UBUNTU 和 DEBIAN的关系确实没有清楚的走向……
Ubuntu caused a lot of friction with and for Debian. In discussions with its founder, Mark Shuttleworth, and other Ubuntu developers during (and before) Debconf6, I was able to spell out the main criticisms from the Debian perspectives of the way Canonical/Ubuntu is handling things (without a claim to completeness). These criticisms mainly stem from discussions with fellow developers over the past 18 months, and I largely support all of them. I am publicising them here to help make the status quo more transparent.
Before I go on, I want you to know that my neutral and somewhat even supportive stance towards Ubuntu has led many Debian folks to conclude that I must be a Canonical employee; I never was nor will be.
A major point of friction I’ve gathered from many (Debian) sides stems from the fact that many developers are largely unsatisfied with how Canonical/Ubuntu cooperates and “gives back” to the Debian community: essentially, at the moment all we get are monolithic patches describing the differences between Debian packages and their Ubuntu counterparts. Even though Mark has claimed that the patches should be modular if the underlying package uses a modular package management system (such as dpatch), this does not seem to be the case at first glance (c.f. e.g. squid). You have to look inside the monolithic patch to note that its changes are compartementalised into dpatch files.
Yet, Canonical/Ubuntu continuously claims to be “good” and to “give back” to the Debian community, but that’s just not happening in that way. Canonical/Ubuntu either has to start giving back according to their own claims, or stop pretending that it does, and it’s good that I have heard this voiced by one of the Canonical employees as well.
The perception that Canonical/Ubuntu is taking advantage of Debian seems to prevail. Taking advantage in this definition entails using but not giving back, as well as dragging integrative work out of Debian, something Joey Hess described as the supermarket thing, which has the potential to ruin the Debian project. Whether this is true or false, intentional or unintentional, it is important to recognize that these sentiments do exist among a number of members of the Debian community.
There’s a related point, namely jealousy about Ubuntu’s success, and the fear that it steals Debian’s users. In response, it is often said that while Ubuntu depends on Debian, the reverse is not the case: Debian does not need Ubuntu. This is false and true at the same time. Debian surely need derivatives like Ubuntu, for derivatives bring users, and users bring improvements and weight. However, Debian does not need any one derivative more than any other, and in fact it has been considered harmful if any derivative stands out.
Many of those with whom I’ve spoken perceive that Canonical/Ubuntu do not acknowledge Debian enough, nor give credit where credit is due. And this lack of credit and acknowledgement further amplifies the fear. Two examples seem to stand out:
The “universe” community that gathered around Ubuntu’s core surprisingly often does not know about Debian, or do not know how Ubuntu and Debian relate. I do not have any data on this, unfortunately (see below). This is something to take up with the Ubuntu Community Council.
On the ubuntu.com front page, Debian is not mentioned at all; if you actually follow the About Ubuntu link, you can find Debian mentioned once in the first paragraph (albeit without a link), and if you did notice the right hand menu expanding, you may even decide to click on Ubuntu and Debian, where the relationship is finally illustrated from the Ubuntu point of view. To many, this is just not enough.
Update (+6h): the About Ubuntu page now links to the Debian homepage. Thanks!
Canonical people, and Mark especially, draw an important line between Ubuntu (which is mostly free/open-source), and Canonical with its other products (Launchpad, Rosetta; which are non-free). However, from the outside, this line does not exist, or at least it appears as if there’s a much stronger relationship between the Canonical and the Ubuntu project. This impression casts a corporate shadow over Ubuntu which deters many developers, even if it’s undeniable that Ubuntu is a project of its own (to a large degree).
There’s no question about Mark being on an agenda, for which he has assembled an impressively powerful team (which indirectly includes many Debian developers) at an (even more impressively) cheap cost. It’s not my business to speculate about other people’s finances, but those that do conclude that Mark is very likely not running too much of a risk with what he does at the moment and could basically pull out at any point in time. To some, who have dedicated large parts of their lives to Debian, this seems like an unwelcome way to play a game.
