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In Defense and Praise of Debian - page 4

What's the Fuss About?

  • February 11, 2008
  • By Bruce Byfield

Some would argue that distributions such as Ubuntu offer many of the same advantages as Debian. And clearly Ubuntu has made its mark, particularly in innovation.

In some cases, too, such as the Restricted Drivers Manager, Ubuntu might be said to follow Debian's example of allowing users to choose their degree of software freedom.

Yet as Ubuntu pushes toward commercialization, one or two reports of increasingly corporate behavior are starting to emerge. Moreover, while Debian can recall its leader, or call for a resolution on the project's course, Ubuntu lacks any method of deposing Mark Shuttleworth or deviating from his decisions.

True, Shuttleworth has so far given no reason for any to call him to account; so far as I can tell from his writing, he seems a sincere free software advocate who practices what he preaches. Yet without such mechanisms, community input is restrained by hierarchy. And, to that extent, Ubuntu seems less open than Debian.

Perhaps that relative lack of democracy is the necessary price for a more focused direction and greater market share. And there's nothing wrong with that. Of all the commercially-oriented distributions, there are none that I would like to see succeed more than Ubuntu--and not just because its success directly aids Debian.

However, we have no shortage of commercial distributions, and far too few non-commercial ones large enough to have an influence. If nothing else, we need Debian as a counter example, just so we can remember the basic concerns of free software and the full range of possibilities.

This article originally appeared on Datamation, a JupiterOnlineMedia site.

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