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Operating Systems Software Linux

Linux Distributions' Tracking of Upstream Projects Examined 132

An anonymous reader writes "Linux distributions track upstream projects, releasing a particular version with each official release. But how far behind the latest versions do these releases linger? Scott Shawcroft did an interesting new study into this relationship between distributions and upstream projects. Shawcroft says: 'Over the last 10 months I've been working on Linux evolution research. Similar to distrowatch, I track the current versions of packages in a number of distributions and the current upstream version. Based on that data I then graph a number of metrics to understand the relationship between upstream and downstream.' His presentation on the topic scheduled for [this] week's open source convention, OSCON, should provide an interesting insight into that relationship. Currently he is tracking 20 projects including the Linux kernel, Firefox, GCC, OpenSSH and GNOME on Arch, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, openSUSE, Sabayon, Slackware, and Ubuntu."
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Linux Distributions' Tracking of Upstream Projects Examined

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  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:35PM (#28760549)

    I run Debian you insensitive clod!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:37PM (#28760569)

    In Debian, all software in the repositories is frozen when a release is cut (e.g. Lenny). Only security updates are applied. If the author is going for accuracy, he should track Debian Testing, which gets updated frequently with new releases of various packages. The name "testing" is somewhat misleading. Packages in testing are considered stable enough for everyday use. The stable branch is intended to minimize updates, which is what you'd want for servers.

    • As an alternative, Debian could fix their release process (they still consider critical bugs of almost unknow and barely used packages as release-critical bugs that can stop the release of widely used and know packages with no critical bugs?).

      • by foom ( 29095 )

        (they still consider critical bugs of almost unknow and barely used packages as release-critical bugs that can stop the release of widely used and know packages with no critical bugs?).

        Not true. Unfixed release-critical bugs in unknown and barely used packages result in the package being removed from the release, not the release being delayed.

      • by Sparr0 ( 451780 )

        There is nothing wrong with Debian's release process. The problem lies with release-centric management that refuses to install packages from Debian testing. Debian testing is, in my long and varied desktop experience, more stable than Ubuntu (with a 6 month release cycle mostly based on Debian testing) AND more up to date. For any usage except a mission critical server, I would recommend Debian testing over Debian stable.

        • (with a 6 month release cycle mostly based on Debian testing)

          Ubuntu's upstream is sid, not testing.

          • by Sparr0 ( 451780 )

            Technically true, but from what I have seen there is more lag in the Ubuntu release cycle than the average unstable->testing transition for Debian. Which means that, on average, that Ubuntu packages are already in Debian testing by the time they are released as part of Ubuntu.

    • But Ubuntu doesn't offer many recent app versions (like Firefox 3.5) for an OS that is merely 18 months old. You have to be fairly expert to do the upgrades yourself, downloading and resolving dependencies or finding a source for backports... and both options are often pretty unsatisfactory even to those of us with the know-how (lack of proper testing, subtly botched compiler and integration options, packages that cause headaches on subsequent system updates, etc.).

      In the case of upgrading Firefox, you must

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Are you kidding? Are you confusing Debian and Ubuntu?

        Installing the newer Firefox (3.5) from repositories was not a problem.

        Installing the newer Firefox was also not a problem from the tarball (just untar and run).

        Stuff like "backports" are a part of the standard set of repositories.

        Using discrete packages is also pretty easy (skype) as are discrete installers (penumbra,vmware,oracle,word perfect).

        The WHOLE POINT of debian (and children) is the fact that dependencies are automatically dealt with.

        apt-get eve

        • Installing the newer Firefox (3.5) from repositories was not a problem.

          Excuse you, but:
          * Renaming the browser to "Shiretoko" is a problem
          * Nor is the icon recognizable to a Firefox user
          * Not having it replace 3.0 (and having it run in tandem with 3.0) is a problem
          * Pulling in most of the Gnome desktop on a KDE system is a problem
          * If you're on a netbook or similarly space-constrained system, having the whole .mozilla folder duplicated might not be the best idea, depending on what extensions are being used. Likewise, a user that is uncertain about the tandem Firefoxes might los

  • Potayto potahto (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:39PM (#28760601)
    Labeling the column "%Obsolete" is one way to look at it, sure. Or we could go with 1/X and call it "%NotBleedingEdge". Seriously, the distro maintainers are also looking at their own build packages, compatibility with other packages, internal documentation, etc. Just because the KOffice team (for example) decides to lose monolithic builds and go with package builds, doesn't mean that it doesn't make a hell of a lot of work for the downstream maintainers, and that only starts after the upstream guys release.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      To those with more dollars than sense, %NotBleedingEdge == %Obsolete.

