FeatureSpecification: apt-third-party

Jerry Haltom wasabi at larvalstage.net
Tue Apr 4 16:16:28 BST 2006

Cool. Thanks for the reply. This is exactly the argument I wanted to
zone in on.

Let me first lay out some guiding opinion on Ubuntu and the FOSS world
as I see it, because it will explain why I disagree with you. First and
foremost, what is our goal? I suspect mine might be different from some
people, or at least thought out differently. Mine is to see Ubuntu
succeed on the desktop and bring the benefits of free software to
people. That is, at offices, and at peoples homes. I don't think
supporting non-Free software is morally bad. In fact, I think it's a
great way to piggy back free software in on. I think VMware is a great
program. I don't mind the gstreamer-mp3 thing, for those who want it. I
think that giving somebody a free platform, and then allowing other
people to write their own software for it, whether proprietary or closed
is "morally right." It's our job to promote free software, not mandate
it. Additionally, I think the more software we have, free other
otherwise, the more people will use Ubuntu, and the more exposure they
will have to free software, and the tools to write it. Perhaps they'll
become developers and start duplicating the closed tools they're tired
of using.

Simple, the more people distributing useful software for Ubuntu, the

Now on to your argument. You prefer to keep a centrally managed list of
preferred packages controlled by Ubuntu. I assume then that you
understand that for software to be properly distributed for Ubuntu it
must undergo a vetting process by some representative of Ubuntu. It must
be approved and then added to our list of approved software. Somebody
must maintain this list and add updates to each program to it.

I suspect this approach originates because there are a few well known
pieces of software which people desire, but which is undistributed by
Ubuntu as it stands. This recognized set of software is small and

My proposal goes beyond that. I desire to create a more friendly
software ecosystem, where by a third party doesn't have to "run the
gauntlet" to have their software distributed by Ubuntu. I want to
welcome new software, that us on this mailing list may not even be aware
of, with open arms. I want to provide the tools to these innovators,
whomever they may be, to have users easily install software onto their
systems, with the proper warnings and security explanations, and all the
safeguards possible: BEFORE THEY DO IT THEMSELVES!

That last point is important. There are companies out there Right Now
which are distributing software for Ubuntu which Ubuntu has no control
over, which threaten Ubuntu users. VMware is one. They distribute their
installer as a custom shell script. It compiles kernel modules and
places them in /lib/modules. It runs processes as root and installs
initscripts. And it doesn't use dpkg. A user of VMware has to use a
separate tool-set to manage his VMware installation. He can't use
familiar tools, like synaptic, to see it installed. He can't track
updates for it from update-notifier. And we can't do anything about it.
Repeat the same situation with Sun's Java and all the other commercial
Linux programs nobody pays attention to. Each one has it's own install

Additionally, these vendors are not going to stop distributing their
proprietary installers just because Ubuntu has a separate way to do it
built in. A user is going to go to www.vmware.com to buy VMware. They're
going to download what VMware offers and run it as VMware tells them to.
They aren't going to check Ubuntu first to see if the software already
exists in our approved list.

I would much rather see us push and promote a proper method for these
parties to install software on our system. Something which is easy for
them to set up, and which is based on a community understanding.

I want ISVs to say "We support Ubuntu. Click here to install our


On Mon, 2006-04-03 at 12:33 -0700, Matt Zimmerman wrote:
> On Sun, Apr 02, 2006 at 08:03:10PM -0500, Jerry Haltom wrote:
> > https://launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+spec/apt-third-party
> > 
> > I have drafted a specification for ThirdPartyApt support. Trying to
> > generate conversation and interest, and perhaps some contributors.
> This sounds somewhat different from the existing third-party-packages spec,
> so it probably deserves a more distinct name.
> > Third parties should be able to distribute programs for installation on
> > Ubuntu or other Apt based distros (especially Ubuntu). They should be
> > provided tools to make installation, integration and maintenance of
> > their programs easy. We have existing infrastructure to provide to them,
> > but need to do so in a consistent way while providing an easy to use
> > interface. 
> My preferred design for this type of feature is the sort which directs users
> from websites to existing packaged software in official, authenticated
> Ubuntu repositories, rather than encouraging retrieval of software directly
> from the third party.  This is how third-party-packages works.
> -- 
>  - mdz

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