Debian Project Lead: Snappy and Mir Bad Ideas

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 17, 2015

Neil McGovern, Debian Project Leader, opened himself up to questions a few days ago on reddit and questions he got. McGovern answered queries on his relationship with Valve, his opinion on Ubuntu, and his desktop of choice among many others. He also spoke a bit on the Chromium spyware mistake, the current state of Debian GNU/Hurd, and lots more.

One of the first questions wondered if McGovern was jealous of anything from any other distro. To that he answered Arch's wiki calling it "an absolutely amazing resource" that he himself uses. He then said Debian's graphical installer needs a bit of an update, but the curses installer is there to stay. He desktop of choice is GNOME and is currently using version 3.14 (and vim is his favorite editor). Later he added that GNOME will remain the default desktop in Debian.

On the Google Chromium spyware incident, McGovern said, "I'd be surprised if the affected package reaches a stable release - we've been typically frozen for about 6 months, and during that time it should be discovered, and any updates to stable then are line-by-line reviewed to avoid any new breakages." He said typically diffs are done when upstream is updated, but sometimes things get by. But more stringent checks are made before moving packages into stable. Relatedly, Debian recently received its eight-hundred thousandth bug report and at that scale, Debian probably won't be switching to a bugzilla or launchpad.

On the current state of Linux distributions and predictions for the future, McGovern said, "There's been a lot of talk about distributions being a 'solved problem' and that everything's going down the container route these days. I'm not sure that it's true. There's a few issues with containers that I see - one is that we currently don't have any open standard on what a container is. Additionally, one of the major things that distributions solve is the ability to apply security updates to shared libraries." So, no atomic-like releases for Debian. Later, McGovern said the project probably wouldn't be splitting the system up into a base system and applications layer either.

Forks are a-okay with Debian, but McGovern thinks Devuan underestimated the work involved in starting and maintaining a distribution. "In the end, it comes down to volunteer time. There wasn't enough people who were willing to put the work in to ensure that sysVinit was the default in Debian itself, so I'm not convinced that Devuan will continue as long as Debian has." Which is similar problem with Hurd, just "not enough interest to become viable" according to McGovern.

Someone asked McGovern his thoughts on Ubuntu, to which he said, "Ubuntu has been hugely successful at helping people use free software in a way that others have failed to do in the past. However, I'm a little bit worried about the recent moves to break away and do their own thing (see: mir, snappy etc)." When asked why Mir and Snappy were bad ideas, he said, "I think they're a bad idea because they're ignoring projects that are already out there and working in an isolationist way. There may be advantages, but working with others in the community is far more productive."

"I think the biggest challenge is how we can continue to release Debian as a working distribution. Each time we release, we're adding more and more packages. Releasing this as a whole becomes more and more difficult," McGovern answered another.