    • Re:Potayto potahto (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Burz ( 138833 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:26PM (#28762285) Journal

      And all of that work should be done by the application authors, not people who work on the OS who don't know what they are doing. I repeat: Ability to work on an operating system doesn't mean you know squat about sanely-coded and presented applications.

      This dynamic is why Firefox on FOSS systems is slow and feature-poor: A party that can't possibly take responsibility for all the apps being offered is inserting themselves between the application users and the authors, degrading what is otherwise a top-notch effort (Firefox).

      Think about that the next time radio buttons disappear after selecting (only on Linux Firefox for years), self-update keeps prompting when it couldn't even work, users are urged to "get the latest!" while they are forced to wait weeks (or forever) after their Mac and PC colleagues have upgraded, and when you click on a link and get prompted to "select application" to open with... and the dialog doesn't show applications but the Unix filesystem instead.

      Self-updating applications is an application feature, not an OS feature. People need approachable ways to install new and updated apps on OSes that are older than a few months! No one should be forced to the bleeding edge of OS releases every 6 months just to upgrade their apps.

      It all speaks of an OS that isn't feature-stable enough to give app developers a chance to properly target and integrate with the system. This problem of poor testing and integration arising from poor targetability is repeated over the whole spectrum of available applications.

      Stop releasing every 6 months and get the distro managers out of the applications.

      PS- I would also like to state what a POS the Slashdot editor has become.

      • Re:Potayto potahto (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:08PM (#28764537) Homepage

        Distro/package maintainers tend to be the only thing keeping Linux sane with the endless dependencies on libraries that again rely on other libraries with turtles all the way down. It's might work poorly for the five applications that are basically big enough to roll their own framework but for all the Gnome/KDE apps that would be just terrible.

        I don't know why firefox is bugging me but my guess it's because the developers are lazy... there's a little perl app called apt-show-versions:

        kjella@kjella-desktop:~$ apt-show-versions firefox
        firefox/jaunty-security uptodate 3.0.11+build2+nobinonly-0ubuntu0.9.04.1

        See that? It is up to date, and stop bloody bugging me about it. I'm sure the same could be done with an #ifdef LINUX and a few lines in C if anyone would bother, it doesn't even take a sudo. Do you know that when I go in Opera, right-click a file in the transfer window I do get a list of my Linux applications to open it with? They got sub-percent market share and do it right, but Firefox can't be arsed to do it. Why should I think it's the maintainer's fault when the developers can't be arsed to do the things they can do? Face it, Linux is maybe 5% of the total Firefox userbase now and we're getting the same shit we are with closed source apps.

        • by kigrwik ( 462930 )

          there's a little perl app called apt-show-versions:

          There is also apt-cache policy *packagename* which is mighty useful when tracking several Debian branches (e.g. unstable+experimental).

        • by Burz ( 138833 )

          Dude, the current version of Firefox is 3.5, not 3.0.11+build2+nobinonly-0ubuntu0.9.04.1.barf.barf.barf.

          This is so pathetic. And no, your package manager + repo didn't even do a half-assed job.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Pastis ( 145655 )

        It's not because you're used to another paradigm that the Linux distribution one isn't appreciated by other people

        Releasing every 6 months allows me to get new _system features_, not new apps. Most of the time I already got the apps I need thanks to appropriate sources. It's easy to add sources for the few things you might want to keep bleeding edge, e.g. browser, chat, office? The rest I am happy to have it stable.

        But most of the time, I don't have a need to upgrade an application. And every 6 months I am

        • by Burz ( 138833 )

          Think installing newer MS Office screws up your IE, or the other way around.

          Not on a Mac it won't. But why bother yourself with the gold standard for the desktop when MS's poor engineering can be used as an excuse for poor engineering in FOSS.

