Solvednixpkgs Release quality 17.09

At NixCon 2017 it appeared as if the release managers thought their release went well. Via this message I would like to provide some data to the contrary.

I tried to upgrade on two different machines to 17.09 and none of them worked without reconfiguration or without removing features. As such I am still stuck at 17.03 on both and haven't bothered upgrading other machines.

For example:

  • Skype doesn't work anymore (broken download)
  • Flash failed (has been fixed, but by the time 10 people have discovered it, you already failed)
  • NFS with autofs or systemd doesn't work due to a missing symbol (open for months)

It is great that doing a rollback was possible (although it does restart the network connection, which would result in some downtime on production infrastructure), but as far as I am concerned no working 17.09 release with feature parity from 17.03 has been released.

I am also not happy with the discontinued support of 32 bits code when other distributions still support newer 32 bits code. Not sure whether this is specific to 17.09.

There are just a small number of critical packages that tens of millions of people use of which Skype and Flash are an example. NFS is used by a lot of businesses and as such should also be considered important. I don't understand how one can make a release without systematically creating tests based on e.g. Debian's popcon download measures to see whether a package still works. If a release has any QA done on it, I have missed it.

What is the point of tagging some git version as a release when the QA on it is non-existent?

15 Answers

✔️Accepted Answer

Hi there!

Yes, indeed, we are quite proud of our release. We merged thousands of
pull requests, addressed many many issues, added lots of services and
packages, and included many security updates. Our community has also
grown quite a lot, and we are proud and excited by the growth and
progress of NixOS.

You've had a less good experience, and that sucks. It seems you fall
in to somewhat less tested areas of NixOS, and that is certain to
expose you to sharper corners and more broken things. I'm sorry you
did! Please try upgrading your remaining machines, as 17.03 is no
longer supported. We'd rather dedicate everyone's efforts to making
17.09 work sufficiently well.

It seems that two of your issues are with unfree software, which NixOS
doesn't officially test in any capacity. This is by policy, so any
sort of testing on these packages will have to be by volunteer
contributors on their own time and hardware.

If you'd like to help with this, I'd be happy to work with you to help
set something up.

Your third issue about NFS:

NFS with autofs or systemd doesn't work due to a missing symbol
(open for months)

Luckily, it seems one of our volunteer contributors has a patch! Maybe
you could try it out on your system, and reply to the PR:
#31038

It is great that doing a rollback was possible (although it does
restart the network connection, which would result in some downtime
on production infrastructure)

Interesting! I don't see an issue about this. Can you open one? When I
call nixos-rebuild switch, I don't have this issue ... Hmm...

I am also not happy with the discontinued support of 32 bits code

Unfortunately NixOS is a small distribution without substantial
corporate backing. We still support and build some software for i686,
but as you say, we no longer support entire i686 systems. It was a
very difficult choice, as we didn't want to leave users without
updates, but we believe it was worth the decision. x86_64 has been
available for 17 years now and covers almost all of the modern
hardware. Dropping i686 support has significantly improved our ability
to test and release NixOS. What were you using i686 for?

Regarding NFS: We have automatic testing of NFS 3 and NFS 4, which
pass:

These tests automatically create servers and clients and run thorough
tests to ensure our NFS support works. I think that is pretty good,
and pretty cool! However, it doesn't cover the autofs case. Perhaps
we should add that to the test? Would you like to send a PR adding it?
If so, I'd be happy to do an IRC chat or video call to help you.

Maybe you're not familiar with the extensive, innovative automatic VM
testing we already do? I think it is pretty cool, and many distros
don't have as robust of a test framework we do.

Please remember that NixOS is operated by a very wonderful group of
volunteers, and your negativity isn't welcome.

If you would like to learn about our release proceses, we'd be happy
to show and teach you.

If you would like to learn about our QA process, we'd be happy to show
and teach you.

If you would like to become a contributor and help scratch your own
itches, make NixOS as good as it can be for your use cases, we'd be
happy to show and teach you.

If you would like to contribute enough money to hire a team of full
time people to work on and support NixOS, we'd be happy to work with
you.

Thank you,
Graham Christensen

Other Answers:

Updated the nixpkgs manual and the wiki that we cannot test or build unfree packages.

Flash and Skype in Debian's popcon? :-) I must say our QA for unfree packages is inherently worse, just because of the policy not to allow building such packages on the build farm.

More Issues: