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Re: Integrating aptosid?

On Tue, May 03, 2011 at 03:05:34PM +0200, Pierre Habouzit wrote:
> I know it's not simple, but it's not necessarily harder than making
> testing usable, I think Joss made a pretty good case about that on his
> blog.

FWIW (#1), for the non-planet readers this is at

> aptosid is just an example, I don't even know the distro, they may not
> be the best choice, I just try to find alternates ideas. Note that I
> don't think it takes more than 10 people to do the rolling distro like
> Joss propose it: snapshot unstable every month and fix the worst
> breakages. It takes more than 10 people to do the same in testing
> because each individual fix is tangled in the migration issue, hence
> rapidly needs to update things that are at first totally unrelated to be
> fixed too first.

FWIW (#2). Even though we seem to have consensus on going in a different
direction for a Debian rolling suite, I've mimicked what Lucas did and
reached out to a couple of aptosid people I've had a chance to meet at a
past FOSS event in Dublin a few months ago and asked them to comment on
this. You can find attached a mail from Niall Walsh, aptosid developer,
which I've asked to comment on the issues of: 1) who they believe their
target users are and 2) on the possibility of merging efforts with

The mail is forwarded with permission from Niall, although it has been
written initially for a single recipient rather than for a list. Take it
with a grain of salt. Niall has also clarified that his views are only
his and not necessarily representative of all aptosid developers, but
I've found them interesting and useful for this debate nonetheless.

Thanks a lot to Niall and to all the other developers for aptosid!


Stefano Zacchiroli -o- PhD in Computer Science \ PostDoc @ Univ. Paris 7
zack@{upsilon.cc,pps.jussieu.fr,debian.org} -<>- http://upsilon.cc/zack/
Quando anche i santi ti voltano le spalle, |  .  |. I've fans everywhere
ti resta John Fante -- V. Capossela .......| ..: |.......... -- C. Adams
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Hi Stefano,

Paul forwarded your e-mail onto me (not in a way I could really reply to 
inline, sigh).

First off, obviously you now have my e-mail address.

Secondly I permalurk on OFTC with the nick bfree, feel free to ping me 
there any time.

You probably won't be surprised at all to know that I and all the other 
aptosid people are aware of the rambling (rolling) thread on debian-devel.  
 Yesterday we even had lucas come join us in #aptosid where he spoke to a 
few of the aptosid team and had most of his questions answered as best they 
could be on the spot by Kel Modderman.

You also probably won't be surprised to know that it's certainly not easy 
to even begin to try and answer the questions in your mail.   I've thrown 
the mail in front of the other members of the aptosid team in case it helps 
prompt any of them to put on their asbestos underpants and join in.

Both Kel and Stefan Lippers-Hollmann (CC'd here at his request as he hopes 
to send you an answer of his own) have shown their faces in the monster 
thread on debian-devel, so aptosid hasn't been totally silent on it.

Some initial comments (I won't call them answers) to the questions posed in 
your mail:


I think many aptosid users are using it simply because they like to be 
closer to the "bleeding edge" then debian stable would allow without losing 
all the advantages of Debian.   This mainly means simply getting newer 
versions of their applications.  But as a group I guess I would say they 
must also be driven by enjoying staying closer to current software 
development, seeing things when they are newer and not waiting years before 
they get their hands on the features they hear about being released by the 
upstream projects.

I guess I would charecterise the vast majority of aptosid users as people 
who have prior Linux experience on one distribution or another.   Many seem 
drawn by the chance to use Debian's repository either because they know or 
have heard about the scope and quality of the software it contains.   
Obviously though they want (or at least think they want) newer things then 
Debian stable will give them.   Quite a few will say they want a rolling 
release (and many mention having tried or considered Arch) though I've 
never tried to find out why so I can only answer that one for myself.

I personally like a rolling release as a user because it means you don't 
get to face a day where you suddenly upgrade your entire system at once.   
Obviously the downside to this is you get many more opportunities for an 
upgrade to break something, but if it happens it's usually much easier to 
pick out the problem.

I also like to feel that I am contributing to improving Debian even if I am 
only using unstable and do not contribute anything.   The reality is though 
that the more people who use unstable, the more bugs will be found earlier 
and the better Debian will be for all, whatever suite they chose to use.

As a developer the same things apply, though obviously when someone decides 
to upload a new major version of a core package you work with the day you 
plan to build something it can make life more entertaining, but that's the 
fun so you roll with it and it lets you know what work you have ahead more 
immediately and as it happens, rather then waiting until the day you 
discover you have a massive load of changes to adapt to at once and so will 
only get to release yourself after a lengthy delay adapting to them all.

Obviously 99% of users are using aptosid as a desktop OS.   Given we only 
release images for kde and xfce desktops though this isn't surprising and 
is kinda by design.


Over the years the idea of aptosid working inside Debian somehow has 
certainly been thrown about many times in various ways for various reasons. 
  I think those conversations have always been short-lived though mainly 
because we simply don't think the idea is one which Debian would be 
receptive to, and we have no issue with that.   Debian has always been 
about it's stable releases and as a bunch of outsiders we certainly 
wouldn't want to be a distraction from that.   If we were lobbying within 
Debian for people to try and be nicer to unstable and keep it usable we 
would only create another unneccessary tension and source of flaming.

As you might remember from the talk in Dublin, there's also the simpler 
technical issue around the kernel.  With just 2 architectures to care for, 
and no Debian installer to care for, it is "easier" (says the person who 
doesn't do the work) for us to essentially stay current with the upstream 
kernel releases and development.   Debian does not want duplicated sources 
in the archive so that also makes it polite for us to stay outside.   
Asking debian-kernel to do any more then the staggering amount of work they 
already do would also just be rude and ungrateful imvho.

In many ways I think it has always seemed easier and more polite to just do 
what we do outside Debian rather then starting an endless series of monster 
threads like the current one.   aptosid doesn't need to be inside Debian 
and as long as we could see how it could be detrimental to Debian for it to 
try to come inside I don't think we could even begin to ask Debian to even 
think about it.

Perhaps that may be as good an answer as you will get from me, it's 
certainly longer then anything I expected to write in this immediate 

I hope this helps you a little.

Nice to hear from you and thanks for thinking of prodding us for more info, 
even if it is difficult to do so.

Good luck,


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