the vanilla OS logo on yellow background

Vanilla OS Ditches Ubuntu for Debian

I took a look at Vanilla OS earlier this year and came away mighty impressed by its immutability, its multi-spoked package manager, and its thoughtful implementation atop an Ubuntu base.

But that base is shifting.

The devs behind the project today announced a major change: Vanilla OS will ditch Ubuntu and switch to Debian Sid.


Well, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, there’s clue in the distro’s name: vanilla. It wants to ship a desktop as close to source as possible, in this instance GNOME. Ubuntu makes a number of modifications to GNOME and unpicking those changes is, frankly too much darn effort, all considered.

Secondly, Snaps. Vanilla OS devs aren’t that enamoured by them as they continue to have performance and integration quirks. Plus, some of Ubuntu’s deb-to-snap transitional packages (like Mozilla Firefox) get tangled up inside of their APX package manager.

Thirdly, Vanilla OS wants to be in charge of its own release cadence, rather than kowtow to Ubuntu’s six-monthly drops. Switching over to Debian Sid gives it more control in this area.

What’s Next?

screenshot of vanilla OS 1.0 desktop
Vanilla OS 1.0

Vanilla OS 2.0 “Orchid” is the next planned release. It will be based on Debian Sid (albeit with mitigations to tame the rougher edges of a riding rolling-release, such as shipping a smaller set of core packages).

GNOME 44, OCI support in ABRoot, and a couple of new setup options will also feature.

Existing users of (the Ubuntu-based) Vanilla OS can expect to continue receiving updates past the release of Vanilla OS 2.0, devs say. Plans for “upgrading” from v1.0 to 2.0 are still being discussed.

Want more details? Go feast on the blog post announcing the change. Fwiw, there’s nothing to “download” or try just yet, and as the release cadence will be more of a “released when it’s ready” type deal, there’s no firm ETA on when.

Still, exciting changes ahead — I look forward to getting to try them out.