Thursday, November 5, 2009

Managing your Ubuntu - every release or LTS?

If you are new to Ubuntu then you may not yet have thought about how
to go about upgrading to the next version.



If you have installed Ubuntu yourself (rather than it coming preinstalled) then you need to be aware of this screen:


This screen is particular to Linux/Ubuntu (other non-Linux systems are unlikely to offer 'free upgrades' with no trial period or catches)

As an Ubuntu user you should only press the 'Upgrade' button at the top if that is really what you want to do.
If not then 'Install Updates' and keep running the Ubuntu version you are on.

If you are choosing to stay where you are Ubuntuwise for now, then you are able to stop that 'Upgrade' button from appearing on the screen as follows:

Press the 'Settings...' button and alter the section 'Release Upgrade' in there
...or...
(for command line folks)
cat /etc/update-manager/release-upgrades


...read from the following...
# default prompting behavior, valid options:
#  never  - never prompt for a new distribution version
#  normal - prompt if a new version of the distribution is available
#  lts    - prompt only if a LTS version of the distribution is available

...set
Prompt=never
...or whatever your preference is using an editor.

I now begin a discussion about some future choices regarding upgrades, by using a couple of example systems.
(If you came to this post just to learn how to disable the upgrade prompting then you might want to switch off now)

The two Dell laptops that will be the example systems are as follows:
  1. Inspiron 1525 Silver preinstalled Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy


    (Now '4th generation'* Ubuntu)
  2. Inspiron mini9 Black
    (Currently '1st generation'* Ubuntu)
*I explain what I personally mean by NNth generation in the next few paragraph

Computers are generally sold with a computer system pre-installed.
There are exceptions and the freedom to ask for 'no install' does have
some value I think.

In the last 10 years if you did buy a pre-installed computer, then you have exchanged money, not only for the physical parts, but also for OS it came preinstalled with.
There is a support element usually, but such support only covers the unit as originally supplied.

Example: Five years ago you bought a laptop with Windows XP. When you bought it you had some reassurance that problems with the operating system would be resolved either with a reinstall disk or by the supplier directly.

Example2: Several years ago you bought a laptop with Mac OS X 10. Same deal as just described.

Having owned either of these laptops for some time, you might have been tempted to try and upgrade (XP to Vista perhaps or maybe OS X to a newer OS X). The choice of when and if to upgrade is something you made based on your own perceived need.

Maybe you wanted a sexy new feature, maybe a pal showed off a new application and you needed a new OS version to get it, perhaps you had something that was bugging you about the old setup.

Similar motivations might occur whatever Operating System you run - in my case Ubuntu.

The Inspiron 1525 is '4th generation' as the version of Ubuntu which I have run on it are: (i) 7.10 Gutsy, (ii) 8.04 Hardy, (iii) 8.10 Intrepid, and (iv) 9.04 Jaunty [ today ].
(This machine is my testing rig really and I choose to keep it constantly upgraded to the latest release)

The Inspiron mini9 Black (mini9) is '1st generation' (never been upgraded) as it is a general machine and its focus is stability and consistent operation (how most people run their regular machine I think)

When you first come to use Ubuntu you may well be looking mainly for 'stability and consistent operation', and perhaps may never want to upgrade.
Perhaps stay on the version of Ubuntu you are on for at least a year and then reassess things then.

For system suppliers there is a mechanism in place regarding infrequent upgrades termed LTS. If you are a Laptop system supplier then you probably already know about Ubuntu 'Long Term Support', and will be making plans for the next LTS release in April 2010 which includes 3 years support.

(The mini9 will probably probably stay on its current Ubuntu for some time yet and I would not be pressing the 'Upgrade' button). Note: This does not make my mini9 system insecure, as it still benefits from regular security updates.

I hope the later half of this post has introduced you to the options available to you regarding upgrades. It really is a matter of personal choice when and if to upgrade - after all it is your system!

Note: The laptop images in this post are intended to represent physical machines that I own, but are Dell's own promotional images (copyright Dell)

If you read other articles of mine, then you might know that currently I run Debian, Ubuntu, and CentOS for a variety of project tasks. I intend to write articles about all of these systems as subjects arise.

Final points for extra clarity:
Setting Prompt=never in the file /etc/update-manager/release-upgrades will mean that you still get informed about updates (security, whatever) but that you are never prompted to upgrade to a newer version of your OS.

Updating: Your OS gets security updates for 18 months to 3 years*
Upgrading: Think Windows XP -> Windows Vista if it helps you with the concept

*18 months to 3 years is clarified further in the first few paragraphs of this "what is ubuntu" page