Emphasizing on LTS

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neo21
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Emphasizing on LTS

Post by neo21 »

I know that Linux Mint is following it's "mother" distro Ubuntu and therefore has a similar 6 month release cycle (although delayed). As far as I understand it, Linux Mint is a user friendly, fresh looking distro that average Joe can install, use and experience a media rich desktop. So think about it:

- Joe doesn't want to feel that his computer is out of date just 6 months after he hassled to get the nice free OS running and configured properly. Everybody wants to have the new stuff, because new is always better isn't it ;-)
- Joe would appreciate it if the OS he became accustomed with, that he likes and trust to constantly evolve and adds nice new features (and looks/themes). His trust would even grow (disproportionately high!) as would his satisfaction with his computer and Linux Mint would definitely get the credits for that.
- Joe doesn't want to hassle with downloading iso's, burning them, re-installing his system etc. (he probably didn't partitioned his hard drive UNIX style, he probably doesn't know about partitioning at all and went for the default layout that the installer suggested).

So if Linux Mint would concentrate on LTS versions of Ubuntu there would be a lot to gain considering the targets of Linux Mint:

- the Linux Mint team & community could concentrate their efforts & have more time for each release => better results, better user experience
- Joe's pain of installing & configuring Linux Mint would be greatly reduced
- If Linux Mint could get some kind of "Service Pack" that upstreams certain stable improvements from non-LTS developments that would be magnificent. The SP approach is far superior to the regular "new whole version" approach. There is a huge perceived difference between "something I love & trust gets better VS something I love & trust gets old but there is a new version (I don't know yet, I have to install & configure again, I have no experience with)"...and also the perception of the Linux Mint team & community would be different. In an SP-like approach the team would be more perceived as guys who care about me & my current computer that want to make it better as it is VS they make it better but always new and make me hassle with it again and again...the long term reputation would be higher, as the willingness to pay/donate
- Communicating that each Linux Mint release has 3 years of free "support", getting cared for and improved over time makes it more "tasty" for people who are insecure or feel unconfident to give it a try.

Take Windows XP as an example. It started bad, people did'nt like it but it got better (SP2) and users got accustomed to it. They have set it up, where happy that SP2 made it more stable and added some features and now they don't want to move on. There a many many people who never touched their running XP system. They got it pre-installed from Dell with MS Office and automatic updates turned on and thats it. They might have installed Firefox some day, done. And if you take a look at those who did'nt like XP and moved to MacOS...an identical behavior!

So with a release cycle of LTS + 1 year for preparing the new release and further maintaining the old one for +2 years Linux Mint would be in my opinion ahead of the game concerning average Joe and other linux distros.

PS: I cant stress the advantage of concentrating efforts and additional development time for the resulting product quality...focus, do better with less stress and even get a disproportionately higher perceived product/service quality by your target costumers... :)
Last edited by neo21 on Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

emorrp1
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Re: Different Release Cycle

Post by emorrp1 »

The "release early, release often" mantra pervades Linux, so getting developers to hold off on new releases isn't really going to work. Mint does release LTS editions, and these are well supported for 3 years, with new LTS versions coming out every 2 years, giving you a whole year to make the switch. What new features are possible are indeed back-ported to the LTS releases, as you requested (but you need the backports repo enabled) but if a new tool relies on new technology which is incompatible with the LTS release, then it can't be backported. Basically it seems you want a rolling release cycle (install once, keep upgrading, never reinstall) and there are Linux distros which do exactly that (e.g. gentoo) but there's always a trade-off, and in this case it's stability. You can't have a stable system and the latest and greatest features, it's one or the other and mint strikes a nice balance. Mint marks kernel updates as "unsafe" because they can jeopardise stability, and mint prioritises stability on installed systems.

The other issue with "just do LTS releases" is that how do you think LTS become so stable? They're more stable than the normal releases because the normal releases test these new features, allow people to submit bugs and it gets improved, then LTS often concentrates on stabilisation. Think of it this way: after the last LTS has been released, someone thinks up a new little tool, which relies on technology not present in the LTS, and codes it. They have no way of garnering the necessary userbase to thoroughly test their code, so it's still buggy two years later when it's included in the next version. Additionally, they don't have the imagination to make the tool cover all possible use-cases, so the tool suffers because there isn't a sufficiently high userbase to get suggestions for the next version. All this is solved by the 6-month "normal" release and 2-year LTS cycles, giving stability to those who want it, but also giving features to those who prefer it, who then give feedback that improves it for the LTS releases.

