Open Source

Ubuntu One falls from the clouds

Jack Wallen speaks out about Canonical shutting down their cloud service, Ubuntu One.

Ubuntu One

I've been a huge advocate of Ubuntu for as long as I can remember. As I watched Canonical grow the distribution into something that could easily become a household name, I felt they could do no wrong. Canonical even shifted their focus to convergence in order to include the largest growing market in technology -- mobile. Their plan has been (for some time now) to merge the desktop, the tablet, and the phone into one cohesive whole. They had all the infrastructure there, including Ubuntu One, which was one of the more seamless cloud storage services available.

I have used Ubuntu One since its inception. I purchased extra storage early on and never stopped using it. I tried other cloud storage services and always came back to Ubuntu One. Why? It was easily configured to work how I wanted, it was fast, and it was seamlessly integrated into my favorite operating system. Yes, it had its share of hiccups, but what service doesn't? And the Ubuntu One Music Store made purchasing and syncing music as simple as it gets.

But as of June 1st, 2014, syncing will stop. On July 31st, 2014, all data will be wiped. Ubuntu One will be no more.

The reason for this shutdown is quite clear -- Canonical simply can't afford it. With Google offering 100 GB for $1.99/month, no one can compete. But there's a hole in the fiscal logic that Canonical will have to very quickly patch. That hole is the shape of a smartphone. With Canonical set to release their first ever smartphone, they'll have to come up with (or partner with) a cloud service well before its release. That means a possible change in codebase or design. If the Ubuntu Phone is released without the ability to connect to a cloud service, the device will fail. Why? Have we become that reliant on the cloud already? In a word, yes.

Imagine a smartphone trapped within itself, unable to easily sync data between devices. Your only recourse for sharing is to email, SMS, or (shudder) FTP documents. How would a smartphone of that nature succeed? It won't.

Of course, this could be as simple as Canonical partnering with, say, Google Drive, Dropbox, or SpiderOak to get an instant, well-supported cloud service for the Ubuntu Phone. But it has to be considered a must-have feature for the Ubuntu Phone.

Here's an interesting bit of information: Without the aid of a cloud computing service, average mobile users would lose 240 productive hours per year.

That doesn't necessarily pertain specifically to a cloud storage service, but storage plays a huge role in the world of the smartphone (and tablet). Those devices have very limited storage, and most users use said devices on the road to keep them connected to family and work. Without a cloud storage service, the ability to share and work with saved documents becomes a logistical nightmare.

This is something Canonical must resolve immediately.

I'm sure Canonical is catching a ton of flak for this decision. In fact, I've already read confessions from a large number of Ubuntu users who are now planning to jump ship to another distribution. I'm even entertaining that idea. One of the reasons I've remained with Ubuntu is Ubuntu One. Without a cloud offering, Ubuntu offers little more than any other Linux distribution outside of a desktop interface and package management system.

Fortunately, with Linux, I can find solid package management systems and quality interfaces anywhere! This could be the straw that tipped that camel over and had me crawling to Ubuntu Studio, Linux Mint, or maybe it's time to give Fedora another go.

In the meantime, I've installed Insync for Linux and found it to be an amazing product. Sure, it has a price attached to it (chump change at $15.00 for a single license), but it's worth it. I use Google Drive extensively now, and the migration from Ubuntu One to Google Drive has been seamless with Insync. The big reality with using Google Drive is that you know it's not going anywhere, so your data will be safe from the big call for shutdown.

I do hope this move by Canonical is not a death knell. I want to continue my relationship with that distribution -- it's served me so well over the years. But with their continued focus on things other than the desktop, they're making decisions that seem to be counter-intuitive to what Linux is all about. I understand "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," but Ubuntu is, at its heart, a desktop operating system. Stray too far from that and Ubuntu will be battling juggernauts that they may not be able to slay.

What do you think? Was the shutting down of Ubuntu One short-sighted on Canonical's part? Or is this a non-issue (considering the amount of cloud services available that work well with Linux)? Tell us your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

42 comments
Artty Sie
Artty Sie

Jack Wallen, were you a paid subscriber to UbuntuOne cloud? or a Freeloader? no service can survive on freeloaders alone

walt_corey
walt_corey

I think you are correct Jack, but for a different and worse reason. Canonical just admitted they couldn't make something work. That's actually the second thing, they couldn't make that incredibly slick Edge phone work either. I've been using Ubuntu since 2007 because Fedora required too much labor of love to keep it running. Why is Google a household name? Because, from all outward appearances, they succeed with everything they touch. Well, they didn't do so well with iGoogle though, they failed there.


But yes, shutting down Ubuntu One will be a big, perhaps fatal, hit for them.

kelechibg
kelechibg

This is Sad. I really love Ubuntu one. Its so easy to use. I have an app on my ubuntu 12.04 desktop, one for my two android phones. And I one on my Windows desktop. I share files with my friend who is also got adicted to U1. Why on earth do they wanna kill it. :(   ?


