back to article Ubuntu man extends olive branch to irate Debian devs

Mark Shuttleworth has offered to put more Canonical employees on to Debian at the expense of Ubuntu, in a potential compromise with angry Debian developers. The offer is designed to help Debian hit a proposed code freeze date for the next version of the Linux distro in December. Shuttleworth said the diversion would mean "we' …


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  1. marcs


    It is obvious to me that choosing Debian initially [when Ubuntu was created] hasn't been a good choice at all. The should have been start with Slackware, which is very stable, true unix system released with a great schedule - it is just relased very often and it gives the great base for any *based distro. It is the oldest and the most mature and BSD-compatible linux operating system on the planet! I can't really understand the choice of Debian OS. DEBs are much more complicated, while TGZs consist with simple TGZ packages, accompanied with additional dependency information.

  2. Joshua Goodall

    Debian project overrun by nutters, film at eleven

    The loud, hard-headed, intransigent propellerhead technocrats at the Debian project will just perceive this as an attempt to undermine their authority, credibility and integrity.

    Debian is the place where free software goes to be tied up and beaten because it likes it.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    Here we have the evidence of why the progress and market penetration of linux isn't as far as it should be - the fact that most distros, despite being good, just don't seem to give much of a shit about the basics.

    For the record I'm a Linux user since about 2000 when much hair was lost trying to get Rad Hat to run on my Dell laptop and I'd like to see it do better than it is in terms of maybe attracting more software companies to produce for the platform which isn't going to happen with the current situation and attitudes like this. Getting adobe to ply their wares would be handy - no, the GIMP doesn't cut it. Something like Lightroom or Aperture would also be nice, Lightroom especially. There are some loose equivalents on Linux but there's also a lot of time and metadata etc invested in current software so user inertia is high and it's part of the reason I mainly use OSX.

  4. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Sounds good to me

    Sounds good to me. I think Shuttlesworth mischaracterizes the situation though when he says shifting people to Debian will take time away from Ubuntu. I have Ubuntu on several systems (and work at a computer surplus that's installed and distributed thousands of copies on used PCs) and it's VERY nice. But, honestly, it's Debian with some tweaks. So developing for Debian may literally mean less developer time for Ubuntu. But since Ubuntu's built on Debian, it could just result in the exact same patches written, but they are applied straight to Debian instead of applied to Ubuntu and then submitted upstream for inclusion in debian.

  5. E 2


    Whatever you may think of Debian you cannot *touch* the strength of it's package management system. Rock solid in my experience, nearly bulletproof graph based dependency if I understand it correctly. Much better than SuSE or Fedora.

  6. jake Silver badge


    ""I love free software and want it to win. If it wins properly, it will not come in a single package branded 'Debian' or 'Ubuntu' or 'Red Hat', it will come in a coordinated diversity," Shuttleworth said."

    And Space Cadet Shuttleworth wants to be the coordinator of that diversity.

    I'll stick to Slackware, TYVM.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FOSS zealots their own worst enemy

    The problem with FOSS zealots is that they can't see that if they really want to achieve their dream - that of bringing down Windows, they need to act in a professional and coordinated manner.

    They need to work on stuff that needs working on rather than working on stuff they want to whilst ignoring other stuff that's important to users but doesn't interest them.

    Many Linux devs need to get a grip and either accept that they must remain a minority group with Microsoft running the OS show or they need to start acting professionally to produce a real, worthwhile competitor. It's upto them, but it seems they want to act like a bunch of immature kids whilst whining about how Microsoft is dominating the market.

    Here's a hint, whilst Linux does well in the server marketplace the fact is that Microsoft Windows, Office, Visual Studio and the likes are simply better than anything the OSS community has to offer by a longshot.

    Grow up and start developing with solid goals if you want to see that change.

    Shuttleworth is right, it's just a shame that much of the rest of the Linux community whilst often brilliant coders, are mostly anti-social misfits without an ounce of business sense in their body.

  8. Chronos

    Herding cats

    Please also read Matthias Andree's reply to Mark's proposals ( He nailed almost every thought I had from a package/port maintainer's point of view and the correct way to maintain a package/port maintainer to upstream developer relationship.

