Fedora Project Improves Linux Development with ‘No Frozen Rawhide’

The Fedora Project, a Red Hat-sponsored and community-supported open source collaboration, has changed its development process in order to provide continuity for cutting-edge developers, as well as improve stability of releases for users.

"The purpose of the split that we are doing, and we call it No Frozen Rawhide or NFR, is to counter some issues that we have run into in the past with the way that our release schedule-and the freezes that are associated with it-block our development processes," says Paul Frields, Fedora Project leader. "In the past, we have had this stream called Rawhide and essentially that is anything from a daily to an hourly churn of whatever the developers are working on right now. If somebody has a brand new version of a package, they have it built, and it goes straight into Rawhide. That means that anyone can essentially run a development-time snapshot of the Fedora distribution or any subset of it. And, at times, it is wildly broken."

Different from Fedora which is considered "leading edge" technology, Rawhide is often described as the "bleeding edge," and so is not recommended for average users, explains Frields. "It is for people who know enough about Linux technologies to be able to help test and troubleshoot those problems and file bugs about them in advance of any of our test releases."

In the past, as new releases went to the test stage, there have been specific schedule points for freezes, which allow release engineers to compose and then, the QA teams to test, a candidate for an Alpha or a Beta release for Fedora. However, a problem that this approach created was a slowing or freezing of the development tip as well. "The implication was that people who were trying to create some new or drastically different code would wind up in a waiting process." This was actually not necessarily bad for the release, Frields observes, but if there is no alternative location "to try out wild and crazy changes," there is almost a pressure for people to try to put that into the pending release.

The fix that that is being implemented is No Frozen Rawhide. "And really what happens is that as we get to the first freeze milestone for our Alpha release, which goes to frontline testers who are anxious to see the earliest working version of the next release, we are now creating a new brand-new branch for that release." Recently, for example, says Frields, a new branch was created for Fedora 13. "Now that we have this branch happening right around Alpha we can really work very hard to stabilize that release branch and it now lives separately from Rawhide," says Frields. The result is that the newest Fedora Alpha release benefits from a better environment for a stable, predictable release, while in turn Rawhide becomes the tracking branch for Fedora 14. For more information on the Fedora Project, go here.