rsyslog’s daily stable

Did you know? The rsyslog project offers a stable release every day! The world is changing and getting faster each time. Especially software. If a bug is fixed, you want to have the fix as soon as possible. Even more so if it is security related.

Development happens in active code. When we fix something, this is done in so-called “master branch”. If you use master branch, you are covered as soon as the fix is applied.

Traditionally there are “stable builds” which are released relatively infrequently. Sometimes many months. In rsyslog’s case, only 6 weeks. For bugfixes, someone needs to backport the fix to that “stable build”. Backporting comes with its own risks, as the code is integrated into a version it was never written for.

We have much more frequently updated versions as well. They are crafted each day and contain the current latest and greatest. Including all known fixes. These daily version are usually considered as experimental or development version. Quite honestly, this is no longer the case.

Before I continue, please consider that rsyslog is a relatively small project. What is true for it may not be true for much larger ones.

In rsyslog, we have two important policies:

  • new versions never break existing configurations (except for extremely important reasons) – this means you can always update to the latest version without risking that your config blows up
  • we rely on our CI – if a change passes the testbench, it basically is good to go.To complement, we also have manual reviews of critical changes. Only things we are pretty confident in go into master branch.

What does that mean? First of all, master branch actually is a stable version. The code passed all of our checks and safeguards. We do not question the stability and continue to work on new features or bug fixes. Note that the strong position here sometimes upsets contributors. We have and had PRs who take month to ripen before they are finally sufficiently good to be merged to master.

The second thing is that daily stable builds are built from master and so are also stable.

Now let’s consider what happens when it is time to create the 6-weekly stable release. Code-wise it’s pretty simple: as master is stable, we simply take master branch and declare it as the new stable version. It’s the same version as the daily build from that day. What is different is that the doc is consolidated and we prepare files nicely for package build. Then, packages are built and tested. Except for the doc, one could also have used the daily stable build.

Think about it. What it ultimately means is that the 6-week “stable” release is just a way to avoid doing more frequent updates. But the daily build is actually as stable as the stable release.

In a world of rapidly moving development, using the daily stable build has a lot of advantages. Most importantly, one gets fixes as soon as possible. Not to mention new features.

I understand that the scheduled release may be the better option for some environments. But for most, the daily stable is actually to be preferred.

Please note: daily stable builds are currently only available for Ubuntu. With our efforts towards OpenSuse Build Service we aim to make them available for a wider number of platforms.

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