back to article Ubuntu reports 67% of users opt in to on-by-default PC specs slurp

Ubuntu has reported on data collected using the new user-profiling “feature” in version 18.04 of its GNU/Linux distribution. Canonical, the company that backs Ubuntu, said it wanted to collect information about users’ PCs, attached hardware and location to help it focus future development efforts for the desktop version of the …

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Really small systems

But are they 'real'? When I'm running Ubuntu it's in a VM and for development. So by default it has one CPU, one monitor (in a window), only a portion of the whole memory, and a newly created virtual disk. In production I might go 'dark' and not report in to mother. Though hopefully the Ubuntu reporting can notice it is really running on a VM and so not influence the final numbers?

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Re: Really small systems

Exactly, when I was reading this - 4 GB RAM and 1 CPU - I immediately said to self these are VMs.

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Re: Really small systems

Most of my systems have only one CPU, they might have more than one core[1] (ok, all of them do except my old laptop).

I would say: low-ish end laptops, though 4GB of RAM is enough for most needs except for the runaway firefox processes... Yes, if you are a serious gamer, or into video editing, or a number of other things then 4GB of RAM is ridiculously small, but for most of your daily needs it is ok. For me it is actually ok, but the heavy lifting is done elsewhere (cluster...).

[1] the article explicitly states that they have not analysed things like core count

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Re: Really BIG systems

1GB is enough for a web browser, email client, libreoffice and gimp. Supertuxkart and Freedroid run fine in 2GB. I can understand people relegating ½GB boxes to simple tasks like backup NAS, but I do not have a reason to retire 1GB machines yet, and the 2GB box is using over half its memory to buffer an SSD.

This site will be biased towards extremes: people who really need more than one CPU chip with a bucket full of DRAM, and those who know how to solve small tasks with a Pi.

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Apparently you can still order that kind of hardware

I was surprised by our IT department getting me a new PC which only had 4 Gigabytes of RAM. Apparently you can still get that.

One should note that, apart from really bad GUI designers, few people actually need more than a Gigabyte. Most ERP systems will have their complete database fitting in 4 Gigabytes of RAM for small to medium sized companies.

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Holmes

Re: Really small systems

To be more specific, netbooks used to have have 2-4GB RAM. These numbers look like re-purposed Windows netbooks.

Windows 8 era netbooks also came with eMMCs of typically 32GB of size, which is patently small for W10, but is plenty for Debian or Ubuntu.

History:

I have a HP Stream x360: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/06/review_hp_stream_x360_convertible_laptop

1366x768 screen, Celeron 2-core, 2GB RAM and 32GB eMMC. All soldered to the board for zero upgradeability.

I ran Debian on it, until GNOME bloated itself out of the RAM. I guess Ubuntu might still run on it.

However, I opted to buy a bigger machine instead.

Originally, the Stream came with Windows 8. But even the original installation used up 15GB of space, and W10 sure didn't get any smaller. So, a lot of the Ubuntu installations may be similar post-W10 throw-aways re-purposed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Really small systems

Running Ubuntu on my old HP Stream felt like a natively supported Linux machine, absolutely perfect support. Only issue I had was Unity had a weird bug which I assume was due to compositing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apparently you can still order that kind of hardware

> few people actually need more than a Gigabyte.

True, but you'll have to pry my SuperMicro from my cold, dead, hands.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Really small systems

> So, a lot of the Ubuntu installations may be similar post-W10 throw-aways re-purposed.

The netbooks I've seen were all used by small kids (eg 5-8 yrs old) as their version of a laptop. Seemed to go well, as the smaller form factor of the hardware matched the smaller form factor of the person. :)

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Re: Really small systems

But are they 'real'?

Well, I'm running Ubuntu (but not Gnome) on an Acer 2010 netbook (Atom + 2GB).

Really, really small (really) and bare metal (obviously).

And I opted in (always did run the System Test prog).

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Re: Really small systems

I've not put 18.04 on any of my machines yet, but I do have a casual use system in the bedroom that runs 16.04 that is a Acer dual core Atom Netbook clocked at about 1.6GHz with 1GB of memory and 8GB SSD, although the SSD is abysmally slow, so I run it off of a normal install on a 32GB USB micro memory card reader (not a live distro).

