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View Full Version : A basic question: 'How do we define "Stable Release" for Ubuntu?'



davarino
November 10th, 2006, 08:36 PM
After Edgy was released, there was quite a bit of discussion in our fora about whether it was "stable".

Zipping by Wikipedia (the encyclopedia for the money-and-time-challenged), I see a definition of "stable release" vis Ó vis Debian:

The stable distribution of Debian is the latest version which was released for wide use. This means it was tested for a long time before enough problems were corrected to obtain what the Debian release process deems a stable operating system.

Debian releases stable when the release team is confident that fewer peculiar problems will occur with a new release than with the former one.

Wikipedia, "Stable (Debian)"

Now, obviously this definition has an implicit assumption: that the latest version released for wide use is tested for a long enough time to correct enough problems that the resulting OS is stable. I could rephrase it: 'Stable revision, in the Debian sense, means, "Latest revision, with fewer problems than the previous."'

Is our Ubuntu definition, by reason of it being implicitly tied to fixed 6 month release intervals, different? Surely, seeing the many problems experienced by different users, the Edgy release was not a "stable release" by this "Debian style" definition.

What exactly do we mean when we refer to an Ubuntu release as being "stable"? Can you define it in 15 words or less if ours is a different meaning from how other distros use the word? Can you use those 15 words or less in place of the word "stable"? Would you think it necessary?

Is the word "stable" meaningful and understood in our communications about Ubuntu, or is it simply fashionable as a Linux marketing buzz word?

I am interested in the response to these questions. I believe that clear communication of what Ubuntu has to offer will make it easier to satisfy new (and not so new) users.

aysiu
November 10th, 2006, 08:39 PM
There's no way Ubuntu could use the same definition of stable that Debian uses.

Do you know how long it took for Debian Sarge to come out?

If you have a six-month release cycle, you will never be as rock-solid as Debian. That said, I have never found instability in Ubuntu official releases to ever hinder my daily use.

davarino
November 10th, 2006, 08:44 PM
Good point.

But how do we define it? After all, we are using the word, so I assume we mean something when we use it.

aysiu
November 10th, 2006, 08:55 PM
Good point.

But how do we define it? After all, we are using the word, so I assume we mean something when we use it.
I hate to say it, but since releases are time-based, "stable" really has no meaning except to say "What it's like on release day."

Even Dapper's two month delay didn't make it any stabler on release day than Edgy on release day or Breezy on release day. Now, the kinks in Dapper seem to be ironed out.

I'll tell you, though, when Dapper came out there was a much bigger uproar about its instability than when Edgy came out.

I don't think they should have delayed Dapper. I think it should have come out in April as a regular release and then the October release should have been LTS and then April 2007 "Edgy." Well, what's done is done.

My advice to people is that you refrain from upgrading to the newest version until a couple of months after it's come out. That doesn't mean that if we bumped the release cycle to be eight months that releases would necessarily be Debian-stable. But it does mean that even after release (once a wider audience has had a chance to test it), there will always be some bugs to fix.

davarino
November 10th, 2006, 10:29 PM
No release is problem-free.

Certainly, changing release cycles would not improve anything (never does) - it would just reduce the number of cycles of discontent (a dubious advantage). There will always be a hardware configuration or a community idiosyncracy (or something else) missed that will have to be swept up. Kind of like juggling vases and pitchers of water.

So, getting back to the definition of "stable": the way I read you, if the word "stable" were omitted nothing would be lost?

Maybe we shouldn't use it in marketing (or anywhere else) if it's triggering people to think "Oh, gee! It's safe for me right now!"?

Calling Edgy a "release" (not "stable release") and mentioning the LTS version to be the "stable" (or "conservative user's"?) version in the text of all publicity probably would have averted a fair amount of the misunderstandings people had. (Yes, there's always the "leap first and read later" people, but they understand in their deepest of deepests that they acted foolishly, even if they shout a lot.)

From what I've seen, the message was not presented in a uniform way in Ubuntu publicity.

Sometimes caution in changing to Edgy was urged, sometimes suggested, sometimes not even mentioned, and sometimes omitted in the rush to say "look at this cool, new thing!"

Depending on one's channel of information, one could be completely unwarned that Edgy might not be his best way to go... until after downloading and the installation blowing up.