    What I suspect Mark is trying to do amounts to herding cats. You may or may not be able to get Xorg to sync their releases with the "major" distros. You may or may not be able to get the GCC project managers to do the same thing. What you're not going to be able to do is get them all to agree, especially if it appears to *anyone* that the motivation is to solve financial or operational problems for some commercial entity, and that's where this idea falls flat.

    The current model of "We release when we all agree it is ready" fits nicely into a mainly volunteer, non commercial organisation's resource structure. I really cannot see that changing within free/open source software projects anytime soon, and certainly not simply to please one distribution project leader. Granted, it is a fine Utopia he's created and it would certainly bring an edge of quality and consistency to the distros participating, but a Utopia is all it is in reality.

    Perhaps if he scaled back his ambitions to a more achievable collaboration between distros to discuss and work towards rather than set in stone a synchronised release and package agreement from the get-go, he may have more success once the discussions reach critical mass of participants, especially if each participant's voice has equal weight. Right now, it seems he wants everyone else to fit into Ubuntu's release mould and that just isn't going to happen. Whether that is due to egos, operational constraints or resource shortages doesn't really matter at this point.

    Herding cats indeed.

  9. El Mono Grande

    Oh, for Pete's sake!!

    WTH is the problem with the freakin' Debian community?!! So WHAT if this freeze will help Ubuntu! It will help Linux across the board and ESPECIALLY Debian as THE de facto Linux distro! Stop living in the past already, guys! I've been running Linux full time since '98 so I'm pretty sure that something like this will help ALL of us.

  10. Doug Glass
    Thumb Up

    Taken To Extremes

    If this is an attempt to truly organize various Linux factions into a cohesive group, then Microsoft better take note.

    A major difference between MS and Linux development is the organizational philosophy or each. MS is a focused group under a single directorate whereby Linux is free ranging with very little, if any, organization between/among major distros. If those distros could ever get organized and act as single unit, that unit would be a major force for MS to content with. It's one thing to fight off bees one at a time; it's an entirely different situation if the whole hive attacks you.

    Good organization breeds synergy and synergy in the Linux community is the one thing MS doesn't want to see. In fact, given the brainpower, the innovative ability, and the right-thinking that would be organized, MS wouldn't stand a chance.

  11. Hardcastle

    Upstream contribution

    I think it's a good thing to see Shuttleworth put his money where his mouth is by offering to have some paid Ubuntu developers concentrate their efforts on Debian development . One of the ongoing gripes of Debian devs was that Ubuntu was benefiting from Debian development but not enough contribution was being done upstream to help benefit Debian, and therefore the rest of the distros that were based on Debian code. Shuttleworth is actively addressing this valid concern with his offer, wisely realizing that upstream contribution will not only come back to benefit Ubuntu in the long run by helping to make Debian better, a whole raft of distros will in turn become better as a result of a better Debian, which in turn will help to make the greater Linux ecosystem more robust to give us a greater foothold in the market against Redmond and Cupertino. Yes, this would be money well spent for across-the-board benefit, so I'm definitely open to the proposal.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Let them keep fighting amongst themselves........

    ..........while the rest of us enjoy Windows 7 :)

  13. Ramazan


    The Holy Release Cycle C^HWow! How fscking stably, predictably, reliably and enterprisey is it, dude! I see you're moving in the right direction indeed. Please keep on!

    P.S. Maybe you are going to propose us using SCRUM next time?

  14. Ramazan

    @Mark The Spaceman (aka not-worth-the-shuttle)

    1. Do not forget the old Debian wisdom: a Debian release is ready when it's ready.

    2. stop doing blah-blah and go fire at least a single shot 'in our battle with proprietary software' - fix a bug

    3. there's no war in fact, and developers are not soldiers aka cannon fodder. You may see Ubuntu ones as that but please do not apply 'a broad pattern of cadence and collaboration' to other intelligent beings

    4. per one million of useless managers like you there are two talents like e.g Linus Torvalds and Brad Spengler, and you do not pay either of them (thus I disregard you as useless)

    5. go fire as much of stupid monkeys that advised using LSM in The Kernel against PAX/grsec as you can, maybe you'll become relevant at least

  15. bombastinator

    maybe some video config fixes?

    maybe one of them will finally fix that idiotic and fatal video configuration problem. How the hell did that get into stable anyway? If this were a real company a screw up that big would have gotten someone fired.

  16. Norfolk Enchants Paris

    I agree with Mark

    When Mark Shuttleworth says that the only way that free software will win out is to have a coordinated approach, he is correct.