Now I have to start all over. Grrrrr. Ok . so whats the next best option? Google. ??  I love Ubuntu, been using Ubuntu since 7.10. Started with REdhat then on linux. later flerted a bit with linux mint and fedora. But Ubuntu is the real gig. Ok. Guys what next? ... Is it the end of the world already?

P05TMAN
P05TMAN

I've always used Google Drive and without lsync and still Ubuntu is my fav distro. I hopped on the Ubuntu One cloud for a bit when it first came out, but really (like the author stated) Google offered a better price. I do, however, still prefer local storage because I know it's not going anywhere. Even though I back up a lot of local storage to "The Cloud", I only do so in case of hardware failure as an extra measure of redundancy. Nothing major, just the docs, pics and family videos that are really important. I'd buy an Ubuntu phone with or without  cloud storage so long as the manufacturers of the phone offered expandable MicroSD storage or a large capacity hard drive.

barnamos
barnamos

Everyone having their "own" cloud is a giant leap backwards. Imagine the heartbleed apocalypse if there were millions more badly managed servers out there with sensitive information on them? Honestly, if the NSA wants my data they have a better chance of getting it when I handle security than if google or dropbox have it. Do I run my own webservers and databases in my basement any more? Of course not if I care about redundancy, performance AND security. 


Anyone who has been playing in this arena for more than a couple years (my first website was when Mosaic was in alpha lol)  knows the "cloud" is the only future for competitive advantage in a global marketplace. The rise of devices and platforms that synergize business activities is something to embrace. The dropping of Ubuntu One is a serious step backwards from that synergy. I am giddy to finally have a chromebook, android phone, tablet that can enhance my life personally and professionally. Having my ubuntu servers and desktops step away from the future causes me reconsider ubuntu as a platform to grow with and support.

isakotto
isakotto

For me it is a non-issue. Any practical gains from syncing is quite negated by government, security agency, and commercial snooping into the cloud. From the start I saw that I will never use it. Both Google and MicroSoft can no longer be trusted with our data. And probably no large organisation can. Local storage all the way.

Learning recently that several MicroSoft programs, on enquiry, were stated by MicroSoft (back in the days of Windows 2000!), perhaps to be calling back to them ("maybe some do, maybe they don't", or words to that effect, was their intriguing reply) finally has pushed me over the edge. If things cannot be done in Linux, I don't need to do them. Or I could, if needed, keep a Windows partition without internet connection (network drivers disabled). I also need to find a non-Google non-Yahoo email. Problem solved.


With these decisions I feel freer than I have in years. Relieved. There's even a sense of joy and laughing I had forgotten about. I am no longer dancing with THAT devil. Now, where's the next dragon?

jwbales
jwbales

I switched from Ubuntu One to Dropbox several years ago and have never regretted it. I access dropbox from my Ubuntu desktops and laptop, from my Mac, IPad, Nexus 7, IPhone and Chrome Book. I do not need Ubuntu One.

knuthf
knuthf

Who wants to join in and make "MyCloud" into "OfficeCloud", "HomeCloud" - etc. - and get a grip on appointments, names and addresses - using Internet sources to check and verify - and make certain that those who has no business in your address book and calendar and photos and documents really cannot - it is physically impossible for them to access these without leaving a trace so you can audit "automated updates".


Ubuntu/Canonical is one place to start - I can talk to Jolla / Sailfish and hear if they are open to participate - but want no marxists on the team. 

knuthf
knuthf

I have seen the demise of the Soviet Union, and now the rise of the United Soviet of the America - well done Google. Probably, Canonical has observed the same, and is promoting "MyCloud" instead, which I like. I hate all the duplicates in my Google addressbook - tell me how to remove them, and see no reason to move my files far away to an uncontrolled storage that they may claim to be encrypted and locked with three padlocks - but Mr. Snowden has told you just how safe those padlocks and encryption keys are.


So wake up, set up a server at home, use the sync software available - it works also on Mac (does anyone use Windows?) - and eliminate the address book duplicates, and keeps the media safe.

psengr_techrep
psengr_techrep

Sounds like someone has his head up his a-  Sorry!! Meant to say in the clouds.

The only benefit of cloud service is file sharing, whether it be for making a backup copy, inter-device use or group work.  To make that worthwhile, the safety and security of the data have to be assured.  


If a user were prudent enough to segregate his data so that identity-related and financial data were isolated from the cloud, then cloud services would be a reasonable medium for information sharing.  Jack may be one of those smart enough to do it; 95% of the people I know and work with are not.  


Ubuntu One and Google cloud had/have such glaring security issues - to the point where use as a primary storage media for business is nearly impossible to defend to an auditor if there's a concern about business continuity.  That limits business use to very small companies, or as an insecure offsite backup medium, by numbers too small to make either cloud service viable economically on its own. 


