Debian delayed as community loses interest

Fourth version of Debian, codenamed Etch, is late as developers 'reduce their involvement drastically'
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor on

The upcoming release of Debian is being delayed because of a slowdown by key developers.

Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 — the next version of the Linux distribution — was due to be released by 4 December, meaning it is already over two weeks late at the time of writing.

Now one of Debian's release managers has started pointing his finger at key individuals.

In a blog posted on Monday, Andreas Barth wrote, "Some people who used to do good work reduced their involvement drastically. There was nothing I could do about that, and that happened way before I started full-time on release, but on the global picture that still counts."

Barth, and his fellow release manager Steve Langasek, have been at the centre of a controversy over the last few months, having accepted up to $6,000 (£3,100) of funding each for working full-time on Debian 4.0, which is codenamed Etch.

The funding for Barth and Langasek has been raised by a group called Dunc-Tank.org, which aims to speed the release of Etch.
But the establishment of the group may have backfired as it has angered many developers, which are unpaid. They argue that Dunc-Tank is turning Debian into a two-class system, which could have a negative effect on the distribution. Some have called for the resignation of the two release managers.

A group of 17 developers, led by well-known Debian maintainer Joerg Jaspert, issued a position statement in October citing their disenchantment with Dunc Tank. It read, "This whole affair already hurts Debian more than it can ever achieve. It already made a lot of people who have contributed a huge amount of time and work to Debian reduce their work. People left the project, others are orphaning packages ... system administration and security work is reduced and a lot of otherwise silent maintainers simply put off Debian work [to] work on something else."

But Barth insisted Dunc-Tank wasn't entirely to blame. He wrote in his blog, "I think Dunc-Tank helped us with [the] release of Etch, but the help could have been greater if some people wouldn't behave as childish as they do."

Barth said that he was happy with the involvement of "most" developers, and added that there were additional reasons for the delay. He did not elaborate on those reasons. Barth added, "I thought at least within Debian we don't want to fall [into] the usual management mistake of only speaking about how great everything is, but be honest to ourselves."

Etch is now fully frozen, but no release date has been made public.

Debian has a long history of being late, ever since its first version in 1997. This is one of the reasons why the entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth launched his alternative Linux distribution Ubuntu two years ago.

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