With Matthew Garrett’s resignation from Debian, several people have compared it to my own “resignation” from Debian. It has got my thinking about whether I currently intend to ever end my “Sabbatical” and return as an active Debian Developer.
I think that the end of my love-affair with Debian started at Debconf last year where several developers treated those of us who also worked on Ubuntu quite rudely. Someone was attacked for wearing an Ubuntu t-shirt at the conference, while someone else was applauded for wearing a “Fuck Ubuntu” t-shirt. That’s where I realised that maybe I didn’t have as much in common with these people as I thought I did.
I still don’t understand why Debian singles Ubuntu out for this kind of treatment, we’re still the only derviative distribution that makes all of our patches to Debian available, yet Ubuntu is claimed to not do anything at all.
Another example is that Ubuntu is being asked to change the Maintainer field of every package, something no other derivative is being asked to do or has ever been asked to do.
Martin Krafft has had some interesting things to say about this strange relationship in the past.
If that was the start of my falling out with Debian, I think that Debian considering removing documentation and firmware from the distribution, especially the documentation, was another point I started wondering whether I shared anything in common with the project anymore.
Call me strange, but I think that one of the fundamental purposes of a Linux distribution is to be useful to its users. If nobody can use the distribution because it doesn’t support their hardware, and even if it did, all the documentation has been stripped out; I started to wonder what it’s aims are. It became increasingly apparent that the only users Debian was considering a priority were its own developer.
And the third thing is simply a matter of Fun.
Fun for me, at the moment at least, has been to build a system that fits together extremely nicely with each component doing the right thing. For Ubuntu this has meant being a driving force for it being Linux 2.6 only, with reliance on udev for hardware, etc. Upstart is just a continuation of these goals, getting a system which all “just works”, even if it means throwing out a few things people were previously fond of.
All of these things would have been impossible to do in Debian itself. Getting upstart installable required changes to twelve different packages, including sysvinit itself; at a worst case, this would have required the agreement of twelve different maintainers in Debian. It’s often exhausting just persuading one of the reason for the change, persuading a dozen would have been a herculian effort.
Perhaps Matthew is right, what Debian lacks is a single leadership. There’s nobody in Debian I could have gone to for approval over the changes I wanted to make, whose decision developers cannot overrule. Ubuntu has such people (the Technical Board and sabdfl), which gives the project an obvious direction instead of a couple of hundred people all pulling in different directions.
In a way, I don’t feel that I’ve left Debian. I feel like I was happily going along, only to realise the mob had gone in a different direction and with no easy way of rejoining the group.