I’m not a developer, but might as well try since this isn’t a dev forum so waiting around for an actual dev to answer may take a while…
Is OpenSuse developed in a conservative way? It does not appear to be the mass flurry of breakage I am seeing in Ubuntu right now but I would like to hear some comments from people experienced with the process.
I would characterise openSUSE as conservative in some respects. openSUSE is generally engineered around a principle of ‘use the best technical solution’. This means that openSUSE sometimes implements ‘cool’ stuff later than other distros, but when those things finally are adopted they usually work well. There have been some misques, but that principle has generally held through from the pre-Novell days to today.
I admire the way OpenSuse has increased it’s development cycle to 8 months rather than 6, in my opinion this provides more time to resolve bugs and refine the release. What do experienced users think about this? Does this help build a better release?
The 8-month fixed release cycle is new to openSUSE. oS 11.1 was a 6-month release and the developers felt that 6 months was too short for them. If the wikipedia article is to be believed however, SUSE has had a bit of a history with 6-month release cycles. After the acquistion by Novell, there’s never been a long term commitment to (or occurrence of) a 6-month release cycle. I cannot speak to the pre-openSUSE days too much. Still, the length between releases isn’t that important so long as there are realistic goals for each release. A distro can have an annual release cycle and still be unstable if they try to do too much.
A point of particular interest to me is Intel graphics. Currently milestone 8 has exceptional support for Intel graphics. Is it safe to assume there will not be regressions as far as support for Intel graphics goes?
Well it’s not in the plan…openSUSE 11.2 is feature, version and translation frozen. So it’s not probable that Intel graphics will regress in the final release. Will you get a guarantee? No.
[edited…]I do think Ubuntu’s development process is seriously flawed and I would like to think that OpenSuse uses a more realistic approach to quality.
Just depends on how you look at it. The way I see it…Ubuntu really only releases every 2 years, the LTS releases. The other 3 releases along the way are to placate people who don’t want to use old software and to keep testing momentum going.
Certainly for any given release to release I prefer openSUSE to Ubuntu (since oS 10.3 anyway). But it’s always good to remember that F/OSS is a collaborative effort. Ubuntu has brought good things, openSUSE has brought good things and so have other distros. The best part is that the vast majority of those contributions helps everyone else. If not for the Fedora’s and Ubuntu’s of the distro-verse a lot of stuff wouldn’t be so well tested by the time it lands in openSUSE… and somebody’s got to broadly test that up-and-coming stuff first.
While I have a lot of faith in the openSUSE community, if you are using oS because you’re hoping to be forever free from a bad release, you should readjust your expectations. You might just have a piece of hardware or setup that doesn’t sit well with a particular release. There are so many moving pieces that it just may happen eventually.