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By Jonathan Corbet
March 10, 2010
Anybody who has gone near the Fedora mailing lists recently may have noticed that they have been a The discussions have reached the point where the "hall monitors" have intervened to shut down threads and many participants may have unsubscribed in favor of the relative calm and politeness of lists like linux-kernel. It's easy to dismiss it all as yet another Fedora flame war, but there are some serious issues at stake in the discussion. What it comes down to, it seems, is that the Fedora Project is still not entirely sure of who its users are or how to deliver what those users want.

Fedora is a rapidly-releasing distribution, with a new version coming out twice each year. Support limited to just over one year means that Fedora users must upgrade at least once annually or find themselves in a situation where security updates are no longer available. So one assumes that Fedora users are people who have a relatively high level of interest in running recent software, and who are not averse to updating that software with at least moderate frequency. But, it seems, there are limits.

Back in October, Fedora 11 users were surprised to discover that a routine update brought in a new version of Thunderbird with significantly changed behavior. In January, another Thunderbird update created trouble for a number of users. In March, some KDE users were surprised to discover that a "stable update" moved them to the 4.4.0 release, breaking things for some users. In all of these cases (and more), contentious email threads have ensued.

Fedora does indeed not hold back on the updates; a quick look in the LWN mailbox turns up over 600 package updates for the Fedora 11 release - in just the last month. This is a release which is scheduled for end-of-life in a few months. Many of these updates involve significant changes, and others have been deemed "worthless". Regardless of worth, there can be no doubt that all these updates represent a significant degree of churn in a distribution which is in the latter part of its short life. It is difficult to avoid breaking things when things are changing at that rate.

The parts of the discussion which were focused on constructive solutions were concerned with two overall topics: (1) what kind of stable updates are appropriate for a released Fedora distribution, and (2) how to minimize the number of regressions and other problems caused by whatever updates are considered appropriate.

With regard to the first question, it seems that some Fedora maintainers believe - probably with good reason - that their users want "adventurous updates," so it makes sense to them to push new versions of software into released distributions. Others describe their vision of Fedora as a "rolling update" distribution which is naturally following upstream releases. Others, instead, wonder why Fedora bothers making releases at all if it is devoted to rolling updates; users who want adventure, they say, can find plenty of it in Rawhide.

Several proposals have been put onto the release lifecycle proposals wiki page, and others have been posted to the list. They vary from nearly frozen releases to ideas that make releases look like a moderately-slowed version of Rawhide. This decision is one of fundamental distribution policy; it must be faced, or Fedora will continue to have different maintainers doing very different things. Given that need, it's unfortunate that the project seems to be unable to discuss the topic on its mailing lists; there is no clear means by which a consensus can be reached, currently.

Part (2), above, dodges the issue of what updates should be made and just concerns itself with the quality of those updates. The discussion is partly motivated by the fact that the system which Fedora has in place for the review of proposed updates - Bodhi - is often circumvented by updates which go straight out to users. The testing and voting which is supposed to happen in Bodhi is, in fact, not happening much of the time, and the quality of the distribution is suffering as a result. So some Fedora developers are looking for ways to beef up the system.

Matthew Garrett posted a proposal for a new policy which would eliminate developers' ability to push package updates directly into the update stream. Instead, updates would have to sit in the Bodhi system until they receive a minimal +3 "karma" value there; the only exception would be for security updates. By disabling direct pushes, the policy aims to ensure that every package which gets into the updates stream has actually been tested by some users who were happy with the results.

Suffice to say, this proposal was not received with universal acclaim. Some developers simply resent the imposition of extra bureaucracy into their workflow. Karel Zak's response is instructive:

Fedora strongly depends on well-motivated and non-frustrated maintainers and open source developers. We want to increment number of responsible maintainers who are able to use common sense. Our mission is to keep maintainers happy otherwise we will lost them and then we will lost users and our good position in Linux community. [...]

Always when I see that someone is trying to introduce a new rule I have to ask myself ... why so large project like kernel is able to successfully exist for 20 years without a huge collection of rules?

One might observe that the kernel has, in fact, accumulated a fairly substantial set of rules over the last ten years, often in response to discussions with a striking resemblance to those being held in the Fedora community. The merge window, signoff requirements, review requirements, no-regression policy, etc. are all aimed primarily at improving release quality. The kernel also has layers of developers with something close to veto power over potentially problematic changes - a form of dynamic rule-making that Fedora lacks.

