Author's Opinion

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of iTWire.

Have your say and comment below.

Friday, 28 January 2011 18:56

LCA 2011: Why people should care about Debian


Why should people care about Debian? Why indeed?

The current leader of the Debian GNU/Linux project, Stefano Zacchiroli (pictured below, left), posed the question with a little more force - Why the bloody hell should you care about Debian? - in a talk at the 12th Australian national Linux conference today.

Zacchiroli outlined the uniqueness of Debian - it was a non-commercial distribution that was able to compete with other commercial distros, it was built collaboratively by experts and was the first major distribution to be developed exclusively in the spirit of the GNU project.

Apart from this, Debian had two unique identifiers - its social contract (adopted in 1997) and its constitution (adopted in 1998), Zacchiroli said.
Stefano Zacchiroli
"The social contract ensures that the software is 100 percent free, that we give back every change to the upstream projects, that we don't hide problems and that our priorities are our users and free software," he said.

The constitution enables the project to be a do-ocracy where consensus and writing code count; if matters cannot be resolved at that level, then the democratic process is used. "The leader of the project and secretary provide some kind of framework for these processes to operate," he added.

Debian was started in August 1993 and 17 years later it had around 30,000 packages, had done 11 releases, had 900 developers and 120 maintainers plus thousands of other contributors. "We have 12 ports and two non-Linux ports," Zacchiroli said. "And there are something like 120 derivatives based on Debian."

Having set the framework, Zacchiroli then came to the first reason why people should care about Debian - simply because the project did things better. "Our packages are of very high quality, there is a culture of technical excellence, package design is according to a policy and packages are subjected to automated testing," he said.

Archive rebuilds were done periodically, and each maintainer was an expert in the software that he or she maintained. "There are no second class packages; all are equal," Zacchiroli said. "Our release policy is simple: we release when it's ready."

The second reason, Zacchiroli said, was freedom. "We have been promoting the culture of free software since 1993. The distribution is free from the bottom up, in software and firmware. We do not use non-free infrastructure - there are no non-free web services for users - and our developers use no non-free services either."

Thirdly, he pointed out, Debian was absolutely independent. "No (single) company babysits our operations. Yes, we do receive help from companies but there are no strings attached. We rely on donations and gifts."

Hence, he said, people trusted Debian not to take decisions based on profit.

Decision-making within the project was based on a do-ocracy, he added. "An individual can make a technical or non-technical decision with regard to their own work. If that is not possible, then we have a democratic process.

"Debian should live long and prosper because of the freedom and independence. Having only company-supported distros is bad because there may be times when their interests will clash with ours."

Zacchiroli said Debian was the root of a major derivatives ecosystem. "Derivatives are game-changers," he said. "The focus is on customisation. Most of the packages come from us and this means efficiency as far as packaging efforts go."

Debian had become the base for about 120 distributions because of its quality and licensing assurances, its solid base system, the huge package base and its suitability for customisation, Zacchiroli said.

He cited the case of the best-known Debian derivative, Ubuntu. "In Lucid Lynx (Ubuntu 10.04 released in April last year), 18 percent of the packages were Debian packages plus patches; 74 percent were from Debian, and only 7 percent were from upstream." The statistics were for the Ubuntu main and universe repositories.

"So we are a distribution pipeline," Zacchiroli said. "From upstream to the distribution to users, there is movement both ways. Our sole concern is that it should be sustainable and benefit free software as a whole."

"Free software is bigger than any distribution. The golden rules are to give back in order to reduce package flow viscosity and to give credit where credit is due."

Hence, he told his audience, "you should care. Debian offers a mix of rare features. It is the root of a huge tree of derivatives and derivatives of derivatives. And the cause of free software is best served by collaboration."


Subscribe to ITWIRE UPDATE Newsletter here


It's all about Webinars.

Marketing budgets are now focused on Webinars combined with Lead Generation.

If you wish to promote a Webinar we recommend at least a 3 to 4 week campaign prior to your event.

The iTWire campaign will include extensive adverts on our News Site and prominent Newsletter promotion and Promotional News & Editorial. Plus a video interview of the key speaker on iTWire TV which will be used in Promotional Posts on the iTWire Home Page.

Now we are coming out of Lockdown iTWire will be focussed to assisting with your webinatrs and campaigns and assassistance via part payments and extended terms, a Webinar Business Booster Pack and other supportive programs. We can also create your adverts and written content plus coordinate your video interview.

We look forward to discussing your campaign goals with you. Please click the button below.



iTWire TV offers a unique value to the Tech Sector by providing a range of video interviews, news, views and reviews, and also provides the opportunity for vendors to promote your company and your marketing messages.

We work with you to develop the message and conduct the interview or product review in a safe and collaborative way. Unlike other Tech YouTube channels, we create a story around your message and post that on the homepage of ITWire, linking to your message.

In addition, your interview post message can be displayed in up to 7 different post displays on our the site to drive traffic and readers to your video content and downloads. This can be a significant Lead Generation opportunity for your business.

We also provide 3 videos in one recording/sitting if you require so that you have a series of videos to promote to your customers. Your sales team can add your emails to sales collateral and to the footer of their sales and marketing emails.

See the latest in Tech News, Views, Interviews, Reviews, Product Promos and Events. Plus funny videos from our readers and customers.


Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

Share News tips for the iTWire Journalists? Your tip will be anonymous




Guest Opinion

Guest Reviews

Guest Research

Guest Research & Case Studies

Channel News