This DEP was integrated in the developers reference in its revision 3.4.1. Its status is tracked on the DEP website, and this page remains for historical purposes.

Title: Clarifying policies and workflows for Non Maintainer Uploads (NMUs)
DEP: 1
State: DRAFT
Date: 2008-02-12
Drivers: Lucas Nussbaum <lucas@debian.org>,
 Bas Wijnen <wijnen@debian.org>
URL: http://wiki.debian.org/NmuDep
Abstract:
 This document aims at clarifying the policies and workflows used for NMUs
 inside Debian. Its main goal is to provide a patch to section 5.11 of the
 Debian Developer's Reference, adressing the current issues regarding NMUs.

Introduction and Motivation

In Debian, each package is "owned" by its maintainer, or by a small group of maintainers, in the case of team maintenance. Modifying the package requires going through those developers, which sometimes add a long, unnecessary delay, especially in the case of inactive or busy maintainers.

Non-maintainer uploads (NMUs) alleviate this problem, by allowing any developer to upload a new version of another maintainer's package. However, the current rules for NMUs are not very clear, so:

  1. many developers prefer not to do NMUs.
  2. different developers understand the rules differently, leading to different opinions on what's allowed or not.
  3. NMUs are often received with angry comments from maintainers.

This Debian Enhancement Proposal has two goals:

  1. improve section 5.11 of the Developer's Reference, to clarify it and address the current issues about NMUs. In particular:
    1. We explicitely allow fixing bugs of severity lower than important in NMUs
    2. We encourage the use of the DELAYED queue
    3. We try to encourage a responsible approach for NMUs, instead of an approach based on strict rules
  2. improve related tools, like the nmudiff script in the devscripts package.

Proposed section 5.11: Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMUs)

Every package has one or more maintainers. Normally, these are the people who work on and upload new versions of the package. In some situations, it is useful that other developers can upload a new version as well, for example if they want to fix a bug in a package they don't maintain, when the maintainer fails to respond to issues. Such uploads are called Non-Maintainer Uploads (NMU).

5.11.1 When and how to do an NMU

Before doing an NMU, consider the following questions:

When doing an NMU, you must first make sure that your intention to NMU is really clear. Then, you must send a patch with the differences between the current package and your proposed NMU to the BTS.

Unless you have an excellent reason not to do so, you must then give some time to the maintainer to react (for example, by uploading to the DELAYED queue). Here are some delays that you could use as default values:

Those delays are only examples. In some cases (uploads fixing security issues, trivial bugfixes blocking a transition, ...), it is desirable that the fixed package reaches unstable sooner.

Sometimes, release managers decide to allow NMUs with shorter delays for a subset a bugs (e.g release critical bugs older than 7 days). Also, some maintainers listed themselves in the Low Threshold NMU list, and accept that NMUs are uploaded without delay. But even in those cases, it's still a good idea to give the maintainer a few days to react before you upload, especially if the patch wasn't available on the BTS before, or if you know that the maintainer is generally active.

After you upload an NMU, you are responsible for the possible problems that you might have introduced. You must keep an eye on the package (subscribing to the package on the PTS is a good idea).

This is not a license to perform NMUs thoughtlessly. If you NMU when it is clear that the maintainers are active and would have acknowledged a patch in a timely manner, or if you ignore the recommendations of this document, be warned, there is no protection for you here. You should always be prepared to defend the wisdom of any NMU you perform on its own merits.

5.11.1.1 NMUs and debian/changelog

Just like any other (source) upload, NMUs must add an entry to debian/changelog, telling what has changed with this upload. The first line of this entry is special, it must be

 * Non-maintainer upload.

The version must be the version of the last upload, plus +nmuX, where X is a counter starting at 1. If the last upload was also an NMU, the counter should be increased. For example, if the current version is 1.5-1, then an NMU would get version 1.5-1+nmu1. If the current version is 1.5+nmu3 (a native package which has already been NMUd), the NMU would get version 1.5+nmu4. If a new upstream version is packaged in the NMU, the debian revision is set to 0, for example 1.6-0+nmu1.

This special versioning is needed to avoid stealing one of the package maintainer's version numbers, which might disrupt their work. It also has the benefit of making it visually clear that a package in the archive was not made by the official maintainer.

If you upload a package to testing or stable, you sometimes need to "fork" the version number tree. This is the case for security uploads, for example. For this, a version of the form +debXYuZ should be used, where X is the current stable major release number, and Y is the current minor release number for a stable upload, or one higher than that for a testing upload. Z is a counter starting at 1. For example, while Etch (Debian 4.0) is stable, a security NMU to stable for a package at version 1.5-3 would have version 1.5-3+deb40u1, while a security NMU to Lenny would get version 1.5-3+deb41u1. This is the case even when it is already known that the next release will be a new major version; for instance, Lenny will be released as Debian 5.0.

