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Should Ubuntu Have Been Created?


Should Ubuntu Have Been Created?

I am both a Debian and an Ubuntu developer, and I’m sometimes amazed that Ubuntu discusses technical choices that were discussed (and solved) a few weeks earlier in Debian.

Lucas Nussbaum
What many people don’t understand about Linux development is that it’s truly a team effort:
Red Hat develops the kernel,
Novell develops the applications,
Debian does the packaging,
and Ubuntu takes the credit!

—Joke found on a bathroom stall at LinuxWorld Boston 2005

The next chapter discusses challenges facing the free software community, but Debian/Ubuntu is a specific one to discuss here because it is a case study on the software vehicle that today is the most likely replacement for Windows and the Mac.

While the Linux community has benefited greatly from Ubuntu’s investments and focus on the deficiencies of Debian, it is not clear why Shuttleworth needed to fork Debian to improve Debian in the first place. Hiring volunteers to work full-time is a good way to speed up progress, but they could have done their work inside of Debian if Mark had told them to. If Ubuntu hadn’t been created, and instead those resources spent to improve Debian, things would be farther along today. In addition, there is an argument to be made that both Ubuntu and Debian are hurt by the split.

It is widely accepted in the free software community that Ubuntu and Debian have a special relationship. Ubuntu’s website says that Debian is “the rock” that Ubuntu is built upon. Given that Debian is installed on millions of machines, has been around for 15 years, and has 1,000 developers, this analogy is apt.

While everyone agrees that Ubuntu’s hurting Debian is bad for the free software movement, no one knows the extent of damage to Debian. There are no accepted and published metrics that geeks can use to help analyze the problem — like the number of Debian users who have switched to Ubuntu.5 The Debian developer community is growing linearly, while Ubuntu and other free software efforts are growing exponentially.6 There certainly must have been a slowdown at Debian around the time of Ubuntu’s creation in early 2004.

We know the changes in Ubuntu could have have been achieved by Debian because Shuttleworth hired ten of the best Debian volunteer developers, and they started work in a 100% Debian codebase. Debian is very highly respected within the Linux community, and the pre-Ubuntu consensus was that it was just missing a little polish and dynamism. This could have been easily fixed, especially with the shot in the arm of a few volunteers transitioning to full-time developers. Other computer companies have done their work directly in the Debian codebase, and Shuttleworth has never given justification as to why he couldn’t adopt a similar strategy.7

Geoffrey Moore’s recent book Dealing with Darwin talks about companies getting eaten up by “context”; irrelevant things not “core” or important to the business. With Ubuntu, Shuttleworth created yet another bug-tracking system, source control software, wikis, forums, and in general invested in a lot of infrastructure already in place at Debian. None of that work made Linux any more ready for human beings. Perhaps one-half of Shuttleworth’s early team focused on this non-core work. Even assuming the Debian infrastructure needed work to make it ready for human beings, it is cheaper and better to improve an existing system than to build a new one just to add a few features.

New Linux users are joining the Ubuntu team and contributing to the Ubuntu codebase and community because that is the one set up for them. By analogy, it’s as if someone took Wikipedia, made a few small changes, and this became the website people used rather than Wikipedia itself. If the changes were so good, why were they not made a part of Wikipedia, leveraging Wikipedia’s expertise and processes? Putting the changes directly into Wikipedia would also be better because it would improve Wikipedia, which is what everyone is already using. Forking a codebase is primarily social engineering, with widespread impacts, and goes against the spirit of cooperation inherent in science and free software. In the Linux kernel, the good ideas are incorporated and the bad ones weeded out, but this is all done within the context of one codebase and team. Anyone who wants to improve on Linus’s work can just e-mail him some code changes, there is no reason to create a separate, “competing” kernel.

There is evidence of the inefficiency in the separate organizations. Today, Debian developers and Ubuntu developers are working mostly on separate tracks. One of the best practices I learned at Microsoft was to give a developer full responsibility for a feature. The person adding the footnote code to Word would be responsible for the changes to the user interface, the file format, and the layout engine. This meant collaborating with other developers, but it also made just one person the feature expert, enabling him to make all decisions with a holistic view. Most importantly, it is efficient for this one person to fix any feature bug.

The hard part about doing something is learning how to do it. Making a gourmet dinner, landing the Space Shuttle, or performing open heart surgery is a few hours’ work if you know what you’re doing, but it is time-consuming and nerve-racking if you do not.

When a Ubuntu developer adds a feature, he designs and implements a feature in Ubuntu, but not in the Debian codebase. Now, the only person who understands the change is the Ubuntu developer who made it. Ubuntu publishes its source code on a website, but if a Debian developer grabs it, and runs into problems, he is not an expert in this code yet because it was the Ubuntu developer who first made the change. Therefore, he will need to spend time getting up to speed.

The time to get up to speed is comparable to the time to do the work in the first place. In fact, the Debian developer who integrated a huge set of “X.Org” patches from Ubuntu told me that they were just a “starting point,” unsurprisingly providing little more help than if he had done the work from scratch. I believe that if Shuttleworth understood this concept, he would not have created a separate Ubuntu.

If a different codebase had never been created and all the Debian and Ubuntu developers were working in the same one, they would automatically work more efficiently. They wouldn’t need to redo, and therefore re-learn, what someone else has just done. This would enforce a division of labor and would increase the pace of progress.

Having separate teams is inefficient, but it also hurts Ubuntu’s quality. Whenever a Debian developer is re-learning about a software change first made in Ubuntu, he isn’t using that time to move forward on new things.

Furthermore, Ubuntu isn’t the beneficiary of Debian’s greater expertise, which means their code is buggier than it could and should be. Debian and Ubuntu’s buglist is one of the best metrics today for the set of obstacles preventing world domination. Ubuntu’s user base has grown dramatically, but their small and young team has shown no ability to keep up with the new issues that have come piling in along with the new users. In May 2006, Ubuntu had 10,000 active bugs, and in January 2009, Ubuntu had 76,000.

I discuss more about the challenge of bugs in the next chapter, but the fact that Ubuntu has so many bugs means that there are unsatisfied users, and this is stunting Ubuntu’s growth. Debian’s much larger and more experienced team could provide great assistance, but because the team’s release cycles and bug list are separate, there is no unified effort being made to resolve this challenge.

Because the Ubuntu team is smaller than the Debian team, they argue that they are too busy to take ownership of their work inside Debian. This idea is flawed because if someone else is redoing your work, then you aren’t actually accomplishing anything. “Ya can’t change the laws of physics, Captain Kirk!” If you are not accomplishing anything, it doesn’t matter how busy you think you are. Smaller organizations should actually be more sensitive to wasted work because they have fewer employees.

