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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

April 6th, 2011 by

Or in other words, “The more things change, the more they stay the same…”

openSUSE does not ship major/minor releases, but our numbering/naming scheme – NN.X – has led to a common misperception that a .0 release was major and a .x  release was an update. This created a number of issues, including lack of media attention for .x releases, and user misconceptions about stability of .0 releases.

We have traditionally released versions as 11.0, 11.1, 11.2 and so on up to .3.  (The exception was 11.4 because the Project wasn’t sure what to number the next release.)

The only really clear thing was our release cycle timing, as follows:

“openSUSE releases on a fixed schedule every 8 months no matter what.  Therefore, all releases occur in November, July and March.”

There has been a lot of discussion over time within our community about our versioning scheme for distribution releases. We want to ensure our growing community, including users and media, have a clear and correct understanding of our release cycle – so naming or numbering needed to reflect that, and not cause misunderstanding.

Recently, the Project took these discussions to a poll, to gauge community feeling about the different options.  Generally, the community expressed that they wanted a scheme that was uniquely openSUSE’s and reflected our release methodology.  We looked at other distros for examples, and while we felt many had come up with excellent versioning schemes for their distros, none properly reflected our own cycle.

From this discussion and results of the poll, we have come up with the following scheme:

  • The .x shall henceforth reflect the month of release
    • 1 = November
    • 2 = July
    • 3 = March
  • We will no longer ship a .0 version.

This solution brings a meaningful rationale to the scheme, without completely revising the look.  And thus, our next release in November will be 12.1.  In July 2012, we will ship 12.2 and in March 2013, we will ship 12.3.  Then in November 2013, we will ship 13.1.

So as you can see… same great versioning look, now with explanation.
screenshot of terminal declaring openSUSE versioning scheme is now implemented!

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24 Responses to “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…”

  1. Fail ?

    “openSUSE does not ship major/minor releases, but our numbering/naming scheme – NN.X – has led to a common misperception that a .0 release was major and a .x release was an update. This created a number of issues, including lack of media attention for .x releases, and user misconceptions about stability of .0 releases.”

    I might be blind or stupid, but I don’t see any way in which the new numbering scheme solves these issues.

    • lin-unix

      Agreed, I followed the mailing list as people were discussing this, but there was little talk of the *meaning* of the versions. Just what to change the versioning scheme too :(

    • Joseph

      The obvious solution is to work twice as hard for the point zero releases so they really are major updates. :-)

  2. Gunter

    Wat OpenSUSE is missing is a release on a regular interval with an extended support. The support period at this time is just to small for professional production use.
    Further, if you are not an OpenSUSE user, it will be a surprise why certain releases seems to be missing. The logic is just not obvious enough for an outsider. It will create only more confusion.

    Maybe the problems above can be merged into one solution:
    – X.0 for releases with an extended support (let’s say 48 months == 2 cycles where 1 cycle equals 3 releases).
    – X.1 – X.2 for intermediate releases with a 24 months support period.

    Example:
    12.0 is a release with extended support (48 months or 2 ‘X.0-releases’)
    12.1
    12.2
    13.0 again a release with an extended support.

    • Joseph

      Is one needs four-year support, buying SLED or SLES would be the best thing to do.

  3. Gunter

    Wat OpenSUSE is missing is a release on a regular interval with an extended support. The support period at this time is just to small for professional production use.
    Further, if you are not an OpenSUSE user, it will be a surprise why certain releases seems to be missing or skipped. The logic is just not obvious enough for an outsider. It will create only more confusion.

    Maybe the problems above can be merged into one solution:
    – X.0 for releases with an extended support (let’s say 48 months == 2 cycles where 1 cycle equals 3 releases).
    – X.1 – X.2 for intermediate releases with a reasonable 24 months support period.

    Example:
    12.0 is a release with extended support (48 months or 2 ‘X.0-releases’)
    12.1
    12.2
    13.0 again a release with an extended support.

    • Gunter

      [Sorry for the double posting earlier]

      Also to consider is the possible success of Tumbleweed.
      In this case, the X.0 releases can then be regarded as an independent release and the X.1 and X.2 as some kind of service packs (X.0 release + updates from Tumbleweed) so that there are only 2 independent releases which has to be supported at all times (X.0 and X+1.0).
      This will give the maintainers more opportunity to extend the life of every release. (48 months).
      Concrete:
      12.0 independent release (support for 48 months == 2 releases)
      12.1 service pack one (12.0 + new packages from Tumbleweed; support for 48 – 8 months)
      12.2 service pack two (12.0 + new packages from Tumbleweed; support for 48 – 16 months)
      13.0 new independent release(support for 48 months == 2 releases)
      13.1

  4. Alkis

    I also do not see how this new scheme is going to solve these issues.

    I agree with Gunter if you are planning to make releases with extended support.

    If not, a simple solution might be to use the release year as part of the release name, like:
    2012.0 : first release for 2012
    2012.1 : second release for 2012 (if any)
    2013.0 : first release for 2013

    • me

      Liked a lot of Alkis idea!!! Anyway, since a post has been made already, i really have some doubts they will change it again

  5. lulu

    I like Gunter’s idea.
    It sounds quite logical to match version’s first number NN to the release year and leave the second .x as an ordinal: 1, 2(if any);
    Anyway, I’m not shure wether using ‘0’ for long-term support editions, in case they are going to be, is a good idea. If so, they should be the first release of the year, to be consistent with the meaning of the ordinal number.

    So,
    (20)11.5 (november 2011)
    (20)12.1 (july 2012)
    (20)13.1 (march 2013)
    (20)13.2 (november 2013)

  6. Zo

    The Key Thing IS the distro is already on 11.4 and the new versioning scheme kicks-off at .1, and to complicate it more it’ll have one more release this year, so it’s very COMPLICATED! D:

    I suggest the new version for this year still use the old scheme, being 11.5 and so on July ’12 it could be numbered by 12.2 or 12.1 (’cause it’ll be the 1st not the 2nd release of 2012).

  7. The Key Thing IS the distro is already on 11.4 and the new versioning scheme kicks-off at .1, and to complicate it more it’ll have one more release this year, so it’s very COMPLICATED! D:

    I suggest the new version for this year still use the old scheme, being 11.5 and so on July ’12 it could be numbered by 12.2 or 12.1 (’cause it’ll be the 1st not the 2nd release of 2012).

  8. Anonymous

    I don’t know why the Ubuntu-style numbering schemes have become so popular in recent years.

    So, hypothetically, we could go 12.1->12.2 and have very major changes, and then go 12.2->12.3 with very minor changes. It doesn’t make sense.

    Software versions should be numbered according to actual changes in the software, not automatically incremented after an arbitrary time interval.

    Not to mention that changing your numbering scheme is a bad idea in the first place, even if there was a valid reason for it.

    Amateurish.

    • Joseph

      I agree with Anonymous 100%. The only thing that was ever confusing about openSUSE numbering was that the incrementation was arbitrary and not matching actual development. So long as larger numbers are later releases than smaller numbers, I fail to see how the public can be confused in any other way. The new scheme, buy skipping .0, will have people wondering if they missed a version though.

  9. dillon

    they should just give up on the 11.x and make one release per year. they could release it in jan. so everyone will know when next release is.new year = new os. doesn’t opensuse 12.1 talks get you excited for sled 12 :)

  10. pbl

    Gunter got a point: no LTS release is a serious liability in openSUSE. I really don’t like to run upgrades every few minutes! So does many people.

    As long as it’s not a crazy numbering like Ubuntu or Fedora (i.e. serious inflation in version number), it is tolerable.

    But… why not just keep the way it was before? Why are you in such a craving to reinvent the wheel when there is no compelling reason to do so? I think that a scheme that allows for 4 “minor releases” is preferable, and wasn’t that the case? And what are we gonna do when we reach “huge-silly-looking number” version in some years from now? Switch to Canterbury distribution perhaps??

  11. Joseph

    For all those clamoring for a long-term-support version – there’s SLES and SLED. Supporting versions of openSUSE for years will take away from the resources now used to develop new versions of openSUSE. Those wanting to use SUSE in a professional environment (the only realistic use case for an LTS version) can pay for that extra support, which is theoretically how it’s supposed to work already. An LTS openSUSE undercuts Novell which dries up their funding for openSUSE. If you’re a regular user who doesn’t like to update… then don’t use Tumbleweed and don’t install updates. Or use Windows XP. :-) (Hey, only openSUSE 11.3 got me to upgrade my machine from XP to Linux).