So rules might make sense; that says nothing about any specific proposal, though. Many developers feel that very few users test packages in Bodhi, and that large numbers of updates would languish there indefinitely. As Tom Callaway noted, the obstacles to getting those karma votes are significant. So one alternative which has been suggested is that, after 14 days without negative karma, a package would be allowed to proceed to the update stream. Other proposals have included requirements for regression tests or separate (more stringent) requirements for "critical path" packages; see this page for the contents of all of the proposals.

A rather contentious FESCO meeting was held on this topic on March 9. The apparent conclusion was to ponder further on Bill Nottingham's proposal, which involves regression testing and a requirement for positive Bodhi karma for all "critical path" and "important" components; others could proceed after a week in the updates-testing repository. It looks like another meeting will be held in the near future; whether it will come to concrete conclusions remains to be seen.

The "concrete conclusions" part is probably more important than the specific policy adopted (within reason) at this point. Many large and successful projects go through the occasional period where they try to determine what their goals are and how those goals can best be met. Properly handled, these discussions can lead to a more focused and more successful project, even if much heat is generated in the process. A good outcome, though, requires that there be a way to end the discussion with a clear conclusion. Fedora has governance institutions which should be able to do that; until those institutions act, Fedora risks looking like a contentious organization lacking a clear idea of what it is trying to do.

(Log in to post comments)

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 3:20 UTC (Thu) by paulmfoster (guest, #17313) [Link]

Debian FTW!

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 5:58 UTC (Thu) by smoogen (subscriber, #97) [Link]

I would have to say that there was a time not so long ago when people could point to the Debian lists as being the most flame filled festivals of fun. It was said that even OpenBSD developers went there to learn new techniques in email literature. However, I guess Debian has matured in more ways than one... even Debian legal looks to be a pretty tame place these days.

Would you guys like to take back this mantle from Fedora? Please?


Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 7:24 UTC (Thu) by tux1968 (guest, #58956) [Link]

Perhaps Fedora just needs to reembrace its original mission of providing leading edge free software to competent enthusiasts instead of worrying about competing with Ubuntu. While Ubuntu has a broader appeal and thus more "market share", Fedora's original mission was important to the overall ecosystem.

For myself, a long time Red Hat and Fedora user, the direction Fedora has been going caused me to jump ship and move to Ubuntu. There has been a long succession of Fedora decisions attempting to compete with Ubuntu at the expense of the original mission. IMHO, Fedora has undermined most of the reasons anyone should even choose it as their distribution of choice. They've just turned themselves into a poor Ubuntu clone.

My hope is that the Fedora project will regain its confidence to be what it originally set out to be -- even if that means it's not the most popular distro.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 16:15 UTC (Thu) by mmcgrath (guest, #44906) [Link]

> For myself, a long time Red Hat and Fedora user, the direction Fedora has been going caused me to jump ship and move to Ubuntu. There has been a long succession of Fedora decisions attempting to compete with Ubuntu at the expense of the original mission. IMHO, Fedora has undermined most of the reasons anyone should even choose it as their distribution of choice. They've just turned themselves into a poor Ubuntu clone.

So in your view, you didn't like that Fedora was becoming more like Ubuntu. So you moved to Ubuntu...

Also Fedora itself hasn't made any decisions to compete with or be more like or more dislike Ubuntu. The problem is we've got hundreds of contributors all working towards different un-unified goals. Some may be working towards something more like Ubuntu, but certainly not everyone is, possible not even most are.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 19:01 UTC (Thu) by ajross (guest, #4563) [Link]

I think that's missing the point. Ubuntu revs the distribution quickly, providing new software versions every six months. But it does it only in the context of new, named versions. If you choose not to do a dist upgrade, you generally get only bug fixes. Contrast that with fedora pushing Thunderbird 3 (!) mid-stream. Over time, it seems to my eyes Ubuntu has become more conservative with its approach to update management. Fedora seems to be moving more in the direction of "RHEL-Experimental", a product niche that probably doesn't fit well with its users desires, and that is already pretty well served by distributions like Debian unstable and Gentoo.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 19:41 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