  • fair comparison ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ( 1036494 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:39PM (#28760603)
    I am not sure if it is fair to compare Ubuntu Jaunty with Fedora, IIRC RHEL is a stable release so is Ubuntu Jaunty, and fedora is more like a dev release that tracks upstream closely. Similarly, Ubuntu Karmic is the dev version that tracks upstream closely before a stable cut of it is released. So probably comparing fedora to Ubuntu Karmic is a fair comparison.
    • by migla ( 1099771 )

      ...on the other hand, maybe it would not be fair to compare karmic current stability with that of a released fedora?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pembo13 ( 770295 )

      Fedora is not a dev release.

      • by Rhys ( 96510 )

        Not to mention Jaunty isn't a LTS release, so you can't really compare it to RHEL for long-term stable releases.

        I've run most of the top of that list. I liked arch, but at the moment I'm much happier with Ubuntu. Install once, most things I need are there so I don't have to dork around with trying to install the packages I need and make gnome integrate everything, etc...

    • I think that Ubuntu contains a lot of Debian Testing and even some Debian Unstable packages. Perhaps Ubuntu is to Debian as Fedora is to RHEL? Or, maybe Ubuntu is to Ubuntu LTS as Fedora is to RHEL?

      Either way, comparing Ubuntu and Fedora is a pretty good comparison to me. Both Fedora and Ubuntu claim to be stable and for mass consumption by the end user.
    • by Otto ( 17870 )

      Fedora isn't a dev release. Fedora-11 is the stable track. Fedora-devel is the development track. [] - Stable [] - Development

      Comparison to Jaunty is perfectly valid, as Jaunty is kept up to date with "stable" packages from time to time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Who wants fair? There was plenty missing here, for example RHEL, SLES, Ubuntu LTS and Debian are probably in the same class but only Debian was in the survey. This was more like a sample with a spread, showing the spread between bleeding edge distros and stable distros. That said, my impression is that they picked a very round-about way of figuring out the age. Ubuntu has a release every six months, so the average age is close to 6mo/2 = ~13 weeks. Debian has 18 months, so 18mo/2 = ~39 weeks. Unless you're

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by TanNewt ( 794064 )
        Scott here, yeah there is a lot more analysis to do besides what is on the front page. See my thesis [] for more details on the underlying data and email me analysis ideas.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by TanNewt ( 794064 )
        Scott here. There are definitely better metrics we can derive from the underlying data. See my thesis [] for more details and email me your ideas.
    • I was a long term ubuntu users, but im now on Fedora11 and its perecty...*no carrier*

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:50PM (#28760759)
    He fails to see that even the upgrading of a simple component like a library can cause all sorts of dependency issues. Not to mention that most distros follow a pattern of release, security updates, release where during the release is the only main changes in packages. This makes it a whole lot easier for maintainers to make sure nothing breaks.

    Its no surprise that Arch makes it to the top being a rolling distro, that is, one that doesn't have "releases" like Ubuntu, Debian, etc. but rather upgrades the packages as it goes along. Similarly, Fedora and Ubuntu tend to release pretty often, Ubuntu releases every 6 months and Fedora releases pretty fast. Gentoo/Funtoo are very similar to Arch. Sabyon, Slackware, Debian and SuSE don't release new versions very often. I also find it odd that they are testing Debian stable rather than testing or unstable.
    • I also find it odd that they are testing Debian stable rather than testing or unstable.

      Technically, they're also testing Arch Stable, Fedora Stable, Ubuntu Stable, etc. You can't make a direct comparison if you're tipping the stakes in the direction of your favorite distribution.

      • Sure, but its similarly unfair to say that Debian is 95% obsolete. To say that is to imply that either they have stopped work on it, or it isn't being actively maintained.
        • It's perfectly fair to point out that, if you're using the stable version of Debian (which is what you should be using for any production purposes), you won't be using the most up-to-date version of most of the software you're using. Debian is, relative to other distros, very slow to incorporate updates into their stable version.

          Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of debate, but the only thing that I think is unfair is using the word "obsolete".

          • by vlm ( 69642 )

            Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of debate, but the only thing that I think is unfair is using the word "obsolete".

            How could it be anything other than a good thing, since the only difference between Debian stable, Debian testing, and Debian unstable, is how long they have been tested and "seasoned", and everyone in the past whom ever selected stable, selected it because it is the most seasoned and tested distribution around? The stable users would rightly be mighty annoyed if we started randomly uploading stuff directly into stable without any testing and seasoning, rather than unstable.

            Its like complaining bud-lite is

            • by Otto ( 17870 )

              Whether it's "good" or not depends on your end goals.

