Monday, May 13, 2013

Running Your Own Railroad

by Dietrich Schmitz

I am beginning to see a pattern in how Canonical operates.  Not to single them out, but I think that to succeed in any business endeavor, a business plan must set objectives with a timeline to their completion.

It seems that Canonical are setting their own priorities.  First came Unity.  Then they targeted a standard for Display management by supporting Wayland.  As Wayland reached its first production release, version 1.0, Canonical immediately took the code and forked it to their own project specification called Mir. (Image credit:

This is looking less like an open community than any other time I can remember.  Canonical are carefully taking control their code base and removing community involvement.

Then, Canonical developed a new fork called Ubuntu Touch for their planned smartphone division.

Now, they've announced a plan to develop their own package management software, with the 'intention' (cough wink) of using it for their smartphone technology.

This has garnered much attention and the noise level continues to amplify.

What if the plans for this new package manager were more ambitious than Canonical are telling us?  Suppose that package management system would take away the Debian apt/dkpg control?

That would not bode well for Debian, me thinks.  And I've advocated for a unified package manager.  One because it would dramatically ease the burden of programming and two it would reduce costs and allow software written to be packaged and run on all Linux Distros.

That isn't my idea.  Actually, it's been around for years in fact and is part of the Linux Foundation's Linux Standard Base (LSB).  In fact, rpm is the standard which is a 'mandatory' specification to obtain LSB certification.

Debian have resisted support for rpm and LSB which may work ultimately to their disadvantage if they continue to ignore the standard.

Debian is not a commercial Linux Distribution.  So, they can afford to play foot-loose and fancy free by ignoring standards in favor of their own 'de facto' standard.

But how long will that last?  They took two years to roll out Debian 7 Wheezy which still runs on sysvinit, not systemd, although they've made systemd an installable option.  Two years is slow people.  Debian is looking old, stodgy, and resistant to change.  And, as we all know, technology is changing at the speed of light.

So, is Canonical running their own railroad?  Necessarily, to run a business, yes.  They and Red Hat can't afford to play around like Debian and Canonical just might switch away from deb package management entirely to again gain control of another big piece of the Linux Distro puzzle.  Let's hope that Canonical recognize the importance of LSB and support rpm.  -- Dietrich
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