Vanilla OS is shaking things up with a move from Ubuntu to Debian Sid. Learn what led the developers to make this decision.
Vanilla OS is a new Linux distribution with a single version behind it, released late last year. However, the non-traditional approach in its development has drawn much attention from the Linux community. So here’s a quick rundown of what it is all about.
The distro is an immutable operating system, which means that core parts of the system are locked down to prevent unwanted changes and corruption from third-party applications or faulty updates. Strongly oriented towards the GNOME desktop environment, as you can already guess from its name, Vanilla OS aims to offer the best vanilla GNOME experience.
Until now, the distribution was based on Ubuntu. However, its initial release left us with mixed feelings, which you can read about in our dedicated article. Yet, as part of growing up, its developers are looking for the best option for the distribution’s future development.
As a result, the next step they’ve made and announced this month leads us to believe that the road they’ve chosen is the right one.
Vanilla OS Ditches Ubuntu in Favor of Debian Sid
As mentioned, Vanilla OS’s first release was based on the Ubuntu 22.10 “Kinetic Kudu” release.
However, due to some limitations imposed by using Ubuntu as a base, the Vanilla OS developers have decided to make a sharp turn, starting with the next release, by rebasing the distro on the Debian Sid branch.
Debian Sid is the unstable development branch of the Debian operating system. It is often called “unstable” because it contains the latest and greatest software packages, which may not be thoroughly tested and contain bugs or other issues.
As the main reasons for taking this bold step, Vanilla OS developers point out that the GNOME implementation in Ubuntu is heavily modified. This necessitates a significant effort to revert the changes done by Canonical to the GNOME desktop environment to restore it to its original state, which is the core concept upon which Vanilla OS is built.
The second reason, unsurprisingly, is Snap. Ubuntu has been trying hard to force this format on its users, but the Linux community has not received it well. On the other hand, Flatpak, another similar technology, is widely accepted and has established itself massively as an additional source of software on which Linux distributions rely.
So, by adopting Debian as its base, the Vanilla OS devs will not need to put extra effort into removing Snap from its distribution and will be very close to its users by offering them Flatpak support that integrates seamlessly with Debian.
Of course, basing the Debian Sid branch brings some risks due to the not-so-well-tested packages for security and performance issues. Concerning this, the Vanilla OS developers leave themselves a loophole, mentioning that if significant problems arise, they reserve the right to reconsider their decision.
However, being based on Debian Sid is the only option for Debian if you want to give your users the most recent and up-to-date version of the GNOME desktop environment, which is the goal of Vanilla OS.
Vanilla OS 2.0 Intend to Distribute GNOME 44
By all accounts, the Vanilla OS developers are working hard on a future 2.0 version of their operating system, codenamed “Orchid.” Aside from the fact that the OS will now be based on Debian Sid, the big news is the expected implementation of the recently released GNOME 44 desktop environment.
Of course, the novelties don’t end there, as Vanilla OS 2.0 “Orchid” plans to surprise its users with several new features. For example, the OS will introduce OCI support in ABRoot, meaning that devs will have greater control over updates and more time to test the images before a release.
Moreover, Vanilla OS 2.0 will have new “Express” and “Advanced” setup types for a more seamless installation experience. As the names suggest, “Express” will provide an intuitive and straightforward installation process. At the same time, “Advanced” will mainly cater to advanced users that need a customized installation for their use cases and workflows.
Finally, Vanilla OS 2.0 is expected to be released with a Debian 6+ kernel. Unfortunately, the developers do not commit to a set timeframe for when the new release will be available; instead, like the Debian ones, they rely on the concept “it will be ready when it is ready.” However, this is likely to happen in the next few months.
In conclusion, all indications point to Vanilla OS 2.0 “Orchid” being a much more mature release than its predecessor, addressing many shortcomings. Switching from Ubuntu to Debian as the foundation is a step in the right direction, so we can’t wait to see what the final product will bring.
In the official announcement, you can find more information on Vanilla OS 2.0’s new features and the reasons behind the decision to use Debian as the base.
VanillaOS has an interesting concept. The move from Ubuntu to Debian is understandable and is indeed a good decision. I would be interested but unfortunately, there is no other desktop env other than Gnome.
As to the desktop choice. That is the base installed one. With a Debian base- any desktop you care to chose can be installed with very little or no problem. With Debian anything is just a apt/install or a clicky in a package manager. A debian user since 2000. As a primary system.I have also used several sid childs and had only a few problems.
The author is confused about a number of things, most importantly what “unstable”actually means in this context. It means library versions are not stable, and might be updated on a way that can break applications. This only loosely correlates with software versions as it is a dependency issue and is rarely an issue for home users, while it may be a deal breaker for business use cases.
As for versioning, Sid can easily be made stable by simply changing sources.list in a normal install.