Distributing sources with modern Linux distributions

Playing around with Ubuntu 6.06, I noticed that in the Software Preferences, that part of the default “Channels” (which are in actuality lines in /etc/apt/sources.list) include those for the Ubuntu’s packages’ sources.

I’m not sure why these are there by default… How many users actually need to recompile a package when the distribution came with a binary one? In my 5 yrs of using Linux, I’ve never needed to. Yes, I understand the whole free software and GPL thing, where sources must be available with software. This doesn’t mean that new users (a large part of Ubuntu’s user base) need to waste bandwidth and disk space on things they will hopefully never need to use.

I don’t see the practical use for distributing sources with a distribution. If you do need to compile something to get an install up and running, you may need the source for one single piece of software, and you won’t be going to the sources included with the distribution–after all, if their original binary package didn’t help, what use is re-creating a binary for the same version? You’ll be getting the latest version off the Internet and using that. It probably won’t even be by the makers of the distribution, but upstream somewhere. E.g. ditching a vendor kernel for one from kernel.org.

With Ubuntu, I can’t really complain much, as one only ends up downloading some relatively small text files. Back in the days when I used Redhat it was a different story: I’d spend a month downloading the latest Redhat ISO image, half of which was source RPMs that as a Linux newbie I had no use for.

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