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DEX: Debian and its derivatives, getting things done together

Since I resumed active status in Debian, I’ve been thinking about how to bridge the gap between Debian and its derivatives*. I’ve spoken at length with Zack, the attendees of the Derivatives BoF at DebConf 10, and the fine folks at the Derivatives Front Desk about the technical and social issues affecting derivative projects, and could probably write a very thorough series of blog posts on the subject.

Instead, Zack and I decided to try doing something about it: we have begun a project to test out a new approach to the problem.

Introducing DEX

DEX is all about action: merging patches, fixing bugs, crunching data, whatever is necessary to get changes from derivatives into Debian proper. DEX doesn’t try to change the way any existing project works, but adds a “fast path” for getting code from one place to another.

DEX is a joint task force where developers from Debian and its derivatives work together on this common goal. As a pilot project, we’ve established an Ubuntu DEX Team focused on merging code from Ubuntu into Debian. With members from both projects, we hope to be able to resolve blockage anywhere in the pipeline. Whatever needs to get done in order to merge an Ubuntu patch, someone in the Ubuntu DEX team will know what to do. If we get good results with Ubuntu, we hope that other derivatives will follow. With thanks to David Paleino, we’re excited that the Utnubu project is merging into DEX as it aligns well with their goals. I’m very grateful to have Colin Watson and James Westby signed up to contribute as well.

Our first project is simple: turn this list green. This is an archive of quite old patches from Ubuntu, most of which have probably been merged already or made obsolete, but they pre-date any kind of tracking system so they need to be verified. Once that’s done, we’ll move on to a new project with a new todo list.

If you want to see Debian benefit from technical work done in derivatives, DEX is a chance for you to act together to make it happen. If you work on a derivative and want to carry a smaller delta, come and join us. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot from this experience.

* There are many instances of great cooperation between Debian and derivative distributions, including joint package maintenance teams, and some derivatives are even part of the Debian project. Nonetheless, there are areas were most people I’ve spoken to agree that we need to do better. This is what I’ve referred to as the “gap”.

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Written by Matt Zimmerman

March 16, 2011 at 21:30

43 Responses

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  1. (edit: unapproved long uninformed rant about Mono from the comments. please find a more appropriate place for that conversation, which has nothing to do with DEX)

    Matt Zimmerman

    March 17, 2011 at 09:06

  2. [...] get changes from derivatives into Debian proper,” Ubuntu CTO Matt Zimmerman wrote in a blog post. “DEX is a joint task force where developers from Debian and its derivatives work together on [...]

  3. [...] и Стефано Заккироли (Stefano Zacchiroli), лидер проекта Debian, представили новый проект сообщества Debian – DEX, созданный для [...]

  4. [...] swoim blogu Mat Zimmerman Ubuntu CTO przedstawił DEX-a. DEX jest rozwiązaniem za pomocą którego można [...]

  5. [...] introduces DEX on his blog. He explains that he’s looking for ways to improve the collaboration between [...]

  6. Great start!!

    koolhead17

    March 18, 2011 at 10:38

  7. This initiative is genius. Keep it up and thank you for your hard work.

    Chauncellor

    March 18, 2011 at 12:39

  8. [...] It should be easier in future for patches to Debian-based Linux distributions to find their way back to the source, the Debian Project. This is the intention behind the establishment of Debian’s Derivatives Exchange Project (DEX), as described by Ubuntu’s technical director, Matt Zimmerman, in his blog. [...]

  9. Will this also help in getting patches from $DEBIANDERIVATIVE to the upstream projects? Kernel, LibreOffice, $WHATEVER? Or is this just meant to simplify the inter-debian workflow?

    IMHO (full disclosure – I am a Red Hat guy) distributing and coordinating patches should always include the upstream projects.

    jan

    Jan Wildeboer

    March 18, 2011 at 15:13

    • One thing that I noticed is that a large number of the patches seem to be back porting fixes.

