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Canonical Begins Tracking Ubuntu Installations 548

Posted by Soulskill
from the following-bitprints-and-scrapes-on-the-router dept.
suraj.sun passes along this excerpt from Phoronix: "Just uploaded to the Ubuntu Lucid repository for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (and we imagine it will appear shortly in Maverick too for Ubuntu 10.10) is a new package called canonical-census, which marks its initial release. Curious about what this package provides, we did some digging and found it's for tracking Ubuntu installations by sending an 'I am alive' ping to Canonical on a daily basis. When the canonical-census package is installed, the program is to be added to the daily Cron jobs to be executed so that each day it will report to Canonical over HTTP the number of times this system previously sent to Canonical (this counter is stored locally and with it running on a daily basis it's thereby indicating how many days the Ubuntu installation has been active), the Ubuntu distributor channel, the product name as acquired by the system's DMI information, and which Ubuntu release is being used. That's all that canonical-census does, at least for now. Previously there haven't been such Ubuntu tracking measures attempted by Canonical."
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Canonical Begins Tracking Ubuntu Installations

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  • by F0Cus (152582) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:14AM (#33201692)

    For a second , I really thought Canonical lost their minds... However further reading indicates this is only an OEM measure. That is, providers such as HP,DELL,ACER,etc... will engage with Canonical to provide usage data. What provoked my knee-jerk comment above was what would be so contriving to try and count the actual number of individual new download->installs on any given platform/OS release; we'd all be writing scripts to steer it in a different direction. Yeah, kinda like US Elections.

    **hick**

  • OEM only (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThoughtMonster (1602047) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:16AM (#33201698) Homepage

    The summary (conveniently?) left out the part where it says that this package is only included on OEM installations, not normal installs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:17AM (#33201710)

    The popularity-content package in Debian and Ubuntu already existed, and collected information on the amount of submitters and the packages installed.
    See http://popcon.ubuntu.com/ for the summary of that collected information. So the claim that there has not been such tracking measures in place earlier is not quite true.

  • way to bait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by moogord (904702) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:32AM (#33201796)

    Of note to your interests. something that was skillfully left out of this slashdot article but is mentioned many times over and over in the original article. its only installed on OEM installations. the ones that are customized by canonical for use by oems. its not enabled/installed on your ubuntu install if you just download ubuntu or upgrade. geez...

  • Some clarifications (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:38AM (#33201828)

    Some corrections:

    - It's not the Ubuntu lucid repository, it's the Canonical partner repository.
    - It doesn't send the entire DMI data, just the first word of the computer product name (e. g. "Latitude" for a Dell Latitude notebook)
    - It does not send anything for standard Ubuntu installations (which do not have a distributor channel)

  • Why is this news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by thue (121682) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:54AM (#33201954) Homepage

    Debian has a similar usage tracking package: http://popcon.debian.org/ [debian.org] .

    As long as such a package is only installed with the users consent, I don't see the problem.

  • At least.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by sipatha (1162265) <vashoko AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:03AM (#33202034) Homepage
    ... we have sudo apt-get remove canonical-census
  • Hyperbole much? (Score:3, Informative)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:05AM (#33202060) Homepage

    That's all that canonical-census does, at least for now. Previously there haven't been such Ubuntu tracking measures attempted by Canonical.

    First of all, this was announced public ally months ago. And it was posted to the front page of Slashdot no less.

    Second, the package is totally optional, and during the install there is a very clear option to not install it.

    I am getting sick of every story summary on here trying to be twisted into some giant conspiracy...

  • by fuzzel (18438) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:50AM (#33202430) Homepage

    To make sure that no other packages like eg base-files suddenly start adding these kind of packages you might want to add to /etc/apt/preferences or prolly better a file like /etc/apt/preferences.d/dontwant something like:

    Package: avahi-daemon canonical-census
    Pin: release v=dontwant,a=dontwant
    Pin-Priority: 1001

    This will block two annoying packages that don't belong on most servers.

    avahi, because you don't need to announce everywhere when your server is located somewhere in a DC (indeed it might be handy in a local network, but it stops being useful when you don't have multicast routing and/or have a routed network)

    canonical-census, because Ubuntu does not need to know what your server is doing.

    Of course other packages can be blocked in a similar way from being auto-added by apt. (unfortunately a dpkg 'hold' does not work).

    Another way is to make a fake empty package, then the depends are satisfied, in the above case you might have packages which refuse to install because the package can't be found. Do make sure with 'apt-cache policy' to see if you don't have other apt-prefs at a prio of 1001 (or higher if that is possible) otherwise they might still get there.

    I am also wondering when Ubuntu/Redhat and other such commercial "Linux" companies start being nice to all the people who actually do the hard work and start acknowledging that those people are what they are selling/supporting/consulting on and earning money with.

