Beta packages within stable releases

Nigel Jones nigjones at
Sun Oct 11 00:24:14 UTC 2009

----- "Mike McGrath" <mmcgrath at> wrote:

> How timely.
> On Sat, 10 Oct 2009, Ken Chilton wrote:
> > Two packages of particular note and suitable as exemplars are
> Firefox and Thunderbird.  These are well-known and basic to
> > the Fedora release for most users.  While many Linux developers
> produce high-quality betas and releases, these two
> > packages are worth special attention.
> >
> > Firefox 3.5.3-1 has both a memory leak and a problem with CPU
> usage.  When left open for more than a day, with several
> > tabs used, the package steadily increases its memory consumption
> from a few hundred megabytes to over 1.6 gigabytes.  The
> > CPU consumption, on a multicore AMD machine, has been observed to
> start at 40% while minimized to 100% after a few hours
> > on non-use.  Users of the latest versions of Firefox have found that
> frequent killing of the Firefox process and
> > restarting is required (this is on Fedora, not Windows).  While this
> problem has existed to some small degree in the
> > past, the latest versions are actually much worse, contrary to the
> Firefox developers' claims.  While the Firefox
> > community continues to struggle with fixes, removal of add-ins, and
> other attempts to locate the source of the problems
> > and placate their users on all platforms, Fedora continues to adopt
> the latest buggy release of the tool as it is
> > unleashed.  It would seem prudent that Fedora have some degree of QA
> concerning the packages it considers key.  A web
> > browser is one of the features that everyone from the mere novice to
> the staunch professional requires.  Fedora should
> > select the best browser available, and not just the most recent or
> the one with the most features.  It would seem
> > appropriate that Fedora should refuse to move forward to newer
> releases of packages that move backward in quality. 
> > Fedora Project should implement its own QA and select the stable
> releases for its stable releases. This might also be of
> > benefit to the Firefox developers, who can spend more time chasing
> down the problems Fedora has implicated, and less time
> > trying to run and tie their shoelaces at the same time.
> >
> > Thunderbird 3 is currently undergoing many changes.  While
> developers continue to add more features and new development
> > versions are released, those working on the coding and testing of
> the new features are not at all disturbed by the
> > frequent changes to the UI and other characteristics of the tool. 
> However, those who depend on the email facilities in
> > Fedora are likely quite worried when Thunderbird pops up a dire
> warning about using a beta package for real life.  Anyone
> > who would be furious when all of their email, current and filed, is
> lost because the beta package did what we were told
> > it could do.  A user who expects to take a quick check of his email
> and finds that the whole UI has changed, his
> > preferences gone, and previously admissible email now finds a home
> in the junk mail abyss might be a bit perturbed by the
> > advent of Fedora 11.  It would seem quite reasonable that Fedora
> 11beta would include beta releases, but "Fedora 11
> > Release" should have only included Thunderbird 2 in the "release"
> repository, with Thunderbird 3 in the "testing" one. 
> > If during the beta phase of Fedora, a package cannot be deemed
> stable, it should either be excluded from Fedora or Fedora
> > should revert to the prior, stable version of that package.  Beta
> software is not intended for production environments. 
> > Anyone who needs the email to work will not want to rely on a beta
> package.  Thunderbird 3 has become a black mark on
> > Fedora 11 and something I hope the Fedora Project plans never to
> repeat.
> >
> > So, I hope this email will be received in a positive light.  I
> suspect you may have already heard from many others, since
> > this seems too big to ignore.  I hope that we might see a change in
> the Fedora Project to provide stable releases to the
> > community while not hampering development.  This might mean adoption
> of the even/odd scheme, or a more formal QA criteria
> > and process, or maybe just slowing down the alpha/beta phases to
> allow more testing before calling it a release.  I
> > believe some of what has happened was in hope for the best, but in
> the end there must be a right solution and that is the
> > one that considers the consumer.  Please remember that the consumer
> wants quality, not just quantity.
> >
> I personally prefer to have Thunderbird 3 and Firefox 3.5.3 on my
> desktop
> because I understand when things are and aren't working right and can
> communicate that to upstream.  In my opinion if you require older
> versions
> of these critically important software packages, there are other
> distributions that offer it.  For example the most recent version of
> Ubuntu ships the 3.0.X tree of Firefox.
Sorry Mike, I disagree the above, and actually instead completely agree with Ken.

For a stable release (i.e. !rawhide) having software that reliably crashes on a regular basis is _not_ a good user experience. Yes sure, it's unfortunate, but I think there are cases where we need to control ourselves about what we put in a 'stable' repository.  What is currently happening is: 3-4 'versions' of 'rawhide' with varying levels of instability.  This gives Fedora a black mark by those who a technically inclined, want to use Fedora, but doesn't like stuff crashing (and doesn't have the time to report it), and even more so by those that aren't technically inclined, and don't know how to report it and switch back to Windows, or to another Distribution as a result.

- Nigel

More information about the fedora-advisory-board mailing list