Let's Discuss Interim Releases (and a Rolling Release)

Jonathan Carter (highvoltage) jonathan at ubuntu.com
Fri Mar 1 14:48:21 UTC 2013

Howdy Stefano

Well, firstly, it's nice to see some action on ubuntu-devel again :)

On 01/03/2013 15:12, Stefano Rivera wrote:
> And we have to ask the question of what advantage Ubuntu is providing
> over Debian, without 6-monthly releases.

I think for the hacker. for the enthusiast, for the people who like to 
build their own stuff whether for fun or profit... not that much really.

But I've come to peace a long time ago that I'm not in the Ubuntu target 
market. I think what Ubuntu provides over Debian, for the users who 
would find it useful is:

  * Longer support cycle (Ubuntu LTS is supported for 5 years,
                          Debian typically for around 3 years)
  * Ability to purchase commercial support from Canonical
  * Packages only in Ubuntu (Unity, etc) (fixable)
  * Services tied in to Ubuntu using non-free products such as
    Ubuntu One and Landscape. (not trivial to get for Debian)
  * Access to a larger repository of non-free software that is
    already properly packaged and integrated (in Debian we don't
    particularly care about that)

There are probably more items, but I think that's the gist of it.

The 6 month release cycle was good for a while, but let's face it, it 
really hasn't been working recently. Most general users can't keep up 
with the upgrades and it ends up a lot of work to sometimes just get 
slightly newer versions of software. From my observations the pros of a 
6 month release cycle no longer outway the cons. I can't say that I 
think the current approach is a good one, but a change certainly seems 

What bothers me more than user loss is developer loss. It's a fact that 
Ubuntu as a community project is currently completely unsustainable. The 
community is just a thin layer on the work that Canonical is doing and 
if Canonical would dissappear (completely hypothetically), then I can't 
see how the project would carry on for long.

Ubuntu is /much/ more of a commercial project that happens to have a 
community rather than a community project with commercial backing, as it 
is often marketed by Canonical. It actually hurts a lot that Canonical 
people in leadership positions completely refuse to acknowledge this at 
all. I don't think that that will help much in terms of solving the 
problem, and that's harder for me to accept than not being in Ubuntu's 
target market by a long shot.

> Ubuntu has a few packages Debian doesn't. Including a desktop
> environment that people seem to complain about a lot.
> Of course, it would also be nice to see most of those in Debian
> eventually. Ubuntu would benefit from that too.

I think this will pick up a bit after Jessie is opened up properly. I 
remember seeing a few messages a while back saying that a few libraries 
in Unity are being deprecated that should make it a /lot/ easier to 
package on other systems.

> If we are finding that our non-LTS releases aren't stable enough, and
> people are using the LTSs, what makes us think we can get a significant
> userbase onto a rolling release that's less polished than our existing
> releases?

Would it be a goal to have users use the rolling releases? I can't 
remember seeing that mentioned before in my catching up of the list.

> Dare I ask what happens when we approach the next LTS? Does the rolling
> release freeze? From our current plans, I'd guess so.
> Isn't that exactly what people who like rolling releases want to avoid?
> The "debian-testing is frozen" problem?

It would be interesting to see what happens to 13.04 users, they 
wouldn't have an upgrade path to 14.04 if there are no releases in 
between. I guess they'll either have to be told "sorry, too bad" or 
14.04 would have to be upgradeable from 12.04 and 13.04 (yikes).

> I have a hard time seeing huge benefits for our users, from a rolling
> release. I only see the benefits for developers like us, and a reduction
> in stable-support manpower.

I can see a benefit in having normal users on lts releases only. It will 
make packaging of 3rd party apps that go into repositories such as 
'extras' a lot easier and faster. That's assuming that those wouldn't be 
available in the rolling release though. Otherwise it would probably be 
even worse than what we have now :)


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