It works OK for browsing and YouTube videos, but I would not want to use it for anything serious. And Firefox's lax memory management means that it is necessary to stop and start Firefox on a relatively regular basis. I can't believe how frequently Firefox just grows to consume all the available memory, regardless of how much you have (it's driven my normal 8GB CoreDuo Thinkpad into paging more times than I care to remember).

I'd like to run the Netbook off an SD card in the MMC slot, but the BIOS does not support booting from that device, and I've not (yet) managed to get the boot partition on the SSD to successfully boot the kernel from the MMC (it's something to do with the modules loaded into the GRUB image - I'll get there).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Really small systems

I stopped using Ubuntu.

Gnome3, Systemd and slurping. Ubuntu 18 LTS is crap. I am staying on 16 LTS and about to move to non-systemd Devuan ASCII LTS with sane MATE desktop (Unity/Gnome2 alike).

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Re: Really small systems OR Info gathering bug?

Another not unlikely possibility is that the info gathering app has bugs.

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Re: Really small systems

“I do have a casual use system in the bedroom ”

Along with some baby oil and a box of tissues?

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Over the Top Much?

I fail to see the problem with sending Canonical the sort of basic system information requested, and can see the obvious utility in knowing how their customers use their products.

Compared to the likes of Google, Facebook, or Microsoft this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing, especially if you can opt out.

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Re: Over the Top Much?

I opt-in to popcon, and would have no problem opting in to this slurp. Making it opt-out ruffles feathers, and I will up-grade that to discontented grumbling if the slurp option is not obvious and easy to opt-out before it starts slurping.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Over the Top Much?

Agreed, this is the difference between "we want to make stuff better by collecting relevant data" and "we want to pillage everything we can because we might be able to sell it later" approach to telemetry.

I'm opted in on a lot of open source software, Firefox, Eclipse etc. On Windows I actively go hunting for the hidden toggles to turn them off and just steer well clear of the likes of Facebook etc. I even turn it off on SSMS & VS just because of the bad taste from Windows, although I expect those two are doing it with genuine improvements in mind.

It is all about trust and Microsoft, Facebook etc can't be trusted.

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Re: Over the Top Much?

What El Reg missed from the article but is in the screenshot:

"What software is installed"

At that point I'm out.

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Re: Over the Top Much?

@Barry Rueger

Over the Top Much?

I fail to see the problem with sending Canonical the sort of basic system information requested, and can see the obvious utility in knowing how their customers use their products.

Compared to the likes of Google, Facebook, or Microsoft this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing, especially if you can opt out.

Perfectly stated. This is no more intrusive than a returnable little card when you buy a machine, asking how / where the machine is used etc.. I believe entirely in GDPR privacy security, but makers need to know where their products can be improved.

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Re: Over the Top Much?

Why?

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Devil

Installing in a VM

is what this sounds like, for "the most poular" configturation.

Think: "only one CPU" is suspicious. Systems under 10 years old usually have at least 2 cores, and older ones significantly LESS than 1G of RAM. However, a VM install is likely to have one CPU and 4 or 8 Gb of RAM devoted to it, unless you have some compelling reason to multi-core the VM. I've done it, but the benefits are unclear. One core seems to work just as well.

it's what _I_ do, anyway. Ubu in a VM, for a customer who insists on it (with Mate it's not bad). Devuan or maybe Mint anyplace else. Backup the VM periodically and hand a backup copy to the customer for safe keeping. works for me.

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Re: Installing in a VM

"only one CPU" is suspicious.

As somebody before me said, these could also be laptops. Canonical has said that they didn't analyze CPU core count, meaning that the count is of "physical" CPUs.

These could be anything.

If we want a real count, then one way this could be done is to have Canonical check on DMI or EFI NVRAM information to see what is the BIOS/firmware maker/model. VMs have fixed values for these.

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Re: Installing in a VM

They said "only one CPU" not "only one core". So I think that covers all laptops and most desktops. The remainder are servers, which would generally have at least two CPUs.

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Minimal Install attracted only 15% of people?