              Yes, if I'm running a server, I want rock-hard stability. Latest version, don't need it unless it has security patches.

              For my day-to-day usage and development machine, I'm okay with bleeding edge stuff from time to time. If it crashes, meh, I can back up a version or two.

              Different uses, different desires. Having to wait for FireFox (IceWeasel, whatever) 3.5 for months after release on my box is unacceptable. Building it myself is certainly possible, but j

              • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

                The simple point is that he should have classed Debian Stable and Debian Unstable as separate distributions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Yeah my take on it is 95% of Debian has been around for a while and
          has been field tested so it's probably a good fit for that mission
          critical server your about to build.

          I don't need the latest and greatest most of the time, just something
          that I know, with confidence, will work well for a particular purpose.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by vlm ( 69642 )

          The mystifying part of his calculation is that Debian Lenny was frozen exactly 51 weeks ago on Jul 27th 2008.


          Yet, somehow, the "average lag" for Debian Lenny is a mere 40 weeks, when it should approach 51 weeks as of today... I do not believe there have been THAT many security related patches, have there?

          Also obsolete is the wrong word. By the definition, "No longer in use" it obviously fails by the definition of being included in the dis

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by TanNewt ( 794064 )
            Scott here. This is not necessarily true. The lag is the time since the oldest new release. So for it to approach 51 weeks each project would have had to release a newer version upstream immediately after the lenny freeze. Email me and we can look further into this.
          • I agree, using "obsolete" is bordering on flamebait. And the meaning of these figures are unclear; at a first guess, I'd think "% obsolete" meant "percentage of programs with a newer upstream version", but then how a figure of 78.94% come about when the sample size is 20 packages? I can't figure out what "Avg # New Rels" means at all, or over what sort of time period.

    • by godrik ( 1287354 )

      The notion of obsolenece is also quite strange. Some software can be released but should not be used. I am thinking KDE 4.0 which was completely broken. I also recal gnuplot 4.0 that brings a lot a regression. regression in the kernel are also common due to driver which are not yet ported.

      All in all, I am not sure being close to the upstream is a good property for a distribution. Providing a coherent user experience is probably different from being up to date. Of course, it does not stand true for security

    • by xlotlu ( 1395639 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:51PM (#28761753)

      Its no surprise that Arch makes it to the top being a rolling distro, that is, one that doesn't have "releases" like Ubuntu, Debian, etc.

      I run Debian testing []. It's very much a rolling release, and you're somewhat protected against obvious bugs by the nice policy. Of course, you can get more rolling than that and go full unstable. And throw in some experimental if you're feeling brave.

      The nice thing is you can mix-and-match. Most of my packages are testing, some are unstable, and right now i have a touch of experimental. With some APT pinning, you get a rolling release where you can decide per-package how bleeding edge you want to be.

      This is my laptop/desktop. For servers I mostly stick to stable, and if i really need a newer package I can pin it from testing, or look for it on

    • by ignavus ( 213578 )

      The issue with Debian is complex. At work, we use Debian testing for desktops in the IT section, but Debian stable for servers.

      With developer desktops, a little occasional instability is no huge problem - you want to test the next generation of your software (e.g. the latest Apache, PHP, database, etc).

      On your production servers you want stability, even if that means running older releases. Your production servers are not the place to run beta software. And you want long uptimes on your servers (uptime on d

  • Tracking the projects is one thing. Testing and integration by the top-level distributions can take some time, and it'd defeat the purpose of using them if they didn't take the time to smooth out bumps of using a bunch of different packages together.

    To me, a more interesting question is how far behind do the second and third tier distributions that source from Arch, Red Hat, Fedora, Mandriva, Debian, OpenSuse, Ubuntu, Slackware, and Puppy lag behind? Obviously with Yellow Dog, White Box, CentOS, PCLinux OS,

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TanNewt ( 794064 )
      This research is ongoing. Email me (on the website) and we can add code to collect data from more distros.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Some distros (notably Slackware, Mandriva, and Sabayon themselves) went from being based on other distros and started at some point doing the package integrations themselves.

      I could be wrong, but I believe Sabayon still uses portage and the Gentoo portage repository directly. They potentially have their own packages in their overlay, but AFAIK you can't really say they do the package integrations themselves. They still very much rely on upstream Gentoo.