5.11.1.2 Using the DELAYED/ queue

After asking the maintainer for the permission to upload your NMU, it is annoying to have to wait for some time before you actually make the upload.

The DELAYED queue (FIXME: link to 5.6.2) allows the developer doing the NMU to perform all the necessary tasks at the same time. Instead of telling the maintainer that you will upload the updated package in (for example) 7 days, you should upload the package to DELAYED/7 and tell the maintainer that he has 7 days to react. During this time, the maintainer can ask you to delay the upload some more or cancel your upload.

The DELAYED queue should not be used to put additional pressure on the maintainer. In particular, it's important that you are available to cancel or delay the upload before the delay expires (the maintainer cannot cancel the upload himself).

If you make an NMU to DELAYED, and the maintainer updates his package before the delay expires, your upload will be rejected, because a newer version (the maintainer's one) is already available in the archive. Normally, the maintainer should take care to include your proposed changes (or at least a solution for the problems they address) in that upload.

5.11.2 NMUs, from the maintainer's point of view

When someone NMUs your package, this means they want to help you to keep it in good shape. This saves you work, and gives users fixed packages faster. You can consider asking the NMUer to become a co-maintainer of the package.

If someone suggests that they could do an NMU on your package, you should be thankful that they want to put time into this, while it is really your responsibility to fix the bug. Receiving an NMU on a package is not a bad thing; it just means that the package is interesting enough for other people to work on it.

When a package has been NMUed, the maintainer should acknowledge it in the next upload. This makes clear that the changes were accepted in the maintainer's packaging, and that they aren't lost again. For this, you must first incorporate the changes into your package, as far as you want to keep them. Make sure to include the NMU's changelog entry (not just the line describing the changes) in your own changelog. This is important to allow the BTS version tracking to work.

5.11.3 Source NMUs vs Binary-only NMUs (binNMUs)

The full name of an NMU is source NMU. There is also another type, namely the binary-only NMU, or binNMU. A binNMU is also a package upload by someone other than the package's maintainer. However, it is a binary-only upload.

When a library (or other dependency) is updated, the packages using it may need to be rebuilt. Since no changes to the source are needed, the same source package is used.

BinNMUs are usually done by porters. They add an entry to debian/changelog, explaining why the upload was needed and increasing the version number as described in paragraph 5.10.2.1. This entry should not be included in the next upload.

Buildds upload packages for their architecture to the archive as binary-only uploads. Strictly speaking, these are binNMUs. However, they are not normally called NMU, and they don't add an entry to debian/changelog.

5.11.4 NMUs vs QA uploads

NMUs are uploads of packages which are owned by another maintainer. There is another type of upload where the uploaded package is not yours: QA uploads. QA uploads are uploads of orphaned packages.

QA uploads are very much like normal maintainer uploads: they may fix anything, even minor issues; the version numbering is normal, and there is no need to use a delayed upload. The difference is that you are not listed as the Maintainer or Uploader for the package. Also, the changelog entry of a QA upload has a special first line:

 * QA upload.

If you want to do an NMU, and it seems that the maintainer is not active, it is wise to check if the package is orphaned. When doing the first QA upload to an orphaned package, the maintainer should be set to Debian QA Group < packages@qa.debian.org >. Orphaned packages which did not have a QA upload yet still have their old maintainer set. There is a list of them at http://qa.debian.org/orphaned.html.

Instead of doing a QA upload, you can also consider adopting the package by making yourself the maintainer. You don't need permission from anybody to adopt an orphaned package, you can just set yourself as maintainer and upload the new version (details here).

nmudiff improvements

Currently, nmudiff uses the following default email:

Hi,
The following is the diff for my $SOURCE $VERSION NMU.

It is proposed that this will be changed to:

[Replace XX with correct value]
Dear maintainer,
I prepared an NMU for $SOURCE (versioned as $VERSION) to fix this bug.
I uploaded it to DELAYED/XX. Please feel free to tell me if I should delay it longer.
--
$DEBFULLNAME

Rationales

Direct commit using debcheckout

In some cases, the maintainer might allow direct commit to the package's VCS repository. We felt that it was not a good idea to include this in the DEP, because:

the nmudiff patch is not controversial. Why include it in the DEP?

Is that really the best place to discuss stable, security and QA uploads, and binNMUs?

History

Cosmetic changes are not mentioned here, refer to the wiki page's history if you need them.

2008-06-03

2008-05-29

2008-04-28

2008-04-23