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Monthly Ubuntu Releases Proposed 284

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-speed-it-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Scott James Remnant, the former Ubuntu Developer Manager at Canonical and current Ubuntu Technical Board leader, has proposed a new monthly release process for Ubuntu Linux. He acknowledges that with the six month releases there are features that end up landing way too soon, leaving them in a sour state for users. With his monthly proposal, Remnant hopes to relieve this by handling alpha, beta, and normal releases concurrently. It's unknown whether Canonical will accept the policy at this time."
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Monthly Ubuntu Releases Proposed

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  • Previously there was a proposal for continuous releases and for me this monthly idea is about the same. Ubuntu releases continuously anyway. But they maintain different branches and repositories. Every six months you skip to a new branch. So if you had a monthly branch and updated that on every build I think there would be some sort of longer term configuration management anyway. There would have to be experimental branches lasting for more than a month because some things take more than a month to develop.

  • Oh, it's clear something has to change! The question is more like: What exactly? I have no good answers to this, but as a user I equate the 11.04 release to "Vista of Canonical". I stick fervently to the last LTS release which seems to be good. Sure, I still have two years left on it, but by the end an LTS release loses love and does get stale.

    On my own desktops (So, not the desktops I support for family and friends), I usually run the latest release of Ubuntu. The experience was so bad, I personally w

    • What I fear, is that the proposed shorter release cycles are going to make Ubuntu break too often.

      I believe that the solution for that would be to have different channels, one of which would be stable and thus would not break that much.

      • Even on 6-monthly releases, ubuntu has proven to be somewhat unreliable in terms of feature/usability/overal stability. Moving to monthly releases doesnt seem like a way to improve this in my eyes.

        Mint is better then 11.04 since it just keeps gnome 2.4 as the default, not forcing its users to relearn the GUI all over again, but i have no illusions that at some point Mint will be forced down the ubuntu path to flashiness for flash's sake

    • I've been thinking of switching completely to Debian, but the amount of work to get that running right as a modern desktop is daunting.

      What "daunting" work are you talking about here (despite the browser thing below)?

      I can do it, I have done it, but for example, to have a modern browser you either have to manually install it bypassing the package management (bad!) or use backports to get modern compiles of iceweasel. Neither is optimal.

      What's so wrong about using backports.debian.org? Is it so hard to add one line to your /etc/apt/sources.list? Why is this sub-optimal?

      • What's so wrong about using backports.debian.org? Is it so hard to add one line to your /etc/apt/sources.list? Why is this sub-optimal?

        Optimal would obviously be it "just working" without having to keep multiple versions of the same package on your system. Whenever you have to change something from default, it makes it ever so slightly more annoying to do a reinstall, or set up the OS for someone else.

        • What's so wrong about using backports.debian.org? Is it so hard to add one line to your /etc/apt/sources.list? Why is this sub-optimal?

          Optimal would obviously be it "just working" without having to keep multiple versions of the same package on your system. Whenever you have to change something from default, it makes it ever so slightly more annoying to do a reinstall, or set up the OS for someone else.

          Alright, but having it "just working" would require the distro to correctly guess which software you want to update, to what version, at what time, and what software to keep stable. I am not sure this can be gotten right for you alone, let alone for all users and potential users of the distribution.

          With Debian stable, all software is kept stable by default, but you get the option to explicitly update specific packages to specific versions (by using additional repositories, backports being one option). To me

          • I would also add to this that since Squeeze, backports.debian.org is now officially supported (eg: we do security maintenance for packages there, and the security team is involved), and that more and more, we upload lots of things in there, especially for the desktop (like, X got recently backported thanks to the huge work of Kibi, firefo^w iceweasel, libre office, etc.).
        • Exactly since when Debian allows to have multiple version of a single package installed on your system? Have you been running RPM based system for too long for saying something like that?