      • That's a special case, then, if they use the same portage repositories as Gentoo for all but their distribution-specific files. That means the packages the Sabayon team puts together are the only ones they have to worry about so long as they don't break portage. Any lag from the individual projects to Sabayon for most packages would then be only what Gentoo users would get anyway.

        Barry Kauler (the guy behind Puppy) has always worked hard on the automated rebuilding of the distro, including remastering a Pup

  • I'd be more interested in seeing the statistics for older versions of distributions to see which age best, because I've been running into this problem with Ubuntu Hardy (8.04 LTS) for months now. I don't have the time or the inclination to upgrade my OS every 6 months, but even the LTS release of Ubuntu doesn't get major version upgrades for some packages I end up using a lot. PulseAudio hasn't been updated from the March 2008 version (0.9.10), which likes to crash randomly several times a week. Pidgin. Gi
    • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:30PM (#28761417)

      I don't know about those distributions, but I backport packages from Fedora to RHEL frequently. It's simple, really: just grab the fedora srpm and run rpmbuild on it. Most of the time, it'll work fine. Occasionally, you might need to adjust the spec file to accommodate some slight differences, but it's not a big deal. You end up with a package that integrates nicely with the package manager, satisfies dependencies in the normal way, and so on.

      Also, I'm not sure why the parent is moderated flamebait. It's a legitimate to want to run a stable distribution, but use later versions of particular packages.

    • by andr386 ( 703803 )
      Obviously Ubuntu 8.04 LTS is not for you. I am currently using it on all of my server. It's not my choice. But it's working really well. Indeed, If anny issues arise I always find the support I need on the internet. I understand one want's something else on one's desktop. And actually I really enjoy tasting many "edge" distro on the desktop. But for my servers I want something as stable and as supported as possible. Ubuntu is a good middleground for the IT people I work with, and Ubuntu, CentOS or RHEL w
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TanNewt ( 794064 )
      Scott here. Yeah, there is data for older distributions, its just not on the front page. Look in the OSCON slides [] or my thesis [].
  • The comparison in the article is on how quickly the most recent upstream version is incorporated into the distro. As a user I care more about whether bug fixes and new features are incorporated, regardless of upstream version. For example, RHEL may backport new features or drivers into old kernels. Or Fedora may incorporate a bug fix into their perl release without replacing the entire Perl source code. I imagine that other distros do this as well.
    • No, there were some pretty graphs but generally it said very little about distro upstream interaction. The comments ,which sometimes provide insight round here, where additionally bleak talking only about release schedules and squabbling over who's distro has the newest penis!

  • Maybe it's because I'm coming from the Windows world, but since I started using Ubuntu full-time for a year now, the package management and method of keeping software update has been one of my biggest complaints.

    Don't get me wrong, I *do* like the general idea of package management. It is nice to have the OS take care of keeping everything up to date, and having it Just Work. But there are a handful of software I use every day, (Firefox, Filezilla, Pidgin, Deluge come to mind) that I want to always hav
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      But there are a handful of software I use every day, (Firefox, Filezilla, Pidgin, Deluge come to mind) that I want to always have the latest released version - and on Ubuntu that is a pain in the ass.

      Sounds like you're way down the distribution food chain and want to move up. My advice is let the other folks in the food chain do all the debugging for you unless there is some desperate genuine need to have it now. But if you enjoy the pain:

      1) Ubuntu is just a derivative repack of Debian. Move upstream to Debian.

      2) Sounds like you're using the equivalent of Debian stable or Debian testing. Move upstream to testing, or unstable.

      But first consider the difference between "i want" and "i need". Somebody

      • I realize that, but I guess my point is that I only want to be on the bleeding edge / latest release for a few select programs. I don't want *all* testing releases in the repo, I just want the select few that I use regularly. Why should I be able to use the latest Firefox (3.5 or nightly or beta or whathave you) on Windows, heck I can use it on Ubuntu without a problem, I just have to jump through a ton of hoops, or I have to wait 6 months until the next distro release? IME, there's been relatively littl
        • by StopKoolaidPoliticsT ( 1010439 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:39PM (#28762453)
          Then use a different distro that has the flexibility you want. I use Gentoo myself and while most of my system is stable, I have about 70 packages set to use the latest versions of (gcc, the kernel, nvidia drivers, pidgin, etc). It's easy with Gentoo since all of that is compiled against the libraries which exist on your system. On binary distros, there can be incompatibilities between library versions (especially as you start adding more and more unstable packages to the mix), so it's hard to keep just a few packages up to date.

