Debian and Ubuntu – collaboration and issues

This little or perhaps slightly long post would detail the good and bad I have been observing within the Debian community and the influence that Ubuntu has been having, for both good and bad .

first of all, I did receive few messages on my mail regarding my move to 42 nm. This was in form of mails rather than in replies after the blog post. While some were nasty, some were somewhat more positive. My take is simply that not everybody can afford or want to go to the next big thing so quickly. Affordability is a big factor and what I did is simply show people, that you could build systems for so less with reusing some old parts. In fact Digit did something similar in their October November issue – I saw it in some newspaper stands.

To come to Debian and Ubuntu complex relationship there have been many great things which is resulting IMHO of a better Debian project. This is an outsider’s view as in no developer so take it with a pinch of salt.

Some of the good things I feel are :-

1. IRC :- IRC has become a notch more civilized after the Ubuntu project. There were/are more flamers on the #Debian channel than say on the #ubuntu freenode channel. The Ubuntu code of conduct has made quite a bit of difference on ubuntu and perhaps some of that influence might be percolating to the Debian channel as well.

2. Obsolete Documentation :- One of the biggest grouses with Debian has been the obsolete documentation. A simple e.g. would be that Debian cannot install in a logical partition. That’s what the doc./wiki says but in reality if you take the new Squeeze and install it, it happily resides in a logical partition.

3. Blogs :- An off-shoot of that is there are plenty of Ubuntu blogs and stuff one can find on the Internet. Doing little bit of manipulation or not one can do the same thing with Debian.

4. User Interface and Installation :- The last time I tried a full Debian install was around 6-7 years back. I’m sure I would not be the only one to recount the horror stories that I’m sure many people have. You needed to be a truely masochistic dedicated hacker (in all its meanings, glory etc.) in order to install the Debian .iso. Cut to the latest Debian testing i.e. Squeeze and I installed the OS in 20 mins. flat and without needing to resort to any manual or wiki reading. The 20 mins was also because it was through an IDE DVD interface and I wanted to set it up in a specific manner otherwise it would have been done within half the time.

5. Versions :- Now this one is bound to be a bit controversial to say the least. The latest versions that Ubuntu takes out every 6 months is something which is branched of Debian unstable. Anybody who has spent even a week in Debian knows that Debian comes in three basic flavors, stable, testing and unstable. The newest and freshest and perhaps most broken is the unstable one, the testing comes next which would be a bit more stable (less crash and error-prone but not the latest features)and stable as the name goes most stable but would not have as many features as compared to unstable. So for a long long time Debian testing is/was the golden-eyed boy but with a big hitch. On testing sometimes packages disappear as they conflict with other packages or some issue like that. So obviously people are unhappy when that happens. So something called ‘Debian Cut’ has been doing rounds for sometime. It would be really great if Debian cut does become reality some day.

6. Support :- The biggest issue perhaps is support. While Debian is a voluntary project, Ubuntu does bring lot of commercial common-sense and otherwise into it. The basic way they earn is the same/similar to the RedHat way of working. Do large enterprise installs and take AMC’s and work on solutions for them. The only hitch is that Ubuntu doesn’t have a big enough team as RedHat has. RedHat has the funds and nurtures something called Fedora and the whole ‘Fedora Ambassador’ thing which is nothing but nurturing and having future coders and leaders from the community. There is also possibility of getting some work/project through these ambassadors. It works for them.

Ubuntu to my knowledge hasn’t done anything like that. Might be something in UK or somewhere in Africa but not in India AFAIK. There’s only one point man and he’s busy getting projects and work for Ubuntu and himself.

To a more concise point, in Ubuntu I have seen quite a few bug-reports go unanswered or answered in something like please check the new version (as in new release) and see if your issue has been resolved or try out some deb file from somewhere. In other words you are the beta-tester for them. Both of these things point to only one thing, lack of human resources.

One has to keep in mind that Ubuntu has been a pretty recent phenomena while RedHat and Debian have been more than 8-10 years with us.

Debian for sure has a longer package and distribution support time-lines than Ubuntu and that is a good thing in its favor.

While this is a short-note I do see NOW a great future for Debian.


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