Guadalinex is a Debian based GNU/Linux distribution promoted by the government of Andalusia (Spain). It’s used in schools, public libraries, centers for elderly people and special info centers on over 100,000 PCs. Recently, Guadalinex announced that the next version would be based on Ubuntu. A translations of their justification is included below.
Some links of interest include:
An unofficial translation of the justification follows:
Guadalinex’s Justification for Using Ubuntu
A GNU/Linux distribution is a means to an end for a public administration. A distribution is a tool that must meet a set of requirements; some of those requirements will be generic, some specific to the intended audience (e.g., geographic and functional). The efforts of the administration should focus on those areas in which deficiencies are detected; those resources should not be applied to reimplement existing and good solutions.
One of the virtues of free software is the potential for reuse and to benefit from that reuse it is necessary to focus a considerable mass of users around a set of common options. This ensures that any effort expended on that common core will benefit a large number of people and, conversely, that the effort to guarantee the quality of that work is distributed among the largest possible number of organizations and people.
Ubuntu, therefore, is a GNU/Linux distribution worth considering in the evolution of public administration’s GNU/Linux distributions. Specifically:
- Ubuntu is 100% free. Although being sponsored mainly by a company, that company, Canonical Limited, publicly promises that Ubuntu will always be 100% free and open to the Ubuntu community.
- Ubuntu is Debian based.
- Ubuntu is released by a large team of developers employed by Canonical (currently 38 employees) and significant number of volunteers from the community.
- Ubuntu has earned a high degree of acceptance from the free software community.
- Ubuntu provides a complete desktop system.
- Ubuntu contains one of the most advanced and up-to-date hardware detection and configuration systems.
- Ubuntu is oriented to support languages from around the world and to facilitate translation into those languages.
- Ubuntu has been created from the outset to facilitate the production of derivative distributions (e.g., Canonical is sponsoring tools to aid collaboration between distributions in Launchpad, Ubuntu’s toolset for development, maintainence, and translation).
- Ubuntu has established collaborative agreements with GNOME and other upstream developers.
- Ubuntu is integrated into Debian’s debugging machinery and other upstream developers.
- Ubuntu has a clearly defined release cycle, which includes
- A release every 6 months, – The first test version after 6 weeks, – A test version every 2 weeks, – A preview version a month before the release, and – A release candidate version a week before the release.
- Ubuntu offers 18 months of critical and security updates for every release.
- Ubuntu is working towards complete LSB 2.0 compliance.
Following from these facts, we ask ourselves:
Should Ubuntu be used as the base for next release of our distribution?
To answer that question, we recently held a meeting with Canonical’s representatives (directors and technicians). From the conversation we identified the following advantages:
- A large part of the work needed to stabilize the distribution will be done by Ubuntu.
- We will share a bigger group of users for our distribution base so the error detection essential to the distribution debugging would be faster and deeper. Our own error debugging could be integrated into Ubuntu’s bugtracker (Malone). Also, the hardware detection software would benefit from a large and geographically distributed user base.
- The use of Ubuntu could be a reversible decision because Ubuntu derives from Debian and, if needed, we could revert to Debian by picking up all the stabilization tasks. It should not break the update stream for users.
- We will get security updates for a 18 month period following the release. The current use of a snapshot from the Debian unstable version (Sid) or testing version (Sarge) means that we don’t get those updates unless we produce them ourselves.
- We will belong to a large pressure group worldwide over the hardware vendors so they free drivers or specifications. This would be in addition to other efforts that are made to ensure hardware compatibility.
- We could integrate our own people or other contracted people, funds or projects from the public administration into the Ubuntu development process.
- Ubuntu decides the path to follow and sets their priorities while taking into account user feedback and community desires. Public administrations, with their thousands of users will have a significant voice and vote within the Ubuntu decision process, independent from the additions they (the public administration) decide to include to their base distribution.
- Canonical is able to sign a collaboration agreement with the public administrations which would establish the previous commitments regarding the freedom, periodic releases and support terms. This agreement would be formal and in written form.
- Ubuntu could serve as the nucleus for larger and more ambitious initiatives (than the simple distribution derivation) based on free software.
- Ubuntu does not include or support all software that our distribution includes at the moment. We will need to integrate the extra applications required into Ubuntu and support their use separately. In any event, the use of Ubuntu means an overall reduction of the work load from our current situation.
- It is not possible to integrate Componentized Linux with Ubuntu and retain the benefits of one of those approaches, much less the advantages of both. The main goal of Componentized Linux is to ease the distribution of effort when stabilizing a distribution; that advantage would lose its value because the stabilization will come mainly from the Ubuntu team. Another Componentized Linux advantage is their adhesion to the LSB 2.0 standard; Ubuntu also compliance as a short/medium term goal.
Canonical: What is its business model?
Canonical believes that in the near future, GNU/Linux users that are currently spread among a plethora of distributions will be concentrated around 2 or 3 main distributions. They declare that their purpose is to make Ubuntu one of them and, if possible, the best one. Their main source of financial revenues are support and services; they want to be the Ubuntu reference company, but they don’t aim to provide all Ubuntu services worldwide. They don’t have and don’t aim to have branchs or franchises; they seek agreements with local companies (particularly outside the spoken English world) that provide services for Ubuntu with Canonical as a backup.
The Ubuntu characteristics discussed above, together with Canonical’s willingness to sign a collaboration agreement with public administrations, guarantee Ubuntu’s freedom and ensure its viability as an option independent from any contractual relationship with Canonical.
Technically we think it’s advisable that our 2005 version derive from the next Ubuntu version (5.04), which will be released in April 2005.
(Translation by Carlos Perelló Marín)