      So, while at first I agreed with you, now, I’m not so sure :)

      Micheas

      March 18, 2011 at 18:30

      • This particular batch of patches included some packaging transitions (C++ ABI, python2.4), architecture porting fixes (e.g. amd64), some installer improvements, security enhanncements (running things as non-root), and a bunch of general bug fixes. Most of them had already been merged into Debian, but we’ve found a few already which are filed in the BTS but haven’t been merged in yet. We’ll work to get them all cleared out.

        Matt Zimmerman

        March 18, 2011 at 18:44

    • The focus is on getting Debian and its derivatives in sync, and indeed a lot of the patches are actually to the package metadata rather than upstream code.

      Where a patch should go upstream, yes, we will generally submit it. However, the idea of DEX is that by having Ubuntu developers and Debian developers in the team, we can actually get the patches in ourselves. So our goals will be set accordingly. With upstream projects, we’ll be relying on upstream maintainers to do that (on their own schedule), and will try to avoid blocking waiting for that to happen.

      Matt Zimmerman

      March 23, 2011 at 10:43

  10. [...] [...]

    Anonymous

    March 18, 2011 at 16:06

  11. Excellent idea, and much-needed.

    Adam Gonnerman

    March 18, 2011 at 16:40

  12. [...] Zacchiroli, attuale Debian Project Leader, e Matt Zimmerman, CTO di Ubuntu, hanno deciso di intraprendere il primo passo concreto per migliorare la [...]

  13. [...] przepływu pracy w obie strony stanie się faktem i będzie płynniejszy. Ogłaszając na swoim blogu ten projekt, Mat Zimmerman (Ubuntu CTO) jest przekonany o przełomie jaki może się dokonać za [...]

  14. [...] Matt Zimmerman Blog [...]

  15. [...] Debian и его производных, включая Ubuntu. Мэтт презентовал DEX в своем блоге. Он объясняет, что он ищет пути для улучшения [...]

  16. [...] и Стефано Заккироли (Stefano Zacchiroli), лидер проекта Debian, представили новый проект сообщества Debian – DEX, созданный для [...]

  17. [...] Debian-basierte Linux-Distributionen sollen künftig Patches leichter an die Mutter, das Debian-Projekt, zurückreichen können. Dazu wurde unter dem Dach von Debian das Derivatives Exchange Project (DEX) gegründet, wie Ubuntus Technik-Chef Matt Zimmermann in seinem Blog berichtet. [...]

  18. This is utterly fantastic. Only one thing: Derivatives EXchange? If you’re going to evoke the financial fiasco we’re still living through, why not go all the way? I’m thinking “CDO”: collateralized debian obligation. :-)

    marrusl

    March 19, 2011 at 01:14

  19. I like the idea and hope it succeeds. I do have concerns though. There are situations where a derivative distro’s approach has been more about a quick-n-dirty hack to get things done. Such a patch could bring disagreement.

    Are there guidelines? Like try to work with the Debian Package Maintainer? What in cases where it still can’t be resolved?

    One I can recollect right now is a patch for dput, to support uploads via ssh. That patch pulled in a bzr dependency, which the DD wasn’t interested in.

    Ritesh Raj Sarraf

    March 19, 2011 at 15:54

    • Yes, there are sometimes differences of opinion as to the most appropriate solution to a problem, due to different goals and priorities between the projects. Our hope with DEX is that by involving both Debian maintainers and derivative maintainers in the team, we can resolve those differences expediently, and develop best practices for future work.

      I think that both groups will need to work to accommodate each other’s needs.

      If a patch is not especially useful in Debian, but does no appreciable harm and solves a problem for the derivative, is it really worth maintaining a delta? The dput patch, which adds a “Suggests” on dput, seems like a good example of one which would be harmless to merge, but maybe there’s more to the story that I’m not aware of.

      In other situations, it might be more appropriate to rework a patch to be more general. Helping people in both projects learn how and when to do the right thing will be an important part of DEX.

      Matt Zimmerman

      March 21, 2011 at 09:43

  20. [...] Zimmerman blogs about DEX, a joint task force between Debian and its derivatives that aims to get changes that belong in [...]

