|In the very short history of DebianPlanet (3 weeks), we’ve managed to quickly establish ourselves as a landmark both for users and the developers of the Debian community. My recent article, “Blurring the Line Between Pure Debian and its Commercial Variants” and the accompanying poll would prove to become our most controversial to date and a major talking point in #debian.
In light of the release of Progeny Debian Beta 1, questions arose on the standing of commercial variants of Debian among the many purists to Debian’s non-commercial principles who would find it hard-pressed to stray from mainstream Debian. The accompanying poll revealed that an resounding 58% of respondents would not use a commercial variant of Debian as opposed to 32% who would.
Ian Murdock, a founding and former member of the Debian GNU/Linux project who went on to found and become CEO of Progeny Linux Systems has written a reply to my original article and is shown below.
Since the announcement of Progeny Debian Beta 1 sparked this article and the discussion that inspired it, I am accepting your offer to respond. I would like to make the following points:
First of all, it is very likely that many of the issues we are addressing in Progeny Debian (easier installation, “out of the box” configuration for desktop users, automatic hardware detection, etc.) are not important to the existing Debian community, as your survey seems to indicate. However, these are the very issues that discourage many users of other distributions and the corporate world from adopting Debian. If they can be successfully addressed, as we are trying to do at Progeny, then the Debian community will have a wider audience for its work, and for free software as a whole.
Progeny has spent the past several months dealing with these issues, and we will be releasing the results of our work to the community shortly. Some of this work may become a standard part of Debian. Naturally, we hope that it does. However, if other solutions are chosen over what Progeny has done, Progeny will accept the new standard. Progeny Debian is not intended as a separate distribution, in the sense that Mandrake is a separate distribution from Red Hat. As a result, we feel very strongly that we have an obligation to avoid any permanent forks from Debian, and we are prepared to accept our proper role as simply one member of a larger community to ensure this.
Second, I want to stress that, to the largest extent possible, Progeny Debian will consist entirely of free software. Progeny Debian will also not ship with any third party software that is not free or open source. For practical reasons, an exception is being made for Netscape in the first release – our target users expect a browser to be included with the product, and Mozilla isn’t quite ready to serve that function yet. By the second release, we expect that Mozilla will be ready, and that Netscape will no longer be needed.
Third, we are aware that many members of the Debian community feel disappointed by earlier commercial Debian offerings. We do not intend to make the same mistakes that others have made. We intend to maintain strong, friendly relations with the larger Debian community, and to contribute to the community and make Debian a better system for all users. By design, being the founder of Debian does not give me any special position in the project-Debian long ago grew beyond me. However, I do hope that my past actions are an indication of my sincerity.
If anyone in the Debian community feels that Progeny should be doing anything differently, or that it is not living up to its role in the community, I encourage you to contact us and help us work toward a solution.
If you are a member of a commercial Debian-based vendor, I would still gladly appreciate any feedback or comments that you may have. Please contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org