Ubuntu, Shuttleworth & rolling releases

Ubuntu, Shuttleworth & rolling releases

Summary: After much heated discussion, Mark Shuttleworth has a new proposal on how Ubuntu Linux should handle rolling releases.


Canonical, Ubuntu Linux's parent company, has an ambitious plan with a short time-frame: One operating system for computers, smartphones, tablets and TVs by early 2014. One problem with this is how do you get there fast enough and one answer, rolling releases, has got developers upset. Now, Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has a new proposal on how to handle rolling releases.

To get Ubuntu on PCs, TVs, smartphones, and tablets by next year, Mark Shuttleworth is looking for ways to speed up Ubuntu Linux development. (Credit: Ben Woods/ZDNet)

This issue of rolling releases, where major changes and improvements are released to users as soon as possible, combined with Canonical focusing on these forthcoming platforms and on the Unity interface, has really annoyed some Ubuntu programmers. Still as Jonathan Riddell, the team lead of Kubuntu, the Ubuntu version that uses KDE for its interface, said In a Muktware interview, "Canonical has upset quite a few contributors to Ubuntu Desktop by moving away from integrating community-made software like Gnome and developing their own.  While that has less of a warm fuzzy feeling for those of us who love community-made software, I don't blame them. Apple and Google have solved Bug No. 1 (Microsoft has a majority market share) while nobody yet has gotten near using community-made software. So it's quite reasonable to move to a new model."

And, how is this new model going to work? Well, Shuttleworth is proposing:

1. Strengthening the LTS point releases.

Our end-user community will be better served by higher-quality LTS [Long Term Support] releases that get additional, contained update during the first two years of their existence (i.e. as long as they are the latest LTS). Updates to the LTS in each point release might include:

  • Addition of newer kernels as options (not invalidating prior kernels). The original LTS kernel would be supported for the full duration of the LTS, interim kernels would be supported until the subsequent LTS, and the next LTS kernel would be supported on the prior LTS for the length of that LTS too. The kernel team should provide a more detailed updated straw man proposal to the TB [Technical Board] along these lines.
  • Optional newer versions of major, fast-moving and important platform components. For example, during the life of 12.04 LTS we are providing as optional updates newer versions of OpenStack, so it is always possible to deploy 12.04 LTS with the latest OpenStack in a supported configuration, and upgrade to newer versions of OpenStack in existing clouds without upgrading from 12.04 LTS itself.
  • Required upgrades to newer versions of platform components, as long as those do not break key APIs [Application Programming Interfaces]. For example, we know that the 13.04 Unity is much faster than the 12.04 Unity, and it might be possible and valuable to backport it as an update.

2. Reducing the amount of release management, and duration of support, for interim releases.

Very few end users depend on 18 months support for interim releases. The proposal is to reduce the support for interim releases to 7 months, thereby providing constant support for those who stay on the latest interim release, or any supported LTS releases. Our working assumption is that the latest interim release is used by folks who will be involved, even if tangentially, in the making of Ubuntu, and LTS releases will be used by those who purely consume it.

3. Designating the tip of development as a Rolling Release.

Building on current Daily Quality practices, to make the tip of the development release generally useful as a ‘daily driver’ for developers who want to track Ubuntu progress without taking significant risk with their primary laptop. We would ask the TB to evaluate whether it's worth changing our archive naming and management conventions so that one release, say 'raring,' stays the tip release so that there is no need to 'upgrade' when releases are actually published. We would encourage PPA developers to target the edge release, so that we don't fragment the 'extras' collection across interim releases.

Shuttleworth is not proclaiming that this is how it will be. He carefully points out that this is "a new straw man proposal." Note – this is still just a proposal. I will ask the TB to respond to this one, since it incorporates both elements of Rick’s team’s analysis and feedback from wider circles."

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Topics: Ubuntu, Linux, Open Source, Software Development

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  • I think with these bold moves linux mint

    Will proclaim its independence very soon...as far as i can remember before mint 13 Clem was thinking about this idea in mint IRC....that would be an interesting read SJVN if you could contact mint team too!
  • Cutting interim support to 7 months?

