Ichthux and Ubuntu CE: Why two projects?

Barbicane asked me the other day: “Why Ichthux and Ubuntu CE? Why not consolidate efforts?”

As much as I’d like to see Ubuntu CE succeed, I believe they are headed down a path that will make it difficult for them to survive if they continue. In this thread (see Google cache since the forums
seem to be having problems today) Jereme severely understates the differences in development philosophies that
keep us apart. One key difference is more fundamental than just using metapackages instead of scripts.

As I wrote about earlier, the approach Ichthux has chosen is to be a Custom Debian Distribution (CDD), working within Debian and Ubuntu to configure those distributions
for the needs of Christians to meet their various needs. This is incompatible with CE’s approach, which uses scripts to tailor an Ubuntu system. This approach risks violating the integrity of the packages being modified, and makes each system upgrade an adventure for the user. What you end up with cannot truly be called an “edition” of Ubuntu at all, but is more accurately described as an Ubuntu derivative. Derivatives are not easily sustained because they are always struggling with staying in sync with the parent distribution. Ubuntu itself is a derivative, but it has an impressive amount of infrastructure with a lot of manpower behind it to ensure that the branching and merging process doesn’t get out of control. I don’t see how the much smaller Ubuntu CE development team will manage to accomplish anything significant using their current approach without being crushed by the maintenance costs of their customizations.

Another difference, perhaps more readily apparent to end users, is what’s included in each distribution by default. While CE has chosen the Gnome desktop, Ichthux has gone with KDE. With each new release of Ubuntu CE, it seems what is stressed the most in their release notes is “what’s included”. Well, I just can’t see how that’s terribly important. Debian and Ubuntu both have a vast amount of software available, and both make it easy for users to make choices. If a user wants to add another application, it’s often just a few clicks away. It’s
not nearly as important to have these installed by default as it is to ensure that the packages we do include are as solid and well-integrated with the system as possible.

To this end, Ichthux makes use of its Debian and Ubuntu developers to ensure that each package included is kept in good shape from release to release. This means addressing bugs and wishlists that matter to our users, improving those packages not just for Ichthux, but for Ubuntu, Debian, and where those fixes flow back upstream, the broader community of Christian FOSS users everywhere. This is the real work of Ichthux: not just the production of a livecd, nor merely tweaking the default selection of packages we include from one release to the next, but to be actively involved in the Christian FOSS developer and user community. Our greatest successes will
not be in the degree to which we differentiate ourselves from other Linux distributions, but rather how well we’re listening to what Christian FOSS users are saying they need, and how broad we can make our solutions. We can’t afford to be a niche distribution working off in a corner on our own pet project. That would be a terrible waste of our energy. We’re dreaming big: we want every Christian Linux user to be able to benefit from our work.

One Reply to “Ichthux and Ubuntu CE: Why two projects?”

  1. Well said!! I once envisioned a new distro – PoiemaOS – with a similar vision. Ichthux is what I had hoped Poiema would be. A resource for Christian developers first and a great distro in its own right second.

    “To this end, Ichthux makes use of its Debian and Ubuntu developers to ensure that each package included is kept in good shape from release to release. This means addressing bugs and wishlists that matter to our users, improving those packages not just for Ichthux, but for Ubuntu, Debian, and where those fixes flow back upstream, the broader community of Christian FOSS users everywhere. This is the real work of Ichthux: not just the production of a livecd, nor merely tweaking the default selection of packages we include from one release to the next, but to be actively involved in the Christian FOSS developer and user community. Our greatest successes will not be in the degree to which we differentiate ourselves from other Linux distributions, but rather how well we’re listening to what Christian FOSS users are saying they need, and how broad we can make our solutions. We can’t afford to be a niche distribution working off in a corner on our own pet project. That would be a terrible waste of our energy. We’re dreaming big: we want every Christian Linux user to be able to benefit from our work.”

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