Shuttleworth claims that Ubuntu and Debian are going after different markets, but he can give no examples of features Ubuntu wants that Debian doesn’t want. If you consider the areas in which Ubuntu has already made engineering investments: simple menus, 3-D graphics, faster startup, and educational software, it should be obvious that Debian wants all of these features as well.8

Many of the features that Ubuntu has added, like better suspend and resume for laptops, Debian is no longer motivated to add because almost any Debian user who wanted this feature is now using Ubuntu. Even if Debian does the work, they might not find the bugs because it doesn’t have that many users testing out the feature. Debian is being consigned to servers and embedded, which has always been their strength, however, these are areas now being targeted by Ubuntu.

In a recent blog post, Shuttleworth wrote that he admires Debian’s goal of building a universal operating system, but he also said in the same post that he believes its objectives are unrealistic. Mark should trust his idealistic side and realize that because software is infinitely malleable, his software innovations can be put into Debian. (It might have to be a separate package, but that is easily doable.) There are strongly unified teams building Wikipedia and the Linux kernel, and their success stories can be applied here.

There is understandably a fair amount of bitterness around, which itself decreases the morale and productivity of the community. Debian has spent over a decade doing foundational work, but Ubuntu has made just a few improvements and grabbed all the excitement and new volunteers. I can’t think of a better way of killing Debian than what Shuttleworth is attempting. I believe he is aware of this issue, but just ignores it.

A separate user community is inefficient, but this is dwarfed by the inefficiency of the separate developer community. The greatest long-term threat to Debian is that they stop accumulating institutional knowledge. The best way to prevent this is to encourage all Ubuntu users who wish to become contributors to directly join the Debian community. Debian is filled with many experienced programmers and is a great place to receive mentoring. And because changes are automatically propagated over to Ubuntu, work in Debian helps Ubuntu.9

I was honored to be a speaker and discuss some of these issues at the annual Debian developer conference in June 2007 in Scotland. A great thing about the free software community is how you can meet and talk with everyone. However, because Ubuntu is one of the most successful Linux distros and has been around for several years, the status quo is accepted. People who only look at the success of Ubuntu are ignoring the opportunity cost of doing things in a better way. One of the reasons that the progress of Linux is so slow is that the community is constantly shooting itself in the face. A big part of Microsoft’s success is the incompetence of its competitors.

If Ubuntu and Debian were to combine their resources, it would eliminate animosity and the end result would be more innovative and reliable. This organization would be in a very good position to replace Windows. The first free software distribution with a community of 10,000 developers wins.

If you’d like to learn more about my book (this is five pages of it) including how to get a free download, click here.

Mark Shuttleworth and I continue the conversation here. He doesn’t appear yet to understand my point.


5 Other good ones are the rate of growth of Debian users versus other, non-Ubuntu, distros. Also useful is the number of Debian developer-hours per person per week.

6 Based on a conversation with former Debian leader Anthony Towns, who said that the number of developers joining Debian has been constant over the last few years.

7 One of the biggest challenges would be for Debian to have two release cycles, one every six months, and one when “it is ready”, which is Debian’s current modus operandi. This is non-trivial, but doable.
Former Debian leader Martin Michlmayr argues in his PhD thesis that Debian should switch to time-based releases. Debian believes they have, but it is an 18-month release cycle, and they still allow themselves to slip. I think a yearly release — perhaps on Debian’s birthday — would be a good thing.
Wider use of Debian Testing would be another possibility. Debian Testing contains the latest tested versions of all the applications all the time. New versions of the applications are pushed to Testing after sitting in the Unstable branch for a few days without any major bugs being found. The package manager even supports a way to install older versions of packages, so you are never stuck.

8 Some argue that supporting as many processor platforms as Debian does is more work than supporting the 3 that Ubuntu supports, but there is very little architecture-specific code in Debian – most of it lives in the Linux kernel and the C compiler. Additionally, Debian has platform maintainers, who are constantly watching if anything breaks. Like with many things, Debian already has the infrastructure and is already doing the work.

9 There is a gaming team that recently decided to do all their work in Debian and just let the changes flow downstream. If all patches flowed in both directions, as everybody claims to want, and Debian and Ubuntu shipped on the same day, how would someone decide which distro to install?

72 comments to Should Ubuntu Have Been Created?

  • Namchi

    It would be great if there were only about ten different distributions instead of the 500+ that exist today. More developers targeted to fewer distributions.
    However, if someone wants to experiment and make their own distro, they are entitled to do so. The license does not forbid them.

    The issue with Debian is that it takes long time to make a decision. I guess for the goals of Shuttleworth it would simply not work out to try to get things done within Debian.

    To paraphrase a famous developer, guiding Debian to follow your vision is like trying to herd 1000 cats. Most like not to work out.

  • Namchi,

    Mark has not presented any proof he couldn’t do this in Debian. There are 100s of people getting things done in Debian, and millions of satisfied users. HP has people working in Debian.

    I agree that leading an organization like Debian is like herding cats. But you can use the Internet to make this process more efficient. And some Debian leaders are better than others. And when Mark hired Debian developers, that would have given him more influence to speed things along. Most people in this world are reasonable, the problem is lack of time.

    Thank you for your feedback, I may put these points into the next version of my book.

  • Dave

    Great article that sums up perfectly the situation.
    A debian/ubuntu merge would dramathically improve the resulting distro, however, for obvious reasons it will never take place.
    Also, I can understand why shuttleworth decided not to participate in debian and create a fork instead. Had he joined an existing group of developers, he could have not ‘imposed’ his personal view and choices (which is basically the reason a merge is just a dream).
    The talk about different audience and whatever is just s**t.
    I’m sad such a great potential was wasted, debian provides an amazingly robust (dev-wise) base which could really benefit by gaining new paid developers.
    I fear too many people will keep on choosing a shiny toy instead of a bit less shiny one but I’m happy to hear that debian is still gaining new devs even though not as many as it deserves.
    Unfortunately, there’s pretty much nothing that can be done, at least until shuttleworth doesn’t get bothered with his toy and decides he’s wasting far more money than he planned (and imo this will undoubtely happen, in the long run).

    • Hi Dave;

      Glad you liked the excerpt. I spent many hours on it.

      If there was something that Mark wanted but Debian didn’t want, he could put it into a package. You can make a special version of Debian with a few different default packages but do it all within the existing Debian structures, bug list, email, conference schedule, etc.

  • Simion

    In Debian i have to compile my sound drivers from source and have to use renamed firefox.
    The bugs are mainly upstream, so packagers are not real devs, real developers work directly upstream and create and improve existing code. If i had a lot of money i would not give it to debian to do what they want, i will pay developers to do what I want,
    Debian and Ubuntu are not compatible so Debian cannot become Ubuntu ever(can’t include drivers for video or sound cards that ubuntu includes) and the vlc in debian lenny is broken after you update the codecs.
    I respect Debian ,but Debian canot become Ubuntu,ever

  • Peter Yellman

    It’s always fun to play “if I were king of the world”.

