I am a consumer of Fedora Updates–updated software shipped for supported Fedora releases.  I greatly appreciate the work so many package (software) maintainers do in Fedora to make these updates available.  I confess to rarely, if ever, being able to tell if I need the update or if having installed the update, my system runs any different a month or so after the GA release.

If this is true, would it be better if our amazing maintainers focused less on updates to stable releases and more on the release under development?  Would we gain more by focusing our time and resources on updates on a certain group of packages?  Would our releases be more stable if we deferred more enhancements and minor bug fixes to the release under development?

I’m not talking about security updates.  I’m all for closing security holes. I’m talking about your garden variety enhancement or bug fix.

Of the hundreds of megabytes of downloaded packages–probably gigabytes over the life of a supported release–how many of those updates did I definitely need because they solved a bug I was actively experiencing?  What is it with my fascination and urge to compulsively run ‘yum update’ or click on the ‘updates are available for your system’ icon all the time the way some people check their email?

The only answer I can come up with is that it is tied to an unvalidated hope that “running the latest and greatest” software will result in fewer problems.

Fedora is generally problem free on my workstation. I have no complaints.  My notebook is another story.

I have a Dell XPS M1130 that is ten months old. It has Intel graphics and networking.  It is currenly running Fedora 11 with the latest updates.  Travelling with it for FUDCon Toronto was an unpleasant experience.  The following problems have happened to me for most of Fedora 11:

  • After suspending and resuming multiple times the machine freezes and requires a hard reset
  • Resuming from suspend the wireless network interface completely disappears and only comes back after rebooting
  • Resuming from suspend, NetworkManager disappears and only comes back after rebooting (restarting the service doesn’t work)
  • Hibernate works most of the time except when it doesn’t

This basic functionality that works flawlessly on my wife’s three year old Dell Inspiron (running Windows XP) has failed  more times than I can count running Fedora.  I’m guessing these are kernel bugs specific to my particular hardware, but overall I would expect Fedora 11 to be more mature by now, particularly on this relatively established hardware by a major vendor.

I find myself wondering today if I just need “a bigger set of updates”–update to Fedora 12–to solve these problems.  Something about the approach of “hopefully some more updates will fix these very basic problems” seems wrong.  Shouldn’t I be able to run a “stable” Fedora release on a notebook to accomplish general productivity tasks without having to reboot all the time?

A lot of people in Fedora are probably tired of hearing about “defining a Target Audience” for Fedora, but to me issues like the ones I mention above point directly to it.

Is this an acceptable user experience?  Is this a compelling user experience to attract new users?  Would I want someone less experienced with Linux to have this be their first impression of Fedora?  For those that would argue that my problems are “someone else’s problem and the result of an unfixed bug upstream” I still see this as a problem of the Fedora brand.  Basic functionality that does not work on mainstream hardware tarnishes our brand.

What am I missing?