April 27, 2009

What does "Unstable" mean?

Quite often distros, kernels, drivers and applications are defined as "unstable". Yet, in most cases when using technology tagged as "unstable"  it works fine and with no reason for concern whatsoever.

3 basic reasons for the use of "unstable"?

  • It's indeed not yet suitable for production environments
  • It's a label used by the project to idemnify themselves
  • It's used to demote the value and importance of a project

What's the definition of "unstable"?

  • Meltdown and complete reinstallation of your system?
  • Loosing everything on your system (Aka "eats your hamster)?
  • X crashes and you have to restart?
  • Unable to log in using X and GUI/DE?
  • The Desktop Environment freezes?
  • Application crashes and you loose unsaved work/settings?

 Are there "unstable" mainstream distros?

 The mainstream and widely used distros have different focuses. Fedora expresses themselves as experimental, Ubuntu are for everyone, Debian is rock solid and Arch are first with the latest. 

Arch 2.6.29:

At present I'm mainly using Arch with Kernel 2.6.29.x, Ext4, Xorg 1.6, Nvidia 180.44, KDE 4.2.2 (built for Qt 4.4.x and compiled with Qt 4.5) with Qt 4.5.1.  I've just added Qt Creator 1.1.

I would believe it's fair to state that this is a rather "early adaptor" setup. Yet I do not have trouble with it. It doesn't eat my hamster, X doesn't crash, it's fast, lean and runs well.

I have one issue though:

Not all plasmoid that are developed for KDE 4.1 and Qt 4.4.x.works fine with the KDE 4.2.2 / Qt 4.5 and Qt 4.5.1 combo. Does that mean "unstable"? I don't think so. It's simply me - using packages that are labeled experimental and testing. I just have to be a bit more careful when selecting plasmoids, that's all. But "unstable"? Don't think so...

 Kubuntu 9.04:

 It runs indeed well. No issues has been experienced so far.

OpenSuse 11 and 11.1:

I installed those and used them extensivly from day 1, without having any difficulties.

Gnome 2.26:

Used it with Ubuntu 9.04 beta without any difficulties.

KDE 4.x

Used it as main DE since  4.0.85 (KDE 4.1 Alpha/Beta). No trouble since KDE 4.0.9x.

Where are the unstable distros and desktop environments?

My experience is that the term "unstable" is somewhat abused within the context of "desktop distros". Debian, CentOS desktop and SLES 10/11 must indeed be very very good to be classified as more stable than a standard setup of a standard, mainstream distribution.

That's my opinion anyway ;)

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