    Too many IT operations & IT people have been burnt by interoperability issues between versions of Linux-based OSs, or by compatibility issues between software running on Linux, to have great amounts of faith in it. It is a perception thing, but you generally don't even get people considering something asan option when their perceptions are negative.

    I have a favourite example from a friend. He inherited responsibility for running a Linux / Apache / MySQL website which struck a table size limitation in MySQL. To overcome the problem, an upgrade was in order. To upgrade required a new version of Red Hat. That version of Red Hat required a new version of Apache. And that no longer supported the version of PHP that the site ran. And that meant a re-write of large chunks of the website. And to top it all off, the version of the mail sending program, which the website relied upon, changed from postmail to sendmail or vice-versa.

    This drove him mad and made him get the site rewritten in .net. In that order.

    As I am all in favour of choice and competition, then I fully support Mark in his desire to get a more homogeneous product. And as for those in the Linux community complaining that Ubuntu hasn't done enough for Debian - what a joke! Debian would be just another also-ran without Ubuntu.

  17. The Dorset Rambler

    This is going to seem lame....

    and I am truly not trolling or inviting flames...

    but could someone explain to an old man :) how linux (as an open source concept) works?

    I get the bit about thousands (?) of developers all inputing bug fixes et al etc. etc.

    What I don't get is how the top bit - the full time developers - are funded.

    Are there commercial donations of either money or developers or is it ad driven. I know there was one very wealthy guy who donated a lot of his kids money to a distro - was it kubuntu?

    Seriously, this is a real question. Honestly. Cross my heart etc. etc.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    This illustrates how the Tux crew only do what they do just to be difficult.

    How dare Canonical try to make money out of linux! The very idea of starting a company to make money is completely apawling!

    Seriously guys, at least we never get into these childish debates on proper OSes, like Windows and OS X.

    Stupid freetards, our whole society is based on the premise that to get something (you cannot make yourself) you need to work hard to get the cash you need to pay someone for it.

  19. Martin

    So can someone explain to me....

    ...why we actually need Debian AND Ubuntu?

    Could they not be combined into one distro with the best of both, with ALL their developers working on the same thing?

  20. Peter Mc Aulay

    "I love free software and want it to win."

    That's all very well, but the goal of the Debian project is not "to win", at least not in the commercial market share sense.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stabilsing Debain sid

    This article (and many posters) seem to be under the impression that

    Ubuntu is based on the stable release of Debian (codename Lenny).

    Actually this is mistaken because Ubuntu is actually based on the

    unstable version of Debian (always called "sid").

    The stable release allows the construction/maintenance of reliable

    systems and software. The unstable version on the other hand allows

    the improvement and debugging of software to continue unabated. It

    is so to speak a moving target. One day it's stable the next it's

    not. (Ask anyone who went through the X86 to xorg process!)

    If this article is correct then Ubuntu wants to call a 1/2 yearly

    freeze of the development of Debian unstable. This will institute

    a periodic halt to the valuable, continuous development and debugging

    process of Debian merely because Ubuntu wants to halt the "moving target"

    so as to gain total control over the software quality of it's 1/2

    yearly distribution upgrade.

    Ubuntu wants to have it both ways. It wants the cutting edge of

    Debian unstable with the stability of Debian stable.

    Why doesn't Ubuntu just call it's own freeze on collecting software

    from Debian and come back 6 months later and grab the next batch?

    Or it there some other, ulterior motive?

  22. Anonymous Coward

    ego ego ego

    < 1% market share (for human eyeballs) and the gloves are off ...

    can you image what these people would be like if there were actually something at stake in all of this?

    time is passing by for open source and it just does not get any more convincing. there is way more to an OS than code, fools.

  23. David Hicks

    Why all the (random) hatred?

    Seriously, if you like windows or OS X then good for you, use it.

    Those of us that like an open OS with many more capabilities than either, but with a learning curve and some work needed, will continue to exercise and expand our grey matter. During that process we'll get a great OS and much deeper insight into the workings of everything, becoming more knowledgeable and employable whilst we're at it.

    If Photoshop is the only reason you use a computer, buy one that runs photoshop well. Frankly I doubt that 10% of the people that whine about Adobe products not being available on Windows have actually paid for a license for it anyway, if they even have a legitimate windows license.