Thunderbird 3 schedule was announced and Fedora included a pre-release
version based on the announced schedule and Thunderbird 3 was delivered
late but since Fedora had already tested the pre-release, it went along
with it and pushed the general release of Thunderbird 3 as an update.
Similar things have happened in Ubuntu as well, for example the last LTS
release included a pre-release version of Firefox and current release
includes a development snapshot of GRUB2. Anyone who thinks Fedora is more
experimental than before hasn't been paying attention to some of the
earlier releases.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 19:49 UTC (Thu) by ajross (guest, #4563) [Link]

I still think you're missing the point. It's not the shipping of "pre- release" versions that people are worried about; as long as things work, most people don't care. It's the pushing of "new" versions (see the examples above -- incompatible UI/interface/dataformat/API changes) inside of a named release (i.e. sucked in automatically via yum update) that is troubling.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 19:51 UTC (Thu) by skvidal (guest, #3094) [Link]

And that's what all the discussion has been about.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 20:02 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

Then the example you picked turned out to be not representative of what you
are talking about and yes, a number of discussions have been about avoiding
the more troublesome updates.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 21:27 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

The differences between the Thunderbird beta and the release were large, confusing people who
were used to the UI and enabling indexing features that many people found excessively resource
hungry. While shipping a beta at GA and pushing the full version as an update may be reasonable
under various circumstances, it's unreasonable for that update to break people's workflow and the
Thunderbird 3 update should have had its defaults modified to match.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 21:47 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

Yes and I have written extensively about that including

My point was simply that such behavior can happen in even a minor update
and we should be tackling that directly in the update policy instead of
distracting ourselves with discussions about pre-releases. Whether
something is called by upstream as alpha or beta is less important than
what changes the updates bring along. The problem in thunderbird could
have been solved simply disabling a couple of simple settings in the
initial update. *That* is where the focus should be.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 16:20 UTC (Thu) by dowdle (subscriber, #659) [Link]

Huh? Your comment makes little sense. You say you like the Fedora goals and it is what attracted you to it. But then you say it became a little like Ubuntu which drove you away to what? Ubuntu? Riiiight... that makes sense, NOT. But then again, humans aren't always logical. :)

I can tell you that while Fedora has tried to make the distro easier to use for newbies they definitely have not changed the focus of Fedora strictly to newbies. They try to walk a tight rope of doing lots of different things all at the same time. That seems to be what interests the developers... and that is who you have to keep happy or the users don't even have a chance. Fedora tries to keep a balance between developer and user and I believe it has done a good job. Flames are pretty healthy as long as people don't decide to pack up their stuff and play in a different sandbox.

From my point of view, Fedora hasn't really changed their philosophy much at all. Yes they have increased their marketing and promotion efforts but those are not what is driving Fedora. I too am a long time Red Hat and Fedora user but I do not suffer from Ubuntu envy.

Canonical might be competition for Red Hat but Canonical has to prove they have a workable business plan and from what I've seen, I don't think Red Hat has much to worry about because they really aren't going after the same market segment. I'm glad Canonical is there to keep Red Hat on their toes though as Novell needs help.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 19:41 UTC (Thu) by tux1968 (guest, #58956) [Link]

Huh? Your comment makes little sense. You say you like the Fedora goals and it is what attracted you to it. But then you say it became a little like Ubuntu which drove you away to what? Ubuntu? Riiiight... that makes sense, NOT. But then again, humans aren't always logical. :)

Just because you couldn't understand the logic doesn't mean it is missing ;o) To spell it out in simple terms for you: as long as Fedora is going to attempt to be another Ubuntu, and do it badly, I might as well have the real thing. Fedora doesn't do what Ubuntu does very well, despite continuing decisions in that vein. The things that would keep me with Fedora and give up some of the conveniences and polish of Ubuntu, have been cast aside by Fedora in an effort to compete with Ubuntu. Which is sad to me.


Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 20:06 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

What specific decisions in your opinion have continued in that vein? I
don't really see that despite being involved in the project ever since its
inception. So share your perspectives.