    Should this blog post have been written? Not if I were king.

    • Asking yourself questions like could I do this task better is an important part of being an engineer. Socrates also talked about it many years ago.

      I just sat down in a chair in Starbucks that was not stable and so I asked myself: “How can I bring a better chair into my kingdom?”

      I have spent days thinking about this topic and talking to Debian and Ubuntu people and reading, etc. And writing those 5 pages of English was like writing 20 pages of code, a very lot of work — not “play”.

      Your kingdom would be a failure.

  • Zaca

    Agreed. But which of the argument is invalid relative to any other distribution? The issue is the same: if there was only one linux distribution, probably that one would evolve faster and has less bugs. Or it will? The most important here is that Ubuntu keeps been foss. While it does it will be no different from any other distribution. And if Debian developers move to ubuntu because of that, that’s life. There is no reason to want or believe that Debian is more important in the very long term and any other of the distributions that appeared and disappeared through history. While Ubuntu is FOSS, if it surpass Debian someone can always fork it after, as it is already been done. That’s simply how foss work, its strength and its weakness.

    • Well, I believe that if Mark had not used Debian and hired Debian people, he might be just another guy working on a distro that never hits mainstream.

      So the idea that Debian is just another distro is not necessarily true.

      The problem is not whether forking is allowed. The question is whether it is a good idea. Part of the success of the Linux kernel is that this hasn’t happened, like what happened with Unix. So these questions do matter.

  • asmiller-ke6seh

    That bathroom wall joke could read (which would not be as funny) “and Ubuntu does the marketing.”

    Marketing is important. Without Ubuntu marketing, I probably would not have come to Linux because I had a problem (dependency on Microsoft) for which I was not aware there was a solution, until I read about Ubuntu in an issue of QST about five years ago.

    The exposure Ubuntu has brought to GNU/Linux – Debian is an enourmous boon to the environment. KeithCu – can you cast light as to what kind of discussions have occurred between Mark Shuttleworth and the Debian forces to bring focus to the problems you outline? As a former software manager, I get it.

    • Hi;

      I agree marketing is important and that Ubuntu has done definitely good things. Do I think the Dell / Ubuntu offering is very good? Not really. Would Debian have done better? I don’t know.

      Here is my blog post about the talk I gave and the subsequent discussion.

  • sirj77

    Ubuntu has it’s place… being that it is easier for someone new to linux to get started (not that Debian is that much harder). The other side of that is, well, I consider 9.04 to be the last good version of Ubuntu. Some didn’t like 9.10 (issues with stuff that worked in 9.04), and some dislike the changes they are making in 10.04. Ubuntu was a good learning experience for me, but I’m slowly going to Debian, mainly because I’m not impressed with 2 sub-par versions of Ubuntu, and Ubuntu becoming some-what bloated vs Debian. Try a clean install of Ubuntu 9.04, and Debain 5.0.4, and you can see the boot time & memory usage difference.
    I know CrunchBang distro ismoving to Debian because of these reasons. I’m looking forward to what they come up with. I know of another distro that was considering moving to Debian, but haven’t seen any movement actually happening yet.

  • Peter Yellman

    Wow, ok I just read that last paragraph “If Ubuntu and Debian were to combine their resources, it would eliminate animosity”, and after I finished laughing I realized there is a good chance the whole post is a work of satire.

    • Hi Peter;

      To be honest, exactly what happens is not my decision, and I don’t even know or consider myself an expert in figuring out how exactly to do things better.

      In general, my book is filled with not just problems in the existing free software community, but solutions. But in this case of Debian and Ubuntu, I am happy to just state the general problem and suggest that merging is the best idea, even if it not socially feasible. Others can figure out all the little ways you can work more closely together to minimize inefficiencies, work better together on bugs, etc.

      Ubuntu and Debian might never merge. And Linux might not ever hit 20% marketshare on the desktop. I don’t know. A major goal of my book was to describe why free software is superior, and all the ways it is shooting itself in the face. Whether the Linux community ever quits doing that is up to others. I take it you are pessimistic on this account.

      The Debian / Ubuntu merge proposal is one of the least controversial of the big topics in my book, so I never really worried about coming up with baby steps of how they could work better together.

  • jeff

    I think the obvious reason that Mark created his own distro was so that he could call the shots on the direction that things take. Saying that Ubuntu should merge with Debian is not much different than saying that Debian could merge with Ubuntu. Yes, Debian got there first, but Ubuntu is what people want to use. You would still have the resources you want and no duplication of activities…but then you would be working for someone else.

    It sounds like what Mark really wants is a better way for distro’s to have the same timed releases but still function the same from a political standpoint. The politics is the hardest thing to overcome. Finding developers that like to hack code is easy. Finding leaders that would step down and follow someone else is very difficult.

  • D

    Very nicely written, very convincing! I especially like how you describe the amount of effort necessary (try to) to understand changes made by others. I think psychologists found in a work on “context switches” that getting into a new context consumes a lot of energy and is very inefficient and should thus be avoided. And of course you’re right – this is energy completely wasted.

    Ubuntu should cooperate and concentrate on fixing bugs in the Debian tree and only make changes where there really are conceptual and policy differences like with proprietary drivers and software, release dates, etc.

    And yes, Ubuntu needs many developers more. Their Launchpad starts to become an empty vessel…

  • maxstirner

    You’re rightly lamenting the fact that contributions should really be made to debian rather than ubuntu.

    Your analysis is great, you’re just lacking the commercial perspective. ubuntu is primarily a branding exercise, and no one’s making a secret of the fact that Canonical is hoping to cash in on the future gnu/linux wave, perhaps in support, perhaps in deployment software and customisation, whatever. It is not a charitable entity or not-for-profit organisation, rather, Canonical is located in the low to no tax isle of man jurisdiction for a good reason: To cash in on the future.

    Free software is a beautiful ecosystem because anyone will be able to provide these services in the future, so one shouldn’t be too bothered.

  • Bernard Swiss

    If the baker is not happy with the flour he’s using, should he build, run and maintain his own, similar mill, or should he work with his uncle — the older, established baker — to improve the big mill they’ve both been relying on?

  • William

    I think because Ubuntu has been created Linux has gained much more recognition, but I am not for so many distributions, I want the community to unite so the effort can be focused on making an OS so usable and attractive that people just switch because it is just better in every way. Currently with so much work towards so many distro’s I never see that happening in the near future.

  • Gordon Messmer

    I thought it was pretty clear that Shuttleworth created Ubuntu specifically because, as you quoted, he thought that Debian’s objectives are unrealistic. Debian has a strict social contract in which Shuttleworth has no interest. A great deal of Ubuntu’s “improvements” seem to be adding software which doesn’t conform with the social contract, which Debian won’t include.

