Wanna give me a hand debunking this?

Lamar Owen lowen at pari.edu
Tue Nov 27 13:00:29 UTC 2007

On Monday 26 November 2007, Jeff Spaleta wrote:
> On Nov 26, 2007 3:21 PM, Lamar Owen <lowen at pari.edu> wrote:
> > I've followed Les's argument for a long time; he (and others) want kernel
> > stability but not userland stability.

> How about this, how about you stop attempting to interpret Les's
> comments and just speak for yourself. 

Ok, fine.  There are machines where I would like this as well.  And I have it 
with CentOS plus KDE-Redhat.  KDE-Redhat is much more than an add-on; it is 
more of a 'Fedora Alternatives' for CentOS or other RHEL-sources based 
distribution.  Remember Fedora Alternatives?  Ask Rex about the packaging; 
I'm just thankful he did the packaging so that something more modern than KDE 
3.3 can run on CentOS 4.  Thank you, Rex! (The version of kstars that can 
control telescopes is post-3.3; I actually NEEDED kstars of recent vintage 
running quite a long time prior to the CentOS 5 release; see my .sig for 

This doesn't help GNOME users, though.  

> I understand the point you are 
> making concerning ABI stability and you clearly understand that
> upstream kernel development doesn't value it. It's absolutely not
> clear to me that the lack of ABI stability is something Les really
> cares about nor understands why its difficult for Fedora to provide.

Not speaking for Les, but I understand why it is difficult for Fedora to 
provide this (backporting is expensive; ask the PostgreSQL group about that; 
if it weren't for Red Hat and RHEL, security fixes probably wouldn't be 
backported to older PostgreSQL versions); but where else can the issues that 
this difficulty produces for Fedora be discussed?  LKML?  LOL.

> > Why?  If this were true, kde-redhat's RHEL repo wouldn't need to exist.
> > KDE-Redhat for RHEL exists, therefore this isn't true.

> It doesn't "NEED" to exist... its "DESIRED" but you "CAN" live without
> it.  

Fedora doesn't NEED to exist... it's DESIRED, but you CAN live without it.  
Lather, rinse, and repeat with various other Linux distribution names.  The 
fact that packagers have put effort into a monster job like KDE-Redhat (or 
PlanetCCRMA) speaks volumes for the perceived need.  I already mentioned my 
real NEED for kstars for KDE > 3.3.

> It's much easier to provide a fast moving application stack as an 
> addon to a conservative distribution then it is to build a
> distribution that is conservative and fast moving in different areas.

Rex is on this list; Rex, would you characterize this as being true (since I 
should only speak for myself, and not try to interpret what others have 
already clearly said in other venues as well as this one)?  Rex is the 
KDE-Redhat expert.

> What was the point of this thread again? 

The point, as I see it, is that Fedora will eventually break your system if 
you follow kernel updates.  The corollary is that the developers don't care 
as long as the political 'no stable module ABI' point is being made.

The breakage may be minor, and it may be major.  I'm at F8 on this laptop; 
when it was an F7 laptop I used it for audio production (I do professional 
multitrack production as a side item); some F7 update broke the sound.  
Completely.  I had wireless mostly working.  Some F7 update broke it, too, 
and renumbered my ethernet. Note that the wireless and the sound drivers were 
open-source modules bundled with the kernel, and not binary drivers. I'm not 
even going to talk about what it did to how my Tascam US428 USB DAW control 
surface/sound interface worked.

And the tickless kernel threw VMware into a tizzy (part of my audio production 
requirements at the time meant I had to use Adobe Audition, which I used 
under VMware; with the tickless kernel audition became unusable because the 
audio edit cursor jumps around and no longer tracks the audio that is 
playing).  (The nohz kernel command line option might have fixed that, but I 
didn't know about that at the time)

Now, I needed recent Audacity, Ardour, and other programs to do the work; it 
was a kernel issue, not a userland one, that the sound card simply would not 
produce any sound and the US428 just quit being recognized.  In the interim, 
I went back to doing my production on the F7 desktop with the Echo Layla; 
less convenient, but when production is at stake, one makes sacrifices. 
Almost enough to make me want to throw Fedora out the window and buy 
Studio2Go.  Almost.

> If its come down to ABI stability in the
> kernel, then we are at an impasse.  

Just because there is an impasse doesn't mean that users who despise this 
political motivation in kernel development should just shut up.  I think the 
kernel developers (and perhaps the Fedora developers) should hear what users 
think about the system in this area.  Users want to use the system, and they 
don't want it to break mysteriously due to one CRITICAL-FOR-SECURITY update 
that also happens to include a new 'feature' that breaks what was working.

I too enjoy some of the new features in the 2.6 kernel series (like in-kernel 
ivtv drivers (no firmware, but that's easily available), or echo audio card 
drivers).  But I also subscribe to the 'do no harm' principle of development; 
a change should not be made inside a major version that causes serious 
regressions for users of the system.  Or do we need to consider 2.6.22 -> 
2.6.23 a major version update?  If that's the case, then, IMHO, Fedora 
shouldn't update the kernel major version inside a Fedora major version.  
It's not too hard to wait six months for the newer feature to come out.  If 
that's too long, track rawhide (that would really put the relative stability 
of Fedora in a new light, as it IS fairly stable for the most part, in the 
released versions).

As it is the stated goal of Fedora to stay on the edge, so to speak, I know 
better than to put a Fedora box into production as a server.  And that's part 
of the point.

Fedora is a great (and I think it is the best) Linux desktop for enthusiasts.  
(Yes, I have installed and run Ubuntu 7.10, done the PCLinuxOS thing, tasted 
Mint, done the SuSE jig, etc; Fedora meets my needs the best of the bunch on 
the desktop). 

I would not dare use it as a server.  Too fragile when it comes to updates.  
If you never had to update, sure, it's a great server OS.  Just don't connect 
it to the Internet without updating.  CentOS or RHEL is a much better choice 

I would not dare put it into nontechnical users' hands as an enterprise 
desktop, either.  I have enough user service requests to deal with without 
dealing with the regressions introduced by a newer kernel version.  CentOS or 
RHEL plus KDE-RedHat fills that niche for my uses.

If Fedora wants to be a server-grade distribution an enterprise desktop 
distribution, then kernel module ABI stability should be a goal.  If Fedora 
doesn't want either of these, and wants to ignore the module ABI problems, 
then, Ok, that's fine.  Just don't misrepresent Fedora's suitability for 
those uses.  If it's a bleeding edge enthusiast's desktop, then bill it as 

Fedora can be rock solid (it is on every box I've put it on).  Rock solid 
running isn't the issue (for me!); having a nonzero number of regressions 
after a kernel update is.

The OP's point was trying to debunk the idea that Fedora is just a beta 
testbed for RHEL (of course, the point of the thread has morphed since then).  
Playing the devil's advocate for a just a moment, ask yourself this question: 
would it be in Red Hat's interest for Fedora to really be update-stable on 
either the enterprise desktop or server?  

Red Hat does an enormous amount of open source development work that goes 
unrecognized; the Fedora distribution is part of that (PostgreSQL is 
another), and I for one am thankful and grateful for all Red Hat does.  And I 
don't think Red Hat intentionally 'cripples' Fedora, even though it may 
appear that they do.
Lamar Owen
Chief Information Officer
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
1 PARI Drive
Rosman, NC  28772

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