Red Hat Linux and Fedora following that were pioneers of a time based
release schedule and has strongly followed a free and open source
philosophy, done extensive amount of work upstream on everything from the
kernel and Xorg to NetworkManager, PackageKit, Plymouth and so on which has
been adopted everywhere else. There has always been fundamental
differences in approaches and live everything else, we have all learned
from each other.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 4:16 UTC (Fri) by wtogami (subscriber, #32325) [Link]

Huh? You give no examples of what Fedora is supposedly doing to be like Ubuntu. AFAIK that is not a goal of Fedora at all. Without specific examples you cannot be very convincing of any point.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 18, 2010 8:31 UTC (Thu) by DYN_DaTa (guest, #34072) [Link]

"Fedora doesn't do what Ubuntu does very well"

You're right. And I'm ***extremly*** glad of it. One likes to take shorcuts and the other tries to innovate. One bring us future and the other bring us cheap goals.

Guess who is who? :).

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 8:39 UTC (Thu) by michaeljt (subscriber, #39183) [Link]

Why force people to upgrade to new major releases of packages? Why not just make the new
release available as a seperately selectable package, possibly one which forces
deinstallation of the old one *if you choose to install it*. Yes, it increases the maintenance
burden, but that should be the choice that you make when pushing a new package.

Actually that would fit in well with the "rolling update" model - you upgrade when you are
ready, and maintainers focus on the different available branches of their package instead of
the different currently supported releases.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 11:40 UTC (Thu) by ewan (subscriber, #5533) [Link]

It's partly the amount of maintainer effort that requires; it's a lot more work to look after multiple streams of packages, backporting security fixes to some, and just bumping others to the latest upstream release. The fear is that if the maintenance reuirements become too heavy in any way, people will just stop bothering.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 10:40 UTC (Fri) by michaeljt (subscriber, #39183) [Link]

But they have that anyway, given that they are currently maintaining three different versions
of Fedora at any one time. Granted they would have to test more combinations if people
could upgrade one package and leave others, but I don't think that this is an unsurmountable
difficulty, as upgrading packages will also force upgrading of their dependencies, upstream
will have to handle those combinations anyway, and in any case, dealing with this sort of
combinations is not really as hard as Linux people tend to think :) (The last is from personal
experience of maintaining a large and complex source plus binary application against a wide
range of distributions.)

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 11:50 UTC (Thu) by ewan (subscriber, #5533) [Link]

the obstacles to getting those karma votes are significant

It seems to me that this is the heart of the problem. I don't think anyone really wants to be pushing out broken untested updates if there's an alternative of getting them tested instead. At the moment it's quite a lot of manual work for a user to spot that there's something they might be interested in in updates-testing, test it, and provide feedback. If that situation was eased you could reasonably expect to get more people doing more testing, and the original problem of maintainers being forced to put out updates either untested or not at all would largely evaporate.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 11:55 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

Yes and one tool that came out of the thread is

It has helped.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 17:31 UTC (Fri) by rwmj (subscriber, #5474) [Link]

No I think that misses the point that the OP was trying to make.

it's hard to visualize what spectrum of packages is available in updates-testing, particularly what packages you might be interested in testing. Although it's possible to go to Bodhi and get a list of what is available, the user has to know about that, and check it periodically to see if there are packages of interest that might be worth testing.

I wonder if yum could do it?

# yum install foo
  By the way, there is an updated version of 'foo' in updates-testing.
  Would you like to test it?
Just a thought ...


Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 18:26 UTC (Fri) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

It's fairly easy to write a yum plugin to do that but I am not sure that is
the right UI for it. PackageKit hookups have been discussed as well.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 13, 2010 20:42 UTC (Sat) by ewan (subscriber, #5533) [Link]

I think we need two parts to it; one that days "You currently have package FOO installed; would you like to try the version in updates-testing?", and a second to kick in after a few days to say "You currently have a testing version of package FOO installed; would you like to give feedback (Positive/Negative/Not yet)?"

A third part to say "You have a testing version of package FOO that has been withdrawn; would you like to roll back to the latest stable release?" would be nice too.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 17:52 UTC (Thu) by geek (guest, #45074) [Link]

I think this is pretty good comment. Offloading a lot of work from the developers to the users by making users fuss over the testing release is likely to be off-putting in practice. Engaging anyone, including testers, means making things easier for them, not harder.

I recently did some of what I thought were routine updates to my F11 box that basically broke kmail, my main app. I was able after a week to get back most basic functionality but still don't have my address book back. I would be a lot happier testing new releases if I had a nicely defined and effective undo button. It would have to work well but if present would significantly lower the cost of any regressions introduced. I don't use Fedora because I want my functionality to go away, but because there are lots of good ideas that I'll be able to put into practice sooner by using that distro.


Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 18:00 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

Couple of things that might help:

* yum history and yum history undo

Sounds like they want to be Debian

Posted Mar 11, 2010 12:17 UTC (Thu) by walles (guest, #954) [Link]

Sounds like they want to do what Debian is doing:
* Maintainers upload into Unstable.
* Scripts migrate packages into Testing after a period without release critical bug reports.
* Testing is frozen and released as Stable at some interval.

But if Fedora wants to be Debian, one could wonder why they have their own distro...

Sounds like they want to be Debian

Posted Mar 11, 2010 16:24 UTC (Thu) by dowdle (subscriber, #659) [Link]

Fedora isn't trying to be anything other than Fedora. If it decides to adopt a development model similar to another distro... that's more about best practices than trying to adopt a distro's reason for being.

Lack of policy for qualification for update, and no backports repo?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 13:42 UTC (Thu) by buchanmilne (guest, #42315) [Link]

I think the problem here is that Fedora is trying to accomplish two different goals with the same repo:
  • Updates all users should get (security and bugfix-only updates)
  • New version updates (which may provide new features etc. at the risk of regressions)

Of course, sometimes the lines get blurred, but the QA/vetting process for non-security updates should be sufficient going as updates, and packages that don't pass or get sufficient testing should not be shipped as updates.

I note that in Mandriva, updates is reserved for bugfix and security updates. The contrib repo is not QA'ed though, so security updates for contrib can go directly (submitted to build system and immediately after successful build and any automated test directly to primary mirrors) to contrib/updates, while updates for main must go to main/testing before being QA'ed by the QA team. On successful tests, the package will be moved to main/updates.

For new versions, there is the backports repo (which also allows introducing packages which did not exist in the distro when released), so for example amarok 2.2.2, gimp 2.6.0, thunderbird 3.0.x, openldap 2.4.21, xen 3.4.2 etc. are available there (in main/backports). contrib/backports has things like gcompris 9.2, gpodder 2.2, kernel koffice 2.1.0, monodevelop 2.2, nexuiz 2.5.2, playonlinux 3.7.3, psi 0.14, qgis 1.3.0, vlc 1.0.5 xbmc 9.11.

However, KDE 4.4.x is not available in any Mandriva stable repo, only in "cooker", which is what you run if you want bleeding edge. KDE 4.4.0 is available in a KDE repo (packaged by the Mandriva KDE maintainer). Then again, what percentage of fedora users actually run rawhide (compared to those that run, say, Mandriva cooker).

This arrangement allows people who want mostly stable with updates but some new versions to get automatic updates from the "updates" repos, and choose updates from backports, without subjecting everyone to the most aggressive updates available. It also allows contributors to get new packages out to users without too much effort and bureaucracy.

Lack of policy for qualification for update, and no backports repo?

Posted Mar 15, 2010 17:20 UTC (Mon) by AdamW (subscriber, #48457) [Link]

Hey, Buchan. I already put a few notes about the MDV process into the Fedora thread.

The main drawback to it is that it does come with a penalty of extra overhead on the infrastructure and development groups. It was a fairly obvious choice for Mandriva, which has a clear focus on accommodating as many regular end-users as possible, but it's not so obvious for Fedora, whose goals are not quite so evident. It's not clear that what Fedora actually wants to do is to make the lives of regular consumer users as easy as possible. If Fedora is focused more on aiding the development of Linux technologies, it may not make sense to spend resources on dual-stream updates. As the article says, it's a question that's not been settled yet.

BTW, KDE isn't in /backports because of the backports policy restriction which heavily discourages the updating of shared libraries in /backports, I believe.

Lack of policy for qualification for update, and no backports repo?

Posted Mar 18, 2010 8:44 UTC (Thu) by kragil (guest, #34373) [Link]

If the outcome of this is that Fedoras goal is not to make the life of its
users easier then that should be printed in BIG letters on every Fedora
webpage so that no more potential Linux users try it and get the fairly
certain bad experience.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 15:24 UTC (Thu) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

Sorry Fedora folks.

It is really stupid to make major version updates to software that people have installed. Once you have a Fedora version release only do bug fixes and security fixes. Otherwise leave it alone.

