It was a sunny weekend, the first for ages, so what's a geek to do? Stay in and upgrade his Ubuntu, of course. Jaunty Jackalope - Ubuntu 9.04 - welcome to my life.
And the hot news? There is no hot news. I typed in the single command needed to start the process for the pre-launch release candidate, and went off to make the tea. The upgrade downloaded the new files, disabled networking, rearranged the furniture, asked a couple of questions about modified files it wouldn't explain and I didn't understand (so I said yes), asked for a restart, and there it was. Half an hour sipping Earl Grey installed six months of work.
The network disconnection isn't something I remember happening before, when you could carry on browsing even as the world changed beneath your feet. But it makes a great deal of sense: just try and characterise the security threat profile when you're upgrading your network stack while connected. Like a crab shedding its shell, you're better off hiding under a rock until the carapace hardens again.
The new Ubuntu? Looks identical, works identically, is practically identical. The only immediate difference visible is the new notification system in the new Gnome, where black boxes pop up in the top right hand corner to tell you, er, things. So far, that seems to be used by email and IM clients - but not Tweetdeck (I presume because Air doesn't know about it), which throws its own black boxes with its own tales of things up into the same top right hand corner, there to do battle with Ubuntu's own. Of the faster boot time, I cannot say - I haven't timed it, and it was plenty fast already.
New filing system? I wasn't that bored. I will try that - and the various beneath-the-hood changes - on a clean machine later. This was an upgrade to a working system, and the fiddling about can come later.
But the most important news is that there was no news. My standard Ubuntu system at home is a beginning-to-show-its-age Samsung laptop, with a once-was-whizzy ATI graphics chip and a few mild quirks around the audio. The upgrade from 7.10 to 8.04 broke video and audio rather badly; 8.04 to 8.10 rather less so, but still with plenty of fun and games (mostly orbiting around ATI).
This time, nothing. Even VMware, which in the past has collapsed into a twitching heap of tentacles on kernal upgrades - moreover, the sort of twitching heap that is deuced difficult to remove before you can apply the fixes - seemed unaffected by the upgrade. My XP virtual machine started up, if anything, smoother than before: I'm used to the start-up music stuttering if I background the VM during boot; this time, it played perfectly.
I upgraded at 6:30. I turned off at midnight (another wild evening), having forgotten I'd done it. Fantastic.
There is an argument - for want of a better word - among creationists, that while microevolution is possible (small features may change between generations of living beings), macroevolution (ie, a dog to a horse) is impossible. The biologist's world-weary reply is, well, a dog never becomes a horse. Things do change gradually - and if they diverge enough, then one day you'll have a dog and a horse from a common ancestor. In short, there is no 'macroevolution'.
Looking at the experience of changing little and often compared to hugely but ten times as infrequently, I must say that the Ubuntu way is more natural, more evolutionary and certainly less disruptive. Whether that is a good pointer towards the survival of the fittest - we'll just have to wait and see.
It's worked before.