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Ian Murdock: Debian "Missing a Big Opportunity" 330

Natester writes "While Debian struggles to get its next release (Etch) out the door, the project's founder, Ian Murdock, has spoken out about politics, the lack of firm leadership, and Ubuntu's meteoric rise in prominence. Murdock believes that Debian is "process run amok" — nobody feels empowered to make decisions, leading to the sluggish rate of progress."
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Ian Murdock: Debian "Missing a Big Opportunity"

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  • It's sad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday March 19, 2007 @12:26PM (#18402549) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, Debian has suffered from a concatenation of problems this year. Dunc-tank (a scheme to pay some developers) sapped a lot of good-will and motivation, and made some developers actually work to hold back the release in protest, and as a result it's another "who knows when it'll happen" Debian release. There has been a lot of bickering on other topics - Debian should never hold face-to-face meetings, something bad always happens - and unfortunately the current DPL hasn't been able to rally the troops or lead effectively in any way I can see. I hope they recover, I think they are still our best hope among Linux distributions.


  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @12:37PM (#18402701) Homepage
    ...is sorta like the "no deaths in traffic" ideal, nice ideal but if you live it to the letter everything wlll stop. What gets Debian every time is the long tail of RC bugs, some long-lived bugs in e.g. the kernel linger on while less critical software go through many cycles. They go into a sort of meta-support stage where they're busy backporting fixes to etch, before it's even released. Sure every distro has those but for Debian it seems to go on for months and months.
  • Re:It's sad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cyclop ( 780354 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @12:42PM (#18402777) Homepage Journal

    Sorry for the naivete, but I don't plain understand the rationale behind the DuncTank failure.

    I mean, even if I'm a non-paid developer, what's bad in having me collaborating with payed developers if it helps getting the work done? Isn't it a bit like the GSoC? People in GSoC-funded projects should whine and hold back releases because "hey, why is he paid and I am not?" I just don't understand it, but I don't know the exact story behind the Dunc Tank collapse, so I'd like some enlightenment.

  • Re:Debian is dead (Score:2, Interesting)

    by livingdeadline ( 884462 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @12:47PM (#18402835) Homepage
    sooner or later, probably some time from now it might make sense for Debian to focus at releasing their testing branch as a continuous distro like Gentoo or Arch, and focusing at giving it community support and timely security patches insead of using it at something developing toards a stable release. It seems like Debian stable has far too many users many users for server stuff for this to sound realistic now, but maybe after the next Ubuntu LTS release, Debian's lack of scheduled releases (released when ready, patch support for oldstable for [how long was it again?]) could make it hard to compete with release cycles like the one of Ubuntu LTS, and its regular, 18 month supported releases has. But decreased interest in Debian stable is probably depending on improved quality of other distros. Does this theory make sense at all or will people keep using debian stable?
  • Re:IDNRTA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by repvik ( 96666 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @01:02PM (#18403009)

    Why doesn't Ubuntu seal the deal?

    With beryl, good drivers, and built in FOSS apps that beat MS at every turn (Firefox > IE, Beryl > Aero, Thunderbird > Outlook, and VLC > WMP), it seems like the win would be fast and clear. Nobody wants Vista, especially when you have to pay. Ubuntu comes preconfigured in a way that is over all superior to every Windows that has ever existed. It's more solid and reliable, it has four desktops (though they moronically all have the same wallpaper by default, and it happens to be shit brown), it has a very nice user interface (though *i* and many others feel it could take some design cues from Windows 98 with regards to menu structure and some other minor details), and it's free. Oh yeah, and it's open source, so anybody who doesn't like part of it can fix it themselves.

    Thunderbird > Outlook? Seriously? Outlook is one of the very, very few apps that Microsoft got somewhat right. As opposed to Thunderbird, it can be used to share calendards, contacts and stuff easily. Thunderbird is just an E-Mail app. Outlook isn't.
    VLC > WMP? For some values of VLC, that is correct. But the userinterface is better on WMP. How on earth do you get a slider in fullscreen mode on VLC?

