23.4. Tracking a Development Branch

FreeBSD has two development branches: FreeBSD-CURRENT and FreeBSD-STABLE.

This section provides an explanation of each branch and its intended audience, as well as how to keep a system up-to-date with each respective branch.

23.4.1. Using FreeBSD-CURRENT

FreeBSD-CURRENT is the bleeding edge of FreeBSD development and FreeBSD-CURRENT users are expected to have a high degree of technical skill. Less technical users who wish to track a development branch should track FreeBSD-STABLE instead.

FreeBSD-CURRENT is the very latest source code for FreeBSD and includes works in progress, experimental changes, and transitional mechanisms that might or might not be present in the next official release. While many FreeBSD developers compile the FreeBSD-CURRENT source code daily, there are short periods of time when the source may not be buildable. These problems are resolved as quickly as possible, but whether or not FreeBSD-CURRENT brings disaster or new functionality can be a matter of when the source code was synced.

FreeBSD-CURRENT is made available for three primary interest groups:

  1. Members of the FreeBSD community who are actively working on some part of the source tree.

  2. Members of the FreeBSD community who are active testers. They are willing to spend time solving problems, making topical suggestions on changes and the general direction of FreeBSD, and submitting patches.

  3. Users who wish to keep an eye on things, use the current source for reference purposes, or make the occasional comment or code contribution.

FreeBSD-CURRENT should not be considered a fast-track to getting new features before the next release as pre-release features are not yet fully tested and most likely contain bugs. It is not a quick way of getting bug fixes as any given commit is just as likely to introduce new bugs as to fix existing ones. FreeBSD-CURRENT is not in any way officially supported.

To track FreeBSD-CURRENT:

  1. Join the freebsd-current and the svn-src-head lists. This is essential in order to see the comments that people are making about the current state of the system and to receive important bulletins about the current state of FreeBSD-CURRENT.

    The svn-src-head list records the commit log entry for each change as it is made, along with any pertinent information on possible side effects.

    To join these lists, go to http://lists.FreeBSD.org/mailman/listinfo, click on the list to subscribe to, and follow the instructions. In order to track changes to the whole source tree, not just the changes to FreeBSD-CURRENT, subscribe to the svn-src-all list.

  2. Synchronize with the FreeBSD-CURRENT sources. Typically, svn is used to check out the -CURRENT code from the head branch of one of the Subversion mirror sites listed in Section A.3.6, “Subversion Mirror Sites”.

  3. Due to the size of the repository, some users choose to only synchronize the sections of source that interest them or which they are contributing patches to. However, users that plan to compile the operating system from source must download all of FreeBSD-CURRENT, not just selected portions.

    Before compiling FreeBSD-CURRENT , read /usr/src/Makefile very carefully and follow the instructions in Section 23.5, “Updating FreeBSD from Source”. Read the FreeBSD-CURRENT mailing list and /usr/src/UPDATING to stay up-to-date on other bootstrapping procedures that sometimes become necessary on the road to the next release.

  4. Be active! FreeBSD-CURRENT users are encouraged to submit their suggestions for enhancements or bug fixes. Suggestions with accompanying code are always welcome.