    Considering ubuntu is many a noobs first call with linux, and they won't know what interim and lts are, 7 months seems very stingey. It also only gives you one month of support to update interim's? Typically the advice has always been not to update your primary install for the first month after release.

    I agree that very few people keep an non lts ubuntu for 18 months, but wouldn't 12 be more logical?
    • it's a balancing act

      while the points you raise are valid, the pace of OS development in general is picking up, especially in mobile where Ubuntu wants to branch out. for Ubuntu to have a chance of being competitive they need to have a fast pace option. obviously people within the community are not agreeing on what that pace should be either, it's not a clear cut thing to figure out.
    • The answer to the "noob" problem

      is what Shuttleworth says: end users should be able to install an effectively supported LTS (which is not the case now, since Ubuntu loses interest in LTS long).

      The interim releases are and ought to be called "beta" releases because, as Shuttleworth says, it should be assumed they are of by and for developers and OS enthusiasts who will always preferentially reinstall the whole thing every six months or whenever.
  • Rapid releases have issues in general

    mostly, they are confusing to the support groups necessary to build support for the overall operating system.

    If major updates come out so frequently that the support groups can't push them out to end users, they will sit on updates, upset customers that know features are available from Canonical, but also know the IT group won't push them out. This creates a situation where the IT group trying to help Canonical gets beaten to a pulp no matter what.

    One could argue that this is all to get to an end, but if you alienate the existing user base with rapid releases for a year, you might as well toss the whole thing in the toilet.

    The biggest issues with Linux as a unifying operating system is that:
    1. Android already has the tablet market sewn up. 70% or 80% of overall sales, with Apple owning the remainder (and Apple makes more money than all android vendors combined!)

    2. Canonical doesn't seem to have a major player lined up to manufacture tablet and mobile phone hardware to load the product on. I doubt Samsung will be interested as they now seem to own the Android market.

    3. Timing - they are late to the market. The major consumer camps are already formed and have major followings. Cracking this would be a major issue.

    4. Lack of applications / convincing developers to create Tablet and Mobile Phone apps for Linux, and spread their developer resources even thinner than they are now. What's in it for the developers? (please, Open Office on the tablet would be worse than Open Office on the desktop)

    5. MS is already playing third wheel fighting for the same resources Canonical will need to pull this off, and MS is two years ahead. I know that's odd for MS to be "Ahead" of anything in this market, but MS is ahead of Canonical, and has the required resources pretty much tied up, and can PAY!

    These and many more issues indicate that Canonical is probably in a dead end for their version of a unified OS. The Board and Share Holders should rise in rebellion and fix this before it drags what little finances are available to Canonical into the dirt.
    • Point are not correct

      Point 1: Android has less than 50% of the Tablet market(closer to 42% along with Apple having around 45%). That other 10-20% of the tablet market is a huge number and with the tablet market grow exponentially it is necessary to move into this market as a business.
      Point 2: No manufacturer ... how many manufacturers have supported Firefox? Chicken before the egg argument here is silly. Samsung itself would actually consider it, they like running multiple OS on their device for diversification reasons. It only took Firefox OS a few weeks to line up manufacturers.
      Point 3: Same argument people have used to put down Linux for years, but how many devices in your daily life use Linux OS? More than most realize.
      Point 4: Development paths for Linux are not that far from Android, making it much easier to port apps to Ubuntu than iOS and Windows 8.
      Point 5: MS is 2 years ahead at what? Failing to meet consumers needs? I think Canonical want to make a product people will use without being forced to. The Opposite of MS.
      • Mozilla

        has had ZTE lined up as a hardware partner and Telefonica as another partner since they announced the intention to make an OS. they have dev phones being produced and available for sale already, and more big names like Sony and Huawei have already pledged to make FFOS phones. Mozilla has done very well at locking in partners for their venture from the beginning, unlike Ubuntu/Canonical. Ubuntu looks much better as an OS, but they need to do better at forging partnerships with OEMs and carriers if they want it to get off the ground.

        Ubuntu has a lasting relationship with Dell- maybe they can convince Dell to get back in the phone game, or to make an Ubuntu tablet?
        • Mozilla, because of their Firefox browser...

          which runs on Windows, OS X and Android has much broader name recognition than does Canonical.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Point not correct.

