Sunday, February 19, 2006

SUSE Linux 10.1 Beta4 Musings

I haven't blogged for some time, so let me use the SUSE Linux 10.1 beta phase as excuse. Beta4 come out 9 days late which is a first for any SUSE Linux beta that I've been responsible for. A distribution with 2579 (on the i386 CDs) different RPMs out of 6521 in the FACTORY tree (767 noarch and 5754 i586 packages) is quite a complex beast. Just for installation of the distribution, more than 400 packages are needed (the installation-images RPM needs 401 packages to build on i586). Just one broken package might break the installation - and a package can be broken in many ways: for example it might be a broken change in the package itself, a change in another one that forces a change in others which were not done for this one, or even a miscompilation.

With beta3 fontconfig was one package that - on some machines under certain circumstances - broke the installation or made the installed system unusable. For beta4 we planned to integrate a new package resolver (see libzypp description) and that one caused far too many problems so that beta4 had to be delayed. Also the yast2 partitioner has a number of bugs, the showing of release notes was fixed for our enterprise products - which caused the SUSE Linux release notes display to fail,...

With Beta4 I had to put out a warning that Beta4 has some really rough edges , for details see the list of Most Annoying Bugs. Beta4 contains quite a lot of improvements, so that those that get it installed will have a better system than before - but getting it installed is the challenge.

I thought long whether I should release Beta4 at all to the public. With openSUSE and the daily synced out FACTORY distribution, I decided to go out with the big warning so that everybody can see where we are going.

The openness of openSUSE and the FACTORY tree causes quite a few challenges for us. It means lots more discussions with the community and informing everybody about changes before we do them - and discuss them - instead of just going ahead and let others figure it out. In some cases we do this well, in others, like the dropping of the nongpl kernel modules, the communication is handled rather badly. With all of us busy on the distribution - or on the openSUSE build service which will be launched next weekend at FOSSDEM - and stressed by getting betas out, proactive communication and discussion is unfortunately even more of a challenge.
OpenSUSE means change for both the community and Novell and we're still in that process of changing how we work and communicate.