Is there a vanilla Linux distribution?

As some of you might know I create/update packages for Ubuntu for the GetDeb project. What the project tries to accomplish is supply updated or newly created packages that aren’t in the Ubuntu repository. Ubuntu is sometimes late with updates for packages, like the official repository still has Pidgin 2.2.1 while 2.3.1 has been out for quiet a while and maybe a few days after it’s release you could download the latest version on GetDeb. One of the reasons why Ubuntu hasn’t updated their version yet is because of the focus on the new release, Hardy, and because of all the patches they create themselves.

All these patches have to been thoroughly tested if the package needs to end up in the official repository and my guess is that most developers rather work on Hardy then the update in Gutsy. By creating all the patches you also create a huge obstacle for yourself, every time an update of a program is released you have to put the program through quality assurance and maybe create updates for your patches. At Getdeb we do test our programs before releasing them but we don’t have the manpower to test the programs so they are flawless. It’s close to bleeding edge.

There is a a whole team of programmers, about 20, creating Pidgin to make sure it work flawlessly. I tend to believe most of these programmers know the source code of Pidgin pretty well and here we have maybe on or two Ubuntu developers making Pidgin compatible with Ubuntu. I am not dissing the Ubuntu developers but I think that’s just crazy, why can’t Ubuntu just use the official Pidgin release? Why? Because of patches created for other programs that interact with Pidgin.

The whole update process would be way quicker if the Linux distribution would be able to run unpatched programs. OH wait, Ubuntu can do this. If you you download Firefox or Thunderbird from Mozilla and install it, it will run, no problems what so ever. So why they patch the official release is beyond me.

I wonder if there is a “vanilla” Linux distribution out there. With “vanilla” I mean a distribution that uses the official releases of packages. Now I understand that you might want to change the location of a installed program but that is a configuration patch, not a source patch. Maybe Slackware is a vanilla distro but I haven’t played with Slackware long enough to make that statement.

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  • Jared

    I think you answered your own question there…

    “Why? Because of patches created for other programs that interact with Pidgin.
    The whole update process would be way quicker if the Linux distribution would be able to run unpatched programs. ”

    Correct, it would be easier if the software had less functionality.

  • Peter

    Programs are created to have all the functionality without patches from distributions.

    What is the reasoning behind patching the official source code? The reasoning is that distributions all have their own little ways of doing things.

    Let’s look at another example: git, the SCM system.
    The official Ubuntu version is : 1:
    I updated git and I am running : 1:
    There’s a patch in the package that will change the source_code of pager.c
    @@ -39,7 +39,7 @@ void setup_pager(void)
    if (!pager)
    pager = getenv(“PAGER”);
    if (!pager)
    – pager = “less”;
    + pager = “pager”;
    else if (!*pager || !strcmp(pager, “cat”))

    So they replace the the command less with pager only because in Ubuntu pager is set as an alternative to whatever you want it to be:
    /bin/more -or-
    /usr/bin/pg -or-
    /usr/bin/less -or-

    As far as I know the command less comes with a default installation. So why would you want to create this patch? If Ubuntu wouldn’t use something like pager this patch would be unnecessary, which I believe it is anyway but that’s beside the point. What if the git developers decided to dramatically change the pager.c? The maintainer of the Ubuntu package needs to start creating another patch.

    One more example: Azureus
    Ubuntu’s official version: 2.5.0
    I believe they aren’t updating to a newer version because they created a humongous patch that changes the source code so Azureus can’t automatically update itself. When i started with Ubuntu I downloaded the official Azureus release and it has been updating automatically without any problems I’m running right now.

    I know why they create patches but it holds you back in the updating process and that’s why I wondered if there is a vanilla Linux distribution that runs all vanilla software.

  • Curtis

    Yes, there is: Gentoo and its derivatives, like Sabayon.

    You must download and build everything under Gentoo, leaving you to specify compiler options and every other aspect of the software that you use.

  • Jared

    Regarding git version numbers – if you look at you’ll see that (released 15/8) is the last release before the Gutsy feature freeze (16/9, see which is why that’s the version in the Gutsy repositories.

    The pager patch is a bit silly but that’s just the Debian way of doing things. If upstream breaks the patch then it would take about 2 minutes to fix. No big deal.

    The Azureus thing is pretty stupid, since 2.5.0 is very old indeed. :/

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

  • Jared

    urgh.. I meant 16/8 with the feature freeze date. 😛

  • Yes, Slackware is a vanilla distro.

  • backtrack seems to be better with almost all forensic tools