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testing and no release schedule

On Thu, Mar 25, 2004 at 12:39:20PM -0600, Steve Langasek wrote:
> (And
> given that reducing freeze time is a stated goal of testing, I don't
> think the lack of an announced freeze is all that useful in gauging our
> time to release.)

You say it "is a stated goal of testing".

Before testing was invented, it was also a goal that testing should be 
always in a releasable state. Practice has shown that this goal was 
never reached.

Looking at the woody freeze, the question arises whether testing really 
reaches the goal to reduce the freeze time.

There are always reasons to say "hey, we managed to get A, B and C into 
testing, and the next goals are getting D, E and F into testing". But is 
this real progress towards the next stable release, or will after F is 
achieved only G, H and I arrive?

I have yet to see any objective evaluation whether testing really is an

Let me say that I'm frustrated, and sorry if the following is a bit 

I reassigned from Debian over two years ago since I was not happy with 
the speed of Debian releases. Since then, I have the impression things 
got even worse.

I like Debian for both technical and political reasons, but it's simply 
impossible today to recommend to anyone to use Debian stable on 
production systems. Or if a friend wants to know which Linux 
distribution to install on his new computer since most likely his 
graphics adapter will only be supported in non-acceptable VESA modes.
Backports are a workaround for this problem, but they cause additional 
problems, e.g. I assume it will be a nightmare to upgrade many of the 
Debian 3.0 plus half a dozen backports systems to Debian 3.1.

It's quite frustrating that there's no clear schedule towards Debian 3.1
that includes a date for the beginning of the freeze.

When talking about a clear schedule, I'm not talking about something
unrealistic like the schedule that told Debian 3.1 would be released on
Dec 1st 2003 that included dates that were not based on any realistic
estimates (esp. the installer dates).

Debian stable might not be known for short release cycles, but it's
still known for high quality packages and easy upgrades. To achieve this
quality Debian is known for it's not enough to say at some point "we
will release in one month". After the beginning of a freeze, there need
to be several months to fix all bugs that get reported over time and to
ensure that both new installations of Debian 3.1 and upgrades from
Debian 3.0 to Debian 3.1 work for everyone without problems.

I'm no longer at the age where I think "my idea is the only possible 
solution", and although I'm not a fan of testing freezing testing is 
definitely a possible way towards a new stable release.

The latest "Release update" [1] said "On or shortly after 15th March,
we'll see if these targets have been met and update the schedule
accordingly.". I sent on March 15th a suggestion of a "weak freeze" and
how I'd help within it for unstable [2] plus two additional mails to the
release managers and his assistants. I got one mail from you (Steve)
stating that "At a glance, I don't see anything in the plan that
conflicts with the Release Team's agenda." and that you wanted to answer
during the next days a week ago, but no other feedback until now.

I'm not claiming that my suggestion of a weak freeze of unstable is the 
only way to get closer towards Debian 3.1, but I'm a bit astonished that 
although it was announced that "shortly after 15th March" there will be 
an update of the release schedule, none of the release managers and his 
assistants had the time to either send an updated release schedule or to 
give an "yes" or a "no, we have a better plan" answer to my suggestion.

In the pre-testing times there was one release manager who announced a
freeze date, and at that date unstable was frozen and at about half a
year later there was a new stable release. Today, there are 4 people
that do release management, but it seems neither possible to do any
estimate when Debian 3.1 will release, nor does it seem that the
release speed improved.

These are the points where I'm quite unhappy with the current release 

Note that I'm not claiming that there's only one way to get to a 
high-quality stable release, or that the release manager and his 
assistants were complete idiots.

Most frustrating is that I see no way to help making the situation 
better at the moment. Fixing bugs is not very effective as long as 
there'a no freeze and new upstream versions with new bugs flood into 
testing every day. That was the point when I sent my suggestion of a  
weak freeze of unstable that would make both unstable and testing 
better (as explained in my mail). The only people that are able to 
announce a freeze are the release manager and his assistants.

What is the alternative?

If there's no progress inside Debian the only alternative would be to do
some kind of an open source variant of Lindows:

Trying to find some other people and infrastructure to create a new 
distribution with stable releases based on Debian.

But besides requiring much work, such a split would be a loss-loss 
situation for everyone.

That was much text.
Thanks to everyone who took the time reading it.
Sorry if it was too offensive.

> Steve Langasek


[1] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2004/debian-devel-announce-200402/msg00009.html
[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2004/debian-devel-200403/msg01033.html


       "Is there not promise of rain?" Ling Tan asked suddenly out
        of the darkness. There had been need of rain for many days.
       "Only a promise," Lao Er said.
                                       Pearl S. Buck - Dragon Seed

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