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Fedora 18 release delayed for the seventh time

The release of Fedora 18 has been delayed yet again. Why has this happened and what does it mean for the cutting edge test bed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux? Jack Wallen takes a look into the issue.

The schedule for the upcoming release of Fedora 18 has taken yet another hit. Now those that long for the latest-greatest from the Fedora camp are going to have to wait until 2013 to slake their thirst for cutting edge Linux. Fedora likes to ship new releases in May and October. The distribution is fairly consistent with shorter delays; Spherical Cow (the name for 18) continues to get pushed back.

Why this particular delay? The biggest issue is several critical bugs in Anaconda (the graphical installer). This installer has received several major changes since its last release and it seems those changes are keeping Fedora from being released. The biggest problem with Anaconda is the fedup tool. This is the software that allows for upgrades from earlier versions. The fedup software has but one official developer. One developer on a piece of software that is holding back the release of a distribution. It would seem to me Fedora would hand over an extra developer or two to handle the issue.

The other big issue -- Windows 8 secure boot. Fedora has released a stop-gap measure to get around this... but anything "stop gap" in the land of software isn't a true, viable solution.

Fedora could easily kick the problem issues into Fedora 19 and circumvent this delay altogether. The problem with that is Red Hat wants these features in version 7 of it's commercial platform. Because of this, Fedora is hamstrung. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 is scheduled for the second half of 2013. Certainly by then, the bugs plaguing Fedora 18 will be resolved well enough so the software can be included in the pricey enterprise solution.

This new delay will have the latest version nearly four months out (depending upon which part of January this lands) of its intended release schedule. To put that into perspective: In nearly four months time Ubuntu will move from an .04 release to an .10 release (and do so like clockwork). Fedora 17's release date was 2012-05-08 -- no wait, that was 2012-05-15. Oh, I'm sorry, I meant to say 2012-05-22. Mistaken again! The official release of Fedora 17 was 2012-05-29. The release of Fedora 16 was 2011-10-25. I'm so sorry, I meant so say 2011-11-01. Again, I must apologize, the release was 2011-11-08.

You see the trend here. The release of Fedora 16 was only delayed around ten days. The release of Fedora 17? Twenty one days. Fedora 18, however, is looking at nearly four months.

This major delay in Fedora 18 has caused a number of community members to call for a rolling release schedule to be implemented. What is a rolling release? Simple:

A rolling release is a constant and steady updating of software. Instead of a distribution having major upgrade releases, all software is continually updated instead of being updated only between distribution releases. There is already one Fedora-based distribution that uses this release type -- Fuduntu. There are quite a lot of Debian-based, Arch-based, Gentoo-based, and other distributions that use the rolling release successfully.

My take on this is simple: Since Fedora is considered a "cutting edge" distribution, a rolling release is perfectly suited. Not only would it keep installations always on the cutting edge, it would prevent delays in the release (since, theoretically, there is no official release).

Why this change is necessary

When a distribution claims to be cutting edge, it must release early and often. When delays like this become the norm, it causes the reputation of the distribution to take a serious hit. This is made especially important when you have other distributions, such as Ubuntu, constantly improving with every scheduled release and hitting their release dates, without fail. A single step backwards in the world of software might as well be a death knell -- especially in the world of Linux where there are so many choices.

If Fedora can move to a rolling release, they would be the first of the major distributions to do so and would no longer have to suffer the stigma of delays. This seems to me to be a no-brainer. This would also ease the burden on Red Hat, because the testing would be on-going and bugs could be fixed more immediately. Yes, there would have to be mechanisms in place to better track bugs, but I am fairly confident in the Red Hat/Fedora community -- they could develop a system for this.

On the positive side

I have to commend the developers of Fedora for taking the fall and the responsibility for the delay. They could have gone ahead and released buggy software (it is 'cutting edge' after all), and had a community of users for beta testing. Instead, they opted to hold off and get the issues resolved before release. The releasing of buggy software is not all that uncommon in both the proprietary and open source worlds.