    And your statemend about open source is just plain wrong. I can't see my mom "fixing" the freaking lameness that is "cut and paste" in gnome. It's simply broken, it doesn't work. When it does work, you have to try pasting in three different ways! Open Source doesn't mean anybody can fix. It means that the knowledgeable *may* fix stuff that they find annoying. Even then, it might not go upstream so other users can benefit from it.

    I'm an ubuntu-only user, so I think I am semi-qualified to know what I'm talking about. I dig linux. I've been digging linux since '93. I've had windows too periodically, but linux usage far outweighs windows usage.
    Linux sucks, unless you're somewhat skilled. Take the Gnome copy-paste dysfunction for example. When copying in the terminal, *sometimes* it picks up what I've marked with my cursor, so that I can just press shift-insert. Sometimes it doesn't. WTF? WHY NOT?. Oh well, then I have to right-click to make it put the text on the clipboard. So... now I've got the text on the clipboard, everything should be fine and dandy, right? NO! I still can't use shift-insert in a sane way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't and I have to rightclick *again* to paste! WTFISTHAT? I've switched to Kubuntu not long ago, and thank god... The copy and paste functionality appears to actually WORK AT ALL. It works pretty good. The even better part is that you can predict if it works or not. With gnome you just can't.

    How do you suppose I fix that? It's open source isn't it? Then I should be able to fix that easily!

    To all the proponents of Linux On The Desktop:

    1. Please stop flounting linux as totally superior. Be realistic. It sucks in many ways, but it sucks in other ways than Windows
    2. Make sure that you point out that learning linux isn't as easy as windows. Really. Do it. Please.
    3. Make sure you've pointed out 2.
    4. Accept that Linux is a Tool, just like Windows. Every tool has its good and bad sides. Windows has a (mostly) coherent user experience, linux has not. Windows has (inflexible) wizards, Linux has extreme flexibility (at the cost of complexity). You can't have it all. EVER. /rant

    You can mod me down now. Just had to get that out. Should be incoherent enough to make it hard to read :-P
  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @01:06PM (#18403045) Homepage
    Let's get a few things straight.

    1. Another post mentions a concatenation of problems. I agree with this post.

    2. Ubuntu is not a good server distro!
    Stable and well-tested older packages are a strength of Debian. Yes there is a large class of sysadmins that like keeping odd hours running buggier systems. They generally burnout or learn how valuable stable is. To address the rather immature "needs newer packages" complaints, may I refer you to http://www.backports.org/dokuwiki/doku.php [backports.org]

    3. Depth of Knowledge
    There are still, many excellent Debian sysadmins out there that share and certainly have brought my skills up to a higher level. I don't see the same depth in Ubuntu forums.

    4. Ubuntu Money
    Mark's bringing money to the table, he gets to call the shots. That's well and good because the honeymoon is on right now. What happens when the honeymoon is over? Debian doesn't look organized compared to a guy calling the shots with his bankroll. It's an apples-and-oranges comparison.

    5. Etch
    I'm running etch right now on my desktop and in testing. It was ubuntu-release quality months ago.
  • Re:It's sad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @01:26PM (#18403295)
    I'm afraid I'm 'immature' then.

    If I was helping create a distro, and nobody was being paid... Then only a few people got money for doing exactly the same thing as before, exactly the same thing as I'm doing... I'd be upset, then disgusted, then I'd probably quit. (I wouldn't be so immature as to remain and hold back the project, though.) Then I'd either find something else to do with my life, find another distro to help, or make my own.

