Questions are in italic, and have been left in where it seems best to preserve clarity. -iwj

Ian Jackson

What were you doing in Debian before joining Ubuntu ?

Technical Committee; maintaining a few unimportant packages. SPI Board (not strictly Debian, but it seems relevant).

I'm upstream maintainer for a few packages including GNU adns. That's not working for Debian with a `Debian hat', but of course it is work that Debian uses.

Some time ago of course I wrote dpkg and various other stuff.

Why did you join Ubuntu and what are you doing for Ubuntu ?

I wanted to work on Free Software in my day job, and I was tired of my previous job in the proprietary computer security industry, (a) because the customers never really wanted security and (b) because of the tension between the company's goals and my desire to have my hat remain white (eg, I had to - quietly - make working on DRM a resignation matter).

A big part of what I'm doing in Ubuntu at the moment is maintaining Ubuntu's firefox package. I'm pleased to say that I have a good relationship with the Debian firefox maintainer.

You may have seen my messages in debian-devel about the automated testing system I'm developing, which is intended for adoption in Debian and Ubuntu (and perhaps other distributions in the future too). See and the package autopkgtest (was autodebtest, in sid and dapper).

Like any Ubuntu developer I also sometimes deal with other packages; in my case I've wrestled with ancient versions of gs, for example, and of course I've messed around with dpkg a bit.

What are you doing nowadays in Debian ?

As a volunteer: Technical Committee; maintaining a few unimportant packages (I've just taken on a few more); SPI Board.

And of course when I'm working on Ubuntu I often find myself contributing to Debian by sending patches to Debian. For example, the latest Debian firefox packages have many patches from Ubuntu.

Can you explain the change (if any) ?

There hasn't been that big a change, really. I think I'm answering my email a bit faster.


The biggest reason why I reduced my involvement in Debian many years ago was because it took me a while to adjust to Debian's growth, and I was for a while trying to (or avoiding trying to) fix everything in Debian. Now I have a healthier attitude I think where I realise that fixing everything in Debian that's broken is too hard, because Debian is just too big (and too stubborn!) But that's all old history now.

What do you think of the Debian-Ubuntu collaboration ?

It seems to be very patchy. Sometimes it works well and constructively and sometimes it goes really badly. This seems to depend very much on the people involved.

Explain why (in your opinion) we've reached the current situation. Don't hesitate to list the real problems (on both sides). You can give some examples of things that worked well, and of things that didn't work.

You are inviting me to make a public written praise and criticism of my bosses. I don't really think that's an appropriate thing for you to do. These kind of political questions are always very sensitive and you have to be aware, when you're talking to an employee, that their financial self-interest may conflict with their interest in giving an honest opinion.

For this reason I think that Canonical employees should refrain from engaging in any political commentary which Canonical might have a view, unless they are speaking on behalf of Canonical (and make clear that that's what they're doing). This applies for other values of `Canonical', too, of course. Debian is an association of individuals, not a confederation of companies, and we have to keep it that way.

So I think that no-one who works for Canonical should answer this part of the question.

What do you wish for the future ?

If I avoid matters which Canonical might have a view on then I think the answer to this question will be unacceptably bland.

I suppose the one thing I could hope for (if I may outrage dogmatics everywhere) is that both Debian and Ubuntu developers and supporters realise the limitations of the systems they have produced; in particular, both Debian and Ubuntu seem to claim to be aiming to be universal, whereas in fact anyone can see that there is a different focus.

I hope that acknowledging the different focus will make it easier for both sets of partisans to see why their favourite system isn't the right thing for everyone - ie, why we need both.

Do you want to add something ?

I would be happy to talk to anyone eg in private email conversation to help mediate disputes between Ubuntu and Debian. Of course my opinions should be considered warily because I do work for Canonical, but I hope that my personal record, and my personal connection to Debian, will balance that.