If you want to provide a distro with 'adventurous' updates then you need to have a system with continous updates. That way maintainers can have the joy of doing whatever the hell they want and users can always have the latest and greatest of everything.

I would do a 'Rawhide --' (Rawhide minus minus). To were you have rawhide as the dumping ground and experimental happy fun place for developers and after packages are there to fester for a couple weeks then they are automatically sent to the user's repos.

That is to say have 1 experimental release that will act like a software repository developers can commit against and then have a unstable release that users can continously follow updates. The reason to have a delay is because it gives package developers the ability to make mistakes and gives people time to detect and fix problems before submitting them for end users to test.

Debian has had very good luck with this approach. I use Debian unstable on all my desktops and while occasional breakage is _expected_ it is not as bad as some people would think.

Plus this has the side effect of rasing the quality of your stable releases.

You can avoid the sandtrap Debian has fallen into by avoiding the 'ftpmaster' drama, making it a top priority to make it easy for people to commit new packages, and sticking to time- based releases.


tl;dr crowd:

1. Debian has hit on gold with the Experimental ---> Unstable ---> Testing ---> Stable release cycle. Fedora only has 'Experimental' ---> 'Release'. They should have a 'unstable' that has no releases, but a continous rolling upgrade for end users to partake.

2. To avoid the pitfalls of Debian you need to make special effort to make it _trivial_ to join Fedora. Also you need to avoid the 'ftpmaster' central authority thing, and you need to stick to time-based releases.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 15:35 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

"It is really stupid to make major version updates to software that
people have installed."

This really depends on the nature of the software project. Sometimes
users really do want some new features as well for well justified
reasons. Refer to different proposals at

"They should have a 'unstable' that has no releases, but a continous
rolling upgrade for end users to partake."

That is what Rawhide is now. A permanent development branch. In case, you
didn't notice, refer to

There are no plans to move from time-based releases and Fedora does not
have the concept of ftp-masters. Every package maintainer has commit and
build access and if you are "proven packager" you get commit access to
pretty much everything.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 17:10 UTC (Thu) by iabervon (subscriber, #722) [Link]

I think what some people want is a package set that has the rolling quality of rawhide but an inclusion criterion more like fedora, separate from checkpointed fedora releases. As you say, rawhide is a permanent development branch; but what many people want is a permanent release candidate branch, while some want to not have fedora in general work like that. I think there are people who want: (1) the bleeding edge, for testing; (2) whatever would go into a fedora release, if a fedora release were made today; (3) whatever went into a particular fedora release, when that happened, plus security fixes. (1) and (2) are different because a particular package version will require a certain amount of testing and sometimes fixing before it would be suitable for release, even if it happened to have been put together at some point before a release came out.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 17:33 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

Not sure what you are driving at but would a backports style repository
serve the purpose you had in mind? If not, can you point out a process
that has worked for another distribution for example?

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 17:41 UTC (Thu) by iabervon (subscriber, #722) [Link]

I don't know of a distro that does all three, but Gentoo has a bleeding-edge configuration and a rolling release candidate configuration. There aren't fixed releases at all, but users who want to avoid getting new major versions of particular packages can mask all later major versions (and inspect the list of upgrades before making them, so they can see upgrades they will want to avoid and mask them).

I think the backports style is insufficient, because what's largely missing is a configuration that is essentially backports from the version of fedora that hasn't been released to the current version (where rawhide fails on the fact that it's got tons of versions that wouldn't make it through QA into a release).

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 18:07 UTC (Thu) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

Fedora does have a early branching system at the moment and you can use
Fedora 13 branch and it's different from rawhide in the sense that all
updates usually go via an updates-testing repository to the base repository
and Fedora is trying to improve the quality of rawhide itself via some
automated QA tests.

There has been a number of ideas floating around including allowing users
to hook into updates-testing repo and provide feedback more easily. We
will see in the upcoming months some significant changes, I think.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 20:47 UTC (Thu) by rriggs (subscriber, #11598) [Link]

Personally, I prefer a Fedora to be short-term stable. What's the average lifespan of a Fedora release? From Alpha to EOL, we talking less than 18 months? That's not a long time to ask packagers and maintainers to maintain a package. At most you have 3 versions to maintain, and that's with a very aggressive release cycle.

