[ros-users] Upcoming suspention of debian packaging for EOL Ubuntu distros

William Woodall william at osrfoundation.org
Thu Feb 4 22:02:17 UTC 2016

On Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 10:37 AM, Jochen Sprickerhof via ros-users <
ros-users at lists.ros.org> wrote:

> Hi,
> * Dirk Thomas via ros-users <ros-users at lists.ros.org> [2016-02-04 10:25]:
> > @Severin: Currently the following ROS packages are in Debian and will
> > likely be imported for Xenial: http://pastebin.com/aVk8Wy6q As you can
> see
> > it is only a very small number of packages (~ROS base). OSRF will
> continue
> > to ship its own Debian packages for a very simple reason: we need to be
> > able to release patches which the Debian policy doesn't allow. If you
> look
> > at the ROS base packages in Indigo and how they evolved over the life
> time
> > it is obvious that we need this ability.
> We are working on completing desktop-full, the current state can be seen
> here: https://wiki.debian.org/DebianScience/Robotics/ROS/Packages
> One of the points of Debian is to have stable releases which can't be
> changed, so there is always the guaranty that you get the same package.
> On the other hand there is testing and unstable, which is a rolling
> release where you always get the latest packages. Note that Ubuntu is
> forking what's in unstable/testing for their releases, so you should get
> quite up to date packages.

This works for us most of the time, but there are occasions where for one
reason or another the version Ubuntu selects would not work for us. For
example, right now we're looking at using OpenCV3 in Kinetic (discussion
here if anyone is interested:
but the version that will be in Ubuntu Xenial, and the version currently
available in Wily, are not desirable (as far as I understand). So we're
considering building it ourselves, but then the issue is with people mixing
the one we ship with the one provided by Ubuntu.

As the people managing the ROS releases, we're the system integrators that
have to hammer out these issues and it often causes quite a bit of headache
for us. This has been the case in the past too:
https://github.com/ros/rosdistro/issues/4633 I'm willing to absorb that
headache personally, but it's worth pointing out that as we move things to
Debian/Ubuntu and start depending on them we'll run into more and more of
these issues.

> > @Mike: I completely see your point. Imo the Python tools should be made
> > available as soon as a new Ubuntu distro becomes available (basically
> > before it is even alpha). But when I suggested this before is was decided
> > not to be a priority. Maybe you can express this on the Kinetic release
> > ticket (https://github.com/ros/rosdistro/issues/9945) so that it will be
> > added to the procedure for the next Ubuntu distro.
> Afaik we packaged most python tools already, feel free to ping me if
> some are missing, we should be able to push them into unstable without
> much effort.

This is another common drawback for us (the people managing the ROS
releases), which is that if there is an improvement or a future proofing
back port for one of these Python packages, then we cannot roll them out
according to the Ubuntu Stable Release Updates rules (
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/StableReleaseUpdates). You could argue that we
shouldn't be changing the tools outside of that scope, but if anything, for
our LTS release Indigo, we have pressure from the community to allow
changes like those. So we're stuck in the middle trying to bridge the idea
of a stable release with the desires of a community that want stability but
also low-risk and reasonable improvements over time. For these reasons, I'm
a bit wary of relying on versions of the tools provided by Ubuntu because
it restricts our ability to make those decisions for ourselves and act on
them in a timely fashion.

Fundamentally I think it is good that we have a part of the community
pushing towards upstream availability of ROS, but I also think that the
rules set forth by Ubuntu and the requirements/desires of our community are
still out of alignment. As ROS 1 "cools" down (which is what we want), I
think this will be come less and less true, and at some point we could
recommend or build on top of what is in Debian and Ubuntu. So keep it up
and ROS users will adopt it when it becomes convenient to do so :)

I am concerned, however, about new users who install from Ubuntu directly,
but then realize they're missing something higher up the stack and end up
installing to `/opt/ros/*` to get it. But then they run the risk of
accidentally using both installations at the same time from different
shells. I think it might be very confusing and could cause some subtle
issues that are hard to diagnose and solve.


P.S. we may want to more this to ros-release@ if it gets more technical.

> Cheers Jochen
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> ros-users at lists.ros.org
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William Woodall
ROS Development Team
william at osrfoundation.org
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