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Re: Concerns and Challenges of Squeeze and Ongoing Elements

"John L. Males" <jlmales@gmail.com> writes:

> Etch and Lenny were were generally positive experiences in terms of
> stability with the exception of apt-get and apt-get related cousins.  As
> of Squeeze I have experienced a number of problems that include, but
> limited to:

Hi John,

I'm sorry that you've had so many troubles with squeeze.  I wish that
you'd had a better experience.

The difficulty with a comprehensive inventory such as you posted, I fear,
is that it's almost guaranteed, from its structure, to result in no
effective improvement whatsoever.  To understand why, one has to
understand a bit more about how the Debian project is structured.  (You
may already know much of this... but I'm guessing that given your message
you may not have connected those pieces.)

Debian is primarily an assemblage of components that are all maintained,
and tested, largely independently by the package maintainers.  There is
some coordinated distribution-wide testing, but those efforts quickly
result in bugs filed against individual packages.  Debian tries hard to
keep its components loosely coupled since otherwise creating the
distribution with the type of resources Debian has available would be
simply impossible.

The sort of message that you've written is the kind of message that one
would send to a commercial software vendor, where it might be triaged by a
technical sales manager and possibly taken apart by the QA department to
see what further testing they could do and what issues they could resolve.
Debian does not have any of those people.  There is no one person or set
of person "in charge" of the overall quality of the distribution who can
distribute out tasks, nor are there teams of people who can investigate
comprehensive reports.  There are only individual maintainers and
maintenance teams who manage specific packages, with some project-wide
coordination (and most of your issues do not sound like coordination
issues, but rather issues with specific pieces of software).

Therefore, this sort of long inventory, while providing an outlet for the
frustration of encountering multiple bugs, is basically going to disappear
without a trace (apart from, I suspect, some defensiveness).  Insofar as
those bugs can be tracked down and fixed, it will be through being
separately filed against the individual relevant packages by people who
can reproduce them.

Debian simply doesn't work like most software, due to both the breadth of
the distribution and the volunteer nature of the community.  This
sometimes means that bugs go unfixed because no one has time to dive into
them far enough to figure out where the root problem lies.  Bugs will
definitely go unfixed if no one has time to even get as far as reporting
them against a relevant package.

It's always worth bearing in mind that if something seems completely
unusable, and yet is used by many other people who are not constantly
complaining about it, there is probably something specific to how you're
using it that is causing you to encounter problems that other people are
not having.  For example, I'm using Debian squeeze across several hundred
servers and never encounter kernel panics.  Perhaps my hardware is
different, perhaps my usage is different... it's hard to tell.  But a plea
that starts from, effectively, the position of "this is unusable" is not
actually going to produce the urgency that you seem to desire, since for
the rest of us it obviously *is* usable.  Ironically, it instead reduces
the credibility of the message and makes it even more likely people will
ignore it, even though you have probably encountered, due to your specific
work load, real bugs that really do need to be fixed and which are serious
for you.

If it's less effort for you to switch to another distribution than to try
to track down the origins of the problems you encountered and report them
to the specific packages involved (ideally with some hint as to why the
problem is affecting you more severely than other users), I can certainly
understand that choice.  But Debian is also unlike commercial software in
that the project is not driven by market share, and it's unlikely that
anyone will play the role of technical sales and pick up your list of
complaints and shephard them through the project for you, even if the
alternative is for you to switch to another distribution.  (Among other
things, that's a lot of hard work, and none of us get paid to do that sort
of work for Debian.)

So... Debian is what it is, and in this particular respect I don't think
Debian is going to change.  If that makes it a poor match for your needs,
that does make me sad.  I like Debian a lot, and I like having more people
use it because that makes Debian better.  But it sounds like you've had a
miserable experience, and I'm sympathetic to not having the time to pursue
what sounds like an overwhelming number of bugs for your situation.

I felt like someone should tell you that no one is likely to have the
reaction to your message that you wish, particularly since you clearly put
a lot of time and energy into it.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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