While I am a proponent of open source development, when it comes to services, I still believe that at best, you only get what you pay for. Infrastructure to hold "free" information costs money. 


To me any free service doesn't make sense at all. Only if it included enterprise quality backup/restore services with loss-of-data insurance, would I consider two bucks for a months storage of 100GB in the cloud as a offsite storage service.   




varun.codeathon
varun.codeathon

This really is a shock but also a wake up call for all cloud based services other than Google. Wroth Google slashing it's price, it's monopoly in the market. But what about privacy? I really don't trust Google for privacy in cloud services. I agree with sonicsteve on this. Perhaps you have to be more careful with what you keep on cloud.

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

Mr. Wallen's reaction leaves me mystified.


I've been a programmer for over 30 years and an Ubuntu user since 6.06 "Dapper Drake," and I simply don't see the big deal.  Of course I have never gotten into the mobile synch world.

Part of it is I just don't trust the security of computers out of my control. Being a security paranoid is a large part of why I got into Linux in the first place.


So put my data on the cloud? Somebody ELSE'S cloud? No way Jose! 


Of course, since I am a security paranoid, were I to die today, so would all my personal data: It is all on encrypted drives, no one else knows my passwords and my passwords are never written down. One time I calculated the odds of guessing one of my short passwords at about 1 in 3*10^26, , ,

janitorman
janitorman

SHOCK! Jack knocking Ubuntu, for any reason? Wow. 

That said, the cloud just isn't important. It's a poor, insecure way, to share your data with the entire world (whether you want to or not.) Ever hear of USB drives, such as a 64 Gig HDSD card? That's more storage than the average user needs for years. Your phone doesn't have a USB slot? QUIT USING YOUR PHONE for a COMPUTER. Doh!

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

I mostly agree with you Jack, I only question how much of a death knell it is. I can't think of another distribution that had/ has it's own cloud service. So for people like you and I who use Linux extensively it isn't like there is another distro waiting that offers what we lost. I too used U1, I was on the verge of paying as my reliance and usage was climbing steadily higher every year.  


Now I find myself asking what all the rest of you are asking, which service will I use now? I have started using Google drive with Grive as the sync agent. I'm not sure I'll stay with Google Drive, there are many considerations and price isn't the main one. 

With Google

Cons

1. Privacy

2. Too many eggs in one basket

3. Lack of proper linux support


Pros

1. Price

2. Reliability

3. Storage space


It's not like the other services won't have their pros and cons as well.

Bobarino
Bobarino

So Jack, are you having second thoughts about  that Ubuntu tattoo you got a few years back?

davekinchlea
davekinchlea

I'm with groon ... I call BS on the loss of 240 productive hours, I'd be surprised if it were as much as 240 minutes in a year. I strongly suspect that the "average" mobile user doesn't use the cloud at all. 

at78rpm
at78rpm

One sure way to kill a product is to tell its users that they are on a sinking ship.  Canonical just tied its own noose.

phil.ferrar
phil.ferrar

Totally agree that the announcement of the Ubuntu One closure is bad news and badly timed. Surely it would be better to wait for the much anticipated product launches later in the year and then make a more reasoned decision in the light of take up.

groon
groon

"Here's an interesting bit of information: Without the aid of a cloud computing service, average mobile users would lose 240 productive hours per year."

Really? Six weeks a year of efficiency created by the cloud? What's your source for this interesting bit of information?

baryah
baryah

Own cloud thats the answer

Freebird54
Freebird54

I am sad to see it go - it is only paid service that I actually paid for.  Partly to support Ubuntu, and partly because the service was not based in the US.  I don't know how much difference that actually makes - but at least there is an extra step in compromising what is stored :)


I am sure they will partner up with someone - hopefully still not bound by US 'laws' - but I may just go back to maintaining my own stuff at home.  After all, external drives are cheap enough now that you can afford to keep one offsite, and switch it every couple of weeks.

sbennett372
sbennett372

I've always thought Ubuntu One was more expensive than it was worth.  Google's lowering of its cloud storage (plus the elegant and inexpensive InSync package) and SpiderOak's recent "deal" of unlimited storage for $125 per year (which if you were already a SpiderOak user you'd have been a fool not to take advantage of) made price disparity even worse.


My initial impression of Ubuntu One when it came out was that it was extremely slow.  Now that could have been my network and ISP, but it didn't matter to me.  I haven't really used it since, except for storing stuff in a pinch when wiping and reinstalling my OS.  But I can do that with Dropbox or my now unlimited storage space on SpiderOak.

joakimwaern
joakimwaern

Interesting to find others considering migrating because of the shut down; I thought I was alone. Heck, I even see it as my chance of leaving Ubuntu for real. I've tried it before but I always end up using it again. Ubuntu one being one huge factor in this. But the future of Ubuntu looks interesting if their focus is on integrating high quality third party apps. If Spideroak pimp up their Android app I hope that will be their choice. Their services looks promising and they seem to have a love for Ubuntu. I dropped Dropbox (ha!) a long time ago, but on the other hand Insync works really well. Interesting (as always) article, Jack! Thanks.