          In fact, it was that very problem which originally caused me to drop RedHat Linux back in the late 90s and go to compiling everything from scratch (I then migrated to Gentoo to automate things). And despite the memes, it doesn't take nearly as long to compile everything on modern hardware as some would have you believe. A full rebuild of my system takes about 24 hours (AMD64 X2 4400+, 1002 packages installed), but I do that maybe once a year. It usually amounts to 10-20 minutes a day.
          • And despite the memes, it doesn't take nearly as long to compile everything on modern hardware as some would have you believe. A full rebuild of my system takes about 24 hours (AMD64 X2 4400+, 1002 packages installed), but I do that maybe once a year. It usually amounts to 10-20 minutes a day.

            More importantly, that's 10-20 minutes (or 24 hours) of unattended installation -- only the computer is busy, not you.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Locklin ( 1074657 )

          There are PPA repositories for those masochistic enough to want to work with nightly builds. For instance the following repo has nightly builds of Firefox.

          deb [] jaunty main
          deb-src [] jaunty main

          It's also possible to add Debian unstable or testing to your repositories, but set the preferred distribution to Jaunty (Package>Preferences>Distribution in synaptic). Then you can selectively install ce

        • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

          I realize that, but I guess my point is that I only want to be on the bleeding edge / latest release for a few select programs.

          You want Gentoo. Build a stable system and then unmask the particular packages that you want to get a new version of. Then let your system rebuild them. If you want bleeding edge, then you can set free some of the packages that have been hard masked. But do so at your own risk. Regardless, it's Gentoo that you want.

      • by petrus4 ( 213815 )

        1) Ubuntu is just a derivative repack of Debian. Move upstream to Debian.

        2) Sounds like you're using the equivalent of Debian stable or Debian testing. Move upstream to testing, or unstable.

        Or get rid of Debian and install a distro which doesn't cause you to want to kill someone or break something every five minutes.

        - Non-sane defaults. Vim's Debian conf is ok, but that's about the only app I've used where that has been the case. I've re-written or scrapped the dotfiles for virtually every other Debian c

    • by MaerD ( 954222 )
      I might get labeled as flamebait for this one, but:

      If you don't like the update/package management, maybe you should try a different distro with a different package management?
      I'd personally suggest an rpm based distro like Fedora or Suse. I've used both .deb based and .rpm based and find that I much prefer rpm. Some people like .deb much better, but I find that Fedora and Suse were easier to maintain.

      Yes, it's still possible to get into dependency hell, but lately I've been able to find yum reposit
    • You are probably looking for PPAs on Ubuntu. They are "personal" repositories that users or sometimes communities/distros create to give users bleeding-edge stuff. I understand that your comment about Firefox was an example, but there is an easy fix. In jaunty (9.04), install firefox-3.5 that will get you updated to the most current version. It had the betas and even updated to firefox 3.5.1 the day it was released.
      I have a PPA enabled so I could get KDE 4.2.4, and they are really great because I don't want

    • by Otto ( 17870 )

      All major distros have development tracks. If you want the absolute latest and greatest of some software packages, switch them over to the development versions. How to do this varies depending on your distro, of course. I think Ubuntu separates them out into "Proposed" and such.

      Of course, things might break, but then that's what would you'd expect to happen anyway with the bleeding edge.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by godrik ( 1287354 )

      The point in ubuntu is being always a couple of months late. You probably want to use a more up to date distribution such as debian unstable (note: unstable does not mean will crash after a reboot, just that they may contain bug).

      it is also possible to keep a mixed system, that is to say, use mainly debian stable but borrow some packages from unstable. It uses teh preferences options of APT and you can find information on the debian website []


    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's brain dead easy on Windows to try beta software, and uninstall it if it breaks something. What am I missing on Linux?

      seriously in a worst-case scenario linux package management becomes the same as windows package managment (you install and maintain all versions yourself).

      that I want to always have the latest released version

      You are on the wrong disto then,
      If you want the latest version of everything, you definetly want a rolling release distro (sid/arch) of those if you want cutting edge i suggest arch.
      If you just want the latest stable version of a few apps, then: /opt and maintaining them yourself (as you would under windows)
      AUR, PPA, (other people compile them and hos

  • Obsolete vs Stable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:33PM (#28761465)

    While the charts are quite nice to look at, they really aren't that meaningful.

