New software created for Ubuntu

Barry Warsaw barry at
Tue Jun 1 16:51:03 BST 2010

On May 31, 2010, at 04:03 PM, Matt Zimmerman wrote:

>When discussing this problem, I think it's important to bear in mind the
>difference between "packaging for Debian" and "maintaining in Debian".  The
>former is a relatively easy (for Ubuntu software) one-time event.  The
>latter is an ongoing commitment and investment of time and effort.
>It's easy to ask why, if a program is already packaged for Ubuntu, why it
>shouldn't be in Debian as well.  The reason is that it needs a maintainer in
>Debian.  We can't simply copy the packages across.  Each package in Debian
>requires a maintainer who is looking after it, who is actively keeping up
>with Debian procedures, watching the Debian bug list, and so on.
>Sometimes, this can be the same person, but usually not.  Regardless, it is
>a significant additional workload (especially if the person is not a DD
>Thus, I don't think it's reasonable to expect Ubuntu packagers (in general)
>to also maintain their packages in Debian.  Where individual circumstances
>permit, this is of course a good thing, but it can't be a prerequisite for
>doing Ubuntu packaging work.

This touches on something we've been working out on the debian-python mailing
list, regarding maintenance of Python on Debian and Ubuntu.  Of course, things
there are complicated by the fact that we ship multiple versions of Python,
and that changes in Python have tons of ripple effects.  However, because of
differences in our release processes, we may (want to) adopt newer versions of
Python faster than Debian does.

From the Debian folks, one message I've heard loud and clear is that we have
to be careful not to do things in Ubuntu that make Debian's life harder.  I
didn't participate in the Python 2.5->2.6 transition, but from their
perspective, we created a ton of extra work for the Debian maintainers of
Python, and they did not feel fully invested in the decision.  Because I would
like to ship Python 2.7 as the default in Maverick, I'm engaging primarily
with debian-python, doing lots of testing work, and trying to figure out how
to get as much of the work into Debian first (or in addition to, e.g. say in
experimental).  The approach that I'm taking is that if we (Ubuntu) want to
lead the way and adopt a more aggressive, ambitious schedule, then it's also
our responsibility to do the hard work and feed that back up to Debian.

Ultimately, we'll make the best decision for Ubuntu, but I do think it's
critical to communicate early with the Debian community about those decisions
so that we're not foisting a bunch of unexpected work on their laps.

Beyond that, I admit to being a little unsure about what my responsibility is
for the simpler packages I maintain.  Should I push them first to Debian and
let them sync automatically?  Do I just worry about Ubuntu and let Debian take
care of itself?  What do I tell upstreams who want their packages in both to

Frankly, I think the bureaucracy in both Ubuntu and Debian is quite daunting
for newcomers, even just to participate in one community.  When trying to do
the right thing for both distros, that's compounded by their different
processes, history, and culture.  It seems like the antithesis of fun, agile,
and opportunistic.  I think if the process makes it hard to do the right
thing, the process is broken.  Especially when *technically* it's really not
that difficult to package things up for either distro.

So before my newbie gets buffed out and I forget what I didn't know, I think
it would be worthwhile to discuss how to make it easier to do the right thing
(and maybe even clarify what "the right thing" is! ;).

>Perhaps a useful middle ground would be to create a system to connect Ubuntu
>packages which are not yet in Debian with Debian developers who are
>interested in packaging them?

I would definitely like to see more cross-distro communication and resources.
There's but that seems more like a user-oriented site.  Tools and
wikis, along with carefully evaluating current processes for waste (see LEAN)
can help here.  We need more communication and transparency between the two
distros too.

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