I have the following options:

CentOS/RHEL: long-term stable for Servers and such.

Fedora: short-term stable for development, playing with fairly new features. Some stuff is broken (e.g. ATI OpenCL support). I run this on my desktop.

Rawhide: unstable for experimenting with bleeding edge features on machines that can be partially functional most of the time and non-functional for short periods. This I usually reserve for VMs.

I use each of these options. They all have their place. It does suck to have my email to get screwed up because of an significant upgrade to Thunderbird mid-cycle.

I really don't see a need for a midpoint between Rawhide and a short-term stable Fedora. Anyone who thinks they want this is really asking for "stable bleeding edge", and that is just oxymoronic.

I need something that I am comfortable running on as a primary OS on my desktop. With that I am able to provide valuable feedback to Red Hat and the Fedora teams. If they get too wild with Fedora, I will no longer be able to use it as a primary platform. I'll play with it from time to time. But I will no longer have the incentive to provide detailed problem reports.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 11, 2010 21:22 UTC (Thu) by iabervon (subscriber, #722) [Link]

I was actually suggesting that the current Fedora is not actually short-term stable (because it accepts changes that aren't security/stability fixes and breaks your Thunderbird); the current policy is actually more like something between short-term stable and rawhide, where changes that are considered production-quality but are different in ways that may matter to users are accepted. My idea was that Fedora Rolling would be managed like Fedora N is now, and Fedora N would be more conservative, where switching to KDE 4.4 within a cycle wouldn't even be considered.

why so much upd-hate?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 1:00 UTC (Fri) by marcH (subscriber, #57642) [Link]

At this moment both Fedora 11 and Fedora 12 are "maintained". Why even the older Fedora 11 is still receiving loads of non-security updates is really beyond me.

- If Fedora 11 updates are different from Fedora 12 updates, then it means that Fedora maintainers have really too much time on their hands.

- If Fedora 11 updates are the same as Fedora 12 updates, then why are there two different releases in the first place?

- If updates are sometimes different sometimes the same across the two releases, then such a mess means everybody should switch to Ubuntu ASAP.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 5:50 UTC (Fri) by mdomsch (subscriber, #5920) [Link]

The Fedora Project Board has spoken on this now:

Reading the comments in the thread here, I think you'll find the Board's statement on how we believe updates should happen is exactly in keeping with (nearly all?) the comments here - fundamentally, releases are releases, and should not be getting major behavior-changing package version bumps along the way (modulo "really good reasons" of course - we're human, not mindless machines following orders).

I know this will ease the concern of many of our users, that on any given day they can't know if 'yum update' will keep them with a functional system or not. The anecdotal poor update experience stories noted in this thread should become exceptional, not standard practice.

I'm sure there will be more conversations about this, especially as the Fedora Engineering Steering Committee (FESCo) takes this vision statement and turns it into implementable practice. There will be bumps along the way. And yes, some contributors may not be pleased with this direction, but we feel it's worth the effort to improve our processes to keep our users productive, while continuing the traditions of rapid free and open source software development with high quality.

Matt Domsch
Fedora Board member

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 17:02 UTC (Fri) by zooko (guest, #2589) [Link]

"The merge window, signoff requirements, review requirements, no-regression policy, etc. are all aimed primarily at improving release quality."

The kernel has a no-regression policy!? Where is this policy written down? Is it actually followed? I can't wait to learn more.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 12, 2010 17:24 UTC (Fri) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

the policy does NOT say that a kernel release must have no known regressions before it ships.

what it says is that it is not allowable to break some set of users with a patch to fix some other set of users (frequently justified by 'it helps more people than it hurts')

also, if a regression is bisected to a particular patch, that patch will probably be reverted rather than to ship with that regression in place.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 19, 2010 19:59 UTC (Fri) by ariveira (guest, #57833) [Link]

> also, if a regression is bisected to a particular patch, that patch will
> probably be reverted rather than to ship with that regression in place.