    Ex 1: Debian stable has 95% obsolete packages according to his metrics. For
    a rolling release distro that wants to be bleeding edge like eg arch this might
    be a bad indication. For a distribution that focuses on stability (like debian
    does) this is an (important) design descission. They promise to be rock
    solid and they guarantee that no feature changes occur during the support
    cycle, and thats exactly what they deliver.
    Ex 2: Suse is shown to have some 95% outdated packages. What he doesn't
    seem to consider is the fact that they do a lot of backporting, especially
    in the kde area (kdebase is one of the packages he uses for his analysis).
    A Suse version of kde that might seem outdated based on the package
    number will probably contain a great number of backported improvements.
    Another point that I think would be pretty interesting would be security
    updates. Not using the latest major release doesn't mean that you don't
    have a great security response time (or the other way around). Maybe
    he'd be able to track this as well, would be pretty interesting for those
    of us who have to rely on stable, tested and secure systems.
    Anyway, nice thing he started there. If he manages to get some more
    metrics this might become a very powerful tool.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TanNewt ( 794064 )
      Scott here. You are totally right. These are all holes I'm aware of in the analysis. However, the problem gets much more difficult if you start considering patches and general stability. I don't deal with that because the problem already needs much more work. However, in the future, I'd be willing to explore other metrics. Email me to help out.
  • by VincenzoRomano ( 881055 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:41PM (#28761579) Homepage Journal
    Balancing conservative and progressive approaches in ditributions is not as easy task at all.
    You can jump up a version or two of a package/project (firefox, gcc, kdebase?) and you end up collecting complaints.
    You can miss a version upgrade(linux, postgresql, xorg?) and you and up collecting even more complaints.
    Whoever talks about "major version bumps" and ".0 versions" is missing the real point: the need to care about features, reliability and effectiveness.
    Version numbers and names are just that: numbers and names. A v0.13 of a package can provide better overall results than a v4.2 of a competitor. And the step from 1.2 to 1.3 can provide much more advances than a 8.10 to 9.04!
    Distribution managers should thoroughly test in first person the forthcoming releases (alphas, betas, RCs ...). The people who use Linux for fun a hour or two a day have different feelings and needs than those who chose Linux for work 6 to 10 hours a day!
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Distribution managers should thoroughly test in first person the forthcoming releases (alphas, betas, RCs ...)

      For what, anecdotal evidence and "works4me" tags? Don't get me wrong, it's very important to do QA but I hope the person(s) responsible pulling together thousands of packages to make a distro got better things to do than play QA peon. Things like making sure packages aren't broken, exceptions to freeze windows, what to do with release-critical bugs whether it\s downgrade, upgrade (if upstream has fixed it), delay, release anyway or just pray for a solution and basicly administer the whole thing. If it lacks

  • Centos is arguably the biggest used "upstream distro" out there... and it's not even listed!!
    What gives?


  • gentoo (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:38PM (#28762447)

    I think labeling gentoo at 75% obsolete is rather crazy. gentoo gives you the choice between the stable, and the latest and greatest, and they can be mixed too. I got the newest kernel just days after it was released, no problem at all.

    • by lannocc ( 568669 )
      If I had points I would mod you informative. I use Gentoo as well, and it is very quick getting upstream changes into the system. The benefit of Gentoo is the packages go through a sort of "testing" period before they get marked stable (e.g. ~x86 to x86), you can always pull packages marked as testing if you want. Not to mention that there is a version for many packages that will pull straight off the upstream version control system and compile the latest, and greatest, anytime you want, all managed with a
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TanNewt ( 794064 )
      Scott here. You are right but I consider unstable keyworded packages as the "future" version of Gentoo. See the website again for the metrics on it.
  • Slackware has the slackware-current branch, where everything is upgraded very often and bug reports are accepted in order to vet the next stable release. If there is a security problem, it will be corrected in the stable releases. I'm sure all the other distros have something similar.
  • There's a problem with Python in there. You shouldn't consider Python 3 as a newer version of Python 2, as it was in LAMPPP. If anything, you should consider Python 2 and Python 3 as separate projects, making it LAMPPPP.

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad