[RFC] Why FreeBSD ports should have branches by OS version

Grzegorz Junka list1 at gjunka.com
Mon Jun 26 19:34:04 UTC 2017

On 26/06/2017 07:24, Torsten Zuehlsdorff wrote:
> Aloha David,
>> I think the current process of having rolling-releases packages makes
>> unpredictable upgrades as we have to manually check if the upgrade
>> will be fine or not. When a user installs FreeBSD 11.0 on its system,
>> it probably expects that everything will work fine until a next major
>> upgrade like 12.0. That's why I think we really should implement
>> branches for a specific FreeBSD version.
>> When FreeBSD 12.0 is released, we should create a ports branch that
>> will contains only fixes (such as security advisories, crash fixes and
>> such). No minor or major upgrades until a new 13.0 version is
>> released. This is the only way to make safe upgrades.
> The discussions did go on for a while, but lets get more technical. 
> While i can understand your use case, it raises various questions:
> - How should be EOL-Software handled? For example PHP 5.6, Typo3 7, 
> PostgreSQL 9.2 and many more will expire long before FreeBSD 11 
> expires but are still valid (or even default version) when created. 
> Since the versions are frozen, how should - at least- security issues 
> handled?
> [Yes, i read that a user can switch at its own risk to another branch, 
> but lets assume he is very fine with the version (because i have such 
> customer)]
> - How should be new dependencies handled? GitLab for example sometimes 
> *requieres* updates of its dependencies in order to fix security issues.
> - Same as above: how should be dropped dependencies handled? In worst 
> case we need to maintain them for nearly 5 years, but nobody (should) 
> use them
> - How to resolve conflicts? I mentioned GitLab above and now realize, 
> that sometimes the GitLab update breaks for example www/redmine 
> because it depends at other versions than GitLab.
> - Where do get the fixes from? We have around 26.000 ports which needs 
> fixes in worst case
> - How to handle for example security issues only fixed through an 
> update? Which such a long time between "updates" it gets very very 
> hard to port/get/write patches in fast developing software. Wordpress 
> or Gitlab are typical examples with thousands of lines in code-changes 
> every update
> - How to make the customer clear, that complains about the software 
> (old, outdated, missing features, unresolved bugs, etc) are intentional?
> - Where to archive the distfiles? Sometimes upstream completely remove 
> them from everywhere they can.
> And last: how to make updates from FreeBSD version to version easier? 
> Many user already have problems with single major updates. From my 
> experiences in Windows or Ubuntu LTS usages with such or very similar 
> version handling: the update, even of the OS, is pushed as far away as 
> possible, because of the big amount of work required, since everything 
> needs to checked/updated/changed.
> I have a hard time to image, that is handled in another way by you. So 
> if you can me give more insight about your use-case i would be happy 
> to read it for a better understanding.
> I have various customer requiring (and paying for) very old software 
> (for example still PHP 5.3). So i know some of there motivations, 
> which boils every time down to "its to expensive to upgrade our 
> software" [but they don't mean expensive in money]. So maybe we can 
> make something happen. 

I understand a stable ports branch would be required by specific 
applications (of the FreeBSD system), e.g. data centers, bespoke private 
solutions, home servers. Therefore not all 26.000 ports would need to be 
security-patched. In fact, I believe it would be viable to determine a 
thousand or two of ports mostly used in those environments and commit to 
patch only those.

Even RedHat, which is a model example, doesn't commit to maintain all 
packages, just a selected set of them. In the similar fashion to having 
Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 supported platforms for FreeBSD, we could 
start small with a just a handful of ports in a stable LTS (Long Term 
Support) branch. Develop processes around maintaining them, get some 
feedback about the effort of applying only security fixes, then add more 
ports as required or as viable from the resources point of view. How 
does that sound?


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