    Not everything that Ubuntu does requires a separate distribution. They could improve efficiency by contributing more of their work upstream to Debian, but in order to create a distribution that is open to software which isn’t Free they did need to create Ubuntu.

    • It is easy to create a “debian-illegal-stuff” package that people could install if they want to.

      A very small part of Ubuntu is code that Debian doesn’t allow for religious reasons. Ubuntu doesn’t ship with MP3 or DVD code out of the box as they are actually trying to be somewhat Debian-like here. But adding a bit of code by default and creating a re-spin is easy and tiny. That difference is miniscule compared to the code delta that exists today.

      • Gordon Messmer

        Debian’s exclusion of non-Free software isn’t religious. For the most part it’s legal, and to some extent political, but not at all religious.

        I’m sure the differences between the two distributions is now fairly significant, but I question whether that is the effect of the split or the intent. I’m inclined to believe that it is the effect, and not the intent. Understanding the difference is significant: failure to differentiate the effect of an action from the intent is the foundation of all conspiracy theories. ;)

        • Hi Gordon;

          I use the word religion out of laziness / convenience. ;-) I also think that software patent risks are way overblown, so that feeds into it a bit.

          That is a good point about intent and conspiracy theories…

          I called it an unintended consequence in my Debconf presentation. But at the same time, let’s suppose that Mark has gotten an inkling of this issue over the years, but has refused to consider it. Then how would you characterize it?

  • Maxei

    Are Debian and Ubuntu “philosophically” incompatible? Do these teams differ in objectives and goals? If not, then we have to admit that there is more than one way to achieve those goals. Is it that Ubuntu and Debian are trying in different ways? One thing I drawed from your book (which is excellent and clearly written) is that Ubuntu simply outrun Debian in becoming more popular. Yes, Ubuntu “the hare” has more bugs than Debian, but Debian, due to his “sluggishness” (relative, of course, to Ubuntu) seems like the tortoise in the fable. I have used Debian in the past, but painful problems related to drivers for graphics cards made me switch to Ubuntu, which permitted very easily to instal proprietary drivers in a blink of an eye.
    I admire Debian, and wish to go back. Debian needs to be more dynamic and more “open-minded” towards proprietary drivers. Who knows, now that Mark S. is stepping down of CEO of canonical (?), I would like to propose him as the next leader of Debian team. Debian still has the best developers, and Mark can bring fresh ideas and, most importantly, money (of course) to stir things quite a bit. Hope not having missed the point. Probably I did anyways ;-)

  • George

    This article assumes that Shuttleworth spent millions of dollars siphoning off Debian talent and creating a linux community because he wanted to create the best software possible. While I have no doubt he says this type of thing publicly, the reality he wasn’t doing this as a donation — he was/is trying to create a business. Obviously to have value, a business needs to have/build assets. In this case a brand, a community, some proprietary infrastructure that community relies on to work, etc.. Everythign he has done has been deliberate, and Shuttleworth has done *very* well at achieving his goals. While linux has clearly benefited from his investment, it likely has been done to Debian’s detriment. It is unfortunate that he picked the one free community (e.g., instead of fedora or openSuse) as his base. As he basically attacked the one organization which was least able to defend itself.

    Yes we’d likely all be further along with less duplicated effort if Cannonical had poured its energy/money into Debian, but then Cannonical wouldn’t own it. Why would someone build a mansion on property they didn’t own? Shuttleworth is a shrewd businessman, and we should not expect anything less (or more) from him.

    • Hi George;

      He could have created a business using Debian — that is what HP does. Everything he wanted to do could be done with Debian, including the business angles. He could have create a Debian support contract company, gone to Dell and negotiated it with them, etc.

      He wouldn’t own Debian, but he doesn’t own Ubuntu either. I can go download the Ubuntu code and do with it as I please. The comparison between software bits and a mansion is not valid.

  • thomas

    If Debian had provided what the users wanted, Ubuntu would not have happened. They didn’t, so Ubuntu did. End of story, so quit crying about it, and blaming the people who did what you wouldn’t.

  • ian

    Ubuntu has a critical function in the Linux universe; it’s the distro with trainer wheels (and quaintly coloured ones at that). It lowers the learning curve significantly, and does a pretty good job of lowering the standard so that no longer do you get given “enough rope to hang yourself” quite so easily.

    It also helps keep the less than adept at Linux in their own playground, so to speak, so that questions about eg how to install package x, or where to find a terminal, don’t keep popping up in the other distributions; and the more adept can have a more learned discussion without endless inane questions.

    The ease of use will attract more experienced individuals as well; that’s just as well, but they’re always going to be overwhelmed, and their contributions upstream are likely to be small due to the need to focus on the downstream demands.

  • GW

    Oh, boo hoo! Why all the crying? Every time Linux starts to climb out of the primeval pond and evolve into something fully useful to someone other than geeks and hobbyists we get all this wailing and gnashing of teeth. You’re probably rending your garments and munching on sour grapes. In case anyone has forgotten, Shuttleworth is not some guy in a garage struggling on a shoestring budget to start a small business. He’s a billionaire who could have put his money anywhere, and I am damn glad he put it into the Linux operating system. I suppose rich people always want more money and the most beautiful woman in the world was not enough for Tiger, but I don’t think Ubuntu was all about making money. Maybe Shuttleworth wants to be the next Bill Gates, but it seems to me that what he did in forming Ubuntu has not only improved Linux but has made the world a better place. There comes a time when an operating system should simply perform its function properly and effectively right out of the box. That’s what Ubuntu does, and plain Debian does not. If you can’t deal with that fact, I don’t know what anyone can do to help you. My personal preference is Linux Mint. It is currently Ubuntu-based, but they say Mint is switching over to Debian. If that happens and the OS keeps working great, I’ll be happy for me and happy for Debian. Otherwise, I’ll switch to something that works. I am certainly not at the developer level, but I am capable of doing what I need to do in order to get a plain vanilla package running. I also enjoy the tinkering, but there are times when I just need a fully functional, stable and easily upgraded system that I can depend on. Let Debian do their thing, and let Ubuntu do their thing. Live and let live.

  • maxstirner

    Don’t forget the importance of brand and trademarks in the age of marketing! This is an exercise in rebranding really. Consider firefox -> iceweasel for a moment.. Mozilla owns the brand, and jealously guards it, making it incompatible with debian policy.

    “He wouldn’t own Debian, but he doesn’t own Ubuntu either. I can go download the Ubuntu code and do with it as I please. The comparison between software bits and a mansion is not valid.”

    Yes, but you can’t call it ubuntu and redistribute it as such.. The company does own ubuntu the name, the brand, the hype!