    @The Dorset Rambler

    It started as a hobby OS, but some companies now sell support services, others sell consultancy and customisation services, still others sell hardware with Linux as operating system. It benefits them to contribute patches and functionality.

    The reason a lot of people like it is because price/performance wise it is the best value UNIX(like) system out there, and the most widely supported in terms of hardware and software options. It's also closer, in terms of user experience and coding environment, to the other Sys V derivatives (AIX, Solaris, HP-UX) than the BSDs.

  24. Chronos

    Re: Taken To Extremes

    A lot of F/L/OSS developers couldn't care less about market share or beating proprietary software down. The one thing they do seem to care about above all else is freedom. Both the GPL and the BSD licences uphold the idea of freedom (FSVO free) and this is the motivation in many projects (Debian being one of them - - I don't see anything here about killing non-free software).

    Away from the 1337 h4><0r5 that seem to congregate around forums for no good reason and who seem to think that bashing MS is a sign of maturity (Ubuntu forums, I'm looking at you), I think you'll find competing with Microsoft just for the fun of it is far less a priority than you think it is to the people that matter, which may just be why these little arguments about who leads whom appear from time to time. Not everyone working for the betterment of open source sees the "Beast of Redmond" as a threat, or even some benchmark to measure up to. RMS may not agree, but even he recognises the cult-like status of his ideals (Church of Emacs). Most of us are just a little more pragmatic in that we don't find the existence of commercial software a direct affront to our ideals.

    In short, "success" in OSS terms is not a market share metric; it's more likely to be achieved by a completed release, well tested, rolled out to and used by those who value freedom (or even - shock, horror! - find OSS more compatible with their way of thinking) with a good feature set and solid performance and to hell with bums on seats.

    A lot of people just don't seem to grasp this simple concept, so I'll distill it to its essence: Use or use not. Honestly, a lot of us really don't mind either way. Market share is for the economists, not the technologists.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    can they afford the freeze?

    code and feature freeze? Debian are around 2 years behind the latest version of any package as it currently stands...a further freeze and I'd feel I'm running slackware 2.0 again! ;-)

  26. passionate indifference

    +1 on Stabilsing Debain sid

    if indeed this is correct

    Another thing - how many FOSS developers want to work to the sort of cycle Mark Shuttleworth is proposing? I can't help thinking that half the fun of FOSS is that you can work on things you enjoy and know about, without having to faff with the whole timely deliverables or bigger picture thing.

    Some want Linux to compete with Windows. How many others like Linux to potter along genially?

    some decent ale please, if you can find some in Australia

  27. Publius Valerius Publicola

    This is exactly why...

    ...the interest in and momentum towards Linux that was building amongst my clients and prospects 2-3 years ago has almost completely dissipated - at least on the desktop. Virtually all of my desktop migration now is Windows to Mac, rather than Windows to Linux. People are still interested in Linux and the BSDs in the back office - but almost entirely RHEL/CentOS and SUSE, rather than any of the "movement" distros like Debian, Ubuntu or Slackware.

    For myself, it's been nearly a year since I paid much attention to Linuxpolitik at all... mainly because I decided that I wanted to get interesting things done rather than have deep but ultimately meaningless intellectual discourse that might as well be debating how many angels could dance on the edge of a SO-DIMM.

    The Linux communities, led ably as always by the Debian crowd, is in imminent danger of "freeing" themselves - and the larger potential shift away from proprietary systems - into complete irrelevance in the real world. The shift to 64-bit desktops; the unprecedented clusterfark that is/was Vista... these are, if not in the market's rear-view mirror, at least nearly so, and the amount of open source takeup on the desktop has been...


    ...absolutely negligible. A rounding error to a rounding error. We can, we previously [i]have[/i] done better. Joe Businessman or Jane Home User doesn't [i]care[/i] about the philosophical underpinnings, about the dialectic of open source; they want to get payroll out on time, or open the wedding video their daughter and new son-in-law just sent from the other side of the planet. If we, as a larger community of people and groups interested in promoting open source solutions lose sight of that, we will be increasingly sidelined by a small number of very well-known, well-funded and (importantly) reasonably well-[i]led[/i] companies that Get It™.

    Can we measure up?