          And also, firefo^w iceweasel in Debian stable "just works". It's just simply a bit outdated, but that's fine with the vast majority of sites, and it gets maintained through the normal security process of Debian. So what are you talking about exactly? You have both the choice of running an old and an up-to-date version. Th
      • Optimal is what Google does with Chrome: you install the .deb, and it adds its own repository. You should never be forced to do that manually.
      • What's so wrong about using backports.debian.org? Is it so hard to add one line to your /etc/apt/sources.list? Why is this sub-optimal?

        Depends on what you're used to, really. I came to Debian from Gentoo, and so I'm used to tinkering with files in /etc. But I can imagine that if my only Linux experience had been Ubuntu, I might have found editing system files by hand to be a weird and scary experience.

        That said, I'd have thought it was easy enough to add the backports repo to synaptic under Debian. I'

    • by flurdy (301431)

      Agree, something should change. I blogged about the ubuntu release issues earlier this year: http://blog.flurdy.com/2011/05/ubuntu-releases.html [flurdy.com]

      Currently features that should mature more are released as default to everyone. They are stable but not enough themes, documentation, support tools etc for it to be of mature/professional enough for the average non fanboy user.

      Bleeding edge but stable features should be in monthly releases so that hardcore fans can develop an community of tools, help etc around the

      • by GauteL (29207)

        "They are stable but not enough themes [....] for it to be of mature/professional enough"

        Themes and professionalism are mutually exclusive. For an office workstation, the only thing that matters is a good default one. It is very rare that an "average non fanboy user" gives two shits about themes.

    • Give Xubuntu a try. I decided I didn't want to be a Unity beta-tester with 11.04, and Xubuntu has worked great for me.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Nerdfest (867930)
        Unfortunately, the problem with 11.04 is not just Unity. There is an abundance of memory leaks and many unstable features even when running the 'classic' Gnome desktop. There are many unstable features around it as well. The weather icon crashes after a day or two. Network manager stops being able to disconnect. If I run an rsync to back up my home directory wifi eventually freezes up completely. Xfce looks nice, but I'm not sure how many problems it's actually going to fix. I'm looking at other distros as
    • by mvar (1386987)

      I've been thinking of switching completely to Debian, but the amount of work to get that running right as a modern desktop is daunting. I can do it, I have done it, but for example, to have a modern browser you either have to manually install it bypassing the package management (bad!) or use backports to get modern compiles of iceweasel. Neither is optimal.

      I've been using debian as main desktop for several years & installed it on several systems and not even once did i have to do any "work" to get it running as a modern desktop. Except ofcourse if by "modern desktop" you mean all that fancy compiz-stuff. IMO debian & gnome2 is the way to go if someone needs a stable and practical environment & any issues with outdated software were solved with the backports repository.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jawtheshark (198669) *

        I might not have been clear. I use Ubuntu (LTS) as a fire-and-forget (for three years) installation for non-tech-savvy users (Read: my mom, my mother in law... You know *those* kind of people). Personally, I do manage to run a Debian installation and once you do set it up like you want it, you'll be fine. However, you can't use Debian as a fire-and-forget installation if you want things that people require from their modern day desktops. This is mainly due to the "free-at-all-costs" stance.

        That's fine

    • If you think your LTS starts getting stale, take a look at the various PPAs. For instance you could keep a current stable Firefox (v6 atm), by adding the firefox-stable [launchpad.net] ppa to your Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

      I personally switched to Xubuntu [xubuntu.org] (XFCE) because i don't like gnome3/unity/kde4, had no problems using 11.04.

    • I switched to Mint after a few weeks of 11.04. You should definitely give it a go. It feels even more polished than Ubuntu IMO :)

    • by vtcodger (957785) on Friday September 09, 2011 @07:45AM (#37349926)

      "What I fear, is that the proposed shorter release cycles are going to make Ubuntu break too often. That will turn off users, and they cannot afford to lose even more users after the 11.04 release."

      That's not unreasonable or irrational.