  21. [...] Por iniciativa de Matt Zimmerman, Jefe Técnico de Ubuntu, se ha puesto en marcha el proyecto Dex, una fuerza de tareas conjunta entre desarrolladores de Debian y Ubuntu para facilitar que el trabajo realizado por las distribuciones derivadas pueda ser utilizados por Debian. Si bien en principio el proyecto se limita a la distribución sudafricana Zimmerman espera que se sumen otras distros FuentE [...]

  22. [...] El CTO de Ubuntu inaugura el proyecto DEX mdzlog.alcor.net/2011/03/16/dex-debian-and-its-derivative…  por Angelusiones hace 3 segundos [...]

  23. [...] » noticia original [...]

  24. [...] Linux Mint 10 LXDE released! Debian “CUT” (Constantly Usable Testing) announced DEX: Debian and its derivatives, getting things done together Linux 2.6.38 Kernel Released AMD Fusion Falters With Linux 2.6.38 Final Android Market data shows [...]

  25. [...] DEX: Debian and its derivatives, getting things done together DEX is all about action: merging patches, fixing bugs, crunching data, whatever is necessary to get changes from derivatives into Debian proper. DEX doesn’t try to change the way any existing project works, but adds a “fast path” for getting code from one place to another. Continua a leggere… [...]

  26. [...] DEX: Debian and its derivatives, getting things done together DEX is all about action: merging patches, fixing bugs, crunching data, whatever is necessary to get changes from derivatives into Debian proper. DEX doesn’t try to change the way any existing project works, but adds a “fast path” for getting code from one place to another. Continua a leggere… [...]

  27. [...] Old Time Radio Player HTML ref Android Picks so far, thanks to Madjo in the IRC Chat room! NEWS: DEX – Joint Task Force to Improve Debian Through Downstream Projects Gnome 2 survives with EXDE Who’s Behind the Google-Linux License Ruckus? Details on Digia and [...]

  28. [...] is begonnen door Matt Zimmerman en Stefano Zacchiroli, beide actief in de Debian-community. Zij stellen dat veel vernieuwingen in Linux-distributies die op Debian zijn gebaseerd slechts zelden opduiken [...]

  29. [...] Debian has extended the work started with their Derivatives Front Desk with a new project called DEX — the Derivatives Exchange: [...]

  30. [...] Zimmerman, CTO (Chief Technical Officer, ou do inglês, diretor técnico) da Canonical, anunciou em seu blog o projeto DEX, que segundo ele, quer melhorar a colaboração entre o Debian e suas [...]

  31. [...] basata proprio sulla storica distribuzione oggi guidata dall’italiano Stefano Zacchiroli. Da un’idea di Matt Zimmerman e lo stesso Zacchiroli, infatti, è nato ufficialmente il progetto DEX che ha [...]

  32. [...] say. I said about Redhat because I happenchanced to see Ubuntu’s Matt Zimmerman‘s blog post on the same topic and somebody named Ian Wildeboer asking them to contribute to patches upstream [...]

  33. [...] (http://mdzlog.alcor.net/2011/03/16/dex-debian-and-its-derivatives-getting-things-done-together/) “Debian Derivatives Exchange project launched Stefano Zacchiroli and Matt Zimmerman [...]

  34. [...] patches, sponsorship of upload etc. If you have never heard about DEX, then you might want to read this blog post by Matt [...]

  35. [...] patches, sponsorship of upload etc. If you have never heard about DEX, then you might want to read this blog post by Matt [...]

  36. [...] few months ago DEX was introduced to work with the Debian Front Desk to aid Linux developers in contributing back upstream to Debian. [...]

  37. [...] few months ago DEX was introduced to work with the Debian front Desk to aid Linux developers [...]

  38. [...] и Стефано Заккироли (Stefano Zacchiroli), лидер проекта Debian, представили новый проект сообщества Debian – DEX, созданный для [...]


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