Debian adopts time-based release freezes


We love Debian, but it's hardly the most spritely distro around when it comes to popping out regular releases. Historically, part of the problem has been determining when it's finished - and the old adage "it's ready when it's ready" doesn't really make much sense unless you have a very clear set of goals. Now the Debian team has announced that it's moving to two-year time-based release freezes. This doesn't mean that a release date will be announced well in advance, as with Fedora, Ubuntu and co, but that there will be a cut-off point for adding new features.

Essentially, from here onwards, the release team can say "We are freezing feature additions from the Foo-day of Bar-month", and then only bugfixes and cleanups will take place. There may still be a relatively long gap between the freeze and the final release, but at least there will be a definite cut-off point. It sounds good, so let's see how it works in practice - if you're a regular Debian user or developer, let us know what you think. Could the distro's famed stability suffer? Or was this change essential for the survival of the distro?

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The problem with Linux (and

The problem with Linux (and I do mean the kernel, the GNU/ part is irrelevant) as of late, and the reason I'm using Ubuntu instead of the one I'd really like to use, Debian, is that hardware is changing so much. New hardware is being released all the time, and old hardware is being updated to make it incompatible. Even with Ubuntu, I have to install dozens of fixes to get it to work with my Acer Aspire One, for example. I can see how, to a beginner, this would be very daunting. Every time I install a new kernel, I have to install no less than three modules that are not in the main release. And I had to install one-off fixes for two other pieces of hardware. That's 5 pieces of hardware in total that are unsupported or poorly supported. (For the curious, these are: my Windows Mobile 6.1 phone as a modem (requires a hack to usb-rndis), the ability to control the fan (acerhdf), the ability to monitor the temperature (requires a hack to coretemp), the ability to hotplug flash memory cards (requires a kernel parameter), and the functionality of the WiFi access LED and killswitch (required installing linux-backports-modules-jaunty)). This is in a distro with a 6-month release cycle! Pretty much every piece of hardware needs a workaround for Ubuntu 8.04 LTS, a distro with just a two-year release cycle!

Debian's current release cycle, which from what I've seen seems to be between 3 and 4 years, was certainly not the way to go. Two years is an improvement, but still won't put it with Ubuntu. Which is a shame, I would go for the increased stability any day (I'm fed up of apps crashing!) but if I were to use it, I'd have to fiddle with it for ages to get it working, and I would install so many hacks and half-arsed fixes it would end up less stable than Ubuntu!

I propose a compromise. I doubt anyone high-up in Debian reads this, but I'm too lazy to figure out how to contact them. If you do, give me a shout :p

Debian should keep its current release cycle. However, the kernel should be regularly updated (what matters for hardware drivers), as well as any other software that runs close to the hardware. If a new technology arrives that requires a number of apps to be updated (eg if/when multitouch reaches the mainstream), this should happen promptly, but not so promptly it's untested. I know, this is probably flawed, but no distro, to the desktop user at least, is currently balancing features, compatibility and stability. They always fall down on at least one, if not two (but never all three).

I wish you could edit comments on this!

(well, you probably can if I could just be bothered to log in)

The WiFi killswitch/LED needed an update to the ath5k driver, which was included in linux-backports-modules-jaunty. I doubt this matters to anyone, I'm just making clear it's not some magical fix Canonical have done, it's modules from a newer kernel being installed in an older one. The distro authors don't even need to care, just check that the module works with the slightly older kernel, and if so, add them to the package.

bad news isn't it?

<<Could the distro's famed stability suffer?>>
<< Or was this change essential for the survival of the distro?>>
Actually the survival and the succed of debian depend of his stability. :-(
If Debian copy the other ditribution timeline then he lose his originality and his force (stability)
Even if we can use debian on a laptop with new hardware, Debian is especially dedicated to the server.

2 year release schedule

Wasn't Mark Shuttleworth pushing for this?

@to lazy to login: not true.

@to lazy to login: not true. Having a feature freeze from time to time means that they STOP adding features at that point, and then focus on fixing and polishing up everything they have at that point. The blogpost here very clearly states that there is NOT a set release date, so the devs can take a lot of time after the freeze to really test everything out well and fix things.

Conclusion: a move to freezes will not affect stability, it will just release the timeliness of releases.

It might affect

It might affect featureicity/compatibilityicity/completeness (most of those words are made up, but I'm tired and can't be bothered to think)

release cycles or, internal vs external testing :wink:

I think it will enhance the structure of the development cycle generally, and is so a good thing.

The problem has been, as i see it ... is that a person can't really tell what may change over the time of an on going development branch. This what i think tends to lead to the sense of insecurity some people have with regards to deb, ie; new users. I also think that it reflects on these people not really understanding what debian is about. Most distros aren't released because they are 'stable'. More so, they are considered 'good enough' to release, or as 'test areas' for the associated enterprise edition(s). But people will persist with the belief that as it is an 'official' release then it must be ok. And then proceed to ignore or go online looking for answers to fix the bugs that the new release includes.

Having the development freeze based on a specific time period will at least give the developers a more specific frame work with which to work. Which should allow them to order the actual time they have for development much better. And take away some of the insecurities that new users may baggage, due to their MS upbringing.

But ... updates and on going upgrades still, as always, make deb an install once, continuum distro.

It's a pity that reviewers and the like seem to continuously miss this point in their mis-comparisons to other distros. Debian isn't part of that lot.

Use the net, to upgrade your deb ... that's what it's there for (grin)

(yes ... i am, very much so, having a dig here :wink:)


Comment on first comment

Muzer_Can'tBeBotheredToLogIn: Why not try Linux 4 One? This is a Ubuntu 8.04 respin specifically for the Acer One. It comes with all the hacks for the hardware and runs fine on my Acer One. Google it.

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