Another thing to think about is how fast open-source development moves. 2 years is an enormous amount of time in the linux world: just compare the feature lists of ubuntu's past LTS releases to see how. On further thought, it sounds like you want debian: they aim to release approximately every two years, and they spend that time concentrating on stabilising the system. However, this comes at the expense of features: When a new debian is released, the general consensus is "Yay! now we can use software that is only 1 year out of date". The overall trade-off is always Stability vs. Features, and every distro has its own take on that. Ok, I think that just about covers it all, and in case you haven't got the gist: -100 for the idea! (not that it's a necessarily bad idea generally, it's just that there are distros that do this already, so it's not something we should consider for Linux Mint).
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neo21
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Re: Different Release Cycle

Post by neo21 »

@ emorrp1

Ok I think I understand your point. But let's digg a little deeper into that. I don't want to suggest a fundamental change in "producing" (developing/coding etc.) the product (= Linux Mint). I am suggesting to merely change the way to "sell" it and deliver it to average Joe (everybody else who already successfully uses Linux Mint is not the focus here and I don't think that they will stop using it because of this different approach).
The "release early, release often" mantra pervades Linux
Right, but average Joe does not care at all. This argument takes the producer-centric point of view and not that of the consumer/user.
getting developers to hold off on new releases isn't really going to work
No need to do that. Just deliver the product of the developers' work in another way that suits the consumer better.
new features are possible are indeed back-ported to the LTS releases
Great then all technical requirements needed for a new approach to deliver/communicate/market the great product Linux Mint are already there!
but you need the backports repo enabled
I? No, average Joe doesn't care about "backport repos" and to be honest he is rightly so. Make that enabled by default so it works out of the box.
All this is solved by the 6-month "normal" release and 2-year LTS cycles
Of course I know why there is the the 6-month-release-cycle, that red hat, novell & co use the "normal" releases to further improve their enterprise editions. Maybe that is not 100% clear from my original post, but to have a main product that stands in the focus of the distro does not mean not to release versions for testing & developement.

But the current status quo is that average Joe gives Linux Mint (or Ubuntu or whetever linux distro) a chance. He then struggles with wlan or sound and maybe gets it fixed, maybe lives with the flaws. Then he tries the next "edition" and some problems are solved another will show up, which is especially frustrating and disappointing when something stops to work that did work before (e.g. intel wlan led in Ubuntu 9.04 vs 8.10). So he had to configure his computer 2 times in a quite short period of time and gets some improvement but also sees steps back. So he uses Linux Mint/Ubuntu edition X and gave X+1 a second try and it was not convincing, "Linux: 2 strikes and out". He does not care about LTS or not LTS, it is Linux Mint/Ubuntu thats how its communicated, that's what everybody is talking about. If you put your name on it, stand up for it. Such an experience is not really good, not really trust generating. No trust, no commitment...
Additionally, they don't have the imagination to make the tool cover all possible use-cases, so the tool suffers because there isn't a sufficiently high userbase to get suggestions for the next version
Nope, that point is wrong. The people who use Linux Mint as it is today with its 6-month cycle will not all switch to the possible new main product (formerly communicated as "LTS"). They are usually it-affine people that like it new & fresh. These group will still download, install etc. as they do today. BUT with the new approach you could convince more people to use the main product ("LTS") and maybe some will add insights, some might be so happy with it that they donate. So you could get more users using Linux Mint, get more insights and maybe more funding for the team/project/community/developement...
Another thing to think about is how fast open-source development moves. 2 years is an enormous amount of time in the linux world: just compare the feature lists of ubuntu's past LTS releases to see how.
Totally true. But I think that we now slowly reach a point where average Joe does not require/demand/reward additional feature XY. He wants to browse the web, watch youtube, check gmail, burn cds, watch dvds and apple trailers, write some letter, do some math with sheets, use his ipod and chat with his friends. This is all really easily and comfortable possible with Linux Mint nowadays. It has great usability and a fresh look (imo much better then Windows). So a new tech savvy features are great but merely targeted at those who primarily use linux today anyway. You won't get the gamers, you already have the "nerds" but you wont get average Joe with technical feature XY. That did not work in the past and will possibly not in the future (ok, you never know :)
The reason why average Joe does not use Linux Mint/Ubuntu/linux XY is not because it is not feature rich, not because it is not suitable for the modern all day tasks of digital life and not because it does not look good and has a good usability...and now re-read my post, thats my intention, to re-think. I dont want Debian, I want more people to use and enjoy Linux Mint. With more people using it, there will be more insights and feedback, the product will get even better and more people will profit from that. And hopefully there will be more funding & donations which will provide the movement/project/development rolling...

