Add ubuntu-advantage-tools to Recommends on ubuntu-minimal

Steve Langasek steve.langasek at
Fri Jun 3 22:22:19 UTC 2022


A release cycle and change later, this continues to come up in discussions,
so the Server Team has asked me to comment.

On Tue, Nov 23, 2021 at 08:25:51PM -0800, Steve Langasek wrote:
> On Tue, Nov 23, 2021 at 10:25:23AM +0000, Robie Basak wrote:
> > On Mon, Nov 22, 2021 at 05:19:38PM -0300, Lucas Moura wrote:
> > > We want to ask for opinions of this change to other Ubuntu developers, to
> > > see if we are not missing any other aspect around the original decision to
> > > include the package into *Depends*.

> > Here's a previous relevant comment from Steve:
> >

> Bearing in mind that the above comment was written when
> ubuntu-advantage-tools was a shell script, so it's worth double-checking
> that the rationale there still applies.

The ubuntu-minimal metapackage defines the minimal experience that we
consider to be "Ubuntu".  It is possible to remove this metapackage from the
system, from a packaging system / policy perspective this is permitted.
However, by doing so, you are making the system "not Ubuntu" and you will
not receive support for such a system from the Ubuntu community.[1]

We have always taken an opinionated view on what defines the minimal
"Ubuntu".  For instance: at one point in the past, upstart was our supported
init system, but there were other init system packages in the archive.  It
was possible to install these - but only by removing the ubuntu-minimal
package.  Requests to relax the dependency in order to allow other init
systems as an alternative were rejected, because that was not the defined
Ubuntu experience.

We should always be willing to reconsider the contents of our minimal
install based on technical considerations.  To date, however, the objections
I've seen to ubuntu-advantage-tools being a required minimal package have
not been technical, but rather questions of taste: specifically, some people
appear to find it distasteful that a paid service from Canonical is being
advertised without the ability to opt out.

Firstly, users are always entitled to their opinion when it comes to
questions of taste; but the Ubuntu developers are not obligated to
accomodate differences of taste when it comes to the Ubuntu experience.

But secondly, as I've commented before, the purpose of
ubuntu-advantage-tools inclusion in ubuntu-minimal isn't to advertise
commercial services; it's to ensure users are informed regarding the
security status of their systems, and to provide a clean user experience for
enabling the ESM service - which in some contexts is a paid service, in some
contexts not - to provide the best possible security for those systems.

There are two other issues that have come up in discussion around
ubuntu-advantage-tools.  Neither requires making the package removable in
order to address, and ensuring they are addressed in the package itself
improves the Ubuntu experience for all users, not just those that choose to
remove this package.

 - objects about not being able to
   opt out of the MOTD messages.  This bug report however is marked
   incomplete, as the behavior described does not appear to correspond to
   the default behavior in Ubuntu Desktop or Server.  If there are problems
   being unable to opt out, we certainly want to address those.

 - ubuntu-advantage-tools is now a bit larger than it was originally,
   weighing in at around 2.8MB.  We should always be mindful of managing the
   size of a minimal Ubuntu install; however I have not actually seen anyone
   say that they were trying to remove ubuntu-advantage-tools from their
   system because of the disk space used.  In any case, the team is looking
   at bringing the size of this package back down to under 1MB.

In conclusion, in the absence of any other arguments being advanced,
ubuntu-advantage-tools will remain a dependency of ubuntu-minimal at this
time.  This is always subject to revision in light of new technical
arguments that might be put forward, but explains the current state of
affairs for the released Ubuntu 22.04 LTS.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                         
slangasek at                                     vorlon at

[1] With the caveat that there are select environments, such as docker
containers, chroots, and minimal cloud images where ubuntu-minimal is not
installed; these are special cases, not intended to be used as a full OS for
desktop or server!
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