Commercial companies and (the lack of) changelogs

As a Debian maintainer, I got a habit of reading the changelog of packages I install or want/need to upgrade. My problems begin with these packages come from some commercial compay, as most of them don’t log their changes.

Oracle’s OCFS2 RPMs have this “useful” changelog:

* Fri Jun 23 2006 Sunil Mushran
– Add largesmp

* Sun Jan 25 2004 Manish Singh
– Initial rpm spec file

and

* Fri Jan 28 2005 Manish Singh
– Add ocfs2console

* Sat Jan 22 2005 Manish Singh
– Initial rpm spec

That’s a start, but not very informative one. The packages were last updated on November 2007, the changelog doesn’t mention the various changes done on the packages.

Skype’s Etch deb file has this changeog entry:

skype (1.4.0.118-1) extra; urgency=low

* Added Changelog for compliance with debian rules.

— Skype Technologies <info@skype.net> Wed, 10 Aug 2005 17:50:14 +0300

When I read that my reaction was “gee, thanks for the changlog”. I’m glad companies recognize the debian policy and comply to it, but let’s not forget the files is there to have some substance. Having a empty (or a place holder) changelog isn’t the real essence of the debian policy rule.

These are just two examples I encountered, but these are also the companies who actually wrote a changlog. I see a lot of packages which have an empty changelog.

I know companies work differently from community projects, what I fail to understand why don’t provide more information about their products. They all have “a support matrix”, tons of documentation and such, but when I want to know if I can install the new package easily – I don’t have this info, and usually the documentation doesn’t mention these technical changes.

So, my message for the commercial companies: you have a lot to learn from community projects, especially for those companies what want to be a part of the free software world. We (the community) usually have a high standards and we expect you to keep them.

I’m sure you’ll also benifit from these standards, if you’re not already enjoying it.

4 Comments

Filed under Proprietary software

4 responses to “Commercial companies and (the lack of) changelogs

  1. Sometimes they just need to show you that they done something, even if was very small change, but for long time, nothing else existed.. so why tell that to the world/investors/customers/feature customers ? Just show that there are new releases.

    Anyway, if you really want companies to create better packages, then why not become a freelancer in that market, and help companies to make their packages better for a fee instead of free ?🙂

  2. Lior, you’re missing the point — companies don’t want you to know whether it’s OK to upgrade, they want you to just do so:-/

  3. sbdep

    In my experience it, the packages are maintained in source control and as such there are checkin comments with each change. The changes do not necessarily correspond with released package versions and maintaining changelog information in multiple places is more effort than is usually expended.

    If you really want to see what changes were made, you need to see the internal revision control history. This has more to do with the changes being made in the same process as the rest of their internal development, where maintaining a seperate changelog is just not done.

  4. Lior Kaplan

    Filip – I now what companies want, but as a system administrator, I don’t like using the companies documentation for bottom covering. I prefer to be aware of the changes and decide for myself if that’s safe or not.

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