GooBuntu: playground arguments against RPM-based distributions

Full disclosure: I’ve been a contributor to the Fedora Project for several years and am nominally the maintainer of Fedora’s RPM Guide, which will probably never actually be released.

Earlier this week, ZDNet reported on Google’s use of Ubuntu on desktops. While I’m sure they chose a distro based on a variety of of factors and the final choice was the one that best met their business needs, the article could stand to include some additional detail. It appears that all RPM-based distributions were immediately disqualified because “packages and apt (Debian’s basic software package programs) are light-years ahead of RPM (Red Hat and SUSE’s default package management system.)”

I have some philosophical disagreements with how Ubuntu’s parent company operates, but I’m a big proponent of the “use what works for you” philosophy. I have no objection to Google using Ubuntu if that’s what works for them. What I do object to is basing the decision on non-reason.

The first problem is that the argument always seems to be apt vs. RPM, but this argument is a non-starter. apt and RPM aren’t at the same layer. Comparing apt and yum is more reasonable. Both tools have advantages and disadvantages. Comparisons can be made using various metrics, but there is no objective measure of “better”, because fitness for use varies by use case. Similarly, RPM and .deb have overlapping-but-not-identical strengths. The philosophy of building packages differs, and some people prefer one method over the other. I’m weakly-rooted enough to find both philosophies compelling.

I’d be willing to grant that RPM, and the tools around it, have improved over the past few years. Even if the RPM ecosystem was formerly terrible, I’d have expected that the man making the decision at Google would base it on something more substantive than what amounts to a religious argument.