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.