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Re: Some observations regardig the progress towards Debian 3.1

On Sun, Nov 16, 2003 at 11:53:36PM -0500, Matt Zimmerman wrote:
> On Sat, Nov 15, 2003 at 05:42:20PM +0100, Adrian Bunk wrote:
> > Today, it's only 17 days until the officially announced "aggressive goal"
> > for the release of Debian 3.1 [1]. That's a date many users know about,
> > but I don't see any real progress towards Debian 3.1 during the last
> > months.
> I suppose you don't subscribe to debian-boot or debian-devel-announce, then?

OK, I admit my mail was a bit too general.

There are serious improvements in the installer, but Debian is still 
_far_ away from a new release that was announced as "aggressive goal" 
for December 1st (and see my note on debian-installer below).

> > Yes, there's the common argument "Don't talk, fix bugs.". Unfortunately
> > this doesn't work: Debian is too big. I might e.g. be able to fix 50
> > easy to fix RC bugs in unstable, but this would be lost in the noise,
> > and wouldn't result in real progress.
> So instead, we have a system where people take individual (or small group)
> responsibility for a particular piece of software, to take care of it and
> fix its bugs.  This way, we distribute the effort over a large number of
> people.

The problem is, this often chaotic development system doesn't scale to 
over 1200 developers (including many MIA developers).

> > Debian 3.0 contains 7 CDs with binaries and Debian 3.1 might contain 10
> > or more CDs. How do you explain to a user why there are 10 CDs, but this
> > popular package is not included, and that package he needs is not
> > included?
> One of the nice things about not having customers and contracts is that we
> don't need to answer these questions.  If a package is missing, either there
> were unavoidable problems preventing its inclusion, or no one cared enough
> about it.  I would very much rather have a package omitted than have to
> support software that no one else cares about.
> > Saying "The maintainer didn't care enough about the package you need."
> > only sounds like a good reason to switch to RedHat...  :-(
> If Red Hat ships more of the software the user needs, maybe it is a better
> choice.  Choice is one of the great advantages of free software, after all.

The question is perhaps a different one:
  What is the goal of Debian?

This is not about "free software" or such goals, it's about what
audiences and niches does Debian target at.

Debian is usable for hackers [1] and as a base for projects like Knoppix
and commercial distributions like Xandros and Lindows.

Debian is usable as a server distribution and for desktops if you don't
need the latest software.

Noone forces you to support the latter uses, but if you don't support 
them, the only way for normal users to use Debian will be to buy Xandros 
or Lindows.

I'm not saying this would be immoral or something like that, but e.g. a
major release without Evolution [2] (currently ages away from reentering
testing) might make Debian stable unusable for many users - and you
should be aware of such consequences.

> > Currently, many new upstream versions flood into unstable every day.
> > Trying to get this or that package into testing is a Sysyphos task, since
> > once this or that problem with moving packages into testing is solved, the
> > next one pups up. For testing to work good, it's required to have unstable
> > in a good state. Often new so-versions of libraries enter unstable, and
> > e.g. KDE 3.2 might soon go into unstable. If testing should be frozen,
> > it's needed to _freeze unstable_ (IOW: require RM approval for every
> > upload to unstable). This doesn't need to be under a "no new upstream
> > code" policy at the beginning, but at least beta versions, new so-names
> > and major upstream releases (e.g. avoid KDE 3.2, but 3.1.5 is OK) should
> > be avoided.
> I think this is more or less what was proposed in the last release timeline,
> where major changes in certain packages were frozen at various dates.

There are some problems with the release timeline:

Debian stable is too outdated, it doesn't even reasonable support most
available new hardware. At least one release [3] every year would be

Releases are not predictable for the average user. For one year after
the release of Debian 3.0 there was no statement when Debian 3.1 will be
released, and the latest announcement that Debian 3.1 will be released
on December 1st (spread via Debian developers to many users and the
press) seems to be quite unrealistic - it seems even unrealistic to miss
this date by only one or two months.

> > Another problem for the release is the Debian installer. The vast
> > majority of Debian installations is i386. If the new installer isn't
> > ready on all architectures it might be an option to ship some
> > architectures without installer in 3.1r0, and add the installer for
> > these architectures in 3.1r1 or 3.1r2. This way Debian 3.1 might be
> > released more early, and even for the affected architectures it's
> > better, since additionally to the status quo (installing and using
> > Debian 3.0), they can upgrade to Debian 3.1 .
> I have no particular objection to shipping with only an i386 installer at
> first, but the last time I checked, debian-installer (while it seems to have
> made tremendous progress of late) is not ready for release on i386 either.

What are the unexpected delays in the dvelopment of debian-installer?

In the latest release timeline announced August 19th, "Beta testing of
debian-installer by adventurous users" was announced to happen before
September 1st, and "Beta testing of the installation" was announced to
happen before October 1st.

>  - mdz


[1] "hackers" in the sense of people who want to know more about their 
    system; in this context, an average computer science student is a
[2] this shouldn't imply the Evolution or GNOME maintainers were MIA,
    but there are some problems until a part of GNOME 2.4 that is big
    enough to support anything Evolution needs can enter testing
[3] "release" includes in this context only major releases like
    Debian 3.0 and Debian 3.1, but not point releases like
    Debian 3.0r2


       "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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