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A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 11, 2013 1:25 UTC (Sat) by zlynx (subscriber, #2285)
In reply to: A proposal for an always-releasable Debian by JoeBuck
Parent article: A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

What Gnome and KDE need to do is stagger the version releases of applications and base libraries. That would help tremendously.

There's no reason to build the applications on the newest library versions. Gnome 3.8 apps should build against Gnome 3.6 libraries. Then later on release the 3.8 libraries which would, of course, be completely compatible with the 3.6 and 3.8 applications.

That would remove the need to immediately recompile everything in the universe against the new frameworks.

This is just like how in the Windows world most apps are currently built against WinXP SP 2 and not Windows 8.


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A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 11, 2013 11:30 UTC (Sat) by krake (subscriber, #55996) [Link]

You could already do it the other way around, i.e. update the libraries to 3.8 while keeping the 3.6 apps and the later on upgrading the apps.

This would have the additional benefit that application developers could develop against packaged libraries and would not have to build the whole stack themselves.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 12, 2013 17:48 UTC (Sun) by rgmoore (✭ supporter ✭, #75) [Link]

There's no reason to build the applications on the newest library versions.

Of course there is: to take advantage of the new features available in the latest version of the library. Not every program needs to take advantage of every new feature, and programmers should be careful to update version requirements only when their program actually needs the newest version of the library, but the need for new versions is real. The whole point of making a new release of the library is to add new features, and the point of adding those features is so that programs can use them. It's essential for new features to be used while they're under development so any interface problems can be fixed before release. Otherwise, you'll be stuck with an untested and likely flawed released version, and any interface problems that are discovered when people start using it will be unfixable because of the need to preserve backward compatibility.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 12, 2013 21:42 UTC (Sun) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

It's also not unusual for there to be performance improvements in newer libraries (which may in fact be new features that don't require application changes to benefit from)

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 0:16 UTC (Mon) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

> What Gnome and KDE need to do is stagger the version releases of applications and base libraries. That would help tremendously.

What they need to do is make sure that when they release libraries the libraries are not going to break anything compiled against the older libraries.

Then it won't matter. People should be able to release a upgrade to a library (that is intended as part of a public API) without rebuilding any other packages against that library and releasing those also.

That way you ultimately end up with a API policy similar to the Linux kernels were Gnome and KDE can change whatever they like internally as long as they make sure that nothing external that depends on their software is affected.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 8:30 UTC (Mon) by ovitters (subscriber, #27950) [Link]

We've been doing that for 10+ years?

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 11:00 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

... and so has everyone else with half a brain releasing shared libraries on Linux.

The problems come when one of the libraries far downstream does, eventually, break its ABI, forcing a cascade of recompilation, or when something you receive has been built against a newer library than you currently have forcing a cascade of updates. Backward-compatibility isn't enough to help there.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 14, 2013 6:37 UTC (Tue) by muntyan (guest, #58894) [Link]

What about this one: http://www.murrayc.com/permalink/2013/05/07/gtkmm-3-8/?ut...
Hopefully it's not going to become common.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 14, 2013 14:37 UTC (Tue) by ovitters (subscriber, #27950) [Link]

Good example (unfortunately). Do not see a reply from Matthias (gtk+ maintainer). Loads of replies, but not much why it cannot be avoided. Seems weird.

I do know that sometimes misuse of the API/ABI and library changes can result in breakage. That is not considered too much of a problem (kernel is way stricter in this). This case, I don't have any clue.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 8:33 UTC (Mon) by ovitters (subscriber, #27950) [Link]

Libraries are not suddenly bug-free. They get bug free by usage.

You can use GNOME 3.6 applications against newer libraries (GNOME 3.8). However, you lose the benefit of the QA that we do as well as other distributions.

Note that we do not built any libraries, distributions do. So your Windows comparison is totally different case.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 9:25 UTC (Mon) by zlynx (subscriber, #2285) [Link]

Sure you can use older apps but no one upstream will listen to your bug reports. You're lucky if they don't try to make you install and test development (GNOME 3.9)

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 9:49 UTC (Mon) by ovitters (subscriber, #27950) [Link]

That's just due to lack of manpower.

We want to offer a live image with the latest code so people can test their bug against the latest development version. This is still not ready though (is a lot of effort to make this always available without requiring too much manpower to maintain it).

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 11:30 UTC (Mon) by renox (subscriber, #23785) [Link]

>That's just due to lack of manpower.

Totally false, it's that the "manpower" prefers to do new things instead of maintaining old versions.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 11:39 UTC (Mon) by ovitters (subscriber, #27950) [Link]

Pretty cool you want to force people to maintain old versions, but we rather leave it to people who want to maintain old version. As you have no ability for force anyone to do anything, in practice it is what I already stated: lack of manpower. And actually some maintainers do maintain old versions, just not across entire GNOME.

Saying "totally false": Read up on the "No obligation" bit in https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/page.cgi?id=etiquette.html to get an idea on how things work in practice.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 14, 2013 13:43 UTC (Tue) by raven667 (subscriber, #5198) [Link]

What I don't get is how the Linux kernel can be so far ahead when it comes to development practices and how long it takes for userspace projects and distros to pick up their habits. The kernel has been maintained in an always-releasable state for a decade now with regular releases every quarter, including stable releases of longer-term maintained versions. The kernel has a fixed ABI to userspace that is ruthlessly maintained. The kernel also has plenty of contributions from amateurs and hobbists who provide labor on their own terms that co-exist with a large number of professional paid developers. As far as "No Obligation" goes, if you want to have your code be a part of the "Linux" kernel then you have a mighty obligation to not break the build, not break the ABI, no break peoples systems and adhere to coding standards, or your code is not going to be accepted and Linus is not going to put his name on it. How is this different for maintaining standards for Debian or GNOME?

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 14, 2013 21:14 UTC (Tue) by jmorris42 (guest, #2203) [Link]

Pretty simple explanation. But if LWN had moderation I'd be getting a -5 troll mod for what I'm fixin' to say....

The kernel devs are professionals. They develop software that is used in the real world in massive installations ranging from Google, supercomputing clusters and pretty much every friggin' smartphone without fruit on it. Most televisions, cable boxes, BluRay players, NAS boxes, etc. depend on that codebase working. If they screw up the people who pay them will not be happy. There would be consequences.

The GNOMEs are pretty much the opposite in every way that matters. The other desktop efforts aren't much better. Because they don't have to be. GNOME released a product that pretty much everyone and their dog hated and other than a lot of heat on Internet forums did it really make a difference to anyone's bottom line? Did it either bring about or prevent 'The Year of Linux on the Desktop!"? No.

Until there are consequences nothing will improve. And as long as it is kids playing with their pet projects there won't be consequences because there won't be enough users to matter. Do I have the answer to how to break that loop? No.

A proposal for an always-releasable Debian

Posted May 13, 2013 13:05 UTC (Mon) by mpr22 (subscriber, #60784) [Link]

People who don't care about maintenance of old versions generally do a terrible job of it. The way to get effective maintenance of old versions is for the people who want it to band together and either do it themselves, or offer some reward (not necessarily tangible) to get someone else to also care and do it for them. "Strangers will be less rude about you on the Internet" is not a particularly inspiring reward.


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