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<<release-build>>
The actual build process.
<<extensibility>>
How the base release may be extended by third parties.
<<lessons-learned>>
Some of the lessons learned through the release of FreeBSD 4.4.
<<future>>
Future directions of development.
Release Process
New releases of FreeBSD are released from the -STABLE branch at approximately four month intervals. The FreeBSD release process begins to ramp up 70-80 days before the anticipated release date when the release engineer sends an email to the development mailing lists to remind developers that they only have 15 days to integrate new changes before the code freeze. During this time, many developers perform what have become known as "MFC sweeps".
MFC stands for "Merge From CURRENT" and it describes the process of merging a tested change from our -CURRENT development branch to our -STABLE branch. Project policy requires any change to be first applied to trunk, and merged to the -STABLE branches after sufficient external testing was done by -CURRENT users (developers are expected to extensively test the change before committing to -CURRENT, but it is impossible for a person to exercise all usages of the general-purpose operating system). Minimal MFC period is 3 days, which is typically used only for trivial or critical bugfixes.
Code Review
Sixty days before the anticipated release, the source repository enters a "code freeze". During this time, all commits to the -STABLE branch must be approved by `{re}`. The approval process is technically enforced by a pre-commit hook. The kinds of changes that are allowed during this period include:
Bug fixes.
Documentation updates.
Security-related fixes of any kind.
Minor changes to device drivers, such as adding new Device IDs.
Driver updates from the vendors.
Any additional change that the release engineering team feels is justified, given the potential risk.
Shortly after the code freeze is started, a _BETA1_ image is built and released for widespread testing. During the code freeze, at least one beta image or release candidate is released every two weeks until the final release is ready. During the days preceding the final release, the release engineering team is in constant communication with the security-officer team, the documentation maintainers, and the port maintainers to ensure that all of the different components required for a successful release are available.