System76 Reduces Reliance On Ubuntu With Key Pop OS Change

Major things are brewing over at System76. The strong and all-but-confirmed rumor of an in-house desktop environment for Pop OS being developed. It will be a DE built in Rust which may eventually replace GNOME altogether.

But that’s not the only fundamental change happening with Pop OS. System76 is slowly but steadily reducing its reliance on Ubuntu. While some view this as a politically-charged decision, I maintain that it’s to more effectively serve System76 hardware customers.

Watch the Linux For Everyone crew discuss the future of Pop OS.

After all, System76 is in the business of selling Linux desktops and laptops with the latest chipsets, NVMe drives, and graphics cards. And they sell those computers primarily to developers, data scientists, makers, and engineers.

Leading Edge Pop OS?

This means it’s crucial to have the latest software packages and Linux kernels. And what better way to achieve that than implementing a model of more frequent updates? Perhaps similar to the “rolling release” model of Arch, or the “leading edge” updates of Fedora.

With an emphasis on stability over bleeding-edge, Ubuntu just doesn’t fit that mold.

System76 Principal Engineer Jeremy Soller has a rolling distro model on his mind…

Then there was that Reddit poll (pictured above) asking users how important it is that Pop OS is based on Ubuntu. You can start to see the writing on the wall.

Regardless of our hopes (or fears) for the future of the distro, no one at the company is talking about it yet. But we are starting to see some small but important shifts in direction.

Goodbye Launchpad, Hello APT

System76 Principal Engineer Jeremy Soller confirmed via Twitter that Pop OS moved its repositories away from Canonical’s, and over to a self-hosted APT repository.

“Pop switched the build system and repositories […] to our own system at for 21.10 in order to improve our control of package updates and reduce the time to build, test and release them,” writes Soller. “It is not related to changing bases.”

The keyword in Soller’s tweet is “control.” Control is something that, in my opinion, System76 needs in order to enact swift changes for both its hardware customers and its distro users.

There’s another ingredient to all of this; one that cements the belief that System76 will eventually change it to a rolling release model. All versions of Pop OS are now using kernel 5.15.5, with 5.15.6 already staged for testing.

“We want to work closer with upstream to ensure that the best Linux kernel is delivered to as many users as possible,” Soller says in a separate tweet. “By doing this, we join forces with other major distros, like Arch and Fedora.”

Take all this how you will, but I think exciting things are coming for Pop OS users.

What’s your opinion? Sound off below in our comment section.

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7 thoughts on “System76 Reduces Reliance On Ubuntu With Key Pop OS Change

  1. Creo que Ubuntu está cada día perdiendo fuerza, el modelo de Arch Linux, sobretodo en manjaro que lo hace muy simple, cada día gana mejor terreno y sin duda es mucho más amigable con el usuario final.

  2. As much as I LOVE Pop!_OS and have been using it exclusively for 2 years now, a move away from Ubuntu is a problem for me. I use my machine as a media production workstation and don’t have the time to tinker and fix littke issues on more bleeding-edge distros. If they are pushing towards being more like Arch I may have to change distros, which woukd suck. However if it’s just a handful of things like a newer kernal I should be able to stick around. I just wanna keep the compatibility with Ubuntu as that’s what, if they only make a package for 1 distro, most software will make a Linux version for.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I honestly believe they’ll veer more toward “leading edge” Fedora than “bleeding edge” Arch. System76 absolutely knows their userbase (people doing stuff just like you) and I don’t think they want to upset that.

  3. My concern with faster kernel pushes is pushing faster than software like VMware desktop can handle. This is something that has happened before on other “rolling” distros and would be a significant impact for me. I’m hoping they find a middle ground between Ubuntu’s LTS freeze on kernels and Arch’s rolling kernels asap.

  4. Thanks for the article, Jason. I am honestly using Manjaro for the sole reason that I like to stay updated with packages and software, but fedora often doesn’t have all the software necessary unlike Ubuntu or Arch-based distros.
    I hope you are right and they adopt a fedora style of updates but compatibility with deb packages.
    I am a developer and I like a good compromise between new features and stability 😁

    1. Thanks for the comment Marco! Stay tuned, as I think the upcoming Pop OS 21.10 release (and an article I’ll have surrounding that) will add a bit more clarity to help you make a decision.

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