    “Canonical owns a number of trademarks and these include UBUNTU, KUBUNTU, EDUBUNTU, and XUBUNTU. The trademarks are registered in both word and logo form. Any mark ending with the letters UBUNTU or BUNTU is sufficiently similar to one or more of the trademarks that permission will be needed in order to use it.”

    http://www.ubuntu.com/aboutus/trademarkpolicy

    Best regards

  • maxstirner

    I should really elaborate – the direct link between canonical and the ubuntu ecosystem then gives the company a virtual monopoly on being the point of first call for ubuntu support and implementation services, such as via landscape. This would not be the case with debian – you would be one of any number of support companies, even if you happen to be a major contributor of source code.

  • With Ubuntu, Shuttleworth created yet another bug-tracking system, source control software, wikis, forums, and in general invested in a lot of infrastructure already in place at Debian. None of that work made Linux any more ready for human beings. Perhaps one-half of Shuttleworth’s early team focused on this non-core work. Even assuming the Debian infrastructure needed work to make it ready for human beings, it is cheaper and better to improve an existing system than to build a new one just to add a few features.

    That is so far from reality…
    First:
    Shuttleworth didn’t create yet another bug-tracking system. He created a better bug-tracking system. Launchpad succeeds where debbugs fails. It’s much more usable, it has a better search (debbugs’ search is a pain in the a$$), better interface, better management of attachments (debbugs doesn’t have any), and it’s all accessible both by web and email (debbugs forces you to send an email to report new bugs, no web interface exists for that).
    Launchpad allows any human being to report a bug or translate the application without knowing any tech-fu. Debbugs requires a new user to understand how it works before using it. Ubuntu Forums made it easier for new users to ask questions and discuss problems than joining a Debian mailing list or a usenet group. Debian doesn’t have any official web based forum.
    Debian has a significant barrier to entry, and Ubuntu has managed to lower it. That’s why it has achieved such a success.

    Second:
    It’s not always cheaper and better to improve an existing system than to build a new one.
    The legacy systems often have so much cruft accumulated that it’s much easier to start from scratch or do a significant fork.
    See: Mac OS X vs Mac OS 9, Windows XP vs Windows ME, Firefox vs Mozilla Suite/old Netscape, and many more.
    Microsoft just couldn’t fix the DOS-based Windows versions without starting from scratch, that’s why they’ve created Windows NT and later based Windows XP on that.
    Firefox dropped all the non-webbrowser (email, chat, …) features of Mozilla Suite and this is why they were able to achieve a much faster browser.
    Time-based releases or the inclusion of binary drivers and firmware are the things that couldn’t be achieved in Debian without creating a fork.

    • I do agree that it can be cheaper to build a new codebase than improve an existing one if the codebase is in really bad shape. You have to look at the codebase to decide. You present evidence that the debian tool is missing features, but not that it should be thrown away. Comparing debbugs to huge things like Mac OS 9 or Firefox is not appropriate. It is easier to fix chunks of a little web app like debbugs as it is not millions of lines of code.

      Debian did have forums, even if they could have been improved.

      The point is that rather than creating everything from scratch, he could have fixed / energized the existing efforts *and people*! Now we have two groups of people doing the same thing.

      Time-based releases require a separate tree, but not a fork. Looking back on it now, I wish he had decided to build on top of Debian-testing. I hate that I constantly upgrade Ubuntu, and yet it is constantly out of date. Debian-testing is a feature of Debian that Mark removed.

      Proprietary stuff just requires a special meta-package, and not even a separate fork.

      • Have you used Launchpad for a relevant period of time?
        I’m using Launchpad for over 4 years (since Ubuntu 5.10). I’ve also reported some bugs in Debian. And I’ve reported lots of bugs in other projects that use Bugzilla, Trac, Flyspray, and other tools. Debbugs was always slowing me down while Launchpad is easy, fast, and it’s more than just a bug tracker. It’s also code hosting, translations, feature specifications tracking, package repository, and simple user support engine (answers).
        And what’s also important: Launchpad is able to import data (bug statuses, comments) from other bug trackers (Bugzilla, Debbugs, Trac, …). This allows you to track the progress of similar bugs in other distros, and in upstream projects.
        Debbugs couldn’t be extended with all these features. For such a complicated system a rewrite from scratch was the only option.
        Read help.launchpad.net and launchpad.net/+tour for a detailed feature overview of Launchpad.

        • There are millions of people writing software using tools other than Launchpad. I’ve used many and Launchpad seems like any other.

          You wouldn’t necessarily extend debbugs with all these features. It would just be the bug portion. Also, check out Alioth.

          You have conflated Ubuntu and Launchpad, thinking Launchpad was a necessary part of Ubuntu’s success. That is wrong.

  • joe

    Ubuntu should just crawl in a hole and go away. It is a pointless distro that brings only dumb fanboys to linux. Ubuntu is just hype, nothing more. They do not listen to the community, they make decisions like including mono and other bad things into linux, and then give other distro’s a bad rep because they won’t. It’s just a commercial distro controlled by a dictator with money in mind that doesn’t listen to its users. Kind of sounds like microsoft to me.

  • Phil

    The answer to this question is quite possibly very simple. Can I download and install Debian and get my work done and enjoy my other usage patterns with fairly up to date packages and without having to tweak alot to get things to work. For anyone thats going to answer this question be honest. I’m going to download Debian again and try just that. If I can do everything as easily as I can on Ubuntu then the answer is no…Ubuntu is not needed. If I cannot then yes Ubuntu was needed.

    While I do like to dig around in my OS and learn it I don’t always have time to do that. In some instances I just want to turn it on and use it. I get both of those with Ubuntu. So I’m going to try Debian again. I didn’t give it alot of testing on my first go around. I understand that I will need to enable some additional repositories to get the latest packages similar to what I’m offered in Ubuntu. If I’m going to introduce system instability then please just tell me now. Again if you tell me that I will then you have just answered the question again. Ubuntu is needed.

    Ubuntu to me is simply polish on something thats already good but can’t focus on the last mile for making the core so good. Thats perfectly fine with me. Some people don’t need that polish and prefer a more barebones experience. Some need more things done for them. Some need even more and thats why you have distros like Mint. Thats the beauty of the Linux community IMO. You can get an OS thats tailored specifically to your needs. So it bothers me when I see people commenting against that and questioning the need for derivative works. In the end the strong will survive so I don’t really believe there is a need for bashing on anyones part. And ironically there seems to be alot of Ubuntu bashing from various distros while Ubuntu runs away with market share. Maybe instead of bashing the other distros should look at whats allowing this to happen (shouldn’t be much since they all claim Ubuntu really brings nothing to the table) and copy it. Then these distros will start pulling share away from Ubuntu and there won’t be a distro to bash. Simple as that.

