Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tumbleweed tumbles from my computer

openSUSE
Several years ago, SUSE 7.2 was my first Linux experience and with openSUSE 11.4 I have returned to the SUSE community. One of the things I liked about it, was the idea behind Tumbleweed: having a rolling release. It worked nicely and after the release of openSUSE 12.1, it was able to pick up the pace rather quickly, but with the release of openSUSE 12.2 I have felt the need to leave Tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed was great when using openSUSE 12.1, moving forward at a high pace. With the release of openSUSE 12.2 though, the Tumbleweed users were left in a void: suddenly the Tumbleweed repository became empty for serveral weeks, leaving users like me with the choice of upgrading to openSUSE 12.2 (and in fact downgrading some packages like the Linux kernel) or staying with openSUSE 12.1, but since the 'old' Tumbleweed repository had disappeared as well, this was not really in option: no security updates, nor the possibility to add new packages of the previous available Tumbleweed repository.

Before everyone starts yelling at me: I understand that maintaining repositories requires an effort and as a fellow computer scientist I appreciate that effort. However, from a user perspective, this is a no-go. I think Tumbleweed should be maintained better, probably with more maintainers, to be a real success. A few easy changes should require little effort though:
  • Create a Tumbleweed repository per openSUSE release: this would alleviate the problems of a 'disappearing' repository after a new release.
  • Just copy some important user-oriented packages from other repositories: e.g. the KDE Release 4.9 repository was up and running with up-to-date packages within a few days after the openSUSE 12.2 release, but it took months to have these packages in Tumbleweed.
  • Never release newer packages in Tumbleweed than there will be in the next openSUSE release, unless you will be able to support them from the start. This time, downgrading e.g. kernel and KDE packages was effortless, but it is something that always carries the risk of backwards incompatibility.

Conclusion

While I appreciate the effort being done for the Tumbleweed repository, at the moment it is flawed in my opinion. More maintainers and some changes in how things are done, can make it a real working rolling release, constantly going forward, but currently the two months following an official openSUSE release are too tricky to really rely on Tumbleweed. For now I am using standard openSUSE repositories and a few extra repositories like e.g. the KDE Release 4.9 repository. Of course this approach still carries a risk with it, but for now this feels like the best approach, since these repositories appeared faster after the release of openSUSE 12.2, and this method also gives great customizability.

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