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Re: Gnokii on Ubuntu 8.04 (Nokia 6234, bluetooth)

From: Leo \"costela\" Antunes
Subject: Re: Gnokii on Ubuntu 8.04 (Nokia 6234, bluetooth)
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2008 15:36:01 +0200
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Hi Pawel!

Again, I'm playing devil's advocate here, since I don't personally use
Ubuntu and I also think it's not adequate in many scenarios, but bear
with me.
And please read the whole argument before answering to individual
phrases! :) I swear I'm trying to make a point, even if I sound pedantic
doing it! ;)

Pawel Kot wrote:
> I asked to upgrade, the bug was closes saying that newer gnokii
> version is already in for 8.10.

That's because of the release cycle. Making a distribution means
bundling software together. If they (or Debian, for that matter) simply
put all the latest versions of every package together they could never
have releases. The releases must be in states in which the bug-level of
the whole distribution (which means all packages distributed) is
minimal. This doesn't mean "zero bugs" because that's just as impossible
as a "perfectly secure system" and unfortunately some pieces of software
are less important then others when determining the best release point,
or when determining what the maintainers are gonna spend their time
trying to fix before the release.

> When was the freeze? We had 0.6.23 in Feb, which is still a lot of
> time before the release.

If you take a look in the page I sent, the sync was in December, just
after 0.6.22's release. This "lot of time" is what they use for making
sure the system as a whole works nicely or at least fails in known and
not-so-bad ways. Introducing new versions of packages means introducing
new possibilities for unseen problems, so they need this policy of "no
new versions unless it solves a serious bug" to be able to have a
manageable release. (this point continues...)

>> distribution, which means packages that have already been somewhat
>> tested, bug-proofed and that takes some time of its own. Plus, once
> Apparently it's not. I'm not claiming that Debian/Ubuntu should
> throroughly test every gnokii release, but if they don't they should
> accept bugfixes.

As said above and in the previous email: releases are static for a
reason. Introducing new packages introduces new problems, so it's not
that easy. For big problems changes might be accepted, but even in that
case it's best to make a backport of the specific fix than including a
new version of the program (gnokii, in this case) with many unrelated

>> Ubuntu 8.04 was released, its packages won't be updated unless in case
>> of security bugs (AFAICT, this is at least how Debian works).
> Then it's better to remove them. It makes more harm that useful things.

Oh, come on, man! :) Do you really believe Ubuntu should stop
distributing gnokii for its millions of users because some of those
users will encounter some problems? Ok, I know it's annoying to receive
bug reports from old versions (see below for more on this theme), and
this problem should be addressed, but that doesn't mean millions of
users should be left without easy access to gnokii because of it. Gnokii
is still useful even with the bugs! :)
And also, there are at least 4 other projects that depends on gnokii, so
removing it has further implications (the same goes for adding new
versions of it).
Here I must note: you could say "well, the users should always get the
latest version on the site" or something like that, but that's the niche
for Slackware, not for Ubuntu.

>> In summary: it's not that they "refuse", it's just an organizational
>> choice. They chose their release cycles to work this way, probably
>> because of a "reliability over cutting-edge" reasoning.
> That may work for some (most?) packages. That may work for the things
> that they actually test. But if they don't it's senseless.

See above. It's not senseless. The gnokii version released with Ubuntu
8.04 is still useful for many users.

I agree with you that it's not the optimal solution, but for a problem
as big as this, which simply doesn't have a single optimal solution,
it's one of the best manageable ones. It's geared for a specific set of
users and fills an important role.
For these reasons I thought it might be a good idea to chime in with
this highly philosophical and OT comment :), just to make sure you (and
your users) don't get the wrong impression about the hard efforts that
Ubuntu (and Debian, by proxy) put into making a distribution, even if it
doesn't completely please all users. :)

I think the real problem that made you apparently angry at the way
Ubuntu manages its release cycles is that (as mentioned above) users
from old versions come reporting bugs that have since been solved
directly here. I'm not sure how to handle this and I don't think this is
a problem specific of Ubuntu. I think we might be seeing more such bugs
from Ubuntu because of its sheer number of users and of the user profile
that they target (users that know what "software" is, but aren't
generaly able to compile it themselves without problems and don't really
understand the concept of "distribution").

Perhaps the best way to deal with this is just telling all users of old
versions "You got an old version there. You should upgrade before
reporting problems. That's dependent on your distribution, so please
check with them.".
Telling users that their distribution "refuses to upgrade" sounds IMHO
overly aggressive and like throwing the blame for a problem that is
intrinsic of distributions, despite all the hard work that they (me
inclusive) do.

So yes, I take it a bit personally. :)


Leo "costela" Antunes
[insert a witty retort here]

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