Do you consider yourself to be fairly familiar with the Debian Linux distribution? I thought I was familiar with it enough to know its origin and history, how its name was derived and that Richard Stallman, the Father of the Free Software movement, uses a Debian derivative (gNewSense) for his own personal computer. There's one significant piece of the Debian puzzle that I didn't know about: Its Constitution.
It has a Constitution and well-defined leadership roles. It also has well thought out rules of engagement, problem resolution and overall structure. I sincerely applaud the creators and successors who've pushed Debian into the mainstream for the past 17 years. Yes, 17 years--can you believe it?
When I first heard about Debian, I was working in a small IT support group for about 400 developers and their support staff. I ran an early version of Red Hat Linux on a clandestinely obtained computer in my cubicle. About three dozen of the organization's hardcore developers had access to it. They did some of their development with it and requested, through their management, that I construct and deploy some real server hardware for them using Linux.
Red Hat was OK with them but one java developer preferred something called Debian.
I said, "What is Debian?" To which he responded, "Well, if you think that Red Hat is the Porsche-driving rich kid, then Debian is sort of your poor cousin once removed."
It sounded absolutely intriguing to me. Maybe it was his description or maybe it was because Dan was one of the smartest people I've ever known. In any case, my love affair with Debian started that fateful day in the summer of 1996.
I obtained another computer, through less than savory means, and did an over-the-network installation of Debian. Even in 1996, it had an impressive number of software packages available for it (about two GB, if I recall correctly). I installed everything, which, I believe, used to be an option.
We never managed to secure real server hardware for the developers but the two systems ran for more than a year. That was until my quiet little gig as developer support was snatched away and I was whisked back under the larger umbrella of corporate support. Such activities are known in the corporate world as "reorganization" and it's always in the best interest of the employees at the bottom of the food chain.
Debian and its derivatives are always my favorite Linux distributions in any list I create. Its Constitution further drives home that high praise.
A truly democratic Linux distribution.
I like it. A lot.
It's too bad that large corporations don't take a lesson from Debian and its intelligent design. Not only does it, the collective Debian development community, create perhaps the best Linux distribution currently available but it does it in a democratic and thoughtful way.
To the Debian Team:
If you ever start your own country, I'm in.
Thanks to the Debian Team, Ian Murdock and all of you who support Debian by using it.
What do you think of Debian and its Constitution? Do you think it's the correct way to setup and manage a worldwide group of developers?