Debian and Ubuntu: Philosophy and Technology

Talk Notes

Written and presented by: Benjamin Mako Hill <>

Talk delivered at:

Gnubies: New York GNU/Linux Beginners Group
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
IBM building 590 Madison Ave


Ubuntu is an African concept of humanity toward others:

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

—Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The History and Philosophy of Free Software

The idea of Free Software was first advanced by Richard Stallman. It is:

Connected to Free software is the idea of copyleft. Copyleft basically says: the only thing you are restricted from doing, is making this software less free.

This does not preclude commercial development.

Free Software is an ethical position. It is all about freedom.

It turns out that freedom makes software that is also better than proprietary software. This makes sense: unrestricted collaboration will be more productive than secrecy and reproduction of labor.

Open Source

As a result of the better software, another group of programmers created a new term, "Open Source," to make the Free Software model more attractive to people and businesses who might be scared off by talk of freedom.

The differences are ultimately political and some, but not all, see them as contradictory.

The Debian Project

The Debian project is Linux Distribution. The things it is well respected for in the Linux community include:

Debian has also developed a reputation for some things it has historically not done very well. These include:


Enter... The Ubuntu GNU/Linux Distribution!

Ubuntu is a Debian-based distribution.

At the same time, Ubuntu maintains Debian's commitment to Free Software. Ubuntu (and everything in it), like Debian can: