Freespire is for.

  8. Andreas Says:


    Proprietary software is divisive and harmful. Unles you read up on that and understand it your whole argument is based on a false premisse.

    Things such as:
    “While some probably think that free software development should take on the feel and purpose of charity work I believe this is a flawed concept.”


    “The critical thing is that all of this work and technology being created in the developed world allows people in less developed parts of the world to gain ground FASTER”

    make no sense and contradict your point.

    I appreciate you took the time to write that explanation, but it doesn’t address the problem at hand.

  9. Jason Quintana Says:

    “When we speak of Free Software, we are referring to Freedom, not price. If it happens to be “free beer,” then fine, but “free speech” is more important.”

    And this is precisely the concept I disagree with. I think that the notion of “software freedom” entails a flawed set of ideas that really DO NOT add up to freedom. I believe that the right to intellectual property, whether it is owned by an individual or a group of shareholders is a critical element of any concept of freedom (along with economic prosperity). People need to have the right to legally dispense with what they have created. If someone (or some company) wants to open source their work, that is great also and I thank them. I (like most people) will just use the stuff that works best for me. I don’t really care if it is a “blob”. Currently what works for me is Ubuntu and a lot of this open source stuff. I appreciate the fact that it exists and I look forward to future versions.

    In any case, I don’t want to clog up Mr. Shuttlesworth’s blog, if you want to email me privately at I’d be glad to continue the discussion.

    – Jason

  10. Sum Yung Gai Says:


    Thank you for that offer. I accept, and it is appreciated. Will email you this evening; it’s a discussion worth having.

  11. Novell responde Shuttleworth e recebe pedido desculpas « Terramel Says:

    […] Mais pode ser lido em: […]

  12. Vigor Says:

    Now walk outside, take a breath, admire the sky, always remember to wear sunscreen.
    Was anybody injured?
    Thats nice.
    I am going outside now, there is a bird singing and I like its song. And if that isn’t a bird singing, I just may sing a song myself and be happy.

  13. FreeSoftNews » Blog Archive » Shuttleworth responds to openSUSE invitation fallout Says:

    […] In an email response to questions about his most recent blog post, Shuttleworth says that his offer is “an invitation to an Open Week, not a criticism of SUSE. […]

  14. PuhLeas Says:

    god… why dont you all just shoot a load all over Marks face… He made a mistake.. If he wanted to do this he could have don eit in the opne and not gone directly to the Devs of Opensuse… He better make sure that he wasnt soliciting novell employees,,, which are SUSE devs as well… Cause his Canical (what ever its called) could be in for it from Novell Lawyers… The same ones that over see the ATT licenses and BSD agreement that you use to develope your OS with.

  15. Microsoft Linux Says:

    Mark you made many good points in your post to the “Open” Suse mailing list. The tone and content was very balanced and insightful.

    The question I have is who really will use Microsoft/Novell Linux anyways? I mean do they have like .00000001% market share. Personally I don’t know anyone who uses it at all and now even fewer will. It is certainly my hope that we will be talking about them in a few years in the same way we speak of the irrelevant SCO. Bring it on Microvell. Long live real FOSS!!!!

  16. C.R. Conway Says:

    I have to agree with what you said in this post. I read your post with the invitation to participate and I didn’t read anything into it other than an invitation to look and, if interested, join… and certainly not as an attempt to get SuSe developers to jump ship (so to speak). While not a developer I am a member of a number of different distributions forums, including both Ubuntu and SuSe, and like to participate in any manner I can, if only as a test subject . The one factor that I’ve noticed that every one seems to be overlooking isn’t that Novell is admitting to having MS IP in the Linux-GNU code base but that MS might be trying to get something INTO it that WOULD qualify as MS IP. The whole purpose of the deal is to increase interoperability, yes? How is that supposed to happen? By MS probably providing some type of access to their IP that would allow such interoperability. Now once that happens, how likely is it that MS will claim that code that has made it out to the rest of us (even in a reverse engineered manner) is the result of, if not directly based on, their IP that supposedly only Novell had access to. How likely is THAT scenario to cause trouble?

  17. Martin Says:


    Thank you for all the effort you put in Ubuntu, is really well worth! You are a person of the future!

    Best wishes for you and the Ubuntu community.


  18. Super Mike Says:

    I don’t see any problems with what you did. I think it’s an over-reaction.

