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RE: Developing on Debian

Thank you all for your help.  Very good information to have!

Jason Mock
Sales Engineer
High Touch, Inc.
Phone:  316.831.8106
Fax:      316.831.8306 

"Reaching higher for our clients everyday..."

-----Original Message-----
From: Philip Hands [mailto:phil@hands.com] 
Sent: Thursday, October 13, 2005 6:30 AM
To: Baruch Even
Cc: Jason Mock; debian-project@lists.debian.org
Subject: Re: Developing on Debian

Baruch Even wrote:
> Hi,
> Debian GNU/Linux is a volunteer organization that develops a world-class
> operating system based on the Linux kernel and GNU project. I'll go
> point by point to answer your questions.
> Jason Mock wrote:
>>I had some questions on your ISV program.  We're a retail point of sale
>>software company that is seeking out a Linux platform to distribute our
>>software on.  A few of the questions that I have are concerning the
>>"Corporate Server" version of your software.  I need the following
>>*_Original purchase cost_* - Currently we use SCO Unix.  The way this
>>process works with them is we buy a development kit, produce a tape that
>>contains the OS and our software.  We assign the end user a license for
>>the server, and pay SCO on that license.  How does your process work
>>when it comes to distribution?  What are the license costs associated
>>with this process?
> Debian GNU/Linux is free-software, as long as you base your system on
> our official components (the 'main' archive) you are free to distribute
> the system and have our blessing to use and distribute it with no
> license costs whatsoever.
> Yes, we _are_ that generous.

While what Baruch says is true, you should be aware that with Debian
GNU/Linux, as with all versions of GNU/Linux (some people call that just
"Linux" BTW, they're talking about the same thing) much of the operating
system is covered by a license called the GNU GPL (General Public License).

As a distributor of GPLed software, you would be obliged to offer your
clients copies of the source of those programs, or a written offer to
provide it on request, and you should probably mention that you are using
GPLed software in your manuals somewhere.  I'm sure that this obligation
could be handled by including an extra CD/DVD in the packaging, with the
relevant for of words on it's cover -- it might be worth checking the
details on the debian-legal mailing list if you decide to use Debian as
your base.  There are other licenses we use that have similar conditions,
but a single page of small-print and an extra CD should deal with the lot
in one go.

N.B.  The GPL does not in any way affect programs that you simply aggregate
onto the same distribution media.  As long as you don't start modifying
already GPLed code, or taking snippets of GPLed code and including them in
your own programs, there is no obligation for you to distribute the source
of your own copyrighted works -- that's a silly rumour that Microsoft were
trying to spread at one point.

As evidenced by the multiple replies, we're not a company, we're a
volunteer organisation.  As such we're not going to be signing heads of
agreement letters with you, or part funding one another's marketing
campaigns or many of the other things that you might expect from a company.

That said, there are compelling reasons to choose Debian as your base,
rather than the alternatives.  Since there is no company, there is no
motive on our part to release cosmetic upgrades just to be able to charge
you an upgrade fee.  Historically, we release less often than other
distributions, at least partly because we do not release until the software
is really stable -- having no marketing department means that we don't have
a deadline to hit, so we don't just release whatever we've got on the
assigned release date, we work on the code until it works properly, then

As an ISV that means that you will not need to be retesting everything
every six months.

The flip-side of that is of course that new features tend to take a while
to percolate into our stable release, but we also have an up to the minute
"unstable" distribution, and a half-way house "testing" distribution.  I'd
imagine that all your needs (if you were happy with SCO) will be more than
satisfied by our stable release, but if there's one or two packages that
offer features that you need from later than that, the normal approach is
to grab the newer source and build them for the stable system -- we provide
tolls to make this easy.

So, the bottom line is, you can grab a copy for free, distribute it as
widely as you like without fee (as long as you supply your clients with the
source of our bits) and we're positively happy for you to do so.

>>*_Upgrades_* - With SCO we currently buy an upgrade license on a per
>>system basis as we determine that an OS upgrade is in order.  How does
>>your upgrade process work?  What are the costs associated with this
>>process?  How is the upgrade distributed?
> Upgrade is performed using our upgrade tools on a live system, the base
> tool is apt-get with various wrappers on top of that. If your systems
> are connected to the internet it can be done from our servers directly.
> Otherwise you can simple distribute the updated packages and upgrade
> from a CD.
> Adaptation to that is possible and is up to you, there are many
> companies and consultants in the Debian eco-system that can help with
> your exact needs.

Just to emphasise the point, Debian allows you to do a full version
upgrade, or security updates, on a running system.  It is completely normal
for Debian users to log into a remote system and upgrade it from a previous
release to a current one, without causing a significant interruption to

If you learn to package your software the way we produce packages, which is
reasonably easy to understand, then you will be able to upgrade your own
software in the same manner, if you choose.  Alternatively, just dump it in
/opt or /usr/local and we guarantee not to touch it during system upgrades.

So, to conclude the sales pitch, we're bigger than all the other GNU/Linux
distributions in pretty much every dimension (more developers, more
packages, more supported architectures) and because there's no company, we
don't have any motivations other than the pursuit of technical excellence,
so you won't be told that we're changing everything because our corporate
policy changed, or marketing thinks some new thing sounds better.

You will have to do a little more work initially though, or pay a Debian
consultant to guide you, but since you were expecting to pay anyway, why
not pay for lessons in fishing, rather than a few kilos of fish?

Cheers, Phil.
|)|  Philip Hands [+44 (0)20 8530 9560]    http://www.hands.com/
|-|  HANDS.COM Ltd.                    http://www.uk.debian.org/
|(|  10 Onslow Gardens, South Woodford, London  E18 1NE  ENGLAND

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