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    Unstable? Who are you calling unstable?
    Posted on Monday, July 16 @ 20:40:51 BST

    Nearly anyone who's used/heard of Debian will know that it has 3 major branches:

    • Stable AKA Potato: Stable as a rock, with Woody soon(ish) to be taking the honors of being the stable branch

    • Testing AKA Woody: the branch that lags behind Sid by by at least 2 weeks with no RC (Release Critical) bugs - if you want a stable distro and most of the latest packages this is probably the best branch for you
    • Unstable AKA Sid: Sid stands for Still In Development and its exactly that, all the latest and greatest packages go into Sid first before filtering down to Woody when they are deemed not to have any RC bugs (note this will not be true when woody freezes - as no new packages will then be allowed into woody, just bug fixes)

    drone0709:But Is "unstable" an acceptable term to brand Sid as?
    Netsnipe: See also - Past poll:
    Do you think that too many inexperienced users are using the unstable 'sid' tree?
    This poll produced some rather interesting viewpoints on whether we really should be discouraging 'newbies' from using Unstable in the first place.

    Lots of people who aren't running mission critical machines often choose Sid as their branch of choice because apart from offering the chance to use excellent
    packages like galeon it also offers people the chance to find bugs and give something back to the Debian community (remember thats what we are, and a not for
    profit one at that)

    Most people running Sid will and do find it very stable and usable as it is. Of course, there are breakages but these are occasional and are usually fixed within hours. My point is this: Is "unstable" an acceptable term to brand Sid as? Newbies to Debian (from fresh faced window's users to beardy *nix hackers) are most likely put off by the Unstable tag.

    On the right hand side of the DebianPlanet home page you will find a vote/poll that will allow you have your voice on what you think of the Sid/Unstable branch
    , comments are welcome from everybody on this subject. Who knows, maybe we can get the name changed: After all, this is your Debian and its future (not to mention the world's), is at stake.

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  • "Unstable? Who are you calling unstable?" | Login/Create Account | 14 comments

    The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 3, Insighful)
    by joeyh on Monday, July 16 @ 21:00:01 BST
    (User Info)

    "sid" alctually refers to the evil boy next door in Toy Story who broke all

    the toys, but "Still In Development" is a cute reverse acronym formation.

    I think it's a trifle silly that the name "sid" even exists, since the plan

    is to never change the name of unstable to anything else now. After woody's

    release, sarge or whatever will become the new testing and sid will remain.

    So why not just call it unstable?

    "unstable" is _meant_ to scare off newbies who don't know what they're

    getting into. Sufficient people use unstable even with that name that

    duplicate bug reports are a very common occurrence. At this point I think

    that more people testing, well, testing would be a good thing.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Monday, July 16 @ 21:51:52 BST

    Sid used to be the name for "experimental" but unstable took it when "testing" was introduced.

    I think it's nice to have "sid" as the permanent name for unstable because it keeps newbies away. If unstable keeps changing from "Bo Peep" and "Rex", your mom might mistake it for a cute, innocuous branch of Debian. Then again, who's mom is using Debian?

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 1, Insighful)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 17 @ 05:33:02 BST

    No, sid wasn't the name for experimental. Sid used to be the name for architectures that weren't official supported as released version of Debian, much as ia64 and hppa are now. The Alpha and Sparc ports used to carry this name before they became officially supported.

    The "experimental" area has never been a distribution, per se. (That's why it's not under the "dists" directory, but under project instead.) It's just a pseudorandom bunch of possibly Debian compatible software that isn't guarenteed to do anything. In other words, software which is not intended to be part of the next release.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 2, Interesting)
    by Anonymous on Monday, July 16 @ 22:22:12 BST

    Sid _IS_ supposed to be scary, trust me.

    I'v been using Debian for a few years, and I'm pretty much the stereotypical computer geek that knows the pinout for most of the cables that come out of the computer...

    But there's no way in hell I'm letting my mother even approach a Sid box. Anyone remember the switch from X3 to X4? From perl5.0005 to perl5.6? The latest "Can't login AT ALL anymore" libpam problems? There's no way in hell (there's not an awful lot of ways in Hell it seems) your typical newbie could have reacted to those. Sid _IS_ a scary distribution, it's not for the faint of heart, (update libpam and you can't LOG-IN! Think about it) nor for the unexperienced.

    No one's responsible for what goes into unstable, for the damages it causes to your hd, for the virgin's blood that suddenly appears on your firstborn door, etc. And that's the way a developer's distro should be. Developers should have the freedom to torture every single package in horrible ways to make sure that its ritual of passage from unstable to testing, and later on to frozen and, if its worthy, stable, goes well for users.

    Testing fits the 'wants all the latest' stereotype as perfectly as it can, and stable fits the 'we need this machine to survive hell without a reboot or security hole' camp as perfectly as it can.

    Unstable is for us, weirdos from an other world, that can understand pinouts, that know what a C trigraph is, that can survive 50% hd corruption without actually losing a single file (did 2 weeks ago -- an advice to all kids: Don't play with hdparm's DMA settings at home) and that can psychologically survive a mean uptime of 3 days. Not that it ever reached that low...

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 2, Interesting)
    by phill on Monday, July 16 @ 23:33:25 BST
    (User Info)

    I've just come to Debian in the past few months from a background of Win2k and many happy years with Amiga. Apt-get is what sold Debian to me (plus the cool Toy Story names 🙂 and so far I've made around 20 Debian installations with a few Mandrake and a couple of RedHat ones.