  19. LivreSansPage » Mark Shuttleworth dans la liste d’openSUSE : stratégie à laquelle tous ne s’associent pas Says:

    […] Modif au 27 nov. 2006 (2) : Shuttleworth a posté un nouveau billet dans son blog pour clarifier la situation à propos de son annonce. S’il prétend avoir voulu dire ce qu’il affirme dans ce nouveau message, alors il s’y est pris plutôt maladroitement, m’est d’avis. De plus, il amalgame encore openSUSE et Novell, ce qui n’est pas la meilleure chose. […]

  20. Lee Says:

    Mark Shuttleworth invitation: unprofessional
    Mark Shuttleworth apology: professional
    Ubuntu users (based on comments on this blog): immature

    * I just learned that I’m a rich western kid
    * Users are about to drop Ubuntu because they “heard” it was going to install proprietary software by default
    * Mozilla is evil because of its artwork
    * Some believe it is okay to poach developers on other projects mailing lists
    * Novell is mostly evil simply for associating with the criminal Microsoft (the details of the deal don’t *really* seem to matter to anyone)
    * Novell is evil for taking money (I guess good companies only give money)
    * Everything’s work is “Human Knowledge” that should not be owned by any entity

    Regarding that last item and free software fanatics (only fanatics):
    It seems to me that the “rich western kids” seem to be doing all of the creation of knowledge even though they are using a capitalistic system to feed their families using proceeds from their creations. The poor (eastern?) kids don’t really contribute to “human knowledge” and just want to take every one’s creation for free. So not only do they not produce knowledge, but they can’t feed their families!! I wonder which system is better?? I’ll take the capitalism. If it wasn’t for that, there’d be no computers, and there’d be no internet and certainly no free software. My point is that free software fanatics should be a little more accepting of capitalism, business, and corporations because it would not exist without it. If the anti-corporation people had their way, we’d be waiting for computers to go from trees.

  21. Uncle Che Says:

    Rich western kids? Get a life. What other Linux distros will send over to Thailand a dozen cds of their distro? They have done it for me, not just once but now three times. I am distributing to my students and some are using it and enjoying it.

    I think Ubuntu is doing more to advance Linux than any other distro out there. Ubuntu works out of the box and has everything you need on one cd install. A lot of hardware just works on the distro. And the support? Community support is awesome. Most questions answered in just a few hours, tops.

    OpenSuse? I thought Suse was charging for their distros or giving a limited version? Didnd’t know you could download the is?, Are they shipping it for free?

  22. dpt Says:

    There is nothing wrong in providing drivers for hardware. The computer owners have paid for the hardware, the hardware has to work in other OS than MIcrosoft OS. When I purchased my laptop recently, it was “Vista’ ready, they did not say that it was NOT LINUX READY. If I want to run Linux, I shall, and not without wasting my time.
    I am neither rich, nor Western and certainly not a kid. I still love Linux and have loaded Ubuntu. The Internal Card Reader does not work, ENE has no Linux driver for it.
    Novell has provided a back-door entry to Microsoft to the Free world of Linux. I do not like it, I sense trouble for Linux.

  23. Mark Shuttleworth gets quote mined « Limulus Says:

    […] “I have serious concerns about the Novell-Microsoft deal – and so do other people who make huge contributions to the body of free software. Novell and SuSE are of course deeply linked, and so the actions of one do have consequences for the other. I would expect the same sort of consequences in Ubuntu if Canonical made poor decision.” […]

  24. Eric Says:

    Mark, you did nothing wrong when you made this offer. The negative reaction by some OpenSUSE developers was on the high side of hypocrisy. Every single day they contribute work on OpenSUSE is another day they support the false and meaningless patent claims Microsoft has asserted. Anyone doing code work for Novell as it pertains to Linux is also supporting Microsoft’s IP nonsense. The use of the word OPEN in the distribution’s name should be changed so that they are honest with the end-users who don’t know better.

    I applaud what you tried to do in a place filled with Microsoft shills and opponents of a free Linux. I am certain plenty of developers have since moved on to other distributions whose promise of free (as in speech) still has some meaning. I recently visited the OpenSUSE site and there is very little open about it. The home page reads like a corporate banner where very little discussion is allowed to take place and Novell copyrights fill every single page. There is very little inviting about this distro.

    As one of the leaders of the free Linux movement, your fight against the dangerous monopolistic practices of Microsoft are bound to draw the response from many company shills and ignorant users who continue to misrepresent themselves.

    Ubuntu continues to move forward because it still represents the wishes of thousand of developers over nearly two decades – a Free and easy to use Open Operating System available to all with no strings attached. People are listening… they are greatful… they are using Ubuntu because it’s a great distribution. They are standing up against its’ detractors because they believe in you.

    Thank you for keeping hope alive.

  25. Mighty Linuxz » Shuttleworth: It was an invitation, not a conspiracy Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  26. Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: March 2nd, 2009 - Part 1 Says:

    […]… […]

  27. Novell responde Shuttleworth e recebe pedido desculpas Says:

    […] Pediu desculpas a todos que ficaram ofendidos com o convite aos desenvolvedores do OpenSuSE e que sua intenção não era chatear ninguém e agradeceu aos que mantiveram a cabeça fria nos dois lados e mantiveram a discussão focada nos objetivos que compartilham de melhorar a qualidade do Software Livre e garantir que continue sendo amplamente disponível de forma livre. Mais pode ser lido em: […]

  28. Mark Shuttleworth invites OpenSUSE developers to join Ubuntu | Ars Technica Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth has written an apology in his […]