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Lucas Nussbaum wrote:
I'm involved both in Debian and Ubuntu development, and I'm often frustrated by how little I know about the other distributions. After discussing this in a blog post, I got the impression that I wasn't alone in that case.
So I decided to do something about that, and to go ask the other distributions' developers a few questions. If this works well (answers and interest from other distros), I might do that again, or turn this into something more formal (for example, a mailing list and/or a wiki would seem well suited for that).
(Almost) any cross-distro effort is worth joining.
Q1. Packages How many "pieces of software" do you have in your distribution? Do you distinguish between "source packages" and "binary packages"? (if yes, give numbers for both). Are there subdivisions in the set of packages (by kind of support, by "freeness")? Are all packages supported the same way, or are there different levels of support? (If different levels, how many packages are supported with each level?) Are some packages imported from another distribution, or are most of your packages done from scratch by your developers ?
First of all, disclaimer: I'm not employed by Novell ;)
OK, short answer first: the upcoming openSUSE 10.3 (at RC1 right now) has approximatively 3550 source packages and 6400 binary packages (only counting one architecture + noarch (portable) packages). If we also count what's in the openSUSE Build Service (see below for details), it's 3550+7200 = 10750. Also counting the most popular and very widely used 3rd party community repository Packman, that's +1314 =~ 12050 source packages.
The number of binary packages can usually be inferred from that (I'm too lazy to count those, especially in the Build Service ;)), say 14000 binary packages.
The packages of the "core" openSUSE distribution itself are divided in OSS (packages with OSI-compliant licenses, 98%) and non-OSS (2%) -- percentage based on number of source packages.
All packages are made from scratch.
There are differences in the level of support as well, as only the packages shipped with the distribution are being actively worked on by the developers whom are Novell employees, where as the packages maintained in the openSUSE Build Service and 3rd party repositories are supported on a voluntary basis, by people working on it during their free time. Also, bugfixes and security fixes on distribution packages are pushed through the openSUSE Online Update service. I won't even mention Novell's enterprise openSUSE derivatives (dubbed SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES)), that both have a much higher degree of support, for obvious reasons (same as RHEL, for example). In terms of support as explained above and based on the numbers above, for openSUSE, it's 33% with support, 66% "unsupported" (or rather, not supported by Novell employees during their paid worktime ;)).
Here come the gory details, for those whom might be interested:
openSUSE 10.3 RC1 currently has the following amount of packages: * OSS (OSI-compliant) packages * source: 3502 * i586..: 5137 * x86_64: 5435 * noarch: 1226 * non-OSS packages * source: 49 * i586..: 59 * x86_64: 43 * noarch: 23
But that's only the tip of the iceberg, as the openSUSE Build Service hosts many, many more packages for several distributions. The current count of _source_ packages in there is 23904, but that includes automated ports of all Debian packages (11153) and personal, highly experimental builds (5568) -- so let's count 23904 - 11153 - 5568 for the Build Service = 7183 source packages there.
So, to sum it up, the "core distribution" contains * 3551 source packages (counting OSS and non-OSS) * 6412 binary packages (counting only i586+noarch, not x86_64)
The total amount of packages available to openSUSE users is rather around 30000 (there are several 3rd party community repositories as well, such as Packman ). As an example, Packman currently has: * source: 1314 * i586 : 2535 * x86_64: 2380 * noarch: 436 And my own Guru repository has: * source: 1964 * i586 : 896 * x86_64: 911 * noarch: 67
All in all, 14000 binary packages is probably a pretty accurate estimation.
There are several levels of "support", indeed, as * packages of the core distribution are supported by the openSUSE development teams, taking bugreports, and pushing fixes through the openSUSE Online Updates service * Build Service and 3rd party repository packages are not really supported, beyond the usual sending an email to the package maintainer
Novell's enterprise derivatives of openSUSE (dubbed "SLES" and "SLED" ) obviously provide an additional level of support, that is categorized from Level 1 to Level 3 (the higher the better). I won't go into much detail about that stuff, it's documented on Novell's website and not really on topic (IMO).
 SUSE Linux Enterprise Server|Desktop
Q2. Your developers What's a "developer" in your distribution? How many developers do you have? How many of these developers were active in 2007? Does a company (which one?) employ a large number of developers? Do you have different "classes" of developers, or does everybody have the same access right to all your packages? How do you integrate new developers? How do you handle contributors who don't have access rights to the archive? (is there some kind of sponsoring system?)
That's a tricky question as it will be the case with all other distributions except 100% community distros such as Debian and Gentoo, because there are people who are employed by Novell to work on the distribution and its packages, whereas most of the same people also contribute to other efforts (including packages) during their spare time. And then, of course, there are a lot of people from the community as well. I would still say that "developers" are package maintainers, application developers (on openSUSE specific tools), web designers (on openSUSE related websites). Arguably, that could also be limited to the developers working for Novell. That sort of thing is currently very much in flux in the openSUSE community right now, so it's a little difficult to answer ;)
The access to the packages is currently not the same for everyone, as the packages that are part of the "core" distribution itself are only modifiable for Novell employees, although there is some collaboration and communication with packagers from the community on those. That, too, is something that is going to change in the future as well though.
There is currently no sponsoring system of any sort.
I can't tell you the number of developers paid by Novell for working on the distribution.
Could someone else give Lucas some figures on that ? AJ, Coolo, Martin, Adrian, Michl ?
Q3. Developers and packages ownership What's the relationship between developers and packages? Does each package have an assigned developer, or can everybody modify all packages without stepping on anyone's toes? Are packages mostly maintained by teams, or by developers working alone?
Depends. For the openSUSE distribution packages, it's mostly teams (KDE team, GNOME team, Mobile Devices team, Security team, etc...)  Packages in the openSUSE Build Service can have several people working on them but in practice, as of now, it's typically one package == one maintainer. But the openSUSE Build Service is still a rather young project ;) Packages in 3rd party aka community repositories are almost always maintained by a single packager. A notable exception is the Packman repository that is maintained by a team, but even there, it's mostly a single maintainer per package.
- Did I send that mail to the right mailing list?
Yes, absolutely :) You get bonus points for having found your way in our tangle of mailing-lists ;)
- Which question should I have asked? What should I ask next?
Your questions are very interesting (wrt comparing different distributions). Maybe the community apparels (events, structure, board, ...) are worth investigating too.
- Do you think that this initiative is interesting?
Possibly. If it leads to some productive and positive collaboration (or even communication) between distributions, then it's _very_ interesting ;)
- Do you think that this should move to a separate mailing list? Would you participate in such a mailing list?
- Can you suggest a project that could host such a mailing list without annoying anyone? :)
No. I mean, I'm pretty sure it could be done through an additional mailing-list over here. I wouldn't mind subscribing to a dedicated list on another distributions' infrastructure though ;)
- Any other suggestions?
Keep up the good work and stay open minded :)
Thank you for reading me so far -- and for answering my questions if you did. ;) If you want me to ping you when I'll publish the answers, just drop me a mail.
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