Lucid – thoughts on LTS releases

November 16, 2009

Lucid Schedule

I was interested to read the Lucid Lynx release schedule and see the modifications that have been done due to Lucid being an LTS release. As outlined in the second link, packages will be synced from Debian testing rather than unstable so as to reduce the risk of new bugs being brought in.

Also the alpha period has been reduced, leaving time for two beta releases. The first beta will be 6 weeks before release, with a second release 3 weeks before release. (Normally there is one beta 4 weeks before release). I guess the hope is that there will be more people upgrading earlier, so that more bugs will be found earlier. This sounds good for quality, but I suspect that many will wait for the first point release before considering lucid to be stable and upgrading their important systems.

In many ways the work in the Lucid will be working through many of the issues introduced in Karmic when upstart and other technologies were introduced. No major new technologies (such as gnome-shell) will be introduced with Lucid. I guess this is a lesson learned from the Hardy cycle where the introduction of PulseAudio caused problems for many people as bugs were exposed in the applications that used audio.

However I think the other fresh inclusion in Hardy was a good idea. I’m referring to Firefox 3, which was still in beta when Hardy was released. The key difference relative to PulseAudio is that no software depended on Firefox 3, so it did not break anything. Firefox is also very well tested by the time it is released, so we can have high confidence that it is going to work well.

Application Versions in LTS Releases

Which leads me on to think about how to keep packages up to date for an LTS release. On a recent edition of the Ubuntu UK Podcast they discussed the problems some people had when upgrading to Karmic. On the desktop they thought that users wouldn’t be happy with an old version of applications such as Firefox and Open Office. So the users feel they have to upgrade to non LTS releases. (Indeed another piece of post Karmic discussion noted that the default download is currently Karmic rather than the last LTS – Hardy.)

So how can we improve the situation. Well one thing would be for major applications to be easily available on the current LTS release. At a minimum, new Firefox and Open Office versions should be made available. These are applications that are tested on a range of environments, so no major work should be required to make them available. I was amazed to discover that the hardy-backports repository does not contain Firefox 3.5 (see this package search). (And using PPAs are not a solution for the normal user.) Users of Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.1 are not stuck with the versions of applications available at the OS release time.

The issue seems particularly urgent in light of Mozilla ending support for Firefox 3.0 at the end of 2009. So for the first few months of 2010 the current LTS release will have an unsupported web browser. This is unacceptable.

So how do we do address this? We should certainly not upgrade major versions of software without the permission of the user. Having a backports repository enabled by default would provide packages for new versions of major applications. When they are available the update manager could offer to upgrade to the new release of application X.

Whatever the details are, it should be simple for a user of an LTS release to get up-to-date versions of major applications without having to upgrade the rest of the operating system.

One comment

  1. To be fair, Ubuntu 13.04 is a good, solid release. It has a more finely tuned and polished Unity shell, with incremental improvements in the Linux kernel and in all the major preinstalled applications. But that’s it — no amazing new features. It even loses a couple of things: there’s no ability to install the GNOME classic shell (unlike GNOME 3.8 which does offer a classic mode); and no WUBI (Windows-based UBuntu Installer).

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