      If you folks will forgive a geezer, I was doing software release management, testing and version control long before most of you were born. I've watched with interest and occasional amusement while you kids have managed to relearn much of what we learned rather painfully in the 1960s. And I'll give you credit. PC software works better than I would have thought possible given the way you approach it. And by "you" I don't mean just Ubuntu, or just open source, Microsoft has quality problems also.

      Nonetheless, I gave up on Ubuntu and its spawn years ago -- mostly because of quality issues. Apt-get is wonderful ... if the stuff that is apt-gotten works. Too often it didn't. It appears to me that the problem is that software gets captured, locked down, and released without adequate testing.

      Anyway, three thoughts:

      1. Rolling releases probably are not a good idea except for really critical fixes. My experience (which I agree may not apply to your world) is that you really, really need to consolidate a release, then test it thoroughly before inflicting it on users.

      2. It is perfectly possible to do releases in parallel with several in different states of production. Developers don't like it. So what? What matters is user experience, not developer inconvenience. But there is a limit to how many parallel products you can keep straight. And it is not a large number.

      3. In the world I worked in, there was a minimum time required to consolidate and test a release. For us, it was 8 weeks. We tried 6 weeks (once) and couldn't do it. Your world is quite different, but I'll bet you have a minimum time also, and it may well be longer than one month.

      • No, carrier pigeons do not count as wifi.

        Currently wifi is the make or break of many a linux install. Laptop builders love to add the latest for no very good reason that barely works under windows, let alone linux.

        Often by the time a new piece of hardware makes it to the consumer a driver will be out there but getting it involves going cutting edge... and then a 8 week test window starts to look bloody long.

        There really is no middle ground unless you want to spend an absolute fortune on release management.

        W

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Wait till everything you want to put into a release is stable and tested and you will be obsolete

          You and I have very different definitions of obsolete. A few months old is not obsolete in my world, hell even a year isn't obsolete.

    • I've been thinking of switching completely to Debian, but the amount of work to get that running right as a modern desktop is daunting. I can do it, I have done it, but for example, to have a modern browser you either have to manually install it bypassing the package management (bad!) or use backports to get modern compiles of iceweasel. Neither is optimal.

      What I fear, is that the proposed shorter release cycles are going to make Ubuntu break too often. That will turn off users, and they cannot afford to lose even more users after the 11.04 release.

      If you find the thought of Debian too daunting (personally I find it a doddle but happy to accept not everyone is the same) perhaps you should look at something like LMDE [linuxmint.com]. It's a rolling distro based on Debian testing but it includes the latest point-releases-disguised-as-full-releases from Mozilla et al. I run it on the "family PC" while my own laptop(s) runs Debian testing. LMDE has yet to break unlike the Kubuntu install it replaced which did so frequently.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Squeeze is pretty damn modern. You'd also be surprised at how modern Centos 6 feels, though it will be nice when Centos 6.1 rolls out and we actually start getting updates again :/

  • Seriously? (Score:2, Funny)

    by DarkHelmet (120004)

    They must be smoking the same crack cocaine that Mozilla is.

    Well, for what it's worth, free drugs may incentivize people to switch to using Linux on the desktop sooner.

    • Mozilla isn't doing more releases, it's just calling them differently. You already had point releases on a regular basis.

  • by subreality (157447) on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:38AM (#37349400)

    Rolling releases are great for devs because it lets you put your new feature into the release cycle when it's ready instead of locking it down in whatever state if you don't want to miss the 6 month cycle.

    The trouble is that this is terrible for users. The 6 month cycle is already a little aggressive (but tolerable) on support forums. Monthly releases would cause so much confusion when you're searching for other people who have experienced your problem.

    Also, how does the support cycle work? Are you going to provide parallel support for 24 releases for two years? If not, do I have to upgrade monthly? I support too many computers for that to be a realistic option.

    • I'd say no support for rolling, support only LTS. With support meaning "backport bug/security fixes to the specific version you deployed" oh, and the actual corporate support of course... With true rolling, as soon as a fix is ready, there is a new version from upstream which would only need to pass the distro requirements (alpha/beta etc) to go in the official repos.

      This might even relieve Canonical from supporting that many releases in a given 2 years time frame (1 instead of 4 + the previous LTS...)

    • What people fail to realise is that having users on versioned distros (as opposed to rolling release) is bad for devs. It means that when you release software you need to make sure that it's compatible with all the versions of all the libraries all the distros are currently on. This means that when QT for instance comes out with a new framework/library/whatever that you need to way AT LEAST 6 months before the major distros are all compatible with it. Look at gnome 3, It's been available for archlinux since
      • by myurr (468709)

        Completely agree. With the decent package managers at our disposal this is also good for the majority of end users - as long as they keep their system up to date. ISO downloads then just become a point in time snapshot of the current repositories.

        The LTS releases also just need to pick a point in time, say every two years, and effectively fork at that point. They'll apply security updates and so on, but they just work on that system from there on in. That way the corporates that are writing their own softwa

      • The easiest / best approach would be to have alpha, beta and release candidate channels, offering various levels of recency and robustness.

        These are all unversioned, and simply update to the latest set of packages available in the each. Then, every 6 / 12 / 18 / whatever months, make the current state of release candidate a versioned release.

      • What people fail to realise is that having users on versioned distros (as opposed to rolling release) is bad for devs.

        Depends on the dev. On my main dev machine I prefer a non rolling release to prevent API changes spoiling my day.

        I've been using a rolling release distro (archlinux) for about a year now and I have encountered a LOT fewer total "breaks" in that year than most individual 6-month updates on ubuntu.

        I wouldn't know... I've got an arch laptop and a SuSE desktop which is well out of support (thou

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        What people fail to realise is that having users on versioned distros (as opposed to rolling release) is bad for devs. It means that when you release software you need to make sure that it's compatible with all the versions of all the libraries all the distros are currently on.

        Yes, it means that the devs have to do their fucking job.

        I myself, am a developer, I know how much work it takes, that doesn't excuse NOT DOING it.

        The problems you're refering to with QT stem from the 'JUST FORK IT!' mentality of Linux in general. Everyone works off on their own with little concern for others. If you guys would learn how to actually write stable software with a stable (and expandable in the future) API, you'd have far less issues integrating things.

        The way it is now, you're just continual

  • If you need faster releases, just use Debian unstable.

    Reminder: "unstable" doesn't mean "crashes often", it means that it's a moving target.
    • by HJED (1304957)
      last five times I tried to use dabian unstable on two different computers it has rendered it unbootable. I often see this claim, but in my experiences that is not reality.
      • So, what did you expect from a Release labeled "Unstable"? He said faster updates/releases, not more stable system.
    • by GauteL (29207)

      This is not the answer. With Debian Unstable, the occasional break seems acceptable. This is at least what it was like when I used Debian Unstable regularly a few years ago. If you wanted something more "stable" the answer was always, "use testing/stable".

      What we are talking about here are rolling releases where breaks are unacceptable. This requires more than just a change of release timings, instead you basically need a different development culture.

      For one thing, the changes you make have to be more care

  • AWESOME! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday September 09, 2011 @05:54AM (#37349464) Homepage

    And each month, please change to a new window manager! And add some new wonderful default settings that are SO MUCH BETTER than whatever some idiot user like me might have customized to what he mistakenly thought fit his needs best! Particularly when it comes to the default internet applications, please reinstall the Evolution mailclient because the last three times I removed it I was obviously being STUPID.

    Oh, and please make sure to break the WiFi and graphics drivers each time, because, you know, dist upgrades are BORING if everything just works out of the box. I really look forward to spending an entire weekend on fixing my broken system every month rather than twice a year!