    Yes, there's ego involved... Everyone on a 'team' wants to feel like their at least equal to everyone else. With some people being paid and others not, it draws a very clear 'you're not as valuable' line. This is exactly the reason that many businesses make it a fire-able offense to discuss wages with other employees. And I whole-heartedly agree with that policy.
  • Re:Firm Leadership (Score:5, Interesting)

    by i_should_be_working ( 720372 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @01:42PM (#18403507)
    I'm skeptical as to whether a firm leader would be able to keep all those developers together working on Debian. It may work for Ubuntu, but Ubuntu has much fewer developers. And they get paid.

    If I were a coder I would be much more likely to volunteer my time to Debian than Ubuntu. I'd rather donate to a fully democratic system than a benevolent dictatorship. And if I'm already coding for a project and they decide that they're going to "empower" someone to ultimately say what goes and what doesn't, I'd be more likely to quit contributing code.
  • Re:Firm Leadership (Score:5, Interesting)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @01:54PM (#18403657) Journal
    Dam I wanted to mod in this thread but I can't mod you fairly: "fair point but I really disagree" (underrated I suppose?)

    Anyway, I feel that a benevolent dictatorship is actually the prize winner in the dev cycle. Once you get into the "please everyone, get a majority vote" mode of operation you run into endless debate as one side tries to convince the other side of the merits of their idea(s). Now I want a unanimous decision on a jury, but for a distro I want a clear path and direction. The dictatorship forces that path to exist. While I may want the path a different color, so long as it's going the same general direction I am then I'm OK with it.

    The direction I'm interested in is a mainstream linux that I can deploy on joe sixpack's computer. I want a linux that is as friendly as OSX, and as compatible with hardware as Windows. I want a distro for the masses, and thus while you are entitled to fork it and tweak it, I think the main tree should be ruled by an authoritarian, rather than a committee.

    I also think that the "open market" will decide this for us. Suppliers (donors of code and money) will "sell" to their ideals and buyers will install to their needs.
  • Re:It's sad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AndyCater ( 726464 ) <amacaterNO@SPAMgalactic.demon.co.uk> on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:59PM (#18405241) Journal
    Debian has suffered from problems EVERY year since 1.0 was released by Infomagic :) It's still here - I still rely on it and base much of my daily work on it. People like you and me have been bickering since before the deity naming wars :) I just hope Ian M. remembers that Debian is now just about the only Linux to support even some of the oldest Sun hardware. Perhaps he can persuade them that it's worth supporting Debian vice Red Hat/Novell or even Sun JDS. On the other hand, I think he'd be worth double if he could follow up on the packaging rants on his blog lately and just persuade Solaris to support dpkg / dselect and apt-get. Apt-get install sun-java works flawlessly for me on Debian: I just wish it were as easy to install gcc and GNU userland on older Solaris releases. Whatever happened to your UserLinux and Linux for hams projects - did they effectively get subsumed by time pressure?
  • Re:Debian is dead (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pherthyl ( 445706 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @04:29PM (#18405669)
    Additionally, I wonder how much cash is being burnt to keep Ubuntu cracking along. Perhaps it is not sustainable? Debian is, I would say. It has proven itself.

    Good point. Shuttleworth is not doing Ubuntu so he can bleed money for all eternity, he wants to make money at some point. So far that hasn't happened (pretty sure), and if it continues not to happen for a few more years, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he moved on to another project. This isn't a criticism of Shuttleworth, I would probably move on a lot sooner if the business wasn't working. And then where is Ubuntu? Does it have enough volunteer developers to continue releasing new versions, let alone ones that are polished enough for people to really get excited about?

    The great thing about Debian is that it is not dependant on the whims of some random company. That's one of the reasons why I run it on my desktop. The other reason is that Debian messes around with packages a whole lot less. What you get is basically what the upstream software looks like. No hacks to quickly fix something or change the defaults. Those hacks sometimes work, but when they break you're lost, cause the upstream project won't want to support your bastard version of their software.
  • Re:Firm Leadership (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @04:55PM (#18406023)
    "every Debian developer is a Ubuntu developer" -- Mark Shuttleworth

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller