Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Ubuntu teaming up with Linspire's CNR

Should I be surprised by the announcement that Ubuntu will be the first distribution to use the new and improved Click And Run Warehouse of Linspire? DesktopLinux has an interesting article about it. Well, at least the picture looks nice and the move is being presented as a good thing. But is it?

I have never been a real fan of CNR. First, because it was a paid service. The business model to sell access to free and open source software is not my kind of thing. It would make sense if the enduser experience was great, a real improvement over the then existing ways of software management.

I compared Xandros Networks and Linspire’s CNR a few years ago. It seemed a fair comparison with both being commercial distributions and both using custom software management setups where you had access to both paid and free software. Xandros Networks was far superior to CNR, not in the least because you had the ability to add the Debian repositories in one click. Not supported, of course, but it gave the novice Linux user (who else would start with a paid Linux distro) a clear ability to increase his/her knowledge and skills. CNR was unimpressive and lacking a lot of software. Last year I checked again and CNR was still unimpressive, slow and cumbersome.

Ubuntu has been doing a great job in designing an easy to use Linux distribution with a greatly reduced learning curve. Installing and removing software has become as simple as selecting which package you want. For more complex tasks and access to far more software Synaptic is available as an advanced option.

According to the article Ubuntu has two reasons for teaming up with CNR:

In the future, Canonical plans to integrate aspects of the CNR technology so the purchase of commercial software is straightforward for desktop users.
Today, to add proprietary programs to Ubuntu, users must use third-party script programs like Automatix2. As a result of the partnership with Linspire, Canonical will be able to “provide commercial software products and services such as legally licensed DVD and media players to users who want them,” according to Steve George, Canonical’s director of support and services.

Commercial software. Proprietary programs. Okay, I can live with that. Maybe, just maybe, with a distribution channel like this game developers will start porting their portfolio to Linux, making Linux a decent gaming platform. And maybe, just maybe, all hardware developers will create high-class proprietary drivers and distribute them through CNR. Well, let’s just say I am glad CNR will not become the main channel for that.

Linspire also decided to start building it’s distro on Ubuntu, just like SimplyMepis. I wonder whether the Debian team is starting to get the sign of the times. Extremely slow release cycles and a bad ass attitude towards users might have been okay years ago, but when the trend continues oblivion seems likely.

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