    • by HJED (1304957)
      I have to agree. I upgraded to 11.04 soon after it came out and very quickly changed back to 10.10 (and on one computer I switched to debian) due to lack of support for multiple screens, boot issues and Unity.
      Recently I have been forced to upgrade, due to needing newer versions of various apps. Whilst it does boot up now and two screens is working (after I reinstalled the nvidia drivers, why do they get removed every upgrade?) it shuts down at random intervals and samba 4 is installed by default which requ
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Bingo. This is not hyperbole. 11.04 did indeed break WiFi and graphics drivers for me, again. I mean, actually regressed. Well, screw that, I'm going to need a whole lot of reassurances before moving beyond 10.04 LTS again. I wonder if we'll look back on that as the XP SP3 of the Ubuntu releases - the best it ever got.
    • by pmontra (738736)

      Yes, that's the only scaring thing about this continuous upgrade proposal: the new undesired features that replace the old ones that "just work".

      The history of my upgrade from 10.10 to 11.04 so far is telling (I keep changes noted down in a wiki to be able to fix/rebuild the system just in case anything goes wrong). Login with the Gnome classic desktop, not Unity, reconfigured compiz, removed some icons from the panel (I have only one panel at the bottom), restored the scrollbars in Nautilus. Run into this

    • by SIGBUS (8236)

      I couldn't have said it better myself, although I haven't had a problem with drivers breaking. Still, it seriously pissed me off when they started screwing with my window buttons, and don't get me started on Unity - or GNOME 3 for that matter. Focus-follows-mouse, HELLO?! Where did you go?!!

      I'm still wondering where I'll go once 10.04 LTS dries up. I'd go back to CentOS, but they've had real trouble keeping up with upstream releases over the last year. At that point, Scientific Linux may be my choice.

    • Maybe the faster and faster upgrade wave is unavoidable. But please at least give us some better tools to downgrade the packages for when things break. It's possible with the apt tools but in a clunky way.

      BTW I rely on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and I'm happy with it. I use it for my work and don't plan to upgrade it until I get some new and really incompatible hardware.

  • If this means that they're going to fix Unity's usability, then I'm all for it. Otherwise, meh.
  • i know! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Friday September 09, 2011 @06:08AM (#37349512) Homepage

    i know what! let's go back to releasing "when it's ready"! that would be great! oh wait... that's what debian do.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday September 09, 2011 @06:31AM (#37349602) Homepage

    Because who is going to work on last month's version? "Oh, just upgrade you'll get all the new fixes." And all the new bugs.

    Bleeding edge is fine for hobbyists, but grown ups? We need a version that's going to start solid and get steadily better.

    • Mozilla should learn from Ubuntu and release a Long Term Support version. Bleeding edge available? Check. Solid and stable version for businesses and less adventures people available? Check.

      Seriously, this is being typed on an Ubuntu LTS version now and it's worked the same since I installed it.

      • by pmontra (738736)
        Good idea, but apparently not in direction Mozilla is heading to. If they'll ever do that, being able to run the bleeding edge and the stable one at the same time would be nice for the developers who have to support customers and don't want to be forced to run it in a VM or having to close the bleeding edge browser with 20+ tabs open.
    • "Bleeding edge is fine for hobbyists, but grown ups? We need a version that's going to start solid and get steadily better."

      And people wonder why people still use windows XP today. It's good enough.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday September 09, 2011 @06:34AM (#37349612) Homepage

    Users can now be confident of always receiving a stable operating system, because of the multiple testing and QA passes each change continually receives. Updates come in monthly, two-weekly or dailyish batches depending where in the main series they chose to run.

    I've heard this before, the alleged continuous testing and QA won't happen. Things that are in change aren't stable, that's why we end up in release cycles to begin with so we can have development periods where we're flexible and testing periods where we stabilize it. The "be everything, all the time" development method doesn't work.

    In theory, this doesn't sound so bad - it sounds like Agile on a 4 week sprint. But in such a project you should have damn good control over your production environment. When you have tons of people using it on tons of configurations then you will break things this way.

    In a distro, the whole thing about gradual changes is a lie anyway. Chances are that every month some package or the other will decide now's the time to make radical changes. It's completely unintuitive to the users what packages made major changes the last month, you just have to test everything each month instead of twice a year.

