Canonical Starts Tracking Ubuntu OEM Installs

This is typically one of those things that could start to lead a life of its own if it doesn’t get handled properly from the get-go. As it turns out, Canonical is interested in tracking Ubuntu OEM installs, and it has decided to do so by installing a tracking package on OEM machines running 10.04.

The package is called canonical-census and is installed on Ubuntu machines from OEMs only (i.e., Dell and such); in other words, regular manual installations will not receive this package. The package contains a Python program which pings Canonical on a daily basis so that they can keep track of the amount of OEM machines.

Send an “I am alive” ping to Canonical. This is used for surveying how many original OEM installs are still existing on real machines. 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.

The program is added to the daily cron jobs. This way, Canonical can keep track of the number of OEM installs, as well as keep an eye on how many of those installs remain active over time – or if they’re wiped clean in favour of something else (Windows, another Linux distribution). This information is obviously of value to OEMs too.

Obviously, you can remove the package through a simple sudo apt-get remove canonical-census. While the package looks benign enough, a dialog informing of this phoning home would be nice.


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