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Heiko Schlittermann (HS12-RIPE) edited this page Feb 8, 2018 · 2 revisions
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Exim Release Policy

This is a policy put forward by one maintainer, and after a few releases by him has not received any objections. We reserve the right to adjust it, but this makes clear what he believes "reasonable expectations" are. (He has also been the release coordinator for the last several releases, so until that changes, this is the de facto policy).

Who decides; enforceability

Exim is a volunteer project, with contributions from many people and coordination from The Exim Maintainers, the people with commit access to the main git repository. None of the maintainers are paid to provide public Exim support, so nobody can commit to any form of "SLA" or guarantee. If we fail to release according to this policy, that's just life.

If, in the best discretion of the people putting together a release, it is necessary to diverge from this policy, even completely contradicting it, that is entirely acceptable.

This policy lays down the expectations of what we plan to do in the normal or predictable cases, if there is someone available with sufficient time to shepherd a release. It is nothing more and is not a binding commitment.

Release triggers

  • There is no fixed schedule for release.
  • We aim for at least one release every six months, and if we have been idle then we just release with what we have.
  • If there is a bug-fix for a security-impacting problem, then:
    • We will obtain a CVE number:
    • We will discuss with OS packagers the severity of the issue
    • If the problem permits privilege escalation from untrusted local users to any user, it will warrant urgent release
    • If the problem permits remote code execution, this is considered Critical and it will warrant urgent release and possibly the creation of a branch, so that a release can be put out which contains only this fix.
    • If the problem permits privilege escalation from the Exim run-time user, then this is serious and will act as a trigger for a hurried release, but will not on its own trigger a fire-drill. If there is also a problem permitting untrusted local users to escalate privileges to the Exim run-time user, or for remote code execution as the Exim run-time user, then this becomes Critical.
  • The "Release Engineer" or "Release Coordinator" shall simply be "whoever steps forward".

Release numbering

  • We will preserve lexical comparison of version numbers, so there will not be a "4.9901" release or a "4.100" release. If we make it up to 4.99, then the release following "4.99" will be "5.00".
  • We may jump version numbers at our discretion, when considering the features included.
  • If we introduce significant backwards-incompatible changes, then the major number will be increased. Eg, "5.23" followed by "6.00". But if we just reached 5.99, then 6.00 will not be significant in this manner.
  • There are backwards-incompatible changes which we feel do not warrant a major version bump. These are typically security improvements and few people with secure configurations should be accepted. Administrators should always read README.UPDATING before starting an update.
  • There are no current plans for a grand rewrite.

Release verification

  • All releases will be PGP signed. This includes all "tarballs" (code, documentation) and the release announcement.
  • The release announcement will include, within its text, cryptographic checksums using algorithms of our choosing. We reserve the right to switch algorithm.
  • These releases will be performed by a PGP key belonging to an individual maintainer. A shared, group, PGP key is deliberately not part of our trust model.
  • The PGP key will contain an identity ("uid") which includes the maintainer's real name and an email address which is
  • PGP keys are identified by the uids and each has its own signatures in the "Web of Trust". To be valid, the uid will have been signed by a group of the other Exim maintainers. In PGP speak, multiple maintainers have keys "in the strong set", although the binding of the might not be. If another uid is more trusted by your client's trust paths, then it is up to your discretion to decide whether or not you accept that name as an Exim Maintainer.

Release Candidates & Buggy Releases

  • Except in the most Critical emergencies, a release shall be preceded by at least one "Release Candidate".
  • Except when prompted by security issues, the intention to cut the first RC shall have been announced ahead of time on the Exim Users mailing-list.
  • More RCs are a matter of judgement for the person coordinating the release.
  • Unless pushed by a security problem, there will be at least one week between the first RC and the final release, with sufficient time to bake.
  • People with commit on the master repository should not be committing new features or major reworkings in the time between the first RC and the actual release, to provide as stable and simple a set-up for the volunteer performing a release.
  • Problems to be addressed in this period shall include bugs of code or of documentation, build issues, portability concerns and the like.
    • It's probably too late to address missing features
    • Uncommitted bug-fixes from Bugzilla are fair game for complaint
    • Sub-system maintainers whose bug-fixes have been overlooked should be able to get those added ASAP and the Release Engineer should consider then merging overlooked feature changes to the tree after the release.
  • A Critical security problem may be issued as a minimal change against the last stable release, as a "branch" in the code tree and the Release Engineer may choose to entirely skip a public RC process in that scenario.
  • We are dependent upon people testing the RCs to ensure platform compatibility of the final release, across both OSes and component versions.
    • Those who test RCs get to ensure that their platform is a first-class supported platform for a release, and the final release should be cleanly buildable and working on their platform.
    • We make no demands upon our users and do not expect RCs to be tested in a production environment, but we do ask that people at least try to compile and build the RC and send a test mail with it.
      • This shouldn't be more than 30 minutes work total
      • If you have a structured environment, with configurations in revision history, the time consists of reading the release notes (README.UPDATING, NewStuff and ChangeLog), adjusting your Local/Makefile as needed and kicking off a build, then testing sending mail with the new release.
      • We greatly appreciate assistance from those with an environment that lets them "canary" a change in production, and any feedback from such testing is likely to receive the greatest attention from the Release Engineer. But we do not consider this the typical approach to testing RCs and accept this as a Very Nice Bonus, should it happen.
    • Those who wait until a release is issued before testing will get such support as we can offer; typically, patches will be written. We will not rush to build a new release. OS packagers are experienced at maintaining an extra patch for compatibility, and others with significant issues should be attempting to track an RC.
    • If we push new releases as fast as possible to fix issues post-release, that just encourages people to wait for a release before testing and creates a burden for everyone else on every other platform, as a common approach is to stay "up-to-date with releases, additional patches only as needed" and multiple releases per month create undue burden.
    • The Release Engineer, as a volunteer, is not subject to demands that they immediately do more work to satisfy people who did not themselves put forward any effort until it was too late to help a release.
    • In the event of a release being problematic on some platform, we expect to provide patches to those issues; we expect OS packagers are likely to just use those patches; we will wait long enough for all the OS/platform variants to shake loose any issues, before we get around to cutting another release. This might be a couple of weeks. Since it is expected that a security fix not thus be dependent upon the new release happening, there should be a Release Candidate process on a normal schedule for this follow-up release, to avoid cascading problems.
    • The follow-up release will not be constrained to be bug-fixes only (unless the Release Engineer so chooses). Other committers shall be free to commit feature patches or re-workings to the code-base at any time after a release. A reward for trying RCs is that your feedback is addressed in a stable environment where only bug-fixes are being applied and you do not need to contend with some other new feature causing headaches come the next release.


This policy tries to balance the volunteer effort, against the breadth of usage and dependency upon Exim and the impact of releases. It provides incentives to test Release Candidates and disincentives to leave testing until after a Release. It establishes baseline expectations of what is "reasonable behaviour" but does not establish any enforceable right.

While constructive, well-argued feedback is appreciated, if you are neither an active contributor to the Exim community nor a packager for a major OS variant, we shall not necessarily address your concerns. This policy is for us the maintainers, to keep us from burn-out, to better serve the community of Exim users.

Thank you for using Exim. Please work with us to improve it.