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In September 2006, an article titled "Debian and Ubuntu: uneasy coexistence" appeared in these columns, outlining why these two projects were not exactly the best of bedfellows.

Nearly three years later, following the announcement of a time-based freeze by the Debian GNU/Linux Project - and subsequent back-pedalling that this would not apply to the next release, Squeeze - it is evident that nearly as much bad feeling and suspicion still exists.

It is bubbling beneath the surface and major announcements like that cited serve to bring it out.

The announcement said that Debian would now effect a freeze in the December of every odd year - 2009, 2011 and so on - and aim to release in the Northern spring of the following year. This means that the freeze ahead of the next release, Squeeze, would have to be done and dusted in four months.

Given the increasing corporate use of GNU/Linux, there has been pressure on Debian from various quarters to adhere to some kind of time-based release process. This pressure increased no end after the emergence of Ubuntu, based on the unstable branch of Debian, which has tied its releases to the six-monthly release cycle of the GNOME Desktop Project.

Debian developers responded (start of a long discussion) with surprise and, in many cases, anger, to the announcement which was made during the project's annual conference, DebConf, held, this year, in Caceres, Spain.

Many expressed surprise that such a major announcement was made without any discussion on the mailing lists.

It didn't take long for one, Sandro Tosi, to write: "I'm considering how we can get this decision undone. Anyone up for helping with that?"

When the Debian release manager, Luk Claes, referred to the announcement as a proposal, Marc Haber shot back : "Nobody would have objected to a proposal. This was a press release, which has already been picked up by the major news sites. You didn't propose anything, you announced a decision."


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.