February 23, 2007

Next Fedora release delayed, new design theme selected

Author: Lisa Hoover

The Fedora Project Board met this week to discuss issues surrounding the upcoming release of Fedora 7 (F7). Though originally scheduled for release on April 26, that date has now been moved back to May 24, dashing the development team's plan to debut the final release at this year's Red Hat Summit. One thing that Summit attendees will see, though, is the artwork that has been selected as Fedora 7's new theme.

The need to delay F7's final release date became clear after only one test release earlier this month. Though several things contributed to the delay, the complexities of merging Fedora Core and Fedora Extras into one release has proven to be the biggest issue, and creating a new build system to merge the two took developers longer than originally anticipated.

Though the Fedora team has the build system situation well in hand, there are still other issues to contend with. Each package should be reviewed before it is included in the next test release on February 27, but with nearly 900 new packages currently in the queue, achieving that goal will be nearly impossible. According to Fedora Project Lead Max Spevack, when it comes to reviews, not all packages are created equal. "It's not a matter of number as much as it is importance," he says. "Some packages won't be in the Fedora Desktop regardless of whether or not they get reviewed. Others (like the kernel) are really important, but reviewing that one package might be a mammoth undertaking."

Packages that do get reviewed prior to the release of F7 are required to meet the Fedora Extras Guidelines for inclusion in the final release. While at first glance meeting guidelines for Extras instead of Fedora Core may seem unusual, Spevack says the guidelines developed by the Fedora community (under Red Hat's guidance) for packaging Extras are superior to Core's. "[N]ow that we want to merge all of Core and Extra together, it makes sense to try to get all of the packages to live by one set of guidelines, and we've chosen the guidelines that were developed by RH/community folks together. They're also better. But that's no surprise, since community makes things better!"

Though the team had hoped to be able to debut F7 at the Red Hat Summit, Release Engineer Jesse Keating says they will instead offer a "highly polished" live CD based on Test 4 of Fedora 7. "Extra QA will go into this for the Summit, and the ability to easily go from this Test 4 live CD to the final release of Fedora 7 is a very big goal," says Keating. "While not as attractive as having the final release, it is still a good marketing item and will get people excited for the final release. Who knows, we could even get some extra feedback that we wouldn't have originally obtained."

New theme flies high

F7 Splashscreen - click to enlarge

One new element of Fedora 7 that will be showcased on upcoming test spins is a new design theme. The recognizable blue background remains constant, but F7 incorporates elements of hot air balloons that, according to creator Diana Fong, are meant to evoke images of flying high to meet new challenges. Fong's blog details her approach in designing and creating a theme that would incorporate elements of past Fedora releases with new and updated images to reflect the direction of the Fedora project as a whole.

F7 Wallpaper - click to enlarge

Theme proposals were accepted from the Fedora community over a period of several weeks, and Fong, who also created the graphics sets for Fedora Core 5 and 6, ultimately selected Flying High by John Baer and Planet by Mola Pahnadayan for their "sense of adventure and exploration." Putting the final touches on F7's graphic set continues to be a collaborative effort within the Fedora art community as members redesign art for infrastructure applications, the wiki, and the Echo icon set.

And there's still plenty more to do. Board member Paul Frields told the Fedora art mailing list, "As part of the initiative to give users the ability to spin their own distributions built on Fedora, we'd like contributor art to be able to function as a drop-in RPM package replacement for the default release art."

Extending lifecycles, meeting challenges

On the heels of the decision to delay the final release of F7, the question of whether to extend the lifecycle of Fedora Core 5 was broached at this week's board meeting, but Keating told members he would rather drop Core 5 maintenance and free up developer time to focus on F7 than extend the lifecycle of a previous release. "Currently, Core 5 is maintained by Red Hat engineering and there is no method in place for the community at large to keep Core 5 packages updated, so to keep the release active it will take RH engineering time," Keating later said. "Red Hat Engineering time is, of course, finite and there are many things needing time slices currently. Personally I'd like to see them get time to work on features for Fedora 7, rather than doing more Fedora Core 5 updates."

In the end, the board decided that only security updates would be done for Core 5 from the day of F7, Test 3, plus one month after the final release. "I think we reached a good compromise," says Keating. "Our engineers will most likely be doing the same security updates for other RHEL or Fedora releases, so it isn't that much more work."

Although there have been delays, changes, and challenges, Spevack says it will all come together to produce a great release. "Fedora 7 is ultimately about two things," he says. "The ability for users to make a custom spin of Fedora [and] the core/extras merge, which facilitates the above, and also allows greater community contributions." Spevack says the path to creating customs spins is on target and the important process of the full merge is underway so, soon, Red Hat and the Fedora community will "all be pointing in the same direction on a lot of engineering stuff like packaging, build system, and source control, etc. As long as we're making good progress, I'm happy."


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