  • Keith, I did consider in some depth the idea of trying achieve the goals of Ubuntu inside of Debian. I was / am a Debian developer, I respect and admire and enjoy Debian. I think I understand Debian’s great strengths, and also have some insight into it’s weaknesses. And of the latter, I think I understand how to help them, and which things can’t be helped.

    Mixing money into the Debian process would be extremely problematic. You may be aware of the great body of research into human behaviour when money is introduced into a purely volunteer ecosystem – it can be disastrous. We saw a small taste of that a few years after Ubuntu was started, with the DPL of the day raised some funds to help get Debian on track for a release. The result as a paralyzing debate about who should get the money, what was appropriate, whether it would demotivate everyone else, and so on. An admirable and well intentioned effort, but one that just could not be made to work. Imagine now trying to do the same, but at a scale a hundred times larger.

    I greatly admire the fact that Debian provides the world with a platform that embraces so many architectures, and so many use cases. That is in a real sense the profound value of Debian. And yet, it is in direct tension with the goals of Ubuntu to focus on specific use cases. That doesn’t make Ubuntu right, or Debian wrong, or the other way around. It means that trying to fit both goals into one organisation would be very hard, and beyond my diplomatic or other skills. And, as I said above, money would not help.

    I wish I could do justice in this paragraph to all the ways in which Ubuntu developers try to ensure that their work is of benefit to Debian. And I wish I could do justice to the efforts of many Debian developers to make sure that their work benefits the millions of users of Ubuntu, too, because they care that their valuable time have the biggest possible impact. I’m grateful to both groups, as I think should all the users of both be grateful. Alas, for those who wish to find conspiracy or malice, there are always examples of things that could have been handled better. In two projects of this scale, why wouldn’t there be? And those examples are triumphantly held up as proof of nefarious intent.

    I used to be anxious that Ubuntu should be loved by Debian developers as much as Debian is loved by Ubuntu. But I’m coming round to the view that that’s just not going to happen. And that’s OK. We’ll continue to focus on making the world a better place as best we can, and doing it in a way which Debian can use if it’s helpful to Debian. You and I have met and discussed these things before, but I don’t think I’ll be able to convince you of anything. C’est la vie.

    To those who’ve read this far, I would only say that in my judgment it would not have been possible to make the same impact if we had tried to build consensus inside Debian on the things that we have needed to prioritise with Ubuntu. Debian is an amazing and important institution, but it’s great strength is the vociferousness with which it resists narrow priorities. And I’ve no desire to change that.

    Mark

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by linuxzasve.com and Silnews, Ian Cylkowski. Ian Cylkowski said: Should #Ubuntu have been created? http://bit.ly/amX85B [...]

  • April

    Splitting the Debian Developer base is never a good thing. The only reason that would justify such a move is so that one can

    Takes CONTROL the direction of the distro
    Takes CREDIT for the movement
    Makes PROFIT, turning the distro into a RH/Novell/Apple sort of thingy.

    A SAD thing for Debian.

    • @April:

      Making profit supporting Debian is fine. I don’t believe Mark created Ubuntu to make money for himself. He wants to make his efforts sustainable, so looking for money is good. I see that service and support is a great way to fund the creation of more free software. Money mixed with free software is a good thing; 75% of the coders to the Linux kernel are being paid.

      And Mark could have had plenty of influence in Debian. A healthy amount, but not too much. It is a do-ocracy. Everyone who contributes to Debian brings ideas; whether they come from themselves or someone they work for, who is to say or care?

      -Keith

  • anderson

    Very nice article to read and to follow.. and I’ll be shifting to Debian 6.0 coming this summer.. I am hopeful that the Ubuntu Dev. will act accordingly.

  • jet

    Ubuntu did a nice job at the beginning, attracted new users, attention, buzz. But started to float away from Debian and became a very buggy distro.
    I am a Debian user, I have also Ubuntu installed to keep an eye on it. I am amazed for bugs I see, they don’t exist in Debian (and I am using testing and unstable Debian branches), which means they introduced them by themselves or didn’t take the fixes from Debian.

    The last effort in the server field to re-brand Debian sounds very pathetic. At the beginning (while are still close to Debian) maybe will work, but later will become a disaster.
    For desktop, maybe is ok to screw the original-change some colors and icons, but for servers- I wouldn’t rely on such an experiment, where reliability is the king.

    Debian is a very respected server distro and I can only imagine after a while what cr*p will became Ubuntu- with respect to all bugtrack and Launchpad and whatever infrastructure they have.

    My main concern is they don’t care about users. They just want to replace Apple cr*p with another cr*p and say they changed the world. Or like “inventive” MS – they invented everything even the wheel and the hot water.
    A lot of people even journalists think Ubuntu == Linux which is not
    or PC == Windows, thanks to marketing
    Moving away from Ubuntu of some Ubuntu based distros is a sign and this sign comes from people who know how to build, maintain and distribute OS and what is beneath the hood

    Good job Keith.

  • Moksha

    My recent experience demonstrates why Ubuntu is needed. I booted a PC from the latest Debian LiveCD.

    1. The LiveCD contained menu items that could just as well be gibberish to an ordinary person. In contrast, Ubuntu menu items are not that different from what one would encounter on other platforms.

    2. The LiveCD contained no method of installing Debian to the computer! In order to discover this I had to wade through a massive amount of dense material, unlikely to be intelligible to the general public, in the Debian LiveCD “documentation”.

    In contrast, you can install Ubuntu from its LiveCD. What a concept.

    Debian is a fabulous and praiseworthy project, but Ubuntu, Mint, eeebuntu and the others are needed because Debian does not place a high value on usability and friendliness.

    • Hello Moksha;

      To be precise, all you have done so far is demonstrated that Debian needs work. And you’ve also demonstrated a problem that exists with the current situation: improvements made by Ubuntu years ago are not going back to Debian.

      Ubuntu and Mint are very different in scope. Shallow forks of Debian are a fine thing to add bits of questionable code, or subset it or make different defaults (education, multimedia, etc.)

  • 1) I’ve been using Debian for a long time, and have never really found it difficult to use… not even as a noob. The proprietary drivers have to be installed by hand, but so what? It’s usually just a matter of installing a package from the non-free repos.

    2) I believe that Ubuntu actually does harm to the Linux community by ultimately driving newcomers away. Why? Because Ubuntu is not stable. If I can crash an OS it’s a piece of crap.

    3) There are a lot of very noob-friendly distros out there that install all the proprietary stuff by default and include all the same training wheels Ubuntu does… and still manage to be stable. Tried SimplyMepis? There’s only one thing Ubuntu has that they don’t… money for marketing.

    4) Ubuntu has the potential to be a great OS. They need to: a) lose the 6-month release cycle. All that does is guarantee you’re still going to have a lot of bugs at release time. b) Quit knocking themselves out to always include the latest software whether it’s been tested thoroughly or not.

