Re: Giving credit where due?

Christian Perrier is wondering why the official announcement about the Gutsy release does not even contain the word “Debian”.

It’s not new: Debian is virtually nonexistent in Ubuntu’s communication. It seems that the last Ubuntu release to acknowledge its Debian origins was Dapper (June 2006), maybe because that was the “Long Term Support” release.

The fact that there’s no “Ubuntu is based on Debian” paragraph on was raised during Debconf, and it was supposed to get fixed, but it seems that it didn’t happen for some reason (there was such a paragraph before the website redesign).

In other news, I’ve been trying to install Ubuntu Gutsy inside qemu, but it fails miserably while booting the installer. I removed the “quiet” and “splash” options from the kernel cmdline, and discovered that after trying to “mount the root filesystem”, I get dropped into busybox with no error message to google for. Feisty fails as well, but Dapper boots fine. So much for the Ubuntu is an ancient African word, meaning “I can’t install Debian” joke!

17 thoughts on “Re: Giving credit where due?

  1. Maybe Ubuntu should Debian more. But I remember Ian Murdoch the founder of Debian getting a lot of flack for using the name DCC for Debian Common Core to represent a group of linux distributions based on Debian. If the founder gets in trouble for using Debian in the name then it’s probably safer not to mention Debian that often even though I think it’s a great base for distributions.

  2. @David: yes, I saw that (and the google search result shows it too ;). But it mentions a Debian foundation. “foundation” is a bit misleading, since a foundation is something you start from, and build on it. Debian would be Ubuntu’s foundation if Ubuntu had forked Debian 3 years ago, and never looked back. But at least 3/4 of the packages are synced from Debian every 6 months.

  3. The front page doesn’t mention Linux, Gnome, Firefox or GNU either… it’s perfectly normal – Ubuntu is currently being heavily marketed and confusing Ubuntu’s target audience with multiple brand names is a really bad idea.

    Even if you don’t agree, I hope you’ll understand that branding questions are more complicated than you make out.

    Whenever technical analyses are done of Ubuntu, Debian is always placed at the forefront of Ubuntu’s technical strength. For a recent one see how Shuttleworth talks of Ubuntu here –

    Personally I think the balance is right.

  4. mdke: There are two problems:
    (1) the fact that Ubuntu doesn’t credit Debian, despite using 3/4 of Debian verbatim, and only slightly modifying another important number of packages.
    (2) the fact that Ubuntu fails to properly credit the rest of the Free Software ecosystem.

    My blog post was only about (1), but (2) is also a serious problem.

    The Free Software ecosystem is not simple, and I don’t think that it’s a good idea to make it look simple, or you end up with people thinking Linux==Ubuntu. Ubuntu is only a small brick. Ubuntu doesn’t develop much software: Probably at least 99.9% of the LOC in Ubuntu were never touched by an Ubuntu developer. Ubuntu integrates software developed by various upstream projects, and that’s basically the only value added by Ubuntu.

    Given the fact that Ubuntu is the first distribution for a lot of users, I think that it’s its responsibility to “teach” how the Free Software world works. And hiding “details” in release announcements is probably not the right way to do that.

  5. Usual ubuntu bashing by debian people. When debian Etch there were tons of congratulatory messages on planet ubuntu and ubuntu forums. On planet debian you just see venom against ubuntu. Do I sense jealousy?

    FYI, many ubuntu derivatives, for eg. Linux Mint does not shout about ubuntu either. And why single out ubuntu? Where is the mention of debian in mepis release announcements and website? What about Xandros, DSL & Knoppix? How many of them mention debian at the prominent places at their website, let alone release announcements? I think its pretty stupid for ubuntu to mention debian in their release announcements.

  6. I may have misread your post when posting my earlier comment – I understood you to be arguing that reference to Debian should be made on the front page of the website.

    I agree that it’s part of the responsibility of Ubuntu to help those users who care (not all will) to understand free software, and the website broadly does that already. However there are lots of improvements that can be made both structurally and in terms of content so please contribute any specific ideas you have for improving the situation via bug reports.

