Debian May Begin Rolling Release Branch

by Ostatic Staff - May. 03, 2011

A discussion has begun in the quiet corner of Debian testing about offering a rolling release branch in addition to its current line-up. Well, sort of. Lucas Nussbaum has posted details of the intriguing discussion on his blog.

Nussbaum recognizes that rolling releases are quite popular and offers the numbers of those using Debian testing and the growing popularity of Arch Linux as evidence. Some others may remember PCLinuxOS as well. He states that many users find the software in stable Debian perhaps a bit too stale or old. So a rolling release could be possible with little extra effort based on the testing branch.

A rolling release would probably attract users that think testing is only a developmental branch but want newer software than found in stable. Since those users might be more advanced, they might also contribute bug reports and such. Nussbaum also hopes this might quicken Debian and bring back some of attention currently being enjoyed by derivatives.

Technically, a rolling release wouldn't fundamental change much in the developmental process since it will essentially be the testing branch. In fact, Raphael Hertzog goes as far as to say that the rolling branch would just be testing renamed. This has brought some criticism by those who say this effort is just PR, but Nussbaum argues that new users and more developer focus on testing/rolling would make for more stable and usable early packages - which would lead to more efficient and expedited stable releases.

There are several issues being explored as well as philosophical differences being discussed. A poll was started to gauge user interest, but was soon "vandalized" and closed. Even with just the few respondents, those in favor of a rolling release branch were clearly ahead.

Alternatives were also discussed such as PPAs (personal package archive, or extra packages) for Debian, allowing developer changes during freezes, shorter freeze durations, and setting up a real rolling release branch separate from testing. In reading the comments, a separate rolling release branch seems favored, although Nussbaum is leaning toward having the testing/rolling branch freeze for three months before forking it off and unfreezing it.

See Nussbaum's post for lots more detail.