    Stability. That’s got to be first, last, and always. An OS should work… period. That trumps everything, including ease of use.

  • Max

    As an Opensuse user I am not very much interested about Debian or Ubuntu however, the bottom line is that Mark Shuttleworth is a clever man and I salute the likes of him.

  • someone

    A Debian developer did a statistics thesis about Debian contributors. He reached some interesting conclusions about the effect of Ubuntu on Debian. I’d suggest checking out his presentation at DebConf9 (watch the video).

    http://gaudenz.durcheinandertal.ch/thesis

  • Pure Debian is not for newbie. U need use debian derivative. Some is good, some is better. I have used Catix, SimplyMepis, PureOS, Oshirix, Parsix and now i stuck at Epidemic. Too bad no english support for Epidemic GNU/Linux. Epidemic is the only one with gdebi-KDE.

    • Once setup, Debian has long worked just fine for newbies. And now, even the setup process is quite reasonable.

      Even so, with a larger team, they could have made it better. Creating a separate team is social engineering and damaging. Imagine if Mark had hired 10 desktop developers and put them on a better Debian desktop? Do you know what we would have achieved in the last 5 years? Instead he has spent a lot of time rebuilding what Debian already had. Debian was setup to take lots of volunteers, whereas Ubuntu was not. Existing Debian developers have been waiting for years for the volunteers to show up.

      I’ve come to the realization that something like canceling MOTU would be a useful thing.

  • Embedded

    I can sympathize with Debian’s predicament. However as a pre-flamed embedded developer I have to point out one cannot make the changes necessary to create a viable product in the embedded space without doing a LOT of things that are not popular with the Debian community.

    So to with Ubuntu. It is just not politically possible.

    So like Ubuntu we embedded types have our own packaging systems like bitbake, ptxdist etc. etc. our own repo’s that pull kernel.org, debian then patch them and our own bug tracking systems.

    So if Debian was serious the thousands of Embedded Linux developers would be able to use pure Debian and build our embedded castles. We even more than ubuntu need our apps, kernels and build systems to work. Look we contribute code to the Kernel on a regular basis as a group and have to.

    Android will be the next gate crasher to the party. Why did Google not choose to code in Debian? Simply because there just is not enough time in ones life. Linus dropped Android patches from the Kernel and quick like a bunny Google made nice.

    If Linus dropped ARM patches from the Kernel all manner of support would be forthcoming. It should be Debian’s goal to be at least as relevant.

    • Hi Embedded;

      Thanks for this information.

      I would be curious to know what features you require of Debian, and why you can’t do those features in their codebase. Debian works with FreeBSD and Hurd. I realize those are just different kernels, but it does demonstrate that plugging in all kinds of different things are possible.

  • James McGoodwin

    I sort of feel naive here, but I wanted to throw my two cents in and see what thoughts people have.

    Through out the whole article and the subsequent comments, I haven’t found a single instance of the word that seems, to my layman sensibilities, to be the crux of the matter. No one’s said the word “Capitalism” yet. asmiller-ke6seh has said marketing. maxstirner talked about the “commercial perspective”. Both are hints at it but stop short of the prime argument for me.

    What I see is a community based product that’s free for use with the the Linux-Good-Faith-Expectation: that any improvements made by someone should be made for the good of the community by being returned to the product’s source.

    What it sounds like is that Mark Shuttleworth has done a very capitalist thing. He’s taken something that was freely and legally available, poured money and resources into it to make it better, and built a business around his investment. There’s no stipulation in capitalism that he has to feed that work back to the community he originally sourced from, where as there’s almost a requirement that he to take what he can and make it as proprietary and branded as possible.

    Indeed, maxstirner pointed out that a very capitalist monopoly has been made for support of the Ubuntu branded products.

    Pardon me for a moment, and allow me to phrase this in a grossly black and white way, but it sounds to me like this is an argument about whether what’s best for Linux is capitalism or socialism.

    If you feel the former is better, then naturally it follows that Ubuntu is a healthy, normal progression of the Debian OS, driven by the supply of a marketable demand.

    If you feel the latter is better, then no, Ubuntu is nothing more than a parasitic abuse of the Good-Faith-Expectation of Linux.

    The third option is of course that my take on the argument is completly a false dilemma, but I submit it any way for comment:)

    • Hi;

      This has nothing to do with capitalism and I support capitalism. I didn’t bring it up because it outside the topic. This has to do with in-efficiency of creating two organizations doing the same thing. Please re-read this post.

  • Anon

    Late post, I know.

    Canonical’s end game is corporate-centric, the Debian Project’s is not. In this circumstance, community will only be important in so much as that community can be leveraged as underpaid or unpaid resources (coders, consumers, forum help, trendsetters, etc) both currently and down the line. It’s not about providing something to the world, it’s about making money. Shuttleworth’s goal isn’t 200 million Linux users by 2015, it’s 200 million Ubuntu users by 2015; Linux is just a means to that end and is therefore along for the ride even if it means pulling the cart.

  • ZERO

    FREEDOM. If you don’t like Ubuntu, go use another distro. If you like Debian, go use it and work on it. If Mark hired people from Debian, if he’s using in differents ways, good luck Mark… YOU have the FREEDOM to do anything you want with DEBIAN, UBUNTU, Slackware, Fedora, etc. etc. etc. If you think Debian have a linear growth, open up emacs and write some code that really helps people have a better computer experience.
    Go and help Debian and be more efficient in your words. Shake the comunity around. Don’t waste your time pointing the finger to some distros. It doesn’t matter the distro. The real goal here is how you can help other people… the community!
    You wasted several minutes writing this post instead of write some real CODE.

  • thom

    @KeithCu: You’ve put forward some very interesting points, and your main gripe is the inefficiency of splitting up forces…..can you tell us more about how Debian started and where it came from and why they founded a distro while there were already other distros around ? In the name of efficiency: why did Debian people not team up with an existing distro like, for Softlanding/Slackware or Yggdrasil ? Any idea how much further the developement of GNU/linux would be if Debian had not followed it’s own route but had bundeled it’s powers with these older peers ?

    Another question: Would GNU/Linux be healthy within a monoculture ?
    Another question: Dou you really beleave that a monoculture is efficient if there is no healthy competition (=inspiration) at all ? Don’t you think that this would evolve into a highly burocratic, slow and lazy mastodont that entirely blocks any progress ?

    Another question: Don’t you see that the goals of Ubuntu and Debian are both very important but mutual exclusive ?
    Another point: Would a distro like Ubuntu have had any chance to develop their vision within the realms of Debian ? (and I dare you to be honest!!)