  28. Jason DePriest

    Freetard, they name is Debian

    If there were ever a poster child for the word "freetard" it would be the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. Not just Debian. You have to include the GNU/Linux or you aren't referring to it properly.

    Debian GNU/Linux' philosophy is noble: a distribution (Linux kernel + tools) unencumbered by restrictive licensing. I just think it is getting harder and harder to accomplish while still putting something out people want.

    I love Debian GNU/Linux. It is my distro of choice. The first thing I do is add in the non-free repositories and the testing and unstable repositories, set my default to 'testing' and upgrade the heck of out of everything on my system.

    Ubuntu takes a philosophy to my own: Debian GNU/Linux is a wonderful base install, but needs a bit more before it becomes something you'd use on your workstation every day.

    Ubuntu understands that they need Debian GNU/Linux to succeed. Debian GNU/Linux as a whole doesn't seem to understand how much Ubuntu is helping them just by using their work. This is not time for power struggles or hurt feelings. Debian GNU/Linux should be rejoicing that Ubuntu is as popular as it is.

    I understand that Debian GNU/Linux' community may feel slighted by not getting the spotlight since it is their *foundation* that makes Ubuntu as friendly and stable as it is. They have to get over that. It sucks. Life isn't fair.

    However, clearly Debian GNU/Linux is awesome because a fancy distro built on top of it is immensely popular. Humility. Humility would let the community know that their work is being respected and built upon because their work is fantastic. This isn't about one group trying to steal the work of another, it is about Ubuntu seeing something wonderful in Debian GNU/Linux, having an idea on how to improve it that doesn't fit with Debian GNU/Linux policies, and taking it upon themselves to create their own way to deliver their vision without clouding up Debian GNU/Linux with philosophical arguments.

    Debian GNU/Linux is free to continue being what it has always been. No one has tried to force Ubuntu back down the tree to take over the roots of Debian GNU/Linux.

    Upon further reflection, I wonder if the issue doesn't include some jealousy. Debian GNU/Linux developers are doing it for love while Ubuntu seems to be doing it for money. The Debian GNU/Linux devs may feel slighted for not getting paid.

    I hope it isn't just that. I'd had to see a schism or an official forking of Debian GNU/Linux (or God forbid the death of Debian GNU/Linux) over something so petty.


    Just getting stuff done

    > they want to get payroll out on time, or open the wedding video their daughter and new son-in-law just sent from the other side of the planet.

    This old saw?

    Chances are that Linux is going to be much better at opening some random media file. Windows or MacOS may end up needing to have some bit of Free Software installed on it first.

    That is a product of Ubuntu. It may need to install the same software that the Windows or Mac user may eventually stumble over but Ubuntu will do so automatically and in a pleasantly user friendly fashion.

    People that complain about other people's vision should check their own. Linux isn't standing still either and Shuttleworth is in the thick of it.

  30. Ken Hagan Gold badge


    "So can someone explain to me why we actually need Debian AND Ubuntu?"

    Ubuntu is a business that sells support services. To protect their business, they need to exert some sort of control/choice over what they are promising to support. Their customers are people whose expertise "lies elsewhere" so they don't want to have to learn system administration just to use a computer.

    Debian is a volunteer effort and won't happen if the volunteers are not free to choose what they work on. Their customers are people who *do* want to be system administrators and have the level of control that this offers.

    Two sets of priorities, so two sets of management and two end-products for two target markets, but both (if they have their heads screwed on) trying to share as much of the costs as possible.

  31. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    @Doug Glass

    "MS is a focused group under a single directorate ..."

    Focussed? That's not how it looks to me. I see a loose federation of software houses. Indeed, various competition regulators have *insisted* on Chinese walls between the groups.

    As for the directorate, it looks more and more random with the passing of the years. What have we seen since (say) 2003? Aero? Ribbon? Several attempts to launch hand-held devices?

  32. Anonymous Coward


    If Shuttleworth really wants to do Linux (and all FOSS for that matter) a favour, he should employ a Release Manager for XOrg and force those maniacs at XOrg to STICK to some sort of release schedule.

  33. Tim Parker

    @AC (Stabilsing Debain sid)

    "If this article is correct then Ubuntu wants to call a 1/2 yearly freeze of the development of Debian unstable."

    The article is 'correct' in the essence of it's message - your interpretation of it is not. No-one is calling for a 6 month freeze in the Debian development cycle.

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