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Re: Different Release Cycle

Post by emorrp1 »

Ok, so most of my post assumed you wanted to drop the 6 monthlies entirely, and just do the LTSs, so sorry for the misunderstanding and this basically makes a lot of our points moot. If I get you right now then, basically what you'd like to see is what we have now, but LOADS more effort put towards emphasising the LTSs (e.g. Like having it the default on the download page etc.) am I basically right? I quite like the idea (so +101 to considering more emphasis on LTS, making up for my previous vote :-) ), but how exactly it'd work I don't know, and there'd still be a significant drop off in the userbase which would harm development as I mentioned before, but it's definitely worth exploring - perhaps you could edit the thread title to reflect this.
neo21 wrote:I? No, average Joe doesn't care about "backport repos" and to be honest he is rightly so. Make that enabled by default so it works out of the box.
Firstly, users need to understand repos just to install apps, see the "Linux is not Windows" article for more on that point. So this falls down to choice and the stability/feature trade-off again. I can see the LTS being used by two different groups: organisations and users who value stability. Now the organisations wouldn't care about whatever new little features are available, they care more that they don't have to maintain their own users' machines (hence backports disabled). You obviously fall into the users category, but some of them will also value stability as, like the organisations, they don't want to manage their computers, they want to use them, or some of them, like you, are willing to make the small tradeoff of stability for the extra features. Since the second type are the only ones likely to want backports enabled, and they're also likely to be slightly more tech-savvy, it's not unreasonable to make them enable the extra repo (though it should certainly be easier to do than it is now) in order to maintain the integrity of the less savvy.
neo21 wrote:Then he tries the next "edition" and some problems are solved another will show up
I think everyone agrees that regressions are very annoying, so you won't find any arguments here!
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Re: Different Release Cycle

Post by neo21 »

@ emorrp1

Right, I am basically suggesting to strongly emphasize the LTSs in the future. At first it might sound awkward but by re-labeling your product you do much more then just exchanging names. You shift expectations, position it in another way and therefore change the users perception (!) of it. By changing the name of "Linux Mint LTS" to "Linux Mint" and the "standard" 6-month releases to a new branding (hm no name at hand right now, maybe I will hand in something later) you can achieve a lot concerning acceptance and perceived quality (note the "perceived", important!).
I quite like the idea (so +101 to considering more emphasis on LTS, making up for my previous vote :-) )
Thanks :)
perhaps you could edit the thread title to reflect this
Good point. I have changed it ;-)
there'd still be a significant drop off in the userbase which would harm development as I mentioned before, but it's definitely worth exploring - perhaps you could edit the thread title to reflect this.
I am not with you here, I am still not convinced that this will be the case. If a lot if current users switch to the new "average Joe fka LTS" version...wouldn't that prove my point that this approach has a good potential to meet user's demand better then the current approach, why else should they switch? But I think that we are not getting average Joe to use Linux Mint on the long run right now thus the current user base consists of people who want what is offered right now. And this offer (6-month tech savvy releases) will still be available in the new approach.
We will keep existing customers because the product they like will still be available, but we create the chance to get new ones by offering a new (derived, actually just a modified existing one...the LTS) product (along with a changed strategy in communicating this product)...