QuidFit
QuidFit

I am in the same boat as you really disappointed about this but I think Canonical still has a plan to save the user experience for phones and tablets. When describing the difference between the Ubuntu platform and its competitors Silber states that Ubuntu's goal is to have better integration with 3rd party services.

 "our user experience, developer tools for apps and scopes, and commercial relationships have been constructed specifically to highlight third party content and services (as opposed to our own)"

 I Hope what she is getting at is that Canonical is going to work on making sure that the third party applications she mentions are going to become as useful as Ubuntu one was if not better. 

So hopefully this means options like syncing contacts to many services for (example dropbox, google drive and more). best I have to support this is that it used to be that you could only preview music from the Ubuntu one store in the dash now you can also preview music from 7digital.com (the improvement in selection is amazing I actually use it on occasion now).


bottom line is that I am probably over thinking this.
3arn0wl
3arn0wl

I must admit to sharing your surprise initially at the decision, for the reasons you outline. However, I really don't consider it THAT much of an issue - they've been beaten by the competition: Dropbox, Copy et al who, crucially, are available for Ubuntu...  

Personally though - and I apologise for repeating myself - I'm more interested in a personal cloud solution: a personal server such as ownCloud.  That way, you know where your data is; you have control of it; no-one's reading it or mining it to sell you stuff; and no-one's going to turn around and say, quite out of the blue, "We're closing this service down, make sure you've made alternative provision for all your stuff". :/

ricegf2013
ricegf2013

How about supporting several options? Choice is a *feature*.

I'm testing Spideroak now as my Ubuntu One successor.

walt_corey
walt_corey

@knuthf  Snowden is FOS. He stole some stuff. Did he even have a security clearance or just hack his way through the NSA. He is a traitor and a BS artist and someone who successfully got his 15 minutes of fame. History has already labelled him as a traitor. The thing about BS artists is they are very convincing right up until you catch them in a falsehood.  To understand what I am referring to look up entropy in connection with security.

walt_corey
walt_corey

@varun.codeathon Never put sensitive data in the cloud. There is just way too much liability. If you don't control your data, you don't control access to it, you can't tell a stockholder, or stackholder it is safe and accessible.

walt_corey
walt_corey

@CodeCurmudgeon totally agree with you and a longer password...astronomical...again, think of entropy in choosing a password. Even so, the risk of loss of access is far greater than the risk of privacy breaches.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

@CodeCurmudgeon Those odds are remarkably similar to those of me remembering the few passwords I have now...

knuthf
knuthf

@janitorman  Evenan iPhone an hook up on a WLAN, and transfer all files to a disk local on this.  On Android you have GrSync and can run that on the LAN. On Symbian. Maemo, MeeGo, Apple MacOS you have iSync, made by the old Nokia, and can use that. I have a phone with more than 100GB and sync with my server - do not have time to do that with Google, would take days and result in thousands of duplicate contacts, appointments - to be blunt "A mess".

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

@davekinchlea I hope you're right, I am amazed at the willingness of security-conscience businesses to place their critical info in the hands on another entity at all for the sake of convenience. And I damn sure wouldn't put my girlfriend's info on any cloud.

JCAlford
JCAlford

@davekinchlea Not if ALL types of cloud (including private) are included.  My company uses a private cloud for our mobile users to keep their data. It would cause them great problems if they had to be on-site in order to access their data.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

@at78rpm It's only a flesh wound, they still have 1 arm and 2 legs. 


Seriously though they do need a cloud partner sooner rather than later and they we won't care.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

@baryah I actually did look at Own cloud, it really looks interesting, but a total pain in the rear to setup.

3arn0wl
3arn0wl

@sbennett372 What is the business model for these companies?  Where are they making their money?  How are they even sustainable, never mind profit-making?

knuthf
knuthf

@Papa_Bill @CodeCurmudgeon  that takes less than 10 seconds to crack - it is all up to the web-site to keep the key, and we all know how protective they are at that. Keep an essay as your password will not help, the security is still just so many bits. Have you have coded a password verification routine - without using the standard encryption / decryption libraries? It is not that difficult!

knuthf
knuthf

@sonicsteve @at78rpm  They have to complete "MyCloud" - and some utilities to sync data between devices on this. All the code is there, it is just to get on with it.

jjlovet
jjlovet

@3arn0wl

just like free sample tasting in the supermarket

the sample is free, but you like it want more, you have to buy it

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