Debian Freeze for Squeeze Policy Reconsidered

Aug 02, 2009

The Debian release team decided on July 29 to adopt a two-year development freeze cycle for its 6.0 "Squeeze" release. A day's worth of discussion to follow led the team to revise its plans again.

According to Debian's decision, freezes are to happen in the December of odd-numbered years, with releases in the following even-numbered year. According to this plan the freeze for the next major version "Squeeze" should have been December 2009 with its release in the first half of 2010. Only a day later, things changed again along the lines of "that was then, this is now" with a follow-up announcement.

Considering the release goals and "in consideration of the Debian community's feedback to the release team's initial announcement," the team decided to "revisit its decision on December 2009 as the proposed freeze date" as part of its latest news releases. Early September would bring a new timeline announcement. "Debian community's feedback" could be a euphomism for some of the enraged responses from project circles who were gearing themselves for a definitive freeze timeline. Part of the confusion could have come from media misinterpretation that a freeze cycle meant a release cycle.

The distinction proves to be fairly minor, however, unless you consider that the notorious "Sarge" release lasted one whole year in freeze status. A Debian "freeze" actually means "feature freeze," where no new features are integrated, only bug fixes. The release will then not go out until all Release Critical (RC) bugs are removed, which typically (and by Debian quality standards workably) takes half a year. A freeze in December would then provide a release more or less midway into the following year.

That a Debian release could possibly be planned for a specific year seemed to be blasphemous enough for many project adherents to bring them to the baricades. The deeper reason for a set-in-stone freeze date might also be coordinating the Debian and Ubuntu release dates, as Mark Shuttleworth has continually recommended in his call for a release "pulse." Many Debian developers, however, worry about getting into a disadvantaged situation with Ubuntu, with its "one generation ahead" policy, and possibly losing customers to them. Debian's attitude has always rather been "It's ready when it's ready."

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