And regarding user base: The current user base is merely tech savvy and contributes development related know how. By expanding the user base to new kinds of users (within the "population" of average Joes) you can really enrich the development base. You might get people that can write better (documentation, help files, promotional text etc.) or more designers or people that share their common insights to usability or or or...and you probably reach people who have another willingness to pay/donate for services (mintUpload or something else) that a tech savvy user has not...
So this falls down to choice and the stability/feature trade-off again. I can see the LTS being used by two different groups: organizations and users who value stability.
Very good point. Hmm how about giving them the opportunity to opt-in? Explain to them in a basic& easy to understand way what they get and that they can choose (linux = freedom) between "conservative updates" and "normal update mode" (how ever you name it) right at mintWelcome after their first boot up. And when you talk about organizations, doesn't get the server LTS of Ubuntu get security updates/fixes for 5 years? Is it possible to transfer these to the backports, too? Imagine: "5 years of free security fixes on a fresh looking and easy to use desktop linux" that would be a big selling argument for all users (average Joe & corporations)!
"Linux is not Windows"
I know that, but if you want to communicate with average Joe you have to consider the "language" he talks and that is Windows. If you want him to be a happy long term Linux Mint user you have to give him time (an advantage of the new approach) and guide him step by step. People don't want to be pushed (= too many important everyday things not working) and like to take little steps. For 90% of all computer users technical stuff is not a fun thing to discover, it is per se an annoying difficult thing. Remember your foreign language lectures? The teacher does talk and explain a lot in your native language at first. After a few years he does the lectures exclusively in the foreign language (and the pupils can then follow). Same with Windows <-> Linux.
I think everyone agrees that regressions are very annoying, so you won't find any arguments here!
By expanding the usage life time of an installation for average Joe we can minimize that, won't suffer a major loss of perceived feature related usability and therefore change the trade off (perceived benefit in relation to "pain") for average Joe significantly...maybe right above the critical line of "sucks" and "i am a happy long term user".

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Fred
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by Fred »

neo21,

I must confess that when I first saw your thread I thought; "Well here we go again. Another thread advocating doing whatever is necessary to appeal to the masses and be a Windows competitor." That is why I didn't respond. emorrp1 did that much more diplomatically than I would have. :-)

The below posts will give you a flavor of my views on the subject.

http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.p ... es#p126992

http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.p ... Is#p159498

http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.p ... Is#p159992

http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.p ... Is#p147129

As the thread has progressed however I do see we have some common ground. I have said it before and will again. A release cycle of 6 or 8 months is insane for new users. Especially non-technical users. There will be a learning curve for Linux. It is a different OS, quite unlike Windows in its' structure. A release early, release often, 6 month cycle pushes the steepness of the learning curve up considerably. This of course deters new users.

I am not a marketing person. In fact I tend to have a pretty low opinion of marketing in general. It tends to appeal to and encourage the weaknesses in people rather than being honest, truthful, and encouraging them to work towards bettering themselves and their condition. There is just too much bait and switch, and false expectations generated in marketing campaigns. Too much fluff and not enough substance. Hope I am not being offensive, but that is my opinion. :-)

Back to your suggestion about the LTS focus. If refocusing new user's attentions can be accomplished I think it would be a good thing, as it would tend to reduce the steepness of the learning curve. This is a good thing. :-)

The bottom line is that learning must take place. Mainstream Windows users, ie Average Joe, Joe six Pack, or whatever synonym you want to use, must at some point be willing and able to pull themselves up by their boot straps. If they can't or won't, for whatever reason, you are not doing them a favor by enticing them to Linux. You are also not doing the Linux community a favor by bringing them. Not only do we not need the problems they will bring but they will in the end fail and be bad publicity to others, who could be much better candidates, considering the switch. I do not ascribe to the theory that any publicity is better than no publicity. :-)

Fred
Last edited by Fred on Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.

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neo21
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by neo21 »

@ fred

I have read your post and your links and if even a "linux evangelist" thinks that emphasizing on LTS for the non-technical users is a good idea that could help Linux Mint on the whole...superb ;-)
Too much fluff and not enough substance. Hope I am not being offensive, but that is my opinion.
No problem, although I of course do not agree at all (but maybe understand your reasoning) :)
If refocusing new user's attentions can be accomplished I think it would be a good thing, as it would tend to reduce the steepness of the learning curve.
Although reducing the steepness is in my opinion always welcomed this is not the key point here. You won't lessen the "pain" (investment in time and hassling around) by extending the usage time of an installation. But you greatly improve the trade off and this is an incentive to invest into learning something new.
Thus you won't get the majority of "ultra DAUs". They won't care to take this investment. Although I have a different opinion whether or not it would be a great thing if they become linux users or not, that will most probably not happen. With the new approach you might get the more tech-affine users, the gadget-guys who jailbreak their iPhones or skin their windows mobile device. So your "fear" of being flooded with ultra-dau questions & inquiries 24/7 will in my opinion not come true.

Because it seems to be an important issue I want to add something to "Linux is not Windows": The whole idea here is NOT to make Linux Mint to be another "Windows" (or replacement of it). But I think that nowadays linux is indeed at a point where it can be an alternative to do your everyday digital tasks...and I see no reason not to tell people that and thereby get more support for linux (and especially Linux Mint) ;-)

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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by Fred »

neo21,

I can agree, or at least sympathize with most of you post. We both already know where we disagree. But that is ok, we can agree to disagree. :-)

I bet you are an excellent salesman. If not you are missing your calling. :-)

Fred
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by neo21 »

@ Fred

Thanks...and yes you guessed right, I am indeed a kind of salesman ;-)

So I do have your +1?

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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by Fred »

Sure, you have my vote, for whatever it is worth, to place the emphasis on a longer term main. I would like to see all the CE versions do this too.

It becomes a matter of semantics and marketing as to what you would call the LTS versus the 6 mo. releases, but that is immaterial to me. Whatever works. :-)

You must understand that it isn't my decision to make, but Clem's and his team. It would be rather presumptuous of me to think or pretend otherwise. I am just an old dumb country boy that doesn't know very much about almost everything. :-)

Fred
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by nebcanuck »

Interesting discussion. I think I see where neo's going with the idea. And I think I agree. As a linux user who has attempted to get the family using Linux more often instead of Windows (largely to avoid the tremendous amount of viruses that come through with my mother and 4 siblings all using the same computer for a variety of online activities), I think that a bug-free LTS with mostly up-to-date software would be a much easier transition for them than either a buggy, rapid-fire release cycle, or out of date LTS. Mint's policy of actually backporting significant updates (unlike Ubuntu), makes it an excellent platform for this type of usage/marketing.

Regarding the re-branding, it would probably be fairly simple, no? Two possible numbering strategies jump out at me. The next LTS would be called "Linux Mint 8" (or whatever number we were at by the time it rolled around). Then the 6-month releases would be labeled either as point updates (Linux Mint 8.1, 8.2, etc.) or development releases (Linux Mint 9 development 1, development 2, etc.). I would tend towards the latter, since it suggests the true purpose of the 6-month cycle (to develop a new LTS by having more cutting-edge releases), although a new name would surely have to be established since Linux Mint 9 development 1 sounds very awkward :P .

A cycle of approximately every two years would be faster and more current than Windows, but would be a lot more stable than the current releases.

I can also definitely see a marketing edge to this, despite the aforementioned hesitancy to get involved in marketing schemes! Truth is, big releases on a longer cycle would mean two things. First, it would mean less worry about marketing on a regular basis, since the development releases wouldn't have to be emphasized as much. Second, it would mean a bigger deal when the main release came out every two years, which I think would be better for garnering excitement. I, who love the 6-month cycle, admit that it's hard to get excited about another release when you're just starting to see the one you're on settling down. It'd be much more exciting to appeal to two user bases: Those who want a nice, big, glamorous release that will be supremely usable, and those who want to be cutting-edge and helping to develop a new major release!
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by nebcanuck »

Coincidentally, this seems to me where Mint Portal could really shine. To have stable repositories is a must, to avoid system breakage. To have an emphasis on making the Mint portal the place to get all your latest and greatest software, rather than your repositories, new users could be comfortable knowing that their system is stable, but they can pick and choose what they want to upgrade as new versions come out. Obviously you can do that via repositories anyways, and if you're like me and want the software to always be up to date at the risk of stability, you can enable Romeo. But for people migrating from Windows, the mint portal is closer to their experience anyways, and would save them the worry that comes along with using Romeo.
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by midas »

Yes nebcanuck...in doing so you are creating nearly what is called a semi-rolling-release. In my eyes the best of both worlds. I also have a feeling that the Mint-devs are relying too much on the 6 monthly Ubuntu development-releases. I think we all are familiair with the regressions of all the recent Ubuntu-releases....simply too much to mention.

Don't get me wrong...Mint offers simply the best and easiest desktop-experience of all the OS's under the sun. Choosing another base or simply make the 'semi-rolling-release' principle work (even if its based on Ubuntu LTS) would probably result into a real killer-distro!

Everything simply working out of the box and the really unique desktop-experience. And we wouldn't have to freshly reinstall everything after every six months (upgrading dev-releases will probably never become an option).

It is always quality that counts...
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by neo21 »

Let's summarize the suggestions & implications:
  • Change the name of "Linux Mint LTS" to "Linux Mint