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'Ubuntu Needs a Longer Release Schedule!'

The Long and the Short of it

  • December 3, 2009
  • By Carla Schroder

The popular Ubuntu Linux's six-month release schedule keeps it in the public eye; every release is greeted with a barrage of news, reviews, praise, and complaints. It seems the last few releases have generated an increasing number of cries for longer release schedules, that six months is too short and results in too many bugs.

Mark Shuttleworth discussed at length the importance and benefits of a short release cycle in his Linuxcon keynote: it generates excitement and keeps contributors motivated. And it follows the long-standing principles of "many eyes make all bugs shallow" and "release early, release often."

Ubuntu has a dual release cycle: every six months a new alliterative critter is loosed upon the world, and the Long-Term Support (LTS) releases occur every two years. I poked around Ubuntu.com looking for more information on Ubuntu's release cycles and didn't find much in the way of explanations and what users should expect. The Ubuntu Release Cycle contains release schedules, and Maintenance policy and life-cycle: Ubuntu Server Edition details the server edition.

A search for "release cycles" on Ubuntu.com returns a number of discussions proposing an annual release instead of six months; proponents of an annual release believe the six-month releases are too buggy and want more pre-release testing.

More Opinions Than People

As with all things Linux all of this debating is fun and entertaining, but not always conclusive. So I decided to go to the source and ask Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Manager, to explain the Ubuntu release cycle and clarify some of the whys and wherefores.

Q: First of all, why the dual release cycle, LTS and the six-month releases? What the rationale behind this schedule?

Jono: In essence, we have one release cycle which last six months, but approximately every two years (every four release cycles) we release a Long Term Support (LTS) edition. The reason we do this is to meet the varying needs of our users and customers. Some people love the fact that they get that a fresh, new Ubuntu which showcases much of the best of breed in Open Source, every six months. Our community works really hard to never release late, unlike Microsoft and Apple, and this dependable release schedule has been very popular with our users. On the other hand, we realize that some of our users and customers are unable or unwilling to deploy upgrades every six months, and a more traditional two-year release cycle is more appropriate. So far this approach has been popular with both types of Ubuntu user.

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