Dunc-Tank: Success or failure?

Debian Project Leader Anthony Towns on the Dunc-Tank project

The Dunc-Tank project has been the topic of much debate in the Debian community since it was launched in September last year. Aimed at overcoming Debian's notorious delays in meeting its scheduled releases, Dunc-Tank collected donations to test the effect of funding on open-source software development.

It has now been more than a month since the scheduled release of Debian 4.0, codenamed etch. However, even with Dunc-Tank's funding, etch is yet to be seen.

Liz Tay speaks with Debian Project Leader and Dunc-Tank mastermind Anthony Towns to find out what happened.

How did the Dunc-Tank experiment come about?

Dunc-Tank was a project to see if we could put some funding into Debian release management so that it would be more likely to come out on time.

It was originally going to be an internal thing within Debian, but there was a lot of controversy as to whether the release was a suitable thing to be funding alone, or whether it should have been a more general thing, so that anyone could apply for funding.

So rather than spend six months debating it and working out a really good way of doing it, we figured that since the release was due in just a couple of months, we'd go ahead with an external project and once we'd done that, we could have some actual results [and] some information about whether these things work and what sort of problems actually come up.

The particular thing that inspired this [Dunc-Tank experiment] was about three months before the December 4th release date -- that had kind of been bandied around a bit casually, Steve Langasek, who is one of the release managers, was basically working 18 hours a day on his day job to do PHP coding, and he wasn't having enough time after that to look into some of the release critical issues that we were having.

I thought if we could get Steve being able to spend some dedicated blocks of time, rather than having to compromise with his work and stay up late, or not getting any sleep overnight, or whatever, then that might have a good influence. So we talked to the release managers to see if that would be practical, and it turned out that it was for them.

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