    Maybe to make my first contribution to open source, I’ll fork openSUSE. It’ll be exactly the same as mainline openSUSE, just using the old version numbering scheme. :-)

  12. macias

    “openSUSE releases on a fixed schedule every 8 months NO MATTER WHAT.”

    You will risk your head for it?

  13. theGryphon

    I guess people asking for an LTS version for OpenSUSE got their answer. For people who don’t understand/like the 8-month release cycle should plug their heads out of the sand and look around. A regular release cycle (no matter the improvement in each release) makes for a stable brand, discipline and ease of management in development, user expectation, media coverage, etc. The 8-month regular release cycle was the best thing the OpenSUSE devs held onto and I’d like to congratulate them for that.

    That said, I don’t think they put sufficient thinking into the newly announced numbering scheme. It sounds nice and all except for one thing: in the XX.Y scheme, the XX too closely resembles the year BUT it actually does not reflect the year number. That will cause a lot of confusion in media and people. For example, 12.1 will be released in November 2011, inevitably suggesting that it will be the first release ready for year 2012 (just as in a 2012 model car). 12.2 also makes sense as it’s gonna be in July 2012 but 12.3 will sound like “well it’s actually in series 12 but couldn’t make it in year 2012″. Then, 13.1 will start the real confusion: it’s almost year 2014, why then 13.1.

    See what I mean, it’s virtually impossible to break the connection between the current numbering scheme and the actual year/time the releases will happen, AND the (perceived) inconsistency will throw a lot of people off. I just don’t understand how they couldn’t see this handicap (I guess the decision relied on programmers and engineers, rather than people who understands marketing and branding, no offense). Still, I don’t think it’s too late to make yet another change, for the sake of OpenSUSE brand.

    Hate it or not, Ubuntu actually nailed it. XX.YY in their numbering scheme perfectly reflects the release time without creating any hierarchy between the releases and any expectations as to a certain release will be major while the rest is minor.
    OpenSUSE can do this too, even with 8-month cycle, and the numbering scheme does not have to reflect the year (anybody can check the calender for that). Take for example a numbering scheme based on the release month: X.Y where X is either N (for November), J (for July) or M (for March), and Y is a number indicating the order in each (release month) series. Specifically, the next release in November 2011 would be OpenSUSE N.1. Then, July 2012 release would be J.1, March 2013 would be M.1, and November 2013 would be N.2 (as in “the second November release”). Think with an open mind and you’ll see that this scheme makes perfect sense as the releases will happen only in those three months and this way you’d be creating November release series, July release series and March release series, appropriately numbered and completely detached from the year.

    My humble suggestion… and don’t forget, it’s never too late to correct an mistake ;)

    • SteveB

      @theGryphon, that was an excellent post, you made a number of great points I hadn’t even thought of after reading the article. I have to say, though, I really don’t like the numbering scheme you proposed – it’s the most confusing yet! To me it seems to suggest that there are 3 different streams of development, N, J and M. If the numbers and letters were the other way round, i.e. 1.N, 1.J, 1.M, it wouldn’t be so misleading, but it’s still not immediately obvious which is the latest version. (And it looks ugly this way round) Another problem, less obvious perhaps, is that M and N both look and sound similar, which doesn’t help with version differentiation.

      Might I suggest we adopt the brilliant Ubuntu numbering system, or at least fix the new system so that the major number reflects the year? If we did that, the version numbers would be: 11.2, 12.1, 13.1, 13.2, 14.1, 15.1, 15.2. Not great either, I suppose, but having releases every 8 months with no major-minor version divide does make designing a good numbering system a challenge.

  14. M Night Shuttleworth

    now that we got version numbering down, it’s time for a logo contest!

  15. XNM

    There will be no 2013 release ’cause world will no longer exist as we know since dec. 2012.

  16. I think 12 months would be ideal for a stable but up to date desktop OS but 8 months is good too. Definitely better than Fedora’s 6 months which is too rapid IMO.

    If users are really interested in an LTS release they can always roll their own version like centos. But OpenSUSE is desktop oriented and I like that about it.

  17. can you send me a installer for opensuse? i need to learn. thanks