    The beauty of Debian running three different strands is wonderful (isn't Linux all about choice after all) and each one has its benefits. Having now jumped from newbie (running Potato, Ximian and Progeny systems) to reasonable experienced Woody user, I leave Sid to my more experienced friends. Sid is cutting edge, very easy to destroy your installations (why do you think I've done 20+ installs) and potentially full of release critical bugs.

    Quite simply, and sounding like a Ronseal advert, I feel debian should be run like this:

    Stable: For beginners, it does exactly what it says on the box.

    Testing: For the more enlightened, consider yourself a beta tester.

    Unstable: For those who like to live dangerously, it does exactly what it says on the box.

    [Hardly shocking news is it?]

    One final point about Galeon and the like: run Woody and compile them from source, apt-get them from Sid (see earlier story), find alternative source.list lines (e.g. or finally get them from Ximian - even for Potato! [Okay you can't get Galeon from Ximian but you can get Mozilla 0.9.1, GDM 2.2, GEdit 0.9, Abiword 0.7.14 et cetera].

    😛 hill

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 2, Interesting)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 17 @ 00:01:36 BST

    I agree that Sid must be scary to the newcomers. But I'd like to propose a new naming system:

    stable -> stable (call it whatever new toy story character you'd like)

    testing -> beta (again, toy story codename)

    unstable -> alpha (call it Sid forever)

    I guess the standard naming of alpha, beta, and stable quite fit the purpose of the three branches. BTW, my first thought was to call them alpha, beta and gold, just to agree with the common standards, but I guess stable is more descritive. Besides, who call any version a gold version?

    Just my two cents.

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 1, Interesting)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 17 @ 13:01:18 BST

    Hmm 3 weeks back into Linux from a 3 year absence. Debian was my pick and Potato sucked. No offence but now I have come to using SID with more confidence than Potato. My main grip with Potato, stable yes, able to use my hardware NO! With SID I can get Xfree 4.x, I build my own kernels from source and I thinking of doing the same for a lot of other code in the future so my system is optimised for my Athlon system (going MP Athlon some time early next year). Finding that my humble GeForce 2 MX was not supported with Potato was bad enough and I'm still working on my Hoontech Digital-XG (getting close I can feel it).

    I love Ximian Gnome themes but I hate their proprietry packages. I did base non Xserver install of Potato and then did apt-get dist-upgrade to unstable/SID. Then I pieced the rest together from Ximian and SID and have no problem. I update Ximian with SID packages as I go along as long as I maintain their themes (-:

    Nautilus is still clunky but maybe a source compile of Xfree86 will help there and I do like gmc.

    Still, SID ain't as terrifying as people here mention and I did try Woody and that was were I encountered real problems like kernel panics. As otehrs here have said in the past, SID has active development which means it gets more attention from Woody which has in their and my experience led to better Linux computing.

    Still Debian is a pleasure to use compared to RedHat Linux 6.1 and apt-get is a joy for package management. Beats RPM's anyday.


    Now where is decent XFS (64 bit journelled file system) support?????

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 1)
    by greycat on Thursday, July 19 @ 14:54:06 BST
    (User Info)

    You're mixing sid and Ximian? Bad call....

    You might be OK right now, but eventually you're going to try to update something and it's going to fall on its face. When that happens, come to #debian and ask apt about "rm ximian".

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 2, Insighful)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 17 @ 14:11:42 BST

    "unstable" isn't a brand name used to market sid. It is a technical description of what sid is - the unstable development branch. Changing the name to something more friendly would reduce the amount of information in the name, and would leave the underlying reality unchanged. Do you really want Debian to stoop to using the same marketing sleights as burger bars that sell "Extra large" "large" and "medium" cokes instead of "large" "medium" and "small"?

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 2, Interesting)
    by valentin (guilhem valentin at 123multimedia com) on Tuesday, July 17 @ 15:15:28 BST
    (User Info)

    Don't debian developers need a branch that they can consider as deeply unstable, so that they can introduce new things there, and test them ?

    Whether the unstable is really unstable is not the issue, and lucky we are that it is not as unstable as the name suggests it. What is important is that debian developers can consider that this branch is unstable, so that they can use it to test their stuff, and that everybody is aware that things can be broken in this branch.

    That why, imho, unstable should still being called unstable. That's when unstable is unstable that debian is getting better.

    [ Reply ]

    How Well Does Ximian Run on Woody? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 17 @ 19:40:16 BST

    Any experiences? Does Red Carpet (and anything else 'ximian') function?

    [ Reply ]

    Re: How Well Does Ximian Run on Woody? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 17 @ 21:27:21 BST

    don't bother with xiaman, installing gnome with apt is easier: "apt-get install task-gnome-desktop task-gnome-apps"

    [ Reply ]

    Re: How Well Does Ximian Run on Woody? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Thursday, July 19 @ 01:08:28 BST

    I can attest to the fact that, while Ximian GNOME itself works on a Testing system, many of the software packages do not. gnomeprintbin has been broken for months, terminally and obviously so, which prevents the installation of much of the more recent packages of software that testing only has old versions, like GEdit and AbiWord. There's a fixed version of libgnomeprint-bin available and in Unstable, but its not been moved to testing yet.

    There's also conflicts with software like Dia (where Debian packages it one way and Ximian another, completely incompatible way)

    So in short, if you want to use a recent version of GNOME with Debian Testing, either using Ximian packages or not, you're going to have to use an editor other than GEdit and a wordprocessor other than AbiWord. (GEdit 0.5.4 is rediculously unstable - it segfaults when applying changes to most of the things in the preferences window!)

    [ Reply ]

    Re: Unstable? Who are you calling unstable? (Score: 0)
    by Anonymous on Sunday, July 22 @ 18:21:33 BST

    IMHO why not name the 3: stable, acceptation and development ?

    [ Reply ]

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