Interview: OpenSUSE's Andreas Jaeger


With the OpenSUSE Conference in full swing, we caught up with Andreas Jaeger, Program Manager for the distro. Read on for his opinions on the new eight month release process, the controversial KDE-as-default decision, and how distros can work better together.

TuxRadar: At the moment, OpenSUSE has a longer release process than Ubuntu and Fedora - are you planning to change that?

Andreas Jaeger: We've just switched... In the last few years we had an irregular schedule, where we looked at the calendar and when certain things would be released. And every time we had a very long discussion of when to schedule it... Should we schedule four weeks before Christmas? No, that's bad, we're missing the new Gnome version, or the new KDE version,, whatever... Every time it was a long conversation.

So now we've decided to go for a strict eight month schedule.

TR: Always eight months?

AJ: Let's see how far it goes! [Laughs] We will have the release of 11.2 in November, and after that we start the eight month cycle. Let's hope that we can go through with it.

TR: What are your personal favourite features of 11.2 so far, as it develops?

AJ: I started Twittering a couple of months ago, and now we have a couple of social network clients in the distribution, like Gwibber. KDE is moving on with social networking too.

There's another thing I'm looking forward to, although it's after 11.2, and that's the web element of YAST [WebYAST].

TR: Like Webmin?

AJ: I haven't seen Webmin for some years, so I'm not sure, but last time I saw it it was using static HTML. WebYAST is AJAXy and so on. It's still in its infancy... We might use one or two of its modules in 11.2.

TR: So how has the response been to the choice of KDE as the default desktop selection in the installer?

AJ: There was a lot of discussion. Some people are glad about it, some people are disappointed. There are a lot of political things... People are getting a lot more religious about their desktop choice. More than about anything else. I haven't seen the same type of discussion about a default text editor - whether we have Vi or Emacs! [Laughs] But the desktop is something a lot of people care about.

On the other hand some people are new to a distribution. They come from Windows or Mac, and we've got to reach out to those people... they don't know. "What should I choose here?" You have to make a choice - in the installer it didn't really tell users about the desktops. You can't give justice to a project in a few sentences. You can't describe what a desktop is. That's why we pre-selected a desktop.

TR: Do you use KDE?

AJ: I have been using KDE, although for 11.2 I've switched to Gnome, to see the other side as well. On my laptop it's Gnome but on my workstation it's KDE.

TR: In the past we saw various SUSE respins like SLICK, but not so much thesedays, although with SUSE Studio that will change...

AJ: That will definitely change for sure. With 11.1 we changed the trademark policy. Before that we didn't have a proper trademark policy, so whatever you did you were in a very grey area. It wasn't clear if you could use our trademarks, and if so, how you could use them. We changed the license for 11.1 to encourage respins.

TR: So could we make OpenSUSE TuxRadar Edition? How much can we use the name?

AJ: You can use the name and the branding as long as you use the OpenSUSE packages. If you put your own kernel in, you can only say it's based on OpenSUSE.

TR: We've seen that Con Kolivas is back with a new kernel scheduler. He doesn't seem to want it in the mainline kernel... Could you see it in OpenSUSE some day?

AJ: I would want to get some more measurements. I think Jens Axboe was describing some way of benchmarking it... Create some disk I/O, make a DVD, and at the same time measure another activity to see how it performs. Instead of a subjective feeling that it's better, get some numbers to see. And if it's good, we have the OpenSUSE Build Service - anyone can take our kernel and apply a patch on top of it. But at the moment it's too experimental and unknown.

TR: What do you make of Debian's decision to use eglibc instead of the normal glibc? I think only they and Ark Linux are the only distros to make that switch so far...

AJ: I think it comes from a feeling of... Ulrich Drepper is not the easiest guy to work with. He is a great technical guy, but communication and community building is not easy. But I've never seen one of the Debian or Ubuntu guys anywhere on the mailing lists... They don't get involved. Petr Baudis, our glibc maintainer, is active and he has found his way closer - to have discussions and get patches in. Right now I'm not seeing the need to use eglibc because in that small community we have a limited say.

TR: How do you think distro makers can work closer together? How can they collaborate more?

AJ: We have here the RPM Summit where we've invited over some of the Fedora guys. There's one guy walking around here with a Red Hat shirt!

TR: Setting himself up as a target!

AJ: There are certain things that make a lot of sense, especially in RPM. When you release software as source code you want people to make binaries - it helps a lot if you make a .spec file. But if one .spec file only works on one distribution, and you have to write another .spec file for another distribution, it's not easy. That's what we're trying to solve - we're working on guidelines of how to write .spec files. We're working on RPMs having the same sets of patches, so that they get upstream as much as possible.

TR: I'd like to see package names becoming uniform across distros...

AJ: That will be the discussion as well, moving forward... a naming scheme, like Debian has with shared libraries. That's one aspect of distributions working together.

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