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Thursday, 18 March 2010 10:45

Fedora edges closer to Debian development process

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Last month, Fedora, the community GNU/Linux distribution sponsored by Red Hat Linux, announced that it would create a new development branch in order to avoid putting a speed hump in the way of developers.

Fedora's old way was to stop development at a certain point in Rawhide (the name of the development branch), stabilise, release, and then pick up development again. This meant that uploads to the development branch would have to cease until the release process was over.

Fedora's new method is to split off the development branch at the point when it is deemed fit for stabilising and releasing. This is then released as the next Fedora release. Development on Rawhide continues apace.

But there is a way to go yet for Fedora to catch up with the Debian development pattern which has three streams of development - stable, testing and unstable. Stable is the last release which receives only security updates,  unstable receives all the latest software which moves into testing when it has been in unstable for a while and now shown any major bugs. Testing becomes the next release.

Asked for comment, Debian GNU/Linux project leader Steve McIntyre said: "What they seem to have switched to is a common methodology: at the point when development freezes for a stable release, switch the frozen code onto a new branch so that you can continue to develop your bleeding-edge new stuff without jeopardising your stable release.

"It's a little bit similar to what we used to have in Debian before we started doing the 'testing' distribution, and it's a reasonable compromise. So long as you can still find people to do the stabilisation work, you can let your eager 'unstable' developers continue playing with new ideas.

One problem remains with the new Fedora model - at what point does one freeze things? "The reason that we moved on from this cycle and added the testing distribution was that we found it nigh-on impossible to find a good point to simply declare the unstable branch ready to freeze," McIntyre pointed out.

"When you have lots of developers uploading daily, it's possible you'll never get a stable enough base to be able to stick with it. It can be a lot of hard work to get there."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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