Revision 32 as of 2006-01-18 11:05:34

Clear message

Is Ubuntu worth watching ?

  • Ubuntu doesn't try to hide its [http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ubuntu/relationship Debian roots].

  • Ubuntu wants to contribute back to Debian (this process needs improving - see below)

  • Ubuntu has brought new users to GNU/Linux. Some day, those new users might become Free Software developers, advocates or DD's.
  • Debian is the perfect distribution for some usages and Ubuntu fits nicely on other systems (laptops, or end-users desktops).

What is Universe ? And MOTU ?

Ubuntu has four components (like Debian's main, contrib and non-free). Most packages are pulled straight from Debian, but other sources include [http://www.apt-get.org/ apt-get.org], [http://revu.tauware.de/ REVU] and directly from organisations such as Blackdown and WineHQ.

Source packages in Ubuntu components as of 2006-01-18:

Free software

non-free software

Offically supported core

main (2297)

restricted (5)

Everything else (unsupported)

universe (8363)

multiverse (364)

The Ubuntu Foundation (through Canonical) funds enough developers to make sure that main and restricted are looked after. Volunteers called The Masters of the Universe (["MOTU"]) look after the companion universe and multiverse components. MOTUs sync (import without modification) or merge (import with Ubuntu-specific changes) packages from Debian. MOTUs handle bugs reported on software inside universe and multiverse.

What kind of divergence is introduced inside Ubuntu? Why does Ubuntu need to change my packages? Are those changes important ?

Ubuntu can undertake major transitions before Debian. Universe packages may need to be modified to build in a current Ubuntu environment because of:

  • C++ ABI (change to -c2 packages---testbed for Debian)
  • Modular X.org
  • GCC 4.0
  • Python 2.4
  • Very latest GNOME and KDE
  • Other library transitions

Modifications also include fixes to minor bugs reported in Ubuntu before they are raised in Debian BTS.

Packages in the main section of Ubuntu are frequently modified to suit Ubuntu's needs. Backporting Ubuntu changes to Debian is therefore a harder and more difficult process for the core Ubuntu main developers.

How does Ubuntu give back to Debian ?

Not well enough ...and Ubuntu is aware of that. For many packages in main, Ubuntu has good working relationships with the Debian maintainer(s) and is involved with the core Debian development. Many volunteer developers are active in both Debian and Ubuntu camps. Canonical employs many Debian developers (currently 20), which should help changes flow directly back to Debian.

For universe (and some main packages), there is a massive possibility for improvement. Apart from [http://people.ubuntu.com/~scott/patches/ publishing patches on an ongoing basis] (patches which might not be very usable from the DD point of view), Ubuntu doesn't provide much valuable feedback. There are several reasons for this :

  • Lack of manpower : ~8400 source packages in universe, split amongst [https://launchpad.net/people/motu ~35 MOTUs] and a few outsiders.

  • Lack of tools : Ubuntu currently lacks most of the tools to take care of the packages in a global way.

  • Lack of consensus about how Debian want Ubuntu's patches

  • Lack of response from some Debian maintainers : when Ubuntu changes are integrated by Debian, it makes the life of MOTUs much easier. However, some bugs have been opened months ago in the BTS, but are ignored from the Debian maintainer; these must then be maintained separately.

There are of course plans to change that by improving processes and writing tools, but this takes time.

Short crash course in Ubuntu development

  • Most of the documentation about Ubuntu and Ubuntu development can be found on [:FrontPage: this wiki (first page)]

  • Ubuntu's Bug Tracking System is [https://launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+bugs-advanced Malone]

  • All packages are team-maintained. If you need to discuss a specific change, try poking the last person who changed the package (see the changelog).

For more information about Debian collaboration in Ubuntu, see DebianCollaboration.