  7. mdke: my blog was about mentioning Debian on, not necessarly on the front page of the web site, but in a way that shows the importance of the relationship between Debian and Ubuntu.

    Ideally, as I suggested in the LP bug, that would be in a “Technology” page, where projects like GNU, GNOME, KDE, etc would be mentioned. I’m a bit annoyed by the way Ubuntu’s public communication seems to “steal” the credit for all the improvements.

  8. I also found that Gutsy would not boot under qemu, but having downloaded the source for qemu and compiled it myself I find it does work. So is that a problem with Ubuntu or one with qemu?

  9. If the ubuntu web site should make debian more visible, then perhaps the debian web site should also make more visible that debian depends on the work that ubuntu has done? Just a suggestion.

    Here’s a quote that gives Mark Shuttleworth’s thoughts on the issue:

    “i think debian and ubuntu already benefit hugely from one another. we have brought debian millions of new users, in a category that it was never previously taken seriously in, the desktop. in addition, many new DD’s come through Ubuntu, or first discover debian through Ubuntu. we are expanding the debian universe, which is very good for debian. we lead a lot of very useful work, which eventually gets included in debian. they are considering upstart, for example and also considering our live cd infrastructure. perhaps even the ubuntu installer. they largely depend on work we do on the toolchain, on python, on java etc. the flip side is also true. we benefit hugely from debian’s depth and breadth. we consider ourselves to be part of the debian family. it’s sad for me, that when ubuntu releases there are 2 messages about it on debian planet – one of celebration from a person who contributes to both, and one a bug report, but i’m happy that, when debian releases, there are tons of congratulations to debian on planet ubuntu. i would like to see better collaboration. many dd’s routinely read patches that we automatically mail to them when a package is modified in ubuntu. others just ignore them. it would be nice to have debian recognise the contribution ubuntu makes. we get twice the volume of bug reports now, not because we are more buggy, but because we reach a wider audience. debian would benefit if they took an interest in ensuring that their packages are getting that wider exposure”

  10. I think it’s an error that Ubuntu doesn’t mention Debian more in release communications, and have raised it internally in an attempt to make sure it’s in there in the future. While Debian is the most directly significant, in fact there probably ought to be a general thank-you note to a bunch of organisations and individuals who’ve contributed directly or indirectly.

  11. Hmmm Lucas, Alan,

    I just installed (32 Bit) Gutsy in a 256MB QEMU virtual machine under (32 Bit) Etch. And tho it complained about ACPI in the beginning, everything else worked fine, except of course a real shutdown – I had to “switch it off” manually. Explainable, with that message at its start.

    The fact that Debian isn’t mentioned, not even in the “About” image, is a sad one indeed. Still I want to support it – both my brother and my son will most probably use Gutsy instead of real Debian. That was my reason to install it in the first place.


  12. @Colin: I mostly agree. However, I don’t think you need to go down to the individuals level: this would dilute the “thank you Debian, thank you GNOME”. It’s probably enough to acknowledge the big projects, explain their relationship with Ubuntu, and thank the FLOSS community as a whole. The focus should be on showing users that Ubuntu didn’t invent the wheel, and that’s it’s mainly the cement between the bricks (but a very good cement).

    @Laika: I’m not saying that Debian doesn’t benefit from Ubuntu’s success, but it’s clearly at a different scale.

    Debian has been around since 1993. That’s 14 years, 4 more than Slashdot! Ubuntu has only been there for 3 years.

    Would Debian be able to live without Ubuntu? Without a doubt, yes.
    Would Ubuntu be able to live without Debian? Maybe, but not as the same distro. Ubuntu currently imports about 3/4 of its packages directly from Debian (especially in the universe component), and if Ubuntu had to package all of them, it would probably eat a lot of resources.

  13. Maybe because Debian is obsolete and irrelevant? Come on, maybe the original Ubuntu was derived from Debian, but do you really think Debian matters anymore? Ubuntu and Ubuntu community devs have made it what it is. If Ubuntu really relied on Debian, the next release available would be 20.10.

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