2017 Release Engineering Recap

12/19/2017

Take a minute to read up the efforts of the FreeBSD Release Engineering team in 2017. Your support helps us fund a full-time release engineer to ensure on-time releases, provide better documentation, and facilitate getting others involved in the Release Engineering team. Thanks again to everyone who has supported the Foundation this past year and congrats to the RE team for a successful 2017.

Contributed by Glen Barber, FreeBSD Release Engineer

This past year was undoubtedly a rather busy and successful year for the Release Engineering Team. Throughout the year, development snapshot builds for FreeBSD-CURRENT and supported FreeBSD-STABLE branches were continually provided. In addition, work to package the base system using pkg(8) continued throughout the year and remains ongoing.

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team worked on the FreeBSD 11.1-RELEASE, with the code slush starting mid-May. The FreeBSD 11.1-RELEASE cycle stayed on schedule, with the final release build starting July 21, and the final release announcement following on July 25, building upon the stability and reliability of 11.0-RELEASE.

Milestones during the 11.1-RELEASE cycle can be found on the 11.1 schedule page. The final
announcement is available here.

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team started the FreeBSD 10.4-RELEASE cycle, led by Marius Strobl. The FreeBSD 10.4-RELEASE cycle continued on schedule, with the only adjustments to the schedule being the addition of BETA4 and the removal of RC3. FreeBSD 10.4-RELEASE builds upon the stability and reliability of FreeBSD 10.3-RELEASE, and is planned to be the final release from the stable/10 branch.

Milestones during the 10.4-RELEASE cycle can be found on the 10.4 schedule page. The final
announcement is available here.

In addition to these releases, support for additional arm single-board computer images were added, notably Raspberry Pi 3 and Pine64. Additionally, release-related documentation effective 12.0-RELEASE and later has been moved from the base system repository to the documentation repository, making it possible to update related documentation as necessary post-release.

Additionally, the FreeBSD Release Engineering article in the Project Handbook had been rewritten to outline current practices used by the Release Engineering Team. For more information on the procedures and processes the FreeBSD Release Engineering Team follows, the new article is available here  and continually updated as procedures change.

Finally, following the availability of FreeBSD 11.1-RELEASE, Glen Barber attended the September Developer Summit hosted at vBSDCon in Reston, VA, USA, where he gave a brief talk comprising of several points relating directly to the 11.1-RELEASE cycle. In particular, some of the points covered included what he felt went well during the release cycle, what did not go as well as it could have, and what we, as a Project, could do better to improve the release process. The slides from the talk are available in the FreeBSD Wiki.

During the question and answer time following the talk, some questions asked included:

Q: Should developers use the ‘Relnotes’ tag in the Subversion commit template more loosely, at risk of an increase in false positives.
A: When asked when the tag in the template was initially added, the answer would have been “no”, however in hindsight it is easier to sift through the false positives, than to comb through months or years of commit logs.

Q: What issues are present preventing moving release-related documentation to the documentation repository?
A: There were some rendering issues last time it was investigated, but it is really nothing more than taking the time to fix those issues. (Note, that since this talk, the migration of the documentation in question had moved.)

Q: Does it make sense to extend the timeframe between milestone builds during a release cycle from one week to two weeks, to allow more time for testing, for example, RC1 versus RC2?
A: No. It would extend the length of the release cycle with no real benefit between milestones since as we draw nearer to the end of a given release cycle, the number of changes to that code base significantly reduce.

Glen’s opinion on the talk is that it was very well received.

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