Thoughts on dropping Debian to make PureOS an Arch-based distribution

I’m guessing it’ll be cheaper for Purism to maintain a Debian OS then an Arch OS. When they make libhandy or some driver they only need to test it ‘once’ for the Debian package and not every other day when a key package gets updated.

They would also want to test it before updates are pushed to customer’s laptops and it’ll be hard to stay in front of the Arch hose pipe.

If you are the developer of “Package X”, which depends on “Package Y” not written by you, most often you test “Package X” with the latest version of “Package Y”, independently if your “Distribution X” has “Package Y 1.3” but the actual latest version is 1.5. Your package needs to go in some direction after all, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, having to maintain two versions of a program, a “stable” one and a “bleeding edge” one has its costs. Trying to merge stability and up-to-date is ideally the most practical approach, as you always deal with only one code branch.

I agree, Arch is great and I’m using it, and I had the same experience as you.

But I do also think Purism have their work cut out in so many ways, and I think Debian was a good choice: it’s popular in open source circles, has high free software standards, and it’s hard to argue that it’s not true that debian stable, put together right, requires less knowhow than does arch. I think they don’t need to throw in more innovation and risk to an already innovative and risky project, and they don’t need to reduce the customer base of an already niche (at the moment) product. And supporting two “official” distributions would inflate their workload further and probably result in two options neither of which work as well as if they’d concentrated on one.

I plan to stick to Arch on my desktop, and whatever Purism is doing on the librem5.


Sorry for sortof “necroposting” as this thread is a week stale, but, I didn’t see my preferred argument; not that Debian is “stable”, and that is a bit of a red-herring, especially arguing for it vis-a-vis Unbuntu!, but longevity, “stability” as far as the organization behind it being stable is key. I was introduced to linux by someone installing Yggdrasil, I watched Mandrake resurrected as Mandriva, I saw Gentoo fade; although ironically that may be a reason why Google used Gentoo as the basis for Android, I watched as Red Hat became “corporate”, and also a leader in linux certification. Caldera got DR DOS, then quickly changed gears with their own linux distro.
Debian had the first bootable installation disk (2.0?) which I purchased in '99. I’m not just name-dropping here, but I wanted to make the point that really great distros flounder and die for organizational reasons. Debian is a good choice, as far as that goes. I read the SteamOS article and intend to buy one. I use and enjoy Manjaro among other distros (recently retrying Qubes on a Librem), and might buy a Pinephone with an Arch distro. And I agree with many of the Arch arguments, but sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know, and that’s not an empty platitude. PureOS staying with Debian sounds like the right direction to me.

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In addition, I would guess that for support purposes it is rather easier if a user can just say “I am running Ubuntu 20.04 LTS” rather than “here is the list of 2000 packages that I have installed and their versions”. That then raises the question of whether support is intended to be offered, and the extent of that support. A customer who doesn’t care about support might not care about that distinction.

There are quite a few existing discussions over rolling v. stable. You could review e.g.: Would you use a PureOS "rolling release" or do you want a "stable" PureOS?

This is a separate but related issue as compared with the question of whether Debian or some other distro should be the base.

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You might confuse it with Slackware.

Speaking of… Slackware is slightly more longevous than Debian (and probably even more stable, since you basically never update it), but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t suggest it for a phone (or a computer, as far as I am concerned).

That is an interesting debate. Rolling release is a model, per se it does not say much about how recent the packages are (theoretically a rolling release distribution might decide to update the packages only one year after they have been released upstream). The model only dictates that no groups of packages are frozen altogether until the next “upgrade”, when they are updated altogether: packages must be smoothly updated without partial frozen states, and upgrades don’t exist.

This model offers the advantage that there is always only one branch to support. In a rolling release scenario replacing apt with pacman is a must (the latter was born for that and would offer further interesting possibilities, such as the AUR – the largest collection of GNU/Linux packages existing today – and makepkg).

I would love it personally as I have a good experience with Arch distros. It would also fill a need as currently the only FLOSS distros that are Arch based are Parabola and Hyperbola which both are far from easy to setup. If a distro could combine the ease of use of Trisquel or Pure OS with the up to date packages in Arch I would be in heaven and open my wallet as far as I could.


When I dropped Ubuntu for rolling releases such as Arch and Parabola linux over a decade ago it was for two primary reasons

  1. Show stopping breakage caused by annual Ubuntu/Debian release upgrades.
  2. Up to date software: Arch always had the freshest software releases available, where as Ubuntu/Debian packages were often shamefully out of date.

If PureOS could make the switch to a rolling release, it would be fantastic, but I understand that from a an end user support perspective, it would probably generate a lot of support requests.

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