Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Ubuntu Linux News Your Rights Online

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Canonical Begins Tracking Ubuntu Installations

Comments Filter:
  • Phone home? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zumbs (1241138) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:07AM (#33201652) Homepage
    While I fully understand that Canonical would like some reliable statistical information on users, I seriously hope that it will be easy to see what information is sent and opt out ... or even better ... opt in (ie. default is off).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RabbitWho (1805112)
      They're giving me a free OS. This is the least I can do for them.
      • Re:Phone home? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JustOK (667959) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:49AM (#33202428) Journal

        no, you could do less.

      • Re:Phone home? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zumbs (1241138) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:54AM (#33202460) Homepage
        As such, I don't mind either. I would probably let the feature stay enabled. But I do want easy access (no code digging) to see what information is being collected, who gets access to it and an easy way of turning the feature off. And I would consider it a courtesy if Canonical actually asked me.
        • Re:Phone home? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by FudRucker (866063) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @08:48AM (#33202922)
          the slashdot submission summary says it is a cronjob, it would be easy to look in /etc/cron.* and remove the entries for it, check Top for any running dameons for it, and remove the binary from /bin /sbin /usr/bin /usr/sbin (where they installed it) or apt-get remove "package_name" could do it all for you automagically
          • Re:Phone home? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by MMC Monster (602931) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @09:20AM (#33203242)

            Your definition of easy differs from my mom's. ;-)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by PRMan (959735)
            Wouldn't it be easier to remove the canonical-census package?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I'm also ok with it. As long as they don't give it a deceptive name like "Ubuntu Genuine Advantage"
  • It's about time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unixcrab (1080985) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:08AM (#33201654)
    It seems like any kind of Linux usage statistics you see these days are just a load of hot air. Hopefully this will provide some solid data and hopefully Canonical will make it public. I for one will happily enable it.
    • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Interesting)

      by quantumphaze (1245466) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:58AM (#33202484)

      They should send the usage statistics to the mailing addresses of all the big name game developers so we can finally get rid of Windows.

      Also send them to hardware companies that seemingly sabotage any attempt to write Linux drivers.

      • WINE compatibility (Score:4, Insightful)

        by voss (52565) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @08:31AM (#33202764)

        While Linux native code would be nice, just getting popular games working properly
        in WINE on linux would be a great start. If you knew say you could add
        2 to 3 million potential customers with compatiblity code tweaks...that would be worth it to
        many companies.

        World of Warcraft and EVE online are two games that have great WINE compatiblity,
        and there are sufficient linux users for both that they have their own forums
        on the gamemakers sites.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anon-Admin (443764)

          I always find it funny when people set a number, "If you knew say you could add
          2 to 3 million potential customers"

          Some say, based on web site hits to non-geek sites, that linux is .5% of the hits so it is a small % of the total computer market. So lets take a quick look at that .5%

          As of 2004 there were an estimated 223,810,000 Personal computers. Note, these are not servers these are Personal computers for home use.

          So what is .5% of that you may ask?? (Came from a site that was a financial site geared towar

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kabloom (755503)

      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 F0Cus (152582)

    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 @06:16AM (#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 @06:17AM (#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.

  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:21AM (#33201730) Homepage

    ... just don't compile it with "--enable-become-skynet" and you'll be fine.

  • Not sure I like this even if "That's all that canonical-census does"

    I think removing this on install is going to be my plan there.

  • So long as it's documented and optional i don't see why anyone should have a problem with this... The install process should explain this, give the option to turn it off, and display to the user the exact information that would be sent.

    Counting length of install seems quite useful, especially if they could determine why someone deleted their install after a short time...
    Also it could be useful to take a hardware inventory, to determine what hardware people are using - this might also correlate with short in

  • I thought this was already done to some degree with the popularity contest [ubuntu.com].

  • I'm surprised they needed this given that Ubuntu already contacts the Ubuntu Network Time Protocol server and the security updates server regularly. Though I suppose both might have been redirected to local servers in some cases.

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      RTFA.

      The good news for those concerned about privacy is that it appears for now Canonical is just interested in tracking the users of OEM installations -- those PCs that ship with Ubuntu by default such as from ZaReason, System76, and Dell.

