This fall will see the release of upgrades to several open source operating systems I use. First, FreeBSD 5.3 is currently scheduled to be released on 17 October. Over the weekend a sixth beta was cut and a seventh and final beta will be produced this weekend. The following week a release candidate (RC) will arrive. Although no second RC is planned, I expect to see one. The arrival of FreeBSD 5.3 RELEASE will mark the 5.x tree as STABLE. The current STABLE tree, 4.x, will go into maintenance mode. The 6.0 tree is already marked as CURRENT; that's where cutting edge developments are introduced before being "merged from CURRENT" (mfc) to the STABLE tree. I recommend anyone interested in trying FreeBSD for the first time wait until 5.3 is released in mid-October. FreeBSD 5.2.1, the latest in the 5.x tree, arrived in February 2004.
On Monday RC1 for NetBSD 2.0 was announced. NetBSD 2.0 has been several years in the making. The last version, 1.6.2, was a patch release that arrived in March 2004. The last major version, 1.6, was released in September 2002.
If you like regular releases, you can't beat OpenBSD. OpenBSD 3.6 will begin shipping 1 November 2004. OpenBSD 3.5 started shipping in May 2004.
Finally, I'm not much of a Linux user, but I am looking forward to the long-awaited next release of Debian, called sarge. The last discussion of a timetable suggested a September release, but it looks like October or even later is more realistic. The last stable Debian version, woody, arrived in July 2002.
At first glance it seems that upgrades to some of these operating systems, especially NetBSD and Debian, have been few and far between. Then I visited the Microsoft server timeline and desktop timelines. These reminded me that the last desktop release, Windows XP, arrived in October 2001. We got a serious upgrade in XP SP2, but that took 3 years to materialize. On the server side, we have to wait until 2006 for Longhorn. The open source OSs are interesting because they are both client and server operating systems, and still beat the three year Microsoft development cycle.