Donnerstag, 22. Januar 2009

Some notes on RHEL 5.3

Congrats to the RHEL team for getting RHEL 5.3 out. Some random thoughts that sprung to my mind when looking closer at it:
  • The release announcement (short), the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 Technical Overview (medium sized) and the release notes (all the details) are really great resources to see what's new in the latest RHEL release. I wish we had similar documents for each new Fedora release (yes, we have the release notes, but they contain a lot of boring details regular Fedora users already know).
  • The kernel and dmraid in RHEL 5.3 now support dmraid 4/5/10. Alasdair, Heinz, others in RH: can you *please* speed up now to get that code (which is developed for quite some time now) upstream for Linux 2.6.30 to make sure it gets into Fedora 11 and from there into RHEL 6? I guess many users would be glad about that, as a lot of newer amd, intel and nvidia chipsets for desktop mainboards support RAID 5.
  • Many thanks in advance to the CentOS folks that already started to work on CentOS 5.3
  • I guess it will be an interesting comparison if somebody would compare the number of improvements (and their impact) that RHEL did between 5.2 and 5.3 with those that Ubuntu LTS 8.04.2 brings ;-) [Update 20090123]: Bad timing, 8.04.2 came out just a few hours after I wrote this; list of changes is available [/Update]

Sonntag, 18. Januar 2009

Communication is important

Short version: More and more decisions in Fedora are done on IRC and in other places you have to be aware of; that itself would be no problem if the mailing lists would stay in the loop to make sure people cat raise their option before something is decided. But that's often not the case. The Fedora Project needs to improve here, as proper communication between contributors and those that make the decisions is a key factor for a community project.

Long version: Cut'n'pasted below is a part from a post that some time ago was send to some random fedora mailing list by someone that's quite important in Fedora:
I get the fact that you resent being in a timezone and location that
makes it difficult for you to participate in higher bandwidth forms of
communication (irc, phone, face to face). I can't help that. However
I'm not about to force the entire Fedora project slow to a crawl just so
that every thought, comment, discussion, fart, whatever happens via a
public email. That's just ridiculous. People will continue to talk on
IRC, will continue to chat via IM, will continue to talk on phones, and
will even *shock* talk in person! Ideas, proposals, and even a decision
or two, depending on the group, will be made in these ways. Deal with
Statements like this are one of the reasons why I'm not as active in Fedora anymore as I was two or three years ago.

Sure, the one that wrote above para made a lot of good points. Face-to-face or IRC meetings are important and often help a lot to drive things forward. And we all afaics don't want a totally bureaucracy Fedora with hundreds of rules that express how decisions or other things have to be done; I actually tend to say we actually have way to many rules in some places already and need to get rid of a few (but that's a different topic).

But in the end above para sounded to me: be on FUDCon, IRC, or right hallway at a specific time on a specific place on earth or you have no chance to influence things. It might not have been meant that way, but that's what my mind made out of when reading it. Partly that's because I got the impression that more and more things in Fedora actually work in a "be there at the right time and place if you want to get heard"-way. Obviously that's bad for a lot of contributors due to time zone differences, job, vacation, or other real life issues getting in the way; which, obviously again, is bad for a community project that has contributors from places spread all over the world, as it excludes some contributors from getting involved or from influencing decisions.

That's why mailing lists (or a similar form of time-zone-independent communication) IMHO are very important for community projects with lots of contributors. But Fedora seems to move more and more things away from the public lists to other places -- especially IRC is used more and more desperate that we know there are people that don't want or can't join IRC.

Moving things to IRC wouldn't be such a big problem if important things that come up for decision in IRC or other places get announced properly 2 or 3 days beforehand on the lists. But that's often not the case, hence people that can't make the meetings get no real chance to see what coming up -- hence they can't share their options before something is up for vote. But that's IMHO a very very important factor for a community project, as contributors want to feel "heard" and have a chance to influence stuff, as that makes them feel as part of the project (and not like a citizen of a state where you can elect the decision makers every few months or year) -- even if the outcome in the end is not what the contributor wanted initially, as everyone knows (or at least should) that you can't get everything you want every time (a pony anyone?).

What makes things even worse: Now and then there are insufficient summaries from Fedora IRC meetings; the board is the big exception here while rel-eng often is not writing a summary at all. Sure, writing those summaries is a boring task -- I know that, as I had to write a lot of them for FESCo and the EPEL Steering Committee in the old days. But it's worth it, as a quick summary (even if it misses some details) is way easier to read then a log from a IRC meeting; that helps people to know what's up which again gives them the important feeling that they are part of the project. Not even trying to write summaries IMHO is a bit like top-posting and not removing unnecessary parts when replying to a mails on a mailing list: it might be easier and quicker for you, but a lot harder and time consuming for all those out there that want to know what's up. It shows disrespect for the community.

Time and place independent communication also is not only important for IRC but also for conferences. That why I'd like to say "Thanks" to Karsten Wade aka quaid for his recent blog post "Where are your FUDCon session notes?". And also thanks to all those that put videos from the recent FUDCon sessions online. Albeit those OTOH are a bit like IRC meetings without summaries -- watching them just like reading IRC meeting logs takes a lot of time and at least for me often has a bad "benefit per time ratio" :-/ . But as I said earlier: You can't always get what you want and this is a area where that's the case ;-)