When Canonical entered the market and hired some developers to work on a Debian-related project, a lot of jealousy boiled up among those who didn’t get a job, because back then it seemed that Canonical was out to pay people to work on Debian — which is a common dream among us developers; at least people hoped that’s what it would be. Many fundamental contributors felt left out and confronted with the question why they should continue their work for free when others are now getting paid for it. The twist is that nobody wanted to ask themselves that question, because money was never the reason why they started to work on Debian.
The situation has leveled by now (I think). More and more people realise that Canonical is taking Ubuntu into a direction where many Debian developers do not want to go. Nevertheless, it seems that some of the frictions we are currently facing between Debian and Ubuntu still have their roots in the bad feelings from those times (which may well still exist in the individual case). Canonical/Ubuntu (and some Debian developers) need to realise (and get over) this, and somehow I think they’ve got a long way to go.
On Friday night of the Debconf6 conference, Mark assembled a bunch of people discuss the inter-project relationship. The (large) number of people who eventually joined, as well as the choice of venue (with live music) made the discussion somewhat awkward, but we did manage to get some good talking done, and I raised all of the above points. See the minutes of the meeting if interested.
With their latest release out the door and a little more time on their hands (at least for a while), I hope that Canonical will follow up on the resolutions of the evening, as they have promised. The same goes for Debian, of course.
There’s very little Ubuntu can do about the jealousy other than acknowledge it, but it would be an important start. In addition, I hope to see all of the following take place rather sooner than later:
quality improvements to the patches they “give back” to Debian, and the adoption of a more appropriate medium of exchange. Instead of patches, active reaching out to the Debian developers by the Ubuntu developers would be even better in certain cases. The claim by Mark and one of his employees that this is simply impossible because of the commonly misconceived size of the paid body of developers (which is just too small) is really their challenge, and if they cannot meet it, maybe they have to go around it. It should be noted that efforts along these lines exist, so Canonical does not have to start from scratch. Note to Debian developers: if you’re so inclined, please add your name to the bottom of that page.
a clear statement about how Canonical/Ubuntu plans to coexist or cooperate with Debian, and then the execution of those plans without leaving any doubt.
a survey of the Ubuntu community to gather (and publish) information about common perceptions of Debians position and role with respect to Ubuntu and vice versa. Again, this is something for the Ubuntu Community Council.
steps to ensure better familiarity with the Debian-Ubuntu situation among the Ubuntu community members.
a dedicated space for Debian people to go and be heard. Maybe the #debian-ubuntu channel on irc.debian.org will suffice, if some of the Canonical/Ubuntu higher-ups make an effort to keep an eye on it.
further steps by Canonical towards improving the relationship between the two projects, which could include regular meetings (or even irregular ones), uniting prominent representatives from both sides.
If I may add a thought that has come up lately (it’s not only mine): a derivative like Ubuntu, namely one pushing Debian to the desktop, is an important asset for Debian. However, the only way this is going to work from the Debian perspective is as a mutual effort. If Canonical/Ubuntu do not realise this, maybe another derivative has to step in to fill the void?
I hope this blog entry accomplishes what it tries, namely to shed some (more) light onto the relationship between Debian and Ubuntu, and to help the Canonical/Ubuntu side better understand the Debian perspective.
Sorry for the length, I’ve worked on this entry ever since Debconf6 and despite a lot of editing (also by others; thank you!), it just wouldn’t get shorter. Thanks for reading it all (assuming that’s what you did if you arrived here).
Update: this post has spread significantly, it seems. Thanks to all who’ve passed it on. I know of the following threads that ensued:
* https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/sound ... 08113.html
* http://www.digg.com/linux_unix/Debian_v ... _in_Crisis
* http://debcentral.org/modules/newbb/vie ... pic_id=257
If you find any others, please let me know.
Tags: blog debian planet-debian
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