View Full Version : Interview with new Debian head. Opinions on Ubuntu.

April 14th, 2005, 11:19 PM
Recently the Debian organization (whose distro forms the base for Ubuntu) had an election to get a new Debian Project Leader. Branden Robinson won this election and has taken over leadership of the organization. He is more than a figurehead (but not much) and a very smart person. Here is a recent interview with him:


And here are his comments about Ubuntu:

LM: The Debian Project, as a group, seems to have mixed opinions about Ubuntu. What are your opinions on Ubuntu - is it good or bad (or a little of both) for Debian? What could the Ubuntu team do (if anything) to be better for Debian?

Ubuntu is a mixed blessing, but one with a net positive. It has helped raise Debian's profile in a mostly positive way (that it has thrown the unpredictability of Debian's release cycle into stark relief is not their fault); it has served to excite people and attract them to the GNU/Linux system, winning over some adherents from proprietary OSes; it has attracted some of Debian's more impatient users without losing them to Fedora, which keeps them in the Debian family while also satisfying them while we work to get our release taken care of; and it has provided gainful, rewarding employment to many Debian developers -- it has helped give people jobs where they get paid to pursue their passions.

The downside is that Ubuntu has prompted some people to come to doubt Debian's "relevance". As a consumer of Debian's OS with a derivative product, I think Canonical could do more to emphasize just how much of a service Debian does provide. If Debian were to vanish tomorrow, Canonical would be in a bit of a bind. They would have a great foundation to work from, but even with their relatively high staffing levels for a going Debian-based concern (I refer here to engineers and QA folks directly working on the Ubuntu distribution), but I have doubts that they could sustain it in the long term without Debian continuing to serve as this massive engine. Those who complain about the stagnation of Debian's stable release in contrast to Ubuntu's would do well to remember that Debian's *unstable* distribution is the wellspring of Ubuntu's stable one.

Finally, while I hope I'm misinterpreting this, I have seen comments from some Canonical employees that seem to regard Debian as more of an obstacle than a partner. If that's accurate, I don't think it's a healthy attitude -- a significant part of what makes Debian the success that it is, is its independence from corporate direction. Asking Debian developers to eat whatever Canonical feeds them is wrongheaded; as Canonical enjoys the freedom to deviate from stock Debian package where and as necessary, so too must Debian developers retain their independence.

To Canonical, and to Ubuntu's volunteers, I say, "thank you for helping keep Debian great!" From them, as from any Debian derivative, I ask that they work as our partners. Be an advocate for your ideas -- please don't simply throw them over a wall and expect Debian to treat them as Mosaic tablets. Each organization must start from the premise that the other team consists of fundamentally ration people -- and rational people tend to eschew appeals to authority, preferring logical premises instead.

I reiterate that this is a relatively minor problem. For the most part, I see high levels of cooperation, much friendliness and mutual respect, and good code flowing both ways. I think there are few challenges posed by Ubuntu that Debian can't meet a with a Sarge release and a refactored release process.

April 14th, 2005, 11:27 PM
I couldn't find that this was mentioned here, so:

This is an article from the blog of Ian Murdock (the founder of Debian). It is a response to some blogosphere rumors about Debian vs. Ubuntu, and he complains directly Mark Shuttleworth about the package problem that is supposedly coming.