Core members of the Foundations Team are responsible for:

  • publishing new Tails versions in a timely fashion, according to the schedule submitted by the Foundations Team;

  • reaching a consensus regarding documenting, delaying, or releasing, when emergency releases might be warranted (usually prompted by unplanned Tor Browser releases for security issues that require urgent care);

  • making sure automatic and manual testers are covered during each release process;

  • being in the loop when major changes land in release branches, so that they can propose extra manual tests if those changes feel risky (e.g. changes in the upgrader code).

To ensure releasing is achievable in a timely manner, historically, they have also been responsible for:

  • making sure the various Git branches get successful builds and test suite runs in Jenkins, filing issues for the Foundations Team as needed.

This responsibility might get shifted to the Foundations Team in the near future though.

Also historically, the Release Manager for a given Tails release deals with integrating the target Tor Browser version, even if that's one of the Foundations Team's duties.


In the beginning of your shift

  • Check the Tor Browser release schedule. [skip-if-emergency-release]. In doubt, check the logs from their last meeting.

  • Check the Mozilla release calendars: [skip-if-emergency-release]

  • Reply to the email sent to tails-dev@boum.org and tails-l10n@boum.org by the RM for the previous release, to provide any information they could not, such as: [skip-if-emergency-release]

    • Code freeze date

    • If this will be a major release: the release schedule for its RC.

  • Ask for a Trusted Reproducer:

      ./bin/generate-call-for-trusted-reproducer \
         --version VERSION_YOU_WILL_RELEASE
  • Update calendar accordingly.

  • Check if there's a GitLab milestone with the correct due date. If it is not, create a merge request against tails/gitlab-config to fix it.

  • Create an issue with the Core Work: Foundations Team label, about upgrading Tor Browser in the release your shift is about.

  • Ensure there's an issue about writing the release notes. This also applies to betas and release candidates, so you might create multiple such issues during one shift. Set Write release notes for $VERSION as title.

  • Verify there's a missed:$VERSION label on groups/tails/-/labels; if there's none, submit a MR against tails/gitlab-config to create one.

  • The ISO images for every previous beta, RC, and final release based on the version of Debian that will be used for the release you'll be preparing.

    To get the list of images you'll need, run:

      ./bin/iuk-source-versions VERSION_YOU_WILL_RELEASE

    For example, if you're preparing 4.4, you need the ISO images for 4.0~beta1, 4.0~beta2, 4.0~rc1, 4.0, 4.1, 4.1.1, 4.2, 4.2.2, and 4.3.

    I.e. you can run this inside isos.git:

      git annex sync --no-content
      (cd ${TAILS_GIT_REPO:?}; ./bin/iuk-source-versions "${VERSION:?}" | tr ' ' '\n' | sed -e 's/^/tails-amd64-/') | xargs -r git annex get
  • Ensure the next steps are tracked in your preferred personal organization tool.

Two weeks after the beginning of your shift

  • Ensure you have found a Trusted Reproducer and write who this is in the calendar.

  • Check if you have enough manual testers registered. If not, ping the usual testers and warn the Foundations Team that you may need their help.

The Friday before the release date

Take care of TBB upgrade

Ask the Tor Browser developers when they expect they'll have tarballs ready.

Rationale: we need to coordinate our Tails release with the Tor Browser developers to make sure that the Tor Browser we plan to include in our release is ready in time for when we build the release image. The Friday prior to the release is a good candidate, since it's around this time they usually release tarballs for testing, and it will still give some time for us to improvise according to their "delayed" schedule and arrange a contingency plan (e.g. possibly delaying our release a day or two). Asking for a status report a day or two earlier than Friday in addition won't hurt, too.

Note: the Tor Browser team Cc's tails-dev@boum.org when sending QA requests to tor-qa@lists.torproject.org which makes this easier. We are also often notified of any last last-minute rebuilds, better ask explicitly the Tor Browser team what their plans are.

As soon as the new Tor Browser tarballs are ready, you may import them in a topic branch and trigger CI runs, which will save you some precious time on pre-release Monday. See the Upgrading the Tor Browser page for details.

Make sure your build setup works

This is not a mandatory step. However, it's suggested that you do this, especially if more than a week passed since you build a Tails image.

You just need to make sure that rake build will work, so on Monday you can expect less glitches to happen.

Make the release happen

No kidding. See release process.

Emergency release

This section documents what differs, when preparing an emergency release, from publishing a scheduled release.

Making decisions

When an event prompts us to wonder whether we shall prepare an emergency release, we have to make 2 decisions:

  • Will we publish an emergency release?

    First, create an issue about this question. Do not leak any information that was shared with us privately.

    These stakeholders must be part of the decision-making process:

    • release managers: determine whether we have the capacity to prepare an emergency release, and when; privately share confidential information that other stakeholders need to do their job

    • developers i.e. Foundations Team: assess the risk that the emergency release would cancel or mitigate; propose mitigation measures that we could recommend to users

      Rules of thumb:

      • We usually do not prepare emergency releases for local privilege escalation (even to root) if they cannot be exploited from the execution context of Tor Browser.
    • UX: evaluate the acceptability of mitigation measures proposed by developers; remind everyone else that any extra upgrade has a UX cost

    • technical writers: determine whether we have the capacity to document mitigation measures, and when

    If we decide to publish an emergency release, say so on the aforementioned issue, then read on. Else, explain why on the aforementioned issue, and close it with the Rejected label.

  • When will we prepare and publish it? (if we decided to go ahead)

    This mostly depends on the availability of release managers and manual testers. Privately reach out to them, asking when they could do their part of the work. Then, release managers make this decision.

Additional steps

  1. Move to the milestone that was just created for the emergency release every:

    • issue that was resolved
    • merge request that was merged

    … and that currently have the milestone of the next planned non-emergency bugfix release. In other words, since every change that is on the stable branch, but not released yet, will be released for the first time in this upcoming emergency release, it must have the milestone of that emergency release.

    This ensures the generated changelog will include these changes, and ensures we have a correct record of which release presumably fixed which bug (that's useful for example when triaging bug reports).

    To do so, on each of these 2 pages:

    Do this:

    1. Filter by milestone = the next planned non-emergency bugfix release

    2. Click Bulk edit

    3. Select all items

    4. Set the milestone of the emergency release

  2. Announce to tails-dev@boum.org:

    • There's an upcoming emergency release. Don't say why if it's a secret.

    • Announce the code freeze.

  3. Announce to manual testers: when you expect the tests to happen

Irrelevant steps

Steps that are not relevant for emergency releases are tagged [skip-if-emergency-release].


By definition, an emergency release happens under timing constraints that are different from a scheduled release. To account for this, ignore timing indications below such as "Two weeks after" or "The Friday": assume everything is relevant shall happen as soon as reasonably possible.