Seriously? Minimal Install is IMO the greatest feature of 18.04. It allows you to have fine-grained control of what packages get installed. Better than apt purge-ing packages because you don't know what could possibly get left in there ...

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Re: Minimal Install attracted only 15% of people?

"Seriously?"

Ubuntu is the beginners' choice for Linux distro, or at least it's usually the one recommended in forums and publications. People usually want the whole shebang installed just because the 'normal' install includes things like word processor and the beginners can't be bothered or don't know how to install software. I haven't used Ubuntu for some time but if the minimal install really is as minimal as distro installations used to be (no GUI installed) then I'm not surprised people opt for non-minimal setup.

Advanced users may be interested in what packages are installed, but the regular Jos Sixpacks out there certainly don't know about that and just rely on the OS to sort it all out. As they should.

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Re: Ubuntu is the beginners' choice for Linux distro

Used to be. I think Linux Mint with Mate or Cinnamon.

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Re: Ubuntu is the beginners' choice for Linux distro

Used to be. I think Linux Mint with Mate or Cinnamon.

Certainly popular with peeps who want something XP simple or Gnome.

https://www.zdnet.com/article/whats-the-most-popular-linux-of-them-all/

I get the impression from Ubuntu sites that a fair few are jumping to one or other of the flavours, Gnome desktop doesn't appeal to a lot.

I know I had to abandon vanilla ubuntu due to Gnome, just runs badly on an old N450 Atom netbook - just sluggish and unresponsive, like how Unity was in the early iterations.

Plasma runs usably though. (barely, but sufficiently).

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Encryption

As to encrypting the disk or more specifically the home directories we only do this on laptops, being mandated by our security policy. Since a lot of the installs I do are dual boot it makes access between the windows and linux partitions a lot harder but policy is policy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Encryption

I'd expect those using encryption to be more likely to opt out of data collection too.

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Re: Encryption

While the added privacy is appealing, the looming threat of anything going wrong with the volume (not if, but definitely when) making it completely inaccessible is certainly off-putting for me. I have edited files in sectors that weren't even officially belonging to a partition at the time (thanks a lot MS fuckers for deleting it without a single word), but if the keys go missing I'm suddenly looking at just noise. That's not maintainable data storage in my world where based on experience things break even more inevitably than death and taxes.

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Re: Encryption

So run a secure backup. Duplicity works well.

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Unhappy

Majority irrelevant

You can pretty accurately assume the typical user from what's sold.

The only data that's useful is the small percentages of systems. Even then it's of dubious use. This sort of data might be useful to say Apple or Microsoft, but not to linux which ought to be user focused and not bottom line "which systems can we ditch" focused.

1) Should not be opt in by default.

2) Only collects Internet connected gear. Not all installs are used on Internet.

3) Pretty much pointless data unless you are purely commercial wanting to only support 90% of users and force people to upgrade hardware.

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Re: Majority irrelevant

"You can pretty accurately assume the typical user from what's sold."

Possibly not. PCs, like cars, are pretty durable, at least modestly repairable, and are often handed down/repurposed.when a new PC is purchased. I suspect that the "typical" desktop PC might be what was being sold six or seven years ago. Laptops do not last as long and might be closer to what is being sold. And some PCs do experience memory and storage upgrades although I suspect that is less common than it used to be.

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Re: Majority irrelevant

"This sort of data might be useful to say Apple or Microsoft, but not to linux which ought to be user focused and not bottom line "which systems can we ditch" focused."

That depends on the resources available. How many open source devs are happy to spend time making builds to support hardware that almost no one uses when the time could be better spent on more productive areas. Old architectures have already been dropped by most OS devs and more will be as the demand drops.

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There’s a lot of Ubuntu users suffering at 1366 x 768

...or is it just a handfull people installing Ubuntu on old Windows XP lap tops accepting all the default settings before selling them on ebay or giving them away to relatives?

- at which point the new owner formats it and reinstalls whatever they really wanted anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

2 of the 3 Ubuntu users opted in?

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Flame

Clearly illegal data-gathering

So, 33% didn't opt in...

And how do they know that?

The only possibility is that when you say "NO, DO NOT COLLECT MY INFORMATION" they then ... collect the information that you opted out!!! That's clearly illegal, those people did not consent to that.