I would love to be in on co÷rdinating the marketing of this stuff. The only problem I see is that sometimes people really do want to believe their own hype.

Have a good weekend.

kuja
November 10th, 2006, 11:35 PM
Here is a revising of Debian's definition of stable: It takes an act of $DEITY to crash this system.

.t.
November 11th, 2006, 12:06 AM
Remember, XP has had two "service packs".

aysiu
November 11th, 2006, 12:13 AM
Remember, XP has had two "service packs".
And usually comes preinstlaled and preconfigured by Dell or HP or some other hardware vendor.

davarino
February 6th, 2007, 05:58 AM
So the resolution to the question, dear reader, appears to be that the phrase "Stable release" in Ubuntu lingo simply means: "the latest version".

Remember that that is all that it means before you jump the gun and try to change your computer to the next "stable release". If you are not thoroughly confident that the next stable release is in a condition that you would like to have to recover from, don't let the phrase give you a false feeling of stability and security. Just wait until things are more truly "stable".

steven8
February 6th, 2007, 06:58 AM
So the resolution to the question, dear reader, appears to be that the phrase "Stable release" in Ubuntu lingo simply means: "the latest version".

Remember that that is all that it means before you jump the gun and try to change your computer to the next "stable release". If you are not thoroughly confident that the next stable release is in a condition that you would like to have to recover from, don't let the phrase give you a false feeling of stability and security. Just wait until things are more truly "stable".

That is why you use the livecd to get a feel for it before taking the leap. I was going to 'just do it' with Edgy, but the livecd made me decide to stay with Dapper.

saulgoode
February 6th, 2007, 08:01 AM
So the resolution to the question, dear reader, appears to be that the phrase "Stable release" in Ubuntu lingo simply means: "the latest version".

Remember that that is all that it means before you jump the gun and try to change your computer to the next "stable release". If you are not thoroughly confident that the next stable release is in a condition that you would like to have to recover from, don't let the phrase give you a false feeling of stability and security. Just wait until things are more truly "stable".

It seems the resolution is not to employ the word "stable" at all when discussing Ubuntu releases (and to Ubuntu's credit, "stable" is not mentioned on the About or Download pages). That is not to say that Ubuntu is inherently unreliable, only that its releases aren't vetted to the extent that other distros' "stable" releases are.

In a similar vein, Ubuntu might wish to rethink its claim that "you never need to reinstall the operating system, just upgrade from each released version to the next when you want to". I have seen several veteran users recommend a complete re-installation when upgrading to a newer version.

I believe Ubuntu is a good distribution; but I also believe in truth in advertising. Ubuntu is only hurting itself when it makes claims that it does not live up to.

JAPrufrock
February 6th, 2007, 02:00 PM
What Davarino wants is some sort of objective criteria to define the words "stable release". It's very possible that the developers have set up those criteria- just that we don't know what they are. For instance, during testing they could have defined stability based on so many crashes or freeze-ups per hour of standard or random computer use. Unless some such criteria exist, whether a release is stable or not is anecdotal at best, and the term stability has less (little?) meaning.

bailout
February 6th, 2007, 03:42 PM
A start would be to stop using the term stable at all with regard to linux or at least desktop linux. It is one of the myths about the OS. It may be stable on certain hardware in certain uses but for a lot of PCs and laptops it is much less stable than windows. People won't be so dissapointed if they have more realistic expectations.

Also the lts aspect of dapper was not supposedly anything to do with increased stability but simply referred to how long ubuntu would release security patches (5yrs instead of 2, or something). If ubuntu starts to regard non lts releases as unstable testing releases then it is not very different to debian.

Brunellus
February 6th, 2007, 04:26 PM
What Davarino wants is some sort of objective criteria to define the words "stable release". It's very possible that the developers have set up those criteria- just that we don't know what they are. For instance, during testing they could have defined stability based on so many crashes or freeze-ups per hour of standard or random computer use. Unless some such criteria exist, whether a release is stable or not is anecdotal at best, and the term stability has less (little?) meaning.
"stable" means:

* No new features will be added.
* "Showstopper" bugs are closed.
* Security bugfixes guaranteed for 18 months.

"long-term support" means all of the above, plus security bugfixed guaranteed for 3 years.

"development" means: new features and bugs are being added. Hang on.

