DEX: Bridging Gaps Between Debian and Derivatives

Matt Zimmerman, Ubuntu CTO, has found a way to bridge the ever-widening crevasse between Debian and its derivatives. The Debian Front Desktop was formed last summer in order to bring together these camps, but Zimmerman wants to go a step or two further.

What is DEX?

Zimmerman explains, "DEX is all about action: merging patches, fixing bugs, crunching data, whatever is necessary to get changes from derivatives into Debian proper. DEX doesn’t try to change the way any existing project works, but adds a “fast path” for getting code from one place to another."

Ubuntu has been accused of not contributing code back to upstream projects, but Debain acknowledged that the process for this has been difficult to navigate. The Debian Front Desk seems limited to linking interested parties, but DEX is an attempt to grease the wheels by actually merging code, recording statistics, and updating bug reports. It appears it is going to do the dirty work.

Ubuntu Involvement

One of the first tasks of Zimmerman was to form the Ubuntu DEX Team with the goal of facilitating cooperation between Debian and Ubuntu. With this Zimmerman hope to merge more Ubuntu improvements into the Debian code-base. Several developers have signed on already and are getting their hands dirty sorting through old patches to see which might be appropriate to merge upstream. Once that is accomplished, which seems to be progressing rather quickly, Zimmerman says they will move on to a new todo list.

DEX was set up with all derivatives in mind, so other distributions can form their own DEX team and start contributing to Debian as well. Debian is the genetic code for many projects and a general idea within Open Source and the GPL is to give back improvements. Perhaps more teams will emerge in the coming months.


Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of


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log in my eye?

Anonymous's picture

it's funny that one of the biggest perpetrators (purpose traitors?) is now appearing to act as adjudicator. Actions speak louder than words Matt Z. (and Mark S.)

Do we really need time and effort on a bureaucratic policy, instead of just communicating and giving back improvement to the global community?

DEX and Debian plus derivatives

Glenn Thigpen's picture

I am glad to see this happening. One of the things that has kept me away from Ubuntu is that most of it's packages are not compatible with stock Debian and vice/versa. Hopefully the problems can be worked out and the Debian Derivatives maintain compatibility with the stock Debian archives and the improvements be folded back into stock Debian.



Roland's picture

Under Ubuntu/Mint10, qemu works right after apt-get. Under Debian/LMDE, it's dog-slow. Yes, I checked kernel modules. But under Mint10, Puppy can't find eth0 (tinycore can). Under Mint10, xoscope no longer works because /dev/dsp has gone away. It's little differences like these that keep me dual-booting. And why can't KDE4 leave the network card alone when I logout? It kills eth0. This is poison for using the 'at' command, and mini-httpd.

RE: differences

tehmasp's picture

seems like you've got some bug reports to write? :)