What's Canonical's turnover again? The court is going to need to know to calculate the GDPR fine...

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Re: Clearly illegal data-gathering

GDPR would prevent them collecting personal data, not the simple fact that an installation occurred and the anonymous user opted out.

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Anonymous Coward

Seriously people? 1377x768 is pretty much a standard low/mid range laptop screen.

And has been for many years!

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So, they have their creepy little stats.

So what is Canonical actually going to do with them to benefit people who gave them?

(Other than sell them for a little bit of cash).

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So what is Canonical actually going to do with them to benefit people who gave them?

You don't think it's valuable to know what users are installing the s/w on?

Prioritise more popular hardware configurations

Approach large OEMs with info that a large number of purchasers of their kit are putting ubuntu on it, maybe they'd like to have a pre-install option (long shot, I know).

O.S. vendors were trying to get this sort of feedback from users for decades, and often had a 'System Test' utility to gather info to be run asa one-off - most users don't know as people usually skip the intro screens or lack the confidence.

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Anonymous Coward

This dinosaur....

....finds a small machine perfect for LibreOffice, Chrome, GIMP, Thunderbird, some C (and gcc), and a lot of Python3 (mostly glade):

- Intel N3060 (two cores)

- 1366x768 display

- 2GB RAM

- 32GB eMMC

- WiFi 801.11n

- Linux and XFCE

*

What I'm wondering is this: how many users out there actually NEED eight cores, 16GB of RAM, 2TB of disk storage, 3840×2160 screens? Or is this just the anorak version of a gold Rolex?

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Facepalm

Re: This dinosaur....

"how many users out there actually NEED eight cores"

Every single one of them if they don't fancy their Firefox eating 100% CPU as soon as you open the plain empty Google search page* which just happens to contain an invisible but constantly animating progress indicator that Firefox ESR is apparently dutifully keeps rendering even if invisibly so. Just search for the "g-loading-icon" of class "GuPFE"...

* countless other apparently innocuous pages have the same effect.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This dinosaur....

"What I'm wondering is this: how many users out there actually NEED eight cores, 16GB of RAM, 2TB of disk storage, 3840×2160 screens?"

me me me!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This dinosaur....

me too

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Re: This dinosaur....

...for the record, some independent corroboration - I wasn't kidding even a little bit when I said that an "empty" page can comprehensively murderize your older PC. Yes, it's still there, yes, it still axes Firefox ESR. I may have botched the class name, it might just be random - my bad.

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Linux

I have several monsters

Running Ubuntu with Ryzens and i7s, multiple terabytes of storage and tons of RAM (because why the heck not, I do not want/need my systems swapping)

There are lots of people like me running contemporary Linux computers, but we're all mindful of our privacy and say no to the slurping.

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Anonymous Coward

Binned my Ubuntu VM

Failed to start up at random (with Virtualbox indicating a lot of network activity). The Mint VM I replaced it with has been somewhat more reliable.

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Paris Hilton

That's Progress

We get 8+Gen multi-core processors & wide screens and people use iWatches with tiny screens or VMs with small memory and tiny number of cpu cores.

"Ubuntu reports 67% of users opt in to on-by-default PC specs slurp" elReg picked it up 'on-by-default';

So how can you tell when it's on-by-default that conscious people chose that option, probably just Zombies bashing the keyboard at best.

All this computer crap {repeated over and over} is so wearying. Can someone invent Typewriters and pen and paper please!

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Well, that was useful

And here we have...what we already knew we would have. People are using computers that look like computers we deal with on a daily basis. Even discounting the fact that most of these are probably VMs, the specs they gave us are the specs of any number of standard machines. You have the laptops (most standard-price ones are 1366x768) and desktops (connected to monitors at 1080p). And you really expect that everyone's using just one monitor. I have a friend who uses her ubuntu setup with three monitors. She's not going to power up all three just to install ubuntu; she'll turn on one, install it, then use all three when she has a real reason to do so. Meanwhile, they did get a report from me; a VM, running at 4gb ram, connected to a monitor at 1080P. What a surprise. I can really see the point of collecting this.

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