The openSUSE and Ubuntu Rollercoasters

The Linux World is rarely dull, but last week was an emotional roller coaster for users of openSUSE and Ubuntu. First Novell was sold to Microsoft and Attachmate with no mention of the fate of openSUSE. Then Ubuntu founder Shuttleworth told reporters that Ubuntu may switch from the six-month release cycle to daily updates. Both items garnered lots of speculation, elation, and worry until both parent companies finally addressed them.

In the wake of Sun's sell to Oracle and subsequent defunding and closing of several Open Source projects, FOSS advocates are understandably leery of any of our respected companies going to outsiders. So, when the news of Novell's sell to Attachmate hit the Web, users and developers of openSUSE were a bit worried. The news was later updated to include that a Microsoft holding company purchased many of Novell's patents. That set off more concern Linux-wide for the implications to Linux if Microsoft were to own UNIX. Some alarmists were afraid it would be SCO vs Linux all over again.

Even though not all of the details of the sale have been released and discussed, calmer heads pointed out that Linux was never proven to infringe upon UNIX in the first place, but Novell finally issued an announcement that UNIX was not sold to Microsoft. Just prior Attachmate had released their announcement that openSUSE would continue to be funded as before. While these announcements were a bit reassuring and most take them at face value, Andy Updegrove posted one of the most intelligent and comprehensive analysis of the situation. In summary, it's far from a straight-forward sale and Linux still may or may not be subject to litigation.

Then Ubuntu users were taken for a ride last week as well. The Register quoted Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubuntu, as saying he would be moving the popular distribution from its six-month release cycle to daily updates through the Ubuntu Software Center. This sent shock waves throughout Ubuntu with lots of cheers and a few jeers, but mostly lots more speculation. Some thought this was another indication of Canonical's newly forming direction while many worried that more bugs and instability would result.

Then Rick Spencer, Director of Ubuntu Engineering, issued a statement on his blog retracting the statement. He said unequivocally, "Ubuntu is not changing to a rolling release" adding, "having a stable release with a six month cadence plus the option to stay cutting edge on certain packages (at your own risk) is not really a rolling release." Shuttleworth was quoted as saying they would be moving away from the six-month release cycle in favor of using daily updates. While the original source has been reworded and updated erasing that key quote, the original wording was the very definition of a rolling release. Whatever the reason for the turnaround, it was yet another up and down, back and forth, and to and fro in the Linux World last week.

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