        In 2012, the iPad had 51% of the tablet market. Android had 42%. It's expected to flip this year, with Android getting 49% and Apple 46%.

        One thing MS has going for it that Cannonical doesn't is marketing. Cannonical will fail. Ubuntu was aimed squarely at the existing Linux base, and didn't really reach out to those that didn't know about Linux or was curious, at all. The rate of Linux adoption had slowed under Ubuntu's reign, compared to when Mandrake Linux was the dominating distro in the earlier 2000's. The same thing will happen to it in the consumer portable space. They'll fail due to lack of consumer knowledge of their product outside places such as this, where most consumers never even see. It's only the technical savvy that venture to sites such as this, and most consumers aren't all that savvy.
        • Point not correct....

          "Cannonical doesn't is marketing" I would assume you meant doesn't do marketing. Lately Microsoft has done some market that hasn't helped and a whole bunch of attack other products. Microsoft in the consumer portable space...Windows phone 5 was released in 2005 since then their share of the mobile space almost make Linux share of PC share look good. Ubuntu making a mobile phone has been in the regular news section, not just tech and business. I year ago people said that most consumer would never be able to use Android and now it control the mobile space.
      • History is not on your side

        Using Firefox as an example is pretty lame. FF can run on any hardware and multiple operating systems. In other words, your comparison is invalid.

        Applications has nothing to do with the existing Linux apps, or lack therof, but with the tablet and phone apps. Right now, none exist and Canonical will require apps before launch is possible. Even MS has between 50k and 100k apps now. Canonical has a long way to go.

        Just because people use Linux based search engines is another stupid comparison here. We aren't talking web connected to the Linux OS, we are talking Linux as the primary OS on the device. Incredibly moronic comparison.

        MS is two years ahead of Canonical entering the tablet market. The MS version of a tablet OS is out. Canonical is still at least a year away.

        How incredibly stupid do you need to be to make comparisons like that?
      • Oh and market share -


        — Android (Google Inc.) — 104.8 million units, 68.1 percent share (46.9 percent a year earlier)

        — iOS (Apple Inc.'s iPhone) — 26.0 million units, 16.9 percent share (18.8 percent a year earlier)

        Current sales figures, yes Android is outselling Apple 4 to 1
  • Ubuntu, Shuttleworth & rolling releases

    Its great to see linux self destructing. Shuttleworth should team up with Torvalds and the two of them can make linux just go down faster than a deflated balloon. The more they argue about what to do with linux the less time developers are spending on it meanwhile real customers are moving to other solutions.
    • Loverock-Davidson....ssssssshhhhhh honey

      back under the bridge where you belong...............PPPPPPPPPPPsssssst go check your Surface RT sales and get back to us
      Over and Out
  • _meh_

    "Its great to see linux self destructing" #Contrary to popular belief, Ubuntu is not the be all and end all of 'Linux'.
    • Nice avatar

      cirrus_mirror is correct. Ubuntu is essentially the product of Canonical's vision of what an "Linux for the everyperson" SHOULD look like. So even IF it fails in it's "1 OS, 4 screens" goal, that in no way indicates that "Linux is self-destructing.
  • I can't wait to try out an Ubuntu tablet / phone

    I've cleared out my schedule for 2014.

    I sure hope it isn't delayed to 2015.

    Or 2016.

    I sure hope this gets more hardware partners than Ubuntu TV did.

    2014 will be an exciting year for Ubuntu tablet fans. Maybe 2015. Certainly by 2016. If not then, 2017 absolutely, no doubt, 100% for sure.

    Ubuntu tablets: brought to you by the word "Wait".
    • toddbottom3 ..ssssssshhhhhh honey

      back under the bridge where you belong...............PPPPPPPPPPPsssssst go check your Surface RT sales and get back to us
      Over and Out
  • How will a rolling Ubuntu release impact Canonical's server business?

    I believe that the server business, note that I include The Cloud here, is where Canonical makes the lions share of its earnings.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Don't see that being a problem

    I would think that the lion's share of Ubuntu server deployments use LTS versions, not the 6-month 'intermediate' releases.