I certainly hope, when Fedora 18 is finally released, it is worth the wait. I also hope, when the release hits, the bugs are few and none of them 'show stoppers'. At this point, should Fedora 18 be released with anything other than the tiniest of issues, the Fedora distribution will suffer a major setback.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

8 comments
StevenDDeacon
StevenDDeacon

Rolling Releases, Agile Software Development (Martin Fowler Manifesto), Adaptive Refinement, Iterative Refinement, Software Evolution ... Whatever you call it ... It has been around since the 1960's, it works, it always has worked, and will always continue to work!

eldergabriel
eldergabriel

...and REengineering applications and distribution components that [i]already worked[/i] in fulfilling its respective role/function reasonably well, the overall quality and stability of the "desktop user experience" would improve drastically, and there would be significantly less release delays. Although, the fedora devs have been hammering away pretty heavily at ARM platforms, and (as others have pointed out) it [i]is[/i] free, so some slack should clearly be given. Progress and change are important, and overall quite good, but whatever happened to "if it ain't broke, [i]don't fix it[/i]"? Fellow TR member and aficionado Apotheon (http://www.techrepublic.com/members/profile/3923716) succinctly described this state of affairs in an article discussion a while back (http://www.techrepublic.com/forum/discussions/102-388834-3645774): "There is a deep sickness in the Linux community that leads to desperately awful inconsistencies even within a single distribution's configuration, rapid and wholly unnecessary turnover in system components, contradictory paths forward in UI design, tremendous unnecessary complexity, and so on." I also support the idea of rolling releases, which would be inherently more conducive to steady, incremental improvements, as opposed to the endless cycle of "innovative" rewrites and breakages that just pisses off end users, until they get used to the new state of the software (at which point, it seems to inevitably get rewritten [i]again[/i]). GNOME shell or Unity anyone?

Slayer_
Slayer_

And it's not like they are forcing you off 17.

Prescott_666
Prescott_666

Whatever Fedora's constraints are, they have laid them on themselves, and they could change them if they wanted to. Neither of the two issues mentioned in the article is actually part of Fedora. The installer and the UEFI secure boot issue, are not part of the Linux operating system. In my opinion, they should have released Fedora on schedule, and then, when the installer and secure boot issues were resolved, add them to the download without even updating the version number.

mitchloftus
mitchloftus

I don't get why this is an issue, particularly. Raise your hand if you have PAID for release 18 and are angry because you didn't get it when promised. Anyone? Anyone? No? It's not like 17, or 16, or 15 - or even 11, which I am still using, doesn't work just fine. Now, of course, that's if your interest is in something that just works. If you want to be able to tell all your friends (friends? IT people?) you have been playing with the VERY LATEST release because that makes you WAY more cool.... I can see why you are disappointed. For the rest of us, maybe I'll just write "Fedora 18" on a post-it note and stick it on the front of the servers I have running 11. Viola!

janitorman
janitorman

Why is software EVER released that doesn't work? If it were anything except software, which doesn't seem to matter, it would be recalled if released without working properly or with problems! Buy a car that doesn't start, or the wheels fall off, or a crib the baby can strangle in, you'd be sued. "The releasing of buggy software is not all that uncommon in both the proprietary and open source worlds." Boy, you got that right. I don't WANT buggy software, thank you. Hold off as long as you need to, to get it right, even if it's years. "Cutting edge" just doesn't cut it for me. I'd rather stay with ANCIENT software that works than new stuff that doesn't. Doh. Thanks!

zefficace
zefficace

I use Arch right now, and I must say I really love the rolling release system. If Fedora would go rolling release, I just might use it instead as packaging is more commonly had in rpm (or deb) then for pacman. I'm not saying I would switch for sure, but I would absolutly reconsider going with Fedora.

pgit
pgit

I'm always on the verge of throwing all the other distros I use away and going straight fedora, but there's always something esoteric holding me back. But if they went with a rolling release schedule, that alone would be reason enough to make it my primary go-to system. I'd have to learn to do without a few of my favorite tools, which would entail actually having to know a few things... always a good idea anyway. :D