Well that is not obviously allways the case (at least for me)

There you have bisected with a one-liner that I still have to revert
myself release after release.
They are probably waiting until I buy another wifi card ... :(

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 19, 2010 21:06 UTC (Fri) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

that is why I said 'probably' above.

having said that, you should probably post about this on the kernel mailing list (you do not need to be subscribed to do so), and CC Linus. This is the sort of thing that causes him to jump on the maintainers (and sometimes do the revert himself if the maintainers choose to not revert the problem)

unfortunately at this point it's been broken long enough for other people to make the claim that it doesn't matter much since others haven't complained, but that's usually not considered an acceptable answer when there is a person with the hardware (you) complaining.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 13, 2010 13:58 UTC (Sat) by asherringham (subscriber, #33251) [Link]

Reading the wiki page, I think fedora is doing the right thing in re-evaluating its purpose - and discussing it openly.

I used Fedora years ago but dropped it between v2 and v3 (I think, it was a long time ago). I was (and am) aware it's "bleeding edge" to a great degree, both a curse and a blessing, but the various breakages at the time put me off. I wanted a little more stability at the time.

Fedora has come on in leaps and bounds since then however (not least, the huge yum improvements). I may not use it just now, but developers at my workplace chose Fedora (over Ubuntu) because it offers them a better development experience (32/64 bit development - multi-arch).

Fedora is a very important distribution, contributed to by many many dedicated people. For that I am grateful. Even if I don't use it just now, I might in the future.

Thanks for all your hard work!


Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 14, 2010 15:11 UTC (Sun) by danieldk (subscriber, #27876) [Link]

I have experienced the same problems as the developer of the yum-
priorities plugin. Fedora maintainers pushed a patch to the stable Fedora
repositories that I rejected with good reasons (I think it was RHBZ
#249991). It broke yum for many people (who were not able to run even a
yum update), and was retracted about a week later.

After this episode I was convinced to never use Fedora, or recommend it to
others. The procedure was in sharp contrast to CentOS, where changes
were first tested in the testing repository for some time. And only after a
period with no objections, and only acknowledgements it was pushed to

The discussion who Fedora is for comes up again every now and then, and
I do not think things will really change in any way, because of Fedora's
purpose. Some will object to this: but Fedora was and still is Red Hat's
garder to test their new stuff that will eventually be in RHEL. If Fedora were
to become a more stable distribution with longer support cycles, it may eat
some of RHELs lunch (not all, since no support contracts are offered), and
RHEL loses quite a bit of its beta program.

Things will only change if Fedora becomes fully independent.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 14, 2010 15:33 UTC (Sun) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

The process is not in contrast because updates usually go via updates-
testing repository in Fedora as well but unlike CentOS which is rebuilding a
relatively smaller repository, Fedora is upstream, has a repository several
times larger, moves more quickly and has more contributors but amount of
feedback in updates-testing is not enough and these discussions are a way of
addressing that problem.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 14, 2010 16:01 UTC (Sun) by danieldk (subscriber, #27876) [Link]

This is in sharp contrast, because CentOS usually only pushes minor
upgrades to -extras, and as you mention, only a small amount of packages
that are properly tested.

Fedora pushes quite major changes continuously, and a large amount of
them. You cannot expect testers to keep up with the amount and impact of
changes. The result is that packages will be pushed to the stable
distribution with to little testing compared to their impact, making Fedora
practically a beta distribution.

The solution is, of course, to only allow for very minor changes in a stable
version (security and reliability fixes). But Red Hat would never allow such a
policy, since it would be at odds with Red Hat's goals for Fedora. Hence,
my comment that things will only change if Fedora becomes more

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 14, 2010 16:15 UTC (Sun) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

I assume that you did not read the followup news.

It's funny because Fedora Governance decided that it would appropriate
measure and did it despite your strong claims to the contrary. Even more
funnier is that fact that the decision is also being attributed to Red Hat.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 14, 2010 16:51 UTC (Sun) by danieldk (subscriber, #27876) [Link]

Great, let's see in three to five years. It's not the first time this discussion
came up, and solutions were proposed:

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 14, 2010 16:53 UTC (Sun) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946) [Link]

So what? This is hardly the first time, a community has discussed something
on multiple occasions. There were some changes made then and there are some
changes made now. The decision you said would never happened already did.
Now would be a good time to take a step back and stop the naysaying.

Who is Fedora for?

Posted Mar 15, 2010 17:24 UTC (Mon) by AdamW (subscriber, #48457) [Link]

You may have noticed that most Red Hat staff who posted in the debate are actually wanting more stable updates. And the proposals which would restrict update types all come from Red Hat staff too.

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