From Ars Technica:
On Friday afternoon, Ian Murdock, the founder of the Debian GNU/Linux project and co-founder of Progeny, announced a status update of his company’s Debian work. Murdock made two very important announcements: the porting of Red Hat’s Anaconda installer tool to Debian, and a modification of Debian’s APT package tool which will allow it to use both RedHat and Debian packages. The first announcement is most relevant to Debian users, who have long complained about Debian’s “archaic” installer. Several “easy to install” Debian variants have been created over the years; none of them has been commercially successful. Progeny Linux was one of these variants. Despite its excellent installer, Progeny’s distribution suffered the same fate as many of the other commercial Debian projects. The company itself lived on, without much visibility, until today’s announcement: “We have ported Red Hat’s Anaconda installer to Debian; essentially, we replaced calls to RPM with calls to APT, and replaced Red Hat-specific configuration hooks with calls into the configlets and debconf. We have also written a tool called PickAx that facilitates the creation of Anaconda-based Debian installation CD sets. We are also working with various parties to add/merge RPM support into the mainline APT, to allow Debian- and RPM-based distributions to be managed using a single APT codebase, and possibly even to allow Debian and RPM packages to coexist side by side.”
Murdock goes on to state the ultimate goal of the project: “It is our hope that a distribution-independent Anaconda and a distribution-independent APT (plus, eventually, a distribution-independent configuration framework) will, along with a stronger LSB [Linux Standards Base], help unify further the various Linux distributions.”
Because Red Hat has recently opened its distribution to the community, cooperation between Red Hat and Debian is more likely than ever. A distribution-neutral APT and configuration framework would do much to further such cooperation. Would a merger of the two projects even be possible? Debian has a very loyal following, due to its massive software catalogue (over 13,000 packages) and dedication to Free software. Red Hat, with its strong corporate partners and all-star kernel development team, brings legitimacy to the corporate market. While each distribution has a distinct and dedicated following, many would agree that further cooperation could only benefit everyone involved. Even if the two distributions do not merge, any standard which Progeny develops would certainly benefit the community. Could this possibly be the beginnings of a practical common packaging standard, outside of what is defined in the Linux Standards Base? Red Hat and Debian certainly have enough combined developer mindshare to make such a decision practical.
Could such common ground between the commercial and non-commercial leaders of Linux help consolidate the market? This would allow independent software vendors to target a much greater audience; currently, practical matters force them to target only one or two distributions. Regardless of the specifics, this announcement could have long standing effects on the Linux landscape. Progeny may have provided the catalyst needed to create a distribution of unprecedented quality; it is now up to open source software developers to follow through.