#1 Complaint about Ubuntu: Updates break things

Alberto Milone albertomilone at ubuntu.com
Sat Dec 20 09:29:47 GMT 2008

On Friday 19 December 2008 21:09:01 Cody A.W. Somerville wrote:
> For example, I remember one time an update to the nvidia binary blob
> drivers caused the xserver to fail to start in certain cases. It didn't
> affect the *right* people or *enough* people for it to get the attention it
> deserved. I asked someone about it because I did happen to hear about it
> from one of my friends who I converted to Ubuntu and was told that by
> whoever uploaded it that they had heard about cases where that was
> occurring but there were no plans for remedial action.
> Pushing updates to -updates is so much riskier than people realize due to
> the massively different amount of QA resources invested in -updates
> compared to testing the development release. Often times, breakages only
> affect a subset of people using Ubuntu or it causes a problem and a lot of
> folks are savy enough to work around it or know someone who is. However,
> people get fed up and tired of having to fix things after updates and turn
> away from Ubuntu; an undesirable conclusion to say the least.

As regards the Nvidia binary drivers, I agree with Bryce. There's very little 
QA the SRU team can do apart from checking the packaging and from reading the 
feedback that the packages receive when they are in -proposed.

I am aware of the fact that with every update there's a risk of regressions 
for specific hardware configurations (i.e. not only the graphics card but also 
the BIOS, etc.) therefore I would like to propose using -backports instead of 
SRUs to update binary drivers in stable releases. This means that users won't 
get new releases of the drivers unless they enable the backports and therefore 
they will be (by default) less exposed to regressions. SRUs should be used 
when there's a bug in the packaging or when there's a known security flaw in 
the driver (this could cause regressions too as we couldn't separate the 
security fix from other changes in the driver).

This approach has at least one drawback though. Do we really want users to 
keep the backports enabled all the time? It would be nice if users had an easy 
way to tell Update Manager to update only binary graphics drivers from the 
backports as I'm convinced that many users want a stable environment (i.e. no 
other backported packages) with extended hardware support (e.g for the latest 
card models) or with increased performance or simply with bugfixes in the 
graphics driver.

What do you think?


Alberto Milone
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