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Ubuntu man extends olive branch to irate Debian devs

Shuttleworth: We must work together

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Mark Shuttleworth has offered to put more Canonical employees on to Debian at the expense of Ubuntu, in a potential compromise with angry Debian developers.

The offer is designed to help Debian hit a proposed code freeze date for the next version of the Linux distro in December. Shuttleworth said the diversion would mean "we'll get less done" on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian.

Shuttleworth hopes the offer will encourage Debian developers to agree to the freeze. Shuttleworth positioned the offer in the spirit of working together to help all Linux distros and Debian itself.

"To achieve anything together, we'll both need to work together, we'll need to make compromises or we'll need to contribute effort to the other side," Shuttlewoth wrote on a Ubuntu mailing list.

His offer came after members of the Debian community objected to the proposed freeze, apparently slamming Ubuntu and Shuttleworth personally for using Debian to further their own commercial interests.

Shuttleworth said several folks had invoked his name and ascribed motivations that were "a little upsetting." "I'd like to focus on what we can achieve together, and how we can lead a very significant improvement in the health of the whole free software ecosystem," Shuttleworth said.

A plan to freeze Debian every two years was announced at the distro's DebConf on July 29, in Spain. This December was to be the first freeze in that cycle.

Such was the outcry, however, that the idea was immediately put on ice. The Debian Project said on July 30 it had: "Decided to revisit its decision on December 2009 as the proposed freeze date" and promised a "new timeline" in early September.

Debian cited "consideration of the Debian community's feedback" to the initial plan.

Only a day before Debian had proudly announced the planned freeze as being in the best interests of the project, Linux distros, and users.

"The new freeze policy will provide better predictability of releases for users of the Debian distribution, and also allow Debian developers to do better long-term planning. A two-year release cycle will give more time for disruptive changes, reducing inconveniences caused for users," Debian said in a statement on July 29.

The reason for the reversal seems to be the freeze was taken by community members to mean Debian would be put on a timed release cycle of every two years. Some might see that as a good thing for reliability and frequency. Debian aims for a release every 18 months, but delays have happened in the past.

Debian freezes lock down critical or severe bugs and sets release goals for the many packages that comprise Debian. It's currently working on an edition called Squeeze.

Some see the Debian freeze as serving the needs of Ubuntu, which has a history of hitting a regular release cycle. The increasingly popular Ubuntu is released twice a year, in April and October. A December 2009 freeze of Ubuntu would potentially help the next April release, at least, work from a relatively stable Debian base.

The current version of Debian, Lenny, was frozen in July 2008 ahead of October 2008's Inteprid Ibex and April 2009's Jaunty Jackalope releases of Ubuntu.

Shuttleworth has long been a proponent of greater co-ordination between difference Linuxes to take on Windows and Microsoft. If there's agreement to use the same version of the Linux kernel, for example, then there could be co-ordination on fixing bugs, he's said.

Coordination would mean users and developers outside the core projects could rely on their distros. It could even mean greater application compatibility and portability across different distros.

Coordination is an idea that's found currency elsewhere in open source - notably the Eclipse Foundation in tools for open-source and Java. For the last few years, Eclipse has coordinated an ever growing number of projects to make sure they come out at the same time.

Ironically, Debian developers have also supported the idea of greater coordination between Linuxes in the past.

Shuttleworth repeated the theme in his Debian mailing list post, where he noted the freeze idea was not about Debian changing to meet the needs of Ubuntu. "I love free software and want it to win. If it wins properly, it will not come in a single package branded 'Debian' or 'Ubuntu' or 'Red Hat', it will come in a coordinated diversity," Shuttleworth said.

"The debate on this list has mostly been about "Ubuntu vs Debian", which misses the real goal: let's send a signal to upstreams that they can participate and help shape the way end users will experience their software. To do that, we need to get multiple distributions," he wrote.

You can view the full post here. ®

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