      Which means: this must be the start of the year of Linux on desktop. What else ubuntu-census can be but the seed of the future bloatware to grow strong under the close care of OEM-s, neh?
      (peace brother, I'm not a fan boy in any gang, just kidding).

  • I just hope they make it clear to the users what's going on - not that it's a big deal, but it would be the right thing to do. Otherwise I'm just interested in seeing some statistics myself.

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

    by moogord (904702) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:32AM (#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...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jginspace (678908)

      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.

  • Before you all don't RTFA:

    The good news for those concerned about privacy is that it appears for now Canonical is just interested in tracking the users of OEM installations -- those PCs that ship with Ubuntu by default such as from ZaReason, System76, and Dell. This information will obviously be valuable to both companies to see whether customers are keeping around their Ubuntu installations or just wiping them and just how often Ubuntu is being used on these systems (judging by the number of times that sys

  • by blirp (147278)

    Why would they do this? It has to be something they can sell or bargain with. So does this mean they'll try to lower the price they pay to Dell for preinstalling Ubuntu (if, in fact, they're actually paying for this). Or are they planning to create an adware-version of Ubuntu?

    Neither seems very likely, so ... why?

    M.

  • they has broke
  • This isn't installed by default. Right now, it's not very different than Debian's popularity-contest package, which sends every week a list of your installed packages.

  • ...thus giving a convenient database of computer availability and movement.

    The good news for those concerned about privacy is that it appears for now Canonical is just interested in tracking the users of OEM installations -- those PCs that ship with Ubuntu by default such as from ZaReason, System76, and Dell.

    I'm sorry, what? Why is this good news? This sentence makes as much sense as, "The good news for those interested in peaceful action is that the sniper is only interested in targetting the Dutch."

    For those not wanting to participate in this anonymous data gathering process, they could always sudo apt-get remove canonical-census.

    Yeah, you can always opt-out of spam too.

  • Test Your Bias! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gravos (912628) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:40AM (#33201852) Homepage

    Test your Free Software bias! If this article had the following summary, would you react differently?

    "Just released as part of the latest patch Tuesday for Windows 7 (and we imagine it will appear shortly in Windows Server, too) is a new feature called microsoft-census, which marks its initial release. Curious about what this feature provides, we did some digging and found it's for tracking Windows installations by sending an 'I am alive' ping to Microsoft on a daily basis. When the microsoft-census update is installed, the program is to be added to the daily scheduled tasks to be executed so that each day it will report to Microsoft over HTTP the number of times this system previously sent to Microsoft (this counter is stored locally and with it running on a daily basis it's thereby indicating how many days the Windows 7 installation has been active), the Microsoft distributor channel, the product name as acquired by the system's DMI information, and which Windows release is being used. That's all that microsoft-census does, at least for now. Previously there haven't been such Windows tracking measures attempted by Microsoft."

  • by blackest_k (761565) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:45AM (#33201886) Homepage Journal

    I'll let it run at least initially, I am curious as to how many people run ubuntu and where (to at least the country level). If ordinary users can access that information I will be happy enough to run it on my systems.

    If that access isn't available then I won't.

     

  • From a marketing perspective, Linux has the problem that no one really knows how widely it is used. The number of downloads does not help. This is a first attempt at solving the problem.

    I applaud Canonical for the courage in carrying this through, given that the privacy freaks are going to, well, freak.

  • While that's true, it's worth noting the package popularity-contest which tracked the installations of different packages. If you can disable it while installing Ubuntu (Like you could with popularity-contest, at one point anyway, I don't know about how it is now) then I'm fine with it.
  • So a new package just shows up that tracks installs and this instantly means it's a forced install.

    Doesn't sound too different from Debian's popularity-contest package (which has cron as a recommended install).

    And is there anything in a conf file to direct the reporting elsewhere? Maybe to schools, large businesses, etc

  • ... this could give some better numbers as to how many Linux systems are actually out there. As long as this package isn't installed automatically without prompting, this is great and very useful.

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

    by thue (121682) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:54AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by houghi (78078)

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by maztuhblastah (745586)

      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.

  • In that case, 10.04 will have been installed on my system since sometime in the late 70's, and will, each day, have been installed for one fewer days than it was the day before...
  • ...I wonder what the reaction would be on this site?

  • As long as they protect the users' privacy, this could end up being very interesting. As the users opt into sending more detailed information, such as CPU, video card, and memory, they can collect demographics information useful for answering questions like whether CPU/GPU intensive programs should be included in the default installation. Other information, such as whether the computer is a desktop/laptop could also be used.

  • NTP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:59AM (#33201994) Homepage Journal

    I thought that was the reason for the NTP server.

  • the last line of tfa:

    For those not wanting to participate in this anonymous data gathering process, they could always sudo apt-get remove canonical-census.

  • by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:00AM (#33202012) Homepage Journal
    But I don't mind...proud to be a Linux user.
  • At least.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by sipatha (1162265)
    ... we have sudo apt-get remove canonical-census
  • If Canonical is only tracking OEM installs of Ubuntu, I can't imagine some of those other businesses (NOT Dell) were even contributing to the greater percentage totals Canonical was looking for. Perhaps a way to persuade Dell, yet again, to prove their installation stability and tenure on PCs?
  • Hyperbole much? (Score:3, Informative)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:05AM (#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...

  • http://popcon.debian.org/ [debian.org]

    The Debian package popularity-contest does this along with the added benefit of reporting what packages you use.

    You have to opt into it, though.

  • by Sasayaki (1096761)

    Who cares.

    Okay, okay. There are TECHNICALLY some privacy concerns, but the package is fully open source. If you're the kind of person who cares about tiny little things like what servers your computer is pinging to, then you're almost certainly technically savvy enough to open up the package source and find out what exactly what the package is doing.

    Canonical is not going to become the next Facebook, tracking your movements constantly and keeping them forever (by and large). That's not saying I trust them u

  • If Canonical is only tracking OEM installs of Ubuntu, I can't imagine some of those other businesses (NOT Dell) were even contributing to the greater percentage totals Canonical was looking for. Perhaps a way to persuade Dell [slashdot.org], yet again, to prove their installation stability and tenure on PCs?
  • because it is not embedded in a way that you don't know what is happening and can be turned off. In a world of open source and alternatives, this will push the paranoid to other pastures. I started with slackware years ago and went through mandrake, gentoo and now to ubuntu largely following popular trends (and with the exception of gentoo) and ease of use. This has potential to greatly help the distribution in terms of marketing and convincing others to provide for the segment. So long as it doesn't brea
  • I can understand wanting to get an accurate count, since higher numbers could be used as an indicator for partnerships with other companies to say 'see we are serious, now give us some support with your products'. However I expect people will complain, or should, since this is the type of thing that if Microsoft or Apple did there would be shouts of Big Brother and all that. But if they are looking for some useful PR info I don't see a problem, but I'm sure there's a way it _could_ be misused.
  • Ubuntu is a brilliant system, and I paid nothing for it, and it works beautifully on my system, updating automatically and smoothly and compatible with all of my hardware. It even recognised both of my Midi controllers by name without any drivers.

    I can imagine some people making a fuss over this tracking system, but I'm totally happy with it and if I wasn't it wouldn't be difficult to stop.
  • Seriously, who cares. It's a fully open source package on a fully open source operating system. If you don't like the package, don't install it... or modify it so it only returns the information you want.

    And anyway. It's just a ping. Seriously. It's not a serious threat and if you're the kind of person that cares about simply pinging a server once a day, you can easily firewall it off or just cut out the package.

    Canonical is not Facebook. They aren't evil. They don't have the Evil package installed in Synap

  • Since ubuntu checks for updates isn't it enough to track the connection to the apt repositories to get a fairly good approximation of ubuntu usage?

    Or, why not setting up a popularity contest [debian.org] as debian does and get some more already anonymized usage statistics from that?

    I don't like this development, like I didn't like axing gimp while getting tomboy + mono in, and moving the default window buttons around. The System is fighting back, marketing guys take over.

    The good thing of FOSS is that if canonical screw

  • Why not use debian package "popularity-contest"?

    Initially released "Sat, 24 Oct 1998 22:33:58 -0400", and it does a heck of a lot more.

    http://packages.debian.org/changelogs/pool/main/p/popularity-contest/current/changelog [debian.org]

  • Debian and (I think) Ubuntu have a package called Popularity Contest which reports the package usage, completely optional and asks if you want to join it post installation.
    • by jginspace (678908)
      It's been shipped with Ubuntu for the last several releases but there's no nag anymore. You have to go to Software Sources (Package Manager) and go to the Statistics tab and check the box to activate it.
  • Because people are just going to LOVE being tracked like this.

    Also, first non-tracked post.

  • Today, in an unprecedented clusterfuck, /. itself was brought to it's knees when every user posted simultaneously. The majority of the posts fell into the following range :
    1) "It's Ubuntu - it rocks, it's cool, we'll finally now how many people are using it continuously!" These are the people that use Ubuntu, don't understand anything about it, and have never been in a server room in their lives. They also wouldn't understand privacy issues if said issues fell on them from any height.
    2) "Does anyone

  • Sounds great. I assume it'll be default in maverick and we'll see some interesting data? Why couldn't they just extend popularity contest? http://popcon.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com] http://popcon.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com]
  • ...which you can see before you install it?

    From the source package web page [launchpad.net], opening the 0.1 release, we see:

    Built packages

    canonical-census send "I am alive" ping to Canonical

    What did you think it might have done?

    Seriously, this is a story? What's next, "ZOMG, popcon [debian.org]!"?

  • Previously there haven't been such Ubuntu tracking measures attempted by Canonical.

    ...If you ignore the landscape service, and the popularity contest, which have done similar things.

  • Previously there haven't been such Ubuntu tracking measures attempted by Canonical.

    ...If you ignore the landscape service and the popularity contest, which have done similar things.

  • One more for the list:

    apt-get purge empathy evolution gwibber ubuntu-shitty-games ubuntuone-client rhythm-ghettoblaster canonical-census

  • Would've been nice to be asked beforehand.
    But as long as the package can be removed or the hosts simply blocked ...

  • Sounds great. I guess this'll be default in maverick and we should see some interesting data? But why couldn't they just extend Pop-con? http://popcon.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com] http://popcon.debian.org/ [debian.org]
  • If this is indeed all this new package does, there's nothing to be concerned about in my opinion. Canonical could extrapolate to a degree this data from package updates done by individual machines. Until it starts doing something else, it's nothing to be concerned about. But of course every change to that package or introduction of similar packages should be heavily scrutinized.
  • To complete the system, there's a mirror package at Canonical that to each
    "I am alive" ping, logs a message of "It's alive! IT'S ALIIIIIVE!!!".

    .

  • by qbast (1265706)
    OMG! Phoning home! Spying on users! Probably hidden backdoor! Microsoft, you just proved to be Satan's incarnate. Oh, wait ...
  • It's all a scam...those damn liberals are going to use the Canonical Census information to take away your access to the software repository! They're also going to post pictures of your desktop so less creative people can copy it! Think of that...less creative people copping your style. Tell the bastards NO! Damn the census!

  • Sounds great. I guess this'll be default in maverick and we'll see some interesting results. but how come they can't just extend Pop-con? http://popcon.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com] http://popcon.debian.org/ [debian.org]
  • Since I have to deal with Ubuntu servers:

    cat > /etc/apt/preferences
    Package: canonical-census
    Pin: release a=fakerepo
    Pin-Priority: 1001
    HERE

  • Too bad they will never do it... For very obvious reasons.

  • Seems like this is opt-in only for now. So no cause for alarm yet. As long as it remains opt-in for 10.10 I'm quite happy for them to do it. This at least has the potential to give us some meaningful statistics to show developers to port their stuff over.

  • ...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...

    That's not a very good method of tracking usage - not everybody leaves their PC on 24/7, so the cronjob may not always run - and using the number of cronjob runs as a counter for how long the system has been active isn't a great idea either. Storing the install date and sending that would be a better indication.

  • I know!
    Through a security flaw, MS discovers the Canonical DB, thus earning a unit count of "enemies"!

    The entire point of Linux is the philosophy. There's other choices for the "Just-Works" proprietary synergies.

    Is Canonical getting to that "power corrupts" stage?

  • by fuzzel (18438) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:50AM (#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.

  • I'm torn (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mpeskett (1221084) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:50AM (#33202438)

    Is this a good thing for creating verifiable stats on the number of users, or a bad thing because of the "phone home" behaviour.

    At least it's not doing this secretly...

  • by Bruha (412869) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:37PM (#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.

Time is an illusion perpetrated by the manufacturers of space.

Working...