    If this goes though, then I think by far most people will stick with the LTS releases. Which probably means they'll get too little testing and it'll all go crap. The only point I really agree with if true, is that Ubuntu developers should get a better way to run a project that's not for the next release, but for the one after that.

    • by discord5 (798235)

      If this goes though, then I think by far most people will stick with the LTS releases.

      Goddamnit, how am I supposed to keep up with firefox that way? I don't want to miss out on the next major firefox version increase. The changelog says they've added a new feature nobody cares about!

      • If this goes though, then I think by far most people will stick with the LTS releases.

        Goddamnit, how am I supposed to keep up with firefox that way? I don't want to miss out on the next major firefox version increase. The changelog says they've added a new feature nobody cares about!

        Use the PPA. https://launchpad.net/~mozillateam/+archive/firefox-stable [launchpad.net] There is a PPA for most of the big apps, like FireFox, LibreOffice, Nvidia, Transmission... OK, my repo list looks like a phone book, but that is still better then 11.04.

  • If Ubuntu does this, I will finally be switching to straight up Debian. Cannonical seems obsessed with turning a great Linux platform with the highest visibility into nothing more than Apple Too.
    • by RogerWilco (99615)

      Apple does not have a release schedule. At least not one they communicate and hold themselves rigorously to. That's why sites like Macrumors basically exist by virtue of speculation about when the next product update will happen.
      I also don't see a high release/patch frequency from Apple. If anything you could say they're slow with some things, especially if it needs to react to unplanned events like the DigiNotar issue.

      So I don't understand yout "Apple Too" comment.

  • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@@@eircom...net> on Friday September 09, 2011 @08:10AM (#37350040) Homepage Journal

    THAT'S IT!!! I'm moving to Gentoo!

    • by caluml (551744)
      If only Gentoo had a stable version. By that, I mean something that you could leave for 3 years, only applying GLSAs, and then, when you wanted to install something new, you wouldn't be fucked because there was a new version of Portage, that needed a new version of Python, that wouldn't install for a myriad of other reasons.
      The general consensus is that you have to keep bringing it up to date with all the latest ebuilds every night. And that's a pain.

      I still really like Gentoo though. Especially Hardened
  • Perhaps they could give them useful names, like, stable, unstable and testing. Nobody has thought of that before
  • They need to separate the applications from the OS the way every other operation system does (eg. BSD, OSX, Windows, etc).

    So you have a core system which is just the most basic requirements to run the OS. Kernel, utilities, display, web browser, etc. I would do it like the BSD's where you have a kernel core, x-windows core, etc. No large apps like OpenOffice and all the other crap. Those can and should be installed separately by the user like they do on every other system.

    Then you just maintain and hav

    • by RogerWilco (99615)

      I see two problems with that, both at the core of Linux.
      - Closed source driver support.
      - The Unix/X11 (and thus Linux) kernel model doesn't allow for a high enough level hardware abstraction. So the desktop environments and applications have to do a lot that should be in the core OS.

      • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday September 09, 2011 @10:01AM (#37350950)

        I see two problems with that, both at the core of Linux.
        - Closed source driver support.
        - The Unix/X11 (and thus Linux) kernel model doesn't allow for a high enough level hardware abstraction. So the desktop environments and applications have to do a lot that should be in the core OS.

        Than how does OSX do it? And Solaris? And HP-UX, AIX, and the others I'm too lazy to mention?

        This is an open source problem, not a unix problem. Commercial UNIXes which also use X.org seem to have no problem what so ever.

        It all comes down to who WANTS to do it. OSS will remain second class because no one wants to do the hard work, like testing and making things stable. Everyone wants to just do the new shiney feature.

  • After using Ubuntu for a year, and abandoning it because of their questionable decisions, I just don't see how they could manage doing a rolling release, without having it become a huge pile of interlocking bugs.

    If you want a rolling release that shows how it's done, use Arch Linux...

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