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'Ubuntu Needs a Longer Release Schedule!' - page 2

The Long and the Short of it

  • December 3, 2009
  • By Carla Schroder

Q: The six-month releases seem extremely ambitious. They include package version upgrades and significant changes under the hood, such as new kernels, new drivers, and significant changes to important subsystems like audio, wireless, init, and gosh knows what-all. Does it really make sense to cram all this into six month release intervals?

Jono: I think on the whole it does. There is no doubt that a six-month Ubuntu release cycle is a hugely busy and hectic time, but over the last eleven cycles we have strived to learn how to optimise and squeeze as much juice out of the time we have. Fortunately, much of what we do from one cycle to another is relatively similar: making decisions about what to ship, and integrating those decisions into a consistent system. The primary challenge with six-month cycles are large features that could take more time to implement. To solve this we break those larger

features into multi-cycle plans and work on each chunk in each cycle. To make this easier we have been invested a lot of time and energy into optimized workflows, particularly in the areas of distributed revision control with Bazaar (http://bazaar-vcs.org/), and built right into Launchpad (http://www.launchpad.net/), our primary development environment.

Q: It does seem to me that for a desktop system LTS is pretty long in the tooth after a year, because Linux is advancing and changing faster than ever. Servers can poke along sedately, but the desktop is where it's all happening. Users who depend on distro repos don't have any simple options for installing newer versions of applications if their repos don't have them. One option that LTS users have now is backports, which has its pros and cons. Have you considered going to more of a rolling release, like Debian testing or unstable, and releasing periodic version upgrades throughout the LTS lifecycle?

Jono: Debian does a wonderful job with its regularly updating archives, but I don't think this would be suitable for Ubuntu. Regularly changing archives present complex problems when it comes to integration, testing, bug management and milestoning, and a moving target also makes life more complex for custom engineering for OEMs and netbook builders. We have found that most of our users and customers have their needs met with the current approach because many LTS desktop deployments are on corporate networks which would struggle with an OS refresh every six months for support, training and maintenance reasons. For those who don't have such restrictions (such as home users and business laptops), the six month cycle is typically satisfactory. If users do want unofficial updates post-release, we have our Personal Package Archives (https://www.launchpad.net/+tour/ppa) facility in Launchpad that can allow someone to subscribe to regular updates applications that are built for the current release.

My thanks to Jono for taking the time to answer questions. Anyone with followup questions please email cschroder@internet.com, and I'll see if I can find some answers.

Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "The Book of Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of LinuxPlanet and Linux Today.

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