Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

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Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby emorrp1 on Fri Aug 28, 2009 4:54 pm

This seems to be a very common question here (moved from newbie questions). Frequently users new to linux cannot understand why the newer versions of their favourite program are available from the program's website, but the update never comes. If you are one of those people, this post is for you. There are two kinds of possible updates to an app, one which adds new features, and one that simply fixes a few problems with the app. Both are treated the same under windows, but completely different in Linux so I'll detail the methods below. This post assumes you know about repos, which are simply trusted online storage areas for all the apps you may wish to install: Mint has its own, but also uses Ubuntu's.

A new version of an app has been released with the latest and greatest features
e.g. Firefox 3.5
a) windows:
  • if you haven't learned of the new version (e.g. more obscure apps), you'll carry on using the older version until the product's market penetration reaches you
  • once you hear of the new version, you go to their website, download and install it
  • some apps, but by no means all, include their own update notifier to tell you about the latest and greatest version. Each app though uses its own notifier.
  • there is no other way to do this
b) mint (fixed release cycle):
  • if you haven't learned of the new version (e.g. more obscure apps), you'll carry on using the older version until the product's market penetration reaches you
  • once you hear of the new version, you *could* go to their website, download and install it, however:
  • assume the existing version is fully functional, afterall, you've been using it fine so far, so no upgrade by default, which maximises system stability
  • will release a new major version soon with the latest and greatest software having been tested for compatibility
  • for those who cannot wait for the next major version, someone somewhere will have created a ppa (essentially a personal repo) with the required app
  • to install it, you need to track down the right ppa, add it to your list of repos, and update - in so doing, you're personally choosing to sacrifice a certain amount of stability in exchange for the new features.
  • there are also other methods of doing this
c) debian testing (rolling release cycle):
  • as soon as possible after release, it'll be packaged and put into a testing repo, which will eventually make it to the main repos
  • once you hear of the new version, you *could* go to their website, download and install it, however:
  • once it's in the main repos, you'll be notified of *all* application updates not installed
  • even if you haven't learned of the new version (e.g. more obscure apps), you'll be upgraded once it's in the main repos
  • for those who cannot wait for it to make it into the main repos, they can enable the testing repo and in so doing sacrifice a certain amount of stability in exchange for the new features.

A new bugfix version of an app has been released
e.g. Firefox 3.0.13
a) windows:
  • if you haven't learned of the new version (e.g. more obscure apps), you'll carry on using the older version until the product's market penetration reaches you
  • once you hear of the new version, you go to their website, download and install it
  • some apps, but by no means all, include their own update notifier to tell you about the latest and greatest version. Each app though uses its own notifier.
  • there is no other way to do this
b) linux (fixed or rolling release cycle):
  • it is assumed that these bugfix releases by definition don't change the app much, and hence less testing is necessary
  • as soon as possible after release, it'll be packaged and put into a testing repo, which will eventually make it to the main repos
  • once you hear of the new version, you *could* go to their website, download and install it, however:
  • once it's in the main repos, you'll be notified of *all* application updates not installed
  • even if you haven't learned of the new version (e.g. more obscure apps), you'll be upgraded once it's in the main repos
  • for those who cannot wait for it to make it into the main repos, they can enable the testing repo and in so doing sacrifice a certain amount of stability in exchange for the new bugfixes.
  • there are also other methods of doing this

Hope that helps explain things, the key point here is choice. If Mint doesn't satisfy your personal stability/new-feature balance, then there will be one that does. more stability => debian; more bleeding edge => Fedora. NB: the "other" methods mentioned above include compiling from source or using a pre-built .deb from the app's website, or from another website, none of which are recommended for the security reasons mentioned above, and lack of auto-update integration, hence you're on your own if you choose these methods.

EDIT: SallyK pointed out that in windows, you're particularly vulnerable to exploits if you're not running the latest version of an app. I'd just like to say that because of the way the support cycles work (at least in Mint/Ubuntu), the security patches are backported to the supported version by Ubuntu. See also, for more info: viewtopic.php?f=47&t=32809
Last edited by emorrp1 on Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby Fred on Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:53 pm

Nice write-up emorrp1. :-)

As I told Kaye the other day though, if we could just get people to search and read before asking the same questions over and over. :-)

+1

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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby toolz on Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:53 pm

It should be made clear that the lag is going to be quite long/very long even for some vulnerable apps. Secondly a lot of apps in the repos will be almost unusable and will likely not get updated either. Often the best course for most users is to dig up the PPA and use that.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby dequire on Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:18 pm

I assume on the "other" methods is using a distro-based package website like http://www.getdeb.net/. This website has proven to be useful as it gains in popularity. It has helped me find some cool new apps, as has the Mint Software Portal.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby shayney on Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:02 pm

Is there any reason why firefox 3.5 is in the repos but not the default firefox?

Sorry, I only just became aware there was a firefox 3.5
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby Muzer on Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:00 am

It's very popular but not as well supported by the Ubuntu developers (Mint is based on Ubuntu).
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby dequire on Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:48 pm

I'm sure 3.5 will be included in the next Mint release as the default. At the time Gloria came out, 3.5 was not released in the associated Ubuntu release as it was still considered a beta release at the time the version was locked for release. As stated earlier, 3.5 can be installed and run of course in Mint. There is a tweak required to make it the default web browser, or you can simply wait for Mint 8.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby shayney on Tue Sep 01, 2009 3:44 pm

Are there any obvious advantages to using 3.5?
I have no complaints about the current version so I'm in no hurry unless I'm missing something :)
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby Muzer on Tue Sep 01, 2009 3:48 pm

The JS engine is re-written apparently and it now rivals Chrome.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby placebomint on Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:13 pm

Ok i understand that for every new release is difficult to have the newer version of the software. But i cannot understand why cant you include the PPA along with linux mint. I take for example Gnome do. THere is no way to install/upgrade the software apart from adding the ppa, and i really think that it is the most tedious procedure i have gone through in mint.

I think that from the moment you choose to bundle an application together with a distro, you must provide the capability for the user (at his own risk) to upgrade to the latest version of it without the hassle of ppa and security keys.

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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby emorrp1 on Sat Sep 05, 2009 6:04 pm

dequire: yes, getdeb is just one of the alternative methods, added NB to bottom of post, explaining.
placebomint: see the whole point of my post: choice. You can choose to use whatever system you want, but in doing so you are weighing up its pros and cons as they relate to your own usage. Mint could include ppas, but then it would basically be adding rolling-release features to the fixed-release and hence sacrifice stability. If you want a more bleeding-edge system, you can get it, but Mint caters to those who do not want an update to potentially make their computer unusable. Now I agree the way to add ppas isn't ideal, but it's not too difficult either, it usually involves copying and pasting a couple of lines into a terminal. Luckily this is being improved in Helena, once Clem has fixed Ubuntu's Software Sources app to work with Mint.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby SallyK on Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:39 am

Thank you very much for the clear explanation for the reasoning behind this decision.

I do think there's a problem with the Linux system not distinguishing between genuine bleeding-edge experimental changes - "nightlies" to use the Firefox terminology - and full-fledged releases.

There's nothing particularly bleeding-edge about Firefox 3.5, for example, it's a tested official release. VLC is another example of a major piece of software that you have to jump through hoops to install the latest official release of.

For those of us coming from Windows, where you know that the best way of maintaining a secure and stable system is to install the latest version of a given piece of software as soon as it is formally released, it really does make us twitchy to not be able to do that. Running an old version of a piece of software is asking for trouble, as it's liable to have both bugs and security holes that will have been fixed in a later release.

Still, I understand that this is a method developed over years as being the best way of doing things, and with any operating system you have to take the rough with the smooth. But please have a little patience with those of us for whom running outdated software feels more than a little scary.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby David Hunter on Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:58 am

I have noticed two issues with v3 that have been resolved with v3.5... although they are very specific issues:
1. I could not reply to emails (or compose new ones) on my work email. This now works on 3.5.
2. I could not train an army on an online game. This now works too.

I don't know if these are JS or Flash or what... but they work now. :D
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby emorrp1 on Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:24 pm

SallyK: the security issue is moot, see viewtopic.php?f=47&t=32809 (I've updated the original post appropriately) And while you may no longer consider FF 3.5 "bleeding-edge" that's kind of the whole point. It's now a good few months since the latest FF release, so it's achieved the stability that will be welcomed when it's included in Helena. Once you say an app should be updated to the latest version, you have to decide how soon after it's release it is to be included: as of FF 3.5's release day, many plugins no longer worked with it (again). Basically it's just a never ending decision spiral (per app), that's better for you to optionally make as the user, rather than for the distro to make. The Mint distro is a stable base, some of which you can then trade for increased features if you so desire. This is essentially the whole point of my original post, which you might find useful to re-read.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby SallyK on Sun Oct 04, 2009 4:41 pm

Thank you for your prompt reply, and for the explanation about security fixes, I hadn't really taken that on board, and it is reassuring.

I have re-read your post, it's just such a major cultural change - that the main reason for a central repository of software isn't so that everyone has access to the latest versions as soon as they are released....which is what my Window-trained assumption would be - that it takes a lot of getting the brain round, far more than working out how to use the software/operating system. It just "feels" wrong - but that's my problem, not anyone else's and I'm sure I shall get used to it.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby placebomint on Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:47 am

@emorp1 as you mention that everything is about "choice", you could give the opportunity to users to update the application in an easy way...IF something goes wrong with the update I am not going to blame mint for the mess, since it is the application's bug !!

Take also in account that not everyone installs the new version of mint the very next day it is realeased. I had to install mint 7 last week and i saw so much old software that i really wanted to update them all.

Maby it is just a bad feeling that you are using old software when there are new versions but i really would like to have at least an easy way to update them without the hassle of keys .
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby emorrp1 on Sun Oct 18, 2009 12:44 pm

Indeed, I've been thinking of this, and was considering compiling a list of ppas that cover the apps installed on Mint by default, in time for Helena. Helena will come for a really easy way to add these ppas, where it handles the keys automatically: You simply add e.g. "ppa:emorrp1/ppa" in Software Sources, which should have been ported to work with Mint for Helena. That way you can decide which apps you want to upgrade and which you don't.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby placebomint on Sun Oct 18, 2009 5:37 pm

Simple and great idea! i like it!
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby vrkalak on Sun Oct 18, 2009 5:47 pm

On the same topic, in general . . . this is another reason why a Mint Debian with a 'rolling release' makes sense.
This would be good, for those that want to stay updated in; all Apps, to include the Repositories and the Linux Kernel.

A Mint Debian with a rolling release makes a great idea. Daily, weekly or monthly updates/upgrades ... works for me.
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Postby exploder on Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:01 pm

You can keep your release reasonably up to date by using packages from getdeb, so long as you remember to remove the old application first. I do agree that a Mint Debian rolling release would be the ideal solution though.
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