In association with heise online

09 March 2009, 15:59

Interview: Steve McIntyre of Debian

Steve McIntyre, Debian Project Leader talks about his work with the free open source Linux distribution

Interviewed by Alexandra Kleijn (akl)

Debian logo

The Debian distribution of Linux is one of the most well established of the Linux distributions and is used as the basis of several other more recent projects, perhaps the most famous of which is of course the Ubuntu family of distributions. Our German language associate site, heise Open recently spoke to Steve McIntyre, (at the time of this interview) the current Debian Project Leader about the present state of the Debian project and and about his hopes for its future.

Steve can, at least for the time being, be contacted at:

The H Open: Could you please introduce yourself in a few short sentences? What brought you to Debian?

Steve McIntyre
Steve McIntyre
Steve McIntyre: I'm 34 years old and I live in Cambridge in the UK. I studied Engineering at the well-known University here, then settled down and found a job as I liked the place so much. My day job is as a software engineer for a company called Amino Communications, then in my "spare" time I work on Debian. I don't have a family yet, just a house full of computers.

I started using Free Software way back at the start of my studies in 1993, and I was quickly hooked on it. Slackware was my first GNU/Linux distribution in 1994, then a couple of years later I was encouraged by my friends in college to try Debian. I installed it and started contributing almost immediately, and I've been involved ever since.

hO: Lenny is out, which is great news. Debian has a history of very long release cycles, compared to other distros. "release when ready" is the project's motto. Will that be changing in the near future?

SM: To a certain extent, that policy already has changed. In the past, we didn't mention potential release dates at all and we'd simply aim to release when certain goals had been met. For the last two release cycles, we have instead tried to pick a target release window (18-24 months from the previous release) and some goals that should fit that target date. In each of those releases (Etch and Lenny), I'm happy that we have hit the target with both taking 22 months. It would be nice to be closer to the beginning of that window, but it's difficult to guarantee that we'll get there every time when we're working as volunteers.

In terms of the time between releases, that is simply a compromise. It's short enough that users should be able to install and run Debian on their hardware, and we have the "and a half" updates with new kernel and X drivers to help with that. But for our users who want to install Debian on their servers and not be bothered with constant upgrades, 18-24 months is a reasonable choice for them too. Supporting more frequent releases for the same total length of time would be very difficult for us, simply due to the work involved.

One thing won't change, however: if big problems come up that mean we're not happy to release at a given point, then we *will* hold back and fix those problems.

Next: Target users

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