If you want "stable," go with Debian or Slackware--they tend to stay put for a good long time.

koenn
February 6th, 2007, 10:53 PM
"stable" means:

* No new features will be added.
* "Showstopper" bugs are closed.
* Security bugfixes guaranteed for 18 months.

Brunellus, where dif you get thisd from ?

koenn
February 6th, 2007, 11:21 PM
A start would be to stop using the term stable at all with regard to linux or at least desktop linux. It is one of the myths about the OS. It may be stable on certain hardware in certain uses but for a lot of PCs and laptops it is much less stable than windows.

"stable" often is used as a synonym for "doesn't crash (easily)" or "can be left running in a functional state for a very long time without repeated / excessive intervention by a user /system administrator"
A typical way to achieve that is that you don't add "unknowns" to a know, working system. Meaning : you don't want "updates" that introduce new features which may (or may not) interact badly with what you already have running. So that aligns with the definition Brunellus gave.

In that perspective, "stable on certain hardware ..." is meaningless. Stable means "if you can get it running, it will keep running as long as you don't mess with" - hardware is not a factor ion thyis definition.

Microsoft's release policy, by this definition, is not to provide a stable system : their policy is to introduce new features through updates and service packs.
Lots of applications on networked computers suddenly stopped working when Mocrosoft introduced the "Windows Firewall" in a service pack (XP SP2, I think) and had it turned on by default. This is a clear example of a new feature that breaks a working system.

Hex_Mandos
February 6th, 2007, 11:46 PM
Stable means "Not a development version".

Brunellus
February 7th, 2007, 12:02 AM
Brunellus, where dif you get thisd from ?
I wish I could point you to a document--someone else might be able to--but based on my experience with the ubuntu release cycle, this is what happens.

The last phase before a release goes "stable" in ubuntu is the feature freeze--after feature freeze, any features in the spec that aren't implemented get booted to the next release cycle.

Then it's bug-hunting.

Then release. after release, you're guaranteed 18 months of security updates.

koenn
February 7th, 2007, 01:05 AM
Sounds about right, it's just I'd like to hear it from ... - who is it that releases ubuntu ? Canonical ?

davarino
February 17th, 2007, 02:49 AM
Brunellus's statement:


"stable" means:

* No new features will be added.
* "Showstopper" bugs are closed.
* Security bugfixes guaranteed for 18 months.

on the surface is quite well expressed and is certainly what we would consider a "reasonable" meaning for the word.

However, recall the context of my original question: the Edgy Fiasco. The Ubuntu marketing team had used the word "stable" to describe a release that truly had "showstopper bugs"... and many people in the Ubuntu community stated that the word "stable" was still properly applied to Edgy.

So I demur to your definition. Aysiu's definition, ""stable" really has no meaning except to say 'What it's like on release day,'" certainly is more accurate... even if the rest of us may choke on it.

The fact apparently still stands that "stable" is a truly inadequate word for how it has been used in Ubuntulandia... it implies much more (and inaccurately) to the uninformed than it should. We should just not use the word to describe releases. It misleads. Period.

Brunellus
February 17th, 2007, 04:17 PM
Brunellus's statement:


"stable" means:

* No new features will be added.
* "Showstopper" bugs are closed.
* Security bugfixes guaranteed for 18 months.

on the surface is quite well expressed and is certainly what we would consider a "reasonable" meaning for the word.

However, recall the context of my original question: the Edgy Fiasco. The Ubuntu marketing team had used the word "stable" to describe a release that truly had "showstopper bugs"... and many people in the Ubuntu community stated that the word "stable" was still properly applied to Edgy.

So I demur to your definition. Aysiu's definition, ""stable" really has no meaning except to say 'What it's like on release day,'" certainly is more accurate... even if the rest of us may choke on it.

The fact apparently still stands that "stable" is a truly inadequate word for how it has been used in Ubuntulandia... it implies much more (and inaccurately) to the uninformed than it should. We should just not use the word to describe releases. It misleads. Period.
Point taken. Malone shows a number of high priority bugs--reported and confirmed--that went unfixed from Breezy to Dapper, and remain unfixed in Edgy. I am affected by at least one such bug that remains unfixed as of this writing (Feisty Herd 4).

That said, none of the "stable" releases have kernel panicked on me right off the bat. The core system always boots.