Staying current with 4.9 - which supfile?

Matthew Seaman m.seaman at
Fri Nov 21 08:57:25 PST 2003

On Fri, Nov 21, 2003 at 04:29:48PM +0100, a at wrote:

> Thanks much for the hints. After going through the explanations of the
> FreeBSD handbook ("difference between STABLE and CURRENT") one more
> time, re-reading your email there are some questions remaining - maybe
> you could comment on this just to make things clear:
> When I installed 4.9 from the CD (originally .iso pulled down from
> this was 4.9-STABLE (i.e. 4.9-RELEASE as it was an
> official release)?

If you installed from an official release .iso then you'll have got
4.9-RELEASE.  This is actually just a point-in-time from the 4-STABLE
branch, after the release engineering team has put a temporary block
on the usual development activities and spent a good few weeks testing
things and fixing up various bug reports and so forth.  However, as
part of the process of making the release, a new branch is made for
the 4.9-RELEASE code, and only critical security fixes get committed
to that release branch.  Post release the 4-STABLE branch carries on
with the usual development activities.
> When doing a CVS-upgrade on this installation with "stable-supfile" I
> get any "feature-enhancements"/program upgrades in the 4.9 line plus
> any bug fixes on 4.9?

Yes -- 4-STABLE gets all of the security fixes, plus updates to the
system (including upgrades to contributed software like sendmail(8)),
new features, support for some new hardware and so forth.  These
updates are meant to be tested in the bleeding edge development
environment a.k.a 5-CURRENT so that there's some assurance they're
going to work well in 4-STABLE.  However, the 4.x series of releases
has actually lasted as -STABLE a lot longer than the equivalent for
any of the other major version numbers. Consequently the gap between
4.x and 5.x is quite large and MFC'ing (Merge From Current) is not
necessarily as simple as it might be in all areas of the system.
> But how - if at all - does "CURRENT" come in? Or does "CURRENT" wrt my
> installed 4.9 only relate to 5.x?

CURRENT is the bleeding edge development environment.  You're not
expected to run -CURRENT unless you're capable of serious system
programming type activities.  Indeed, there's no guarrantee that
-CURRENT will actually compile and boot at any particular point in

Yes, -CURRENT implies 5.x at the moment: generally there will be
-STABLE and -RELEASEs with major version number N and -CURRENT with
version (N+1).  However, it's quite an unusual situation at the moment
with several "New Technology" releases being made from the -CURRENT
branch.  Normality is planned to be restored with the release of 5.3
around March next year, when the 5-STABLE and 6-CURRENT branches[1]
will be created.  Around that point 4-STABLE will cease to attract
much in the way of development activity, and all activity will
gradually cease, as it has on the 3-STABLE and 2-STABLE branches.
There may be another 4.x-RELEASE before that point, but that's not
definite. It will probably be labelled 4.9.1-RELEASE and consist of
wrapping up any loose ends and drawing a line under the 4.x series of
> (Sorry if these questions sound dumb, but I didn't find any
> comprehensive explanation about the differences between
> stable/current/release/standard)

This is all documented on the site and it's
been discussed ad nauseam on various mailing lists.  Try reading the
'Release Engineering' pages
and the links accessible from there.



[1] Actually the -CURRENT branch isn't so much a branch, as the main
stem from which all other branches ultimately spring.  Thus it is
labelled 'HEAD' in most of the documentation, and you use the '.' tag
in cvsup to retrieve those sources.  All part of the fun of using

Dr Matthew J Seaman MA, D.Phil.                       26 The Paddocks
                                                      Savill Way
PGP:         Marlow
Tel: +44 1628 476614                                  Bucks., SL7 1TH UK
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