Last month Eric S. Raymond made a public announcement on the Fedora developer’s list that he was giving up on Fedora Core and that from now on Ubuntu is his distribution of choice. Actually it was more of a rant than an announcement. ESR’s scatter shot attack on Fedora was wrong in more ways than I care to comment about here. Chromatic did a nice job of attacking the rant on several key points. He also pointed out quite correctly that ESR’s accomplishments as an Open Source activist didn’t make his changing distributions newsworthy.
The reason I’m not simply ignoring ESR is that he did point out a real problem with Fedora Core, one which I also noted in my review of Fedora Core 5 last year. When upgrading a system with yum or pup I ended up with upgrades that couldn’t be run because of dependency issues. ESR ran into a more serious example of the same problem: an automated upgrade breaking significant parts of his system due to similar dependency issues. While the Fedora team at Red Hat has generally been good about fixing such issues within a few days it’s really disappointing that they are still happening and, in fact, becoming more serious with time.
ESR blames rpm, which he believes to be buggy, and yum, which he believes to be overly complex. He is totally wrong on both counts. rpm is a stable, mature, and excellent package management system used by more Linux distributions than any other. yum is no more complex or difficult to use than Debian’s apt and has very similar functionality. Nope, the problem isn’t in the code. That’s the disturbing part of the story, the real piece of news, that everyone seems to be ignoring.
Right now I have something like nine Linux distributions in my office/lab. Aside from Fedora none of them, as in zero, has had a serious problem with their package repositories or their automated update software in their current releases. There is no excuse, absolutely none, for the sort of problems that Fedora Core has experienced with package management.
So… am I giving up on Fedora like ESR? Nope. I’ll give Fedora Core 7 a good long look. The Fedora Project and Red Hat Linux before it have had problems in the past. They’ve always managed to correct their issues and bring out a first class distribution. What’s different this time is that they can’t solve the problem by issuing a new patch or bugfix. The code isn’t broken. The problem is insufficient testing and just plain sloppy repository management. What Fedora’s repository managers are really lacking is attention to detail. It’s a human issue and those issues are always the hardest to fix.