Enterprise Benefit: openSUSE Brings KDE Update for 11.2
The openSUSE team is breaking with a long tradition of providing updates as backport patches instead of version updates. KDE 4.3.4 will soon be brought in as a version update.
Familiar openSUSE users have known the rules for a while: a version update made in the distro will hold the entire lifetime of the version. Any enhancements have gone in as backport patches, but then only for individual programs.
This policy has often been criticized in cases specific to the large desktop environments KDE and GNOME, in that a version update might introduce many potential bugs, but at least users are kept up to date. Even the problems with KDE 4.0 and possibly 4.1 might have been partly averted through version updates.
For the current openSUSE 11.2, Novell broke with tradition for the first time by declaring KDE 4.3.4 a stable version and including it in the STABLE repository for an online update to 11.2. There are many reasons for the change, the main one being that KDE 4.3.4 is the official version planned for next year's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server/Desktop 12. Novell and openSUSE developers thus will spare themselves having to maintain two practically identical yet in many points distinct KDE versions. The KDE 4.3.1 in openSUSE 11.2 brought a couple of critical bugs in the Plasma desktop that were fixed in 4.3.4. Because KDE 4.4 will appear in February 2010, KDE 4.3.4 is the last version in the 4.3 series and will be the longest and best maintained in that series.
According to Will Stephenson's announcement, many users have already activated and are using the KDE:43 repository, "without a lot more bugs." The only downside is that users without broadband connections will have to deal with large updates.
The change will require Novell to maintain only a single KDE version that will apply to both openSUSE 11.2 and the enterprise products. Users of openSUSE will thus benefit indirectly from enterprise development.
The openSUSE project has meanwhile also changed its update process, allowing the community more control where anything less than security updates are concerned. This new process might have had an influence on the new version update decision so that other programs could start appearing in improved versions in the future.
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