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Beta packages within stable releases



Dear members of the Fedora Board,

I wish to encourage you to reconsider the policies regarding packages in Fedora releases.  Currently, within Fedora 11, there are key packages being distributed which are still in beta or otherwise unstable condition with matching, prior stable packages available.  Fedora 11, as best as I can tell, is not a beta or development release.

There used to be a practice in all things Linux where even-numbered release numbers implied stable releases, where odd-numbered releases were development tracks.  The Linux kernel follows such a scheme, with 2.4.x and 2.6.x being the (more) stable.  I am unaware that Fedora 11 is following this scheme.  Please correct me if I am mistaken.  It also might be nice to modify the Fedora Project web page to indicate that release 11 is a development platform and provide clear links to Fedora 10.

Two packages of particular note and suitable as exemplars are Firefox and Thunderbird.  These are well-known and basic to the Fedora release for most users.  While many Linux developers produce high-quality betas and releases, these two packages are worth special attention.

Firefox 3.5.3-1 has both a memory leak and a problem with CPU usage.  When left open for more than a day, with several tabs used, the package steadily increases its memory consumption from a few hundred megabytes to over 1.6 gigabytes.  The CPU consumption, on a multicore AMD machine, has been observed to start at 40% while minimized to 100% after a few hours on non-use.  Users of the latest versions of Firefox have found that frequent killing of the Firefox process and restarting is required (this is on Fedora, not Windows).  While this problem has existed to some small degree in the past, the latest versions are actually much worse, contrary to the Firefox developers' claims.  While the Firefox community continues to struggle with fixes, removal of add-ins, and other attempts to locate the source of the problems and placate their users on all platforms, Fedora continues to adopt the latest buggy release of the tool as it is unleashed.  It would seem prudent that Fedora have some degree of QA concerning the packages it considers key.  A web browser is one of the features that everyone from the mere novice to the staunch professional requires.  Fedora should select the best browser available, and not just the most recent or the one with the most features.  It would seem appropriate that Fedora should refuse to move forward to newer releases of packages that move backward in quality.  Fedora Project should implement its own QA and select the stable releases for its stable releases. This might also be of benefit to the Firefox developers, who can spend more time chasing down the problems Fedora has implicated, and less time trying to run and tie their shoelaces at the same time.

Thunderbird 3 is currently undergoing many changes.  While developers continue to add more features and new development versions are released, those working on the coding and testing of the new features are not at all disturbed by the frequent changes to the UI and other characteristics of the tool.  However, those who depend on the email facilities in Fedora are likely quite worried when Thunderbird pops up a dire warning about using a beta package for real life.  Anyone who would be furious when all of their email, current and filed, is lost because the beta package did what we were told it could do.  A user who expects to take a quick check of his email and finds that the whole UI has changed, his preferences gone, and previously admissible email now finds a home in the junk mail abyss might be a bit perturbed by the advent of Fedora 11.  It would seem quite reasonable that Fedora 11beta would include beta releases, but "Fedora 11 Release" should have only included Thunderbird 2 in the "release" repository, with Thunderbird 3 in the "testing" one.  If during the beta phase of Fedora, a package cannot be deemed stable, it should either be excluded from Fedora or Fedora should revert to the prior, stable version of that package.  Beta software is not intended for production environments.  Anyone who needs the email to work will not want to rely on a beta package.  Thunderbird 3 has become a black mark on Fedora 11 and something I hope the Fedora Project plans never to repeat.

So, I hope this email will be received in a positive light.  I suspect you may have already heard from many others, since this seems too big to ignore.  I hope that we might see a change in the Fedora Project to provide stable releases to the community while not hampering development.  This might mean adoption of the even/odd scheme, or a more formal QA criteria and process, or maybe just slowing down the alpha/beta phases to allow more testing before calling it a release.  I believe some of what has happened was in hope for the best, but in the end there must be a right solution and that is the one that considers the consumer.  Please remember that the consumer wants quality, not just quantity.

Feel free to contact me if anything I have said is unclear, incomplete, or incorrect.  Thank you for all of your hard work in making Fedora and making it great!

Thank you,
KC


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