  • Re:Phone home? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MancunianMaskMan (701642) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:00AM (#33202498)
    it does, but it's not good for collecting stats because organisations have their own private repositories (to save bandwidth, for one). You could set it up at home too if you have two or three Ubuntu machines, only one needs to fetch the packages from t'internet.
  • Re:Why? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:01AM (#33202506)

    Maybe they just want to know how many people who buy computers with Ubuntu preinstalled actually stay with Ubuntu. They might need the numbers to give Dell & Co. a reason to sell devices with Ubuntu installed. I could in fact see numerous reasons why someone would want to buy a PC with Ubuntu, for exmaple:
    - People who don't want to pay for Windows, because they want to install some other (free) OS of their choice
    - People who don't want to pay for Windows, because they have a (pirated?) copy anyway
    - People who want to switch to GNU/Linux but don't know much about it (or don't want to know)
    - People who don't care and just want a cheap device
    - etc..

    Not that it matters, though. I could never really understand why someone wanted to make a GNU/Linux distribution as attractive to the mainstream as possible. I can't see any benefit in doing so, other than the software becoming more and more "user-friendly" (read, inept for expert users).

  • Re:Double standard (Score:2, Informative)

    by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:10AM (#33202594)
    The difference is Microsoft would push it out as a critical security update. Canonical is making you A) hear about it in the first place and B) make a conscious effort to download and install it.
  • Re:OEM only (Score:3, Informative)

    by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:12AM (#33202604)
    And the repository for those who've heard of it and are feeling helpful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:15AM (#33202640)

    No. popularity contest tracks package statistics, not how many/how long installations are present. It even says so right on top of the page you just posted.

    I can understand someone not reading the article, but not even reading more-or-less relevant links they posted themself?

  • Re:way to bait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jginspace (678908) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [ecapsnigj]> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:30AM (#33202760) Homepage Journal

    O... mentioned many times over and over in the original article. its only installed on OEM installations. the ones that are customized by canonical for use by oems. its not enabled/installed on your ubuntu install if you just download ubuntu or upgrade. geez...

    The article *doesn't* mention over and over. It *speculates* - once - that this is for OEMs. It can't be enabled or disabled on any Ubuntu download as the package is only 14 hours old.

  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Informative)

    by houghi (78078) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:53AM (#33202964)

    openSUSE also has this and it collects more data. It is used to see what hardware you run, among other things.
    And then there is Smolt that is used as well.

    openSUSE also gets a lot of information from their redirecting of download.opensuse.org.

  • Re:Phone home? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Proteus Child (535173) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @08:42AM (#33203506) Homepage
    Just use Synaptic to uninstall the canonical-census package and be done with it.
  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Informative)

    by maztuhblastah (745586) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @09:13AM (#33203900) Journal

    Debian has a similar usage tracking package: http://popcon.debian.org/ [debian.org] .

    Not quite. That's for tracking the popularity of individual packages, not the distro as a whole. (It's available for Ubuntu too, as it is for most Debian-derived distros.)

    Furthermore, it's not installed by default, (apparently) unlike the software that the article is about.

  • Re:It's about time (Score:3, Informative)

    by kabloom (755503) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @09:16AM (#33203934) Homepage

    The Debian Popularity Context [debian.org] already provides some of the same kinds of statistics. They ask at installation time whether you want to participate, and I think the interface is evenly weighted between opt-in and opt-out, so the users may be somewhat self-selected.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @12:35PM (#33206422)

    Fedora has had Smolt since Fedora 7 as well. And based on what most /.ers are posting, it addresses all the issues they have with this sort of thing. When you first boot up Fedora it asks you if you'd like to send hardware information to the Fedora servers and it shows all the information that would be sent.

    You can also look at their install statistics here:
    https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Statistics

  • by Bruha (412869) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:37PM (#33207194) Homepage Journal

    I was part of a group of people who were working on the Ubuntu tracker that tracked packages installed, and one that reported the hardware the installation detected. Both of those tools could easily signal active installations just by seeing the updates from the package installer while the second probably would only report on new hardware. While this new package does something different, I'm not convinced that it actually serves a purpose to the end users. I'm no longer part of those discussions anymore, but this only seems to serve the makers of Ubuntu to see if their efforts are being used.

  • Re:Good for games (Score:2, Informative)

    by Avuserow (1527203) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:16PM (#33207658)
    You want Smolt [wikipedia.org]. It's opt-in, and the collected data ends up at smolts.org [smolts.org].
  • Re:Phone home? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kitkoan (1719118) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @12:04AM (#33212286)

    Yes, Canonical could have done a better disclosure job. Never the less, once you know one of the several ways of turning it off, I don't believe its a problem. Editing the crontab is probably one of the easiest things to do on a unix-like system.

    Turning it off? Its not installed by default. I just made sure it my Ubuntu 10.04 was updated and then checked up the canonical-census was installed. Its not, in fact I have to go out of my way to 1) know it exists and then 2) install it on my own through the Synaptic Package Manager (I couldn't find it with a quick look in the Ubuntu Software Center). Most basic users won't install it since they tend to avoid the package manager, and even when you do find it in the package manager it has this as it's description:

    send "I am alive" ping to Canonical

    This package installs a daily cron job for surveying how many original OEM installs are running in the world. Note that this does not send any user specific data; it only transmits the operating system version (/var/lib/ubuntu_dist_channel), the machine product name, and a counter how many pings were sent.

    Maybe in the future if it becomes pre-installed we might have an issue, but until then, its opt-in only.

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