    And between you and Mark: have you ever invested anything in bringing GNU/Linux to the masses ?
    have you ever invested anything in getting proprietary hardware vendors to open up drivers or specs ?
    Do you agree that the goals of Debian are totally different compared to the goals of Ubuntu ?

    Can’t you really see that the community can’t thrive without one or the other and how Debian and Ubuntu are both dearly needed in the form they exist now side by side ?
    Can’t you really see that the existance of Ubuntu AND Debian only made GNU/Linux stronger than it otherwise had ever could been ?

    You might be a good programmer but you should go out more often and try to understand how forces work and how politics can ruin everything.

    Take my advice: You are generating discord and strife. Something that is counterproductive and does a lot of damage to the community. Together we stand strong, devided we will fall. Stop pissing off your allies. Accept Ubuntu and try to find ways to ease cooperation instead of spreading hatered and discord amongst your allies. It is not about you having an axe to grind. It is about the future, community an cooperation. For god’s sake…we are all in the same fragile boat..stop rocking!

    • My book does talk more about the history of Debian elsewhere. I don’t know why Debian didn’t team up with the other distros you mentioned back in 199x. I am mostly focusing on the Ubuntu / Debian one because they are the most important community distros today. If someone wants to write about Slackware, that is their choice, but I don’t mention it in my book and don’t know much about it, I’ve never seen it, etc. Whether it makes sense to fork is a decision that depends on the unique circumstances of each situation. I focus on just one as that is plenty of work.

      I don’t think you can have a monoculture of free software. Look at Wikipedia, it is just one encyclopedia, but it has so much input from so many people that there isn’t a great clamoring for another one with a bit more polish, etc.. The reason to fork is for cases like this: http://keithcu.com/wordpress/?p=2962

      You can have competition within a monoculture. The Linux kernel supports multiple file systems, and those sub-teams “compete” with each other, learn from each other, etc. There is plenty of diversity in the Linux kernel, yet it is one team and buglist, etc.

      I don’t see Ubuntu and Debian’s goals as mutually exclusive. Note that I wrote those words in 2007, and at the time the changes Ubuntu was making were changes that Debian wanted: faster startup, modular X.Org, better suspend / resume, etc. At the time I wrote those words, these were the features Ubuntu was working on. Of course, things have changed over the years, but this does demonstrate something important and I keep it here for historical purposes.

      I’m primarily a journalist now, but I would say that I’ve done a lot of work to help bring Linux to “the masses” with my writings, movie, etc. I haven’t written bunches of software, etc. tried to build a community, etc. but I don’t have money like Mark has. I respect all the good he has done. He’s also done a lot more since when I wrote those words. You might think that I cause strife, but my goal is to get people to work better together. In addition, if people see the importance of Debian, they will do their work in Debian, and this helps Ubuntu as changes flow downstream, so to say that I advocate for Debian doesn’t mean that I am hurting Ubuntu. I was concerned about Debian dying (and am still concerned about it) so would you say that is not something worth writing about?

      I don’t think that the current form of Ubuntu / Debian is the most optimal. Lots of people look at the world as it exists today and just assume this is what was meant to be. Things are getting better in some ways in terms of mixed-teams, etc. The Debian-Games team is a group of people who work together in an efficient way. Are you against efforts like Debian-games? So when you say that the current situation and form as it currently exists is ideal, it means you aren’t aware of mixed-teams, and how this is a provable way for things to be better. Why would that mixed-team exist unless they realized this way is the most efficient?

      I don’t have an axe to grind. I knew nothing about Debian / Ubuntu till just a few years ago. I will remind you that I have talked to many Debian people in 2007 who agreed with my ideas. I have spent many hours talking to Debian people. Much of my work is not “mine”, but ideas that I have collected from others. I may revise these words when I next revise my book as it is old. Not many people read these words anymore, as they are old so you don’t need to really worry about me making things worse.

  • Not a Developer

    Hello,

    when I first started hearing about linux and ubuntu (around 2007). This is one of the questions that came to my mind: Why waste resources by having different distributions. These days, there are too many problems in ubuntu that I no longer want to tell others about ubuntu.

    Not a Developer

  • Keith, I absolutely agree with your argument. I myself was an Ubuntu (Linux Mint) user for around two years, but after that initial n00b-period, I started being more and more interested in the workings of Linux and the history of some of the prominent distros out there.

    When I found Debian, I discovered it to be EXACTLY (or almost exactly) the same as Ubuntu, but “purer.” My system was much cleaner, efficient, faster, and I found the Debian repos to have all, or almost all of the packages that can be found in Ubuntu. I also liked Debian’s philosophy, compared to Ubuntu’s (which is more focused on making $$$ than producing a quality product).

    Ubuntu did a really bad thing. Debian was not broken, but apparently to Ubuntu, Debian wasn’t good enough. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is what I believe in, but Ubuntu? they just went downhill.

    I’ve been using Debian straight for three years now, and I’ve never looked back at Ubuntu.

  • Debian-fan

    I’m just a desktop-user. Started of with linux in 2000 with Red Hat but hit really fast a dependency-hell when installing just a little bit of software, soon discovered the ‘easy’ Mandrake an used it as a base for jumping to a higher level: gentoo. Stayed about two years with gentoo and then tried one of the first ubuntu’s in 2004. Stayed with it till 2011 when ubuntu was rapidly beginning to introduce ubuntu-only software: unity, upstart, etc.
    Made the switch to Debian and I found it to be more stable (even using sid), it has more software-packages, no annoying glitches when upgrading to a new version, … and they follow the mainstream linux-projects: gnome, kde, libreoffice, … Debian lacks some GUI-polish but hey, there are a lot of very beautifull shell-themes, icons, GTK3-themes, … out there. It is a bit ‘slow’ in development but you get a trouble-free distro where everything works (if you add non-free and deb-multimedia)
    Untill 3 years ago I would have advertised Ubuntu for desktopcomputer. Now I only advise Debian: stability, community, integrity.

    I can understand ubuntu’s point of view: they want to be present on the desktop, server, phone, television, cloud, tablet, … That is why they want the same interface on all these devices, why they develop mir – unity – upstart – etc. I can understand why they are in a fase where they ask for a donation when you want to download ubuntu (developers have to be paid).
    What canonical lacks to see is that they are too small to be present on all these platforms, that they still depend heavily on the community and ‘third-partie’, that the move away from the linux-community-projects will lead to greater costs, that they have no killer-application or killer-hardware from which they can start and grow/spread.
    It seems to me that they have become too much selfcentric and no longer ubuntu.

    If you would like to download ubuntu these days you are now presented a donation-page: you can spend some dollars on features (they apparently aknowledge it by suggesting these options) that could be better:
    – Community participation in Ubuntu development
    – Better coordination with Debian and upstreams
    – Better support for flavours like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu
    I mean ubuntu knows that these topics need attention…

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