Home > Open source, Ubuntu > Distributions, or why Universe matters

Distributions, or why Universe matters

February 2, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Most of us know what makes open source software better than their proprietary counterparts. However I would like to stress one purely technical advantage of Linux distributions when compared to their proprietary alternatives.

It’s the concept of distribution. Making software for your platform available from a central repository, with installation, upgrades, security updates and removals all done by the same set integrated tools and processes.

Having been forced to use Windows professionally in the last years, I have been reminded of how great that is. Long-time distro users tend to forget. The whole process of hunting down software, selecting something that is less likely to contain spyware, downloading, installing… it’s so complex and boring. And then, you have to follow each product security advisories to try to stay up-to-date security-wise. And then, all those separate auto-update services run in the background. And then, when you try to remove the product with its specific uninstaller, you realize there is not so much incentive for software publishers to allow you to completely get rid of them.

So distributions, by making selected software simply available and upgradeable, are invaluable. The corollary is that you need to have enough software available through your distribution that people don’t have to manually install stuff, otherwise you’re back at step one. I remember switching from the old RedHat to another distro because I wanted exim and they forced you to run… sendmail.

That brings us to my second point: why Ubuntu Universe matters so much. A distribution is a lot less interesting if you can’t find what you’re looking for it its repositories. Thanks to its strong Debian roots, Ubuntu inherits from the largest package base. But we also need to ensure that those packages are working properly, are easy to deploy and integrate well with the rest of the distro.

Having recently been accepted as a MOTU, I’m proud to contribute wherever I can to this goal. The package wealth is the core strength of a distribution, and this is why taking care of the Universe matters so much.

Categories: Open source, Ubuntu
  1. foo
    February 2, 2009 at 10:53

    Universe is nice, but Debian is better – the packages there are supported by their maintainers and Debian. Please encourage people uploading to Universe to contribute to Debian instead.

  2. jimcooncat
    February 2, 2009 at 14:25

    As a small office manager, the distribution concept makes my life very easy. I’ve started repackaging some applications lately with office customizations. It works very well, especially loading up new computers with preseeding methods. With apt-cacher, I can install a new server in 15 minutes from bare metal, and all the security updates are done automatically within that initial load. That’s magic!

    Looking forward to more and better tools to maintain personal repositories for community subsets — whether in-house corporate application sets, localized, or friends-and-family.

  3. February 2, 2009 at 21:04

    I definitely agree with you on using Windows after having used Ubuntu for so long. It feels so out of place to have to search the web and figure out what is compatible yourself, and THEN click through a wizard 🙂

    Congrats on MOTU! If you wouldn’t mind reviewing my package http://revu.ubuntuwire.com/details.py?package=wxbanker, I would GREATLY appreciate it. I have been trying to get it into Jaunty for about 2 months but the feedback loop is rather lengthy for a first-time packager like myself; getting feedback on a package seems like a challenge of itself! It is just a cdbs packaging of a python app that uses distutils, so it ideally isn’t too bad 🙂

  4. Christopher Lunsford
    February 2, 2009 at 22:19

    nice article and your right, after not using Windows for around 9 years I’ve slowly forgotten what that other world is like. Congrats on the MOTU acceptance btw

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