Ubuntu Advantage is being wired deeper into the distro

Dislike those messages about Ubuntu Pro? Then you won't like this

Ubuntu and its various remixes remain free distros, but it's getting harder to remove the messages about the paid Ubuntu Pro offering… which is by design, and it's not going away.

Last year, we wrote about promotional messages in the output of Ubuntu's apt command and how some users were aggrieved by what they saw as advertising – even though Canonical made Ubunto Pro free of charge for individual users, on up to five machines, in October.

In the interests of fairness, we do note that Canonical responded to the first of those stories, and that it has added a way to turn the messages off. In a shell session, just type:

sudo pro config set apt_news=false

But these messages aren't the only ones that appear in the output if you update your machine from a terminal prompt. For instance, doing a full upgrade on the current 22.04 release on this vulture's own laptop, the following extra text appears:

Get more security updates through Ubuntu Pro with 'esm-apps' enabled:  
python2.7-minimal imagemagick libjs-jquery-ui libopenexr25 libmagickcore-6.q16-6-extra libmagickwand-6.q16-6 libpython2.7 imagemagick-6.q16 libmagickcore-6.q16-6 imagemagick-6-common python2.7 libpython2.7-minimal libpython2.7-stdlib

These "esm-apps" are programs eligible for cover under Canonical's Expanded Security Maintenance program. Of course, you can get rid of the notice by getting a free Ubuntu Pro account, attaching your computer to it, and enabling ESM Apps updates in the Software & Updates program, or alternatively, using the terminal:

sudo pro enable esm-apps

This new pro command is included in a package called ubuntu-advantage-tools. You might think that one way to permanently prevent these messages would be to remove the package that provides the Ubuntu Advantage integration – but you can't. As Ubuntu bug #1950692 describes, the Advantage Tools package is now a requirement of the core ubuntu-minimal metapackage, so if you remove it, it will remove multiple other core packages. Ubuntu and Debian developer Steve Langasek defended the decision to make the package a dependency on the ubuntu-devel mailing list.

This is not the only bug report referring to the issue: bug #1992026 is about the additional output, and in a comment there, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth defends the move.

For Linux users seeking to move away from telemetry-riddled proprietary OSes, these moves won't win Canonical any friends, and we suspect that removing this functionality represents an opportunity for the many distros out there derived from Ubuntu. As with any monetization effort, Canonical has to weigh up the trade-offs: getting some more revenue, versus alienating users and driving them to move to other distros. One might have thought that Canonical would have worked this out after the first such revolt, a decade ago.

Also, of course, another option is to track the short-term releases of Ubuntu. Only LTS versions are eligible for Ubuntu Pro cover, so if you don't run LTS versions, then you'll only get messages about it for ¾ of each two-year release cycle.

We feel it also bears repeating that only the official GNOME flavor of Ubuntu gets the full five years of support, plus five extra years via Ubuntu Pro. If you run one of the remixes, you should upgrade your machines every time a new LTS version is released. For instance, in the release notes for Kubuntu 22.04, the oldest remix of them all, it clearly says:

Support lifespan Kubuntu 22.04 will be supported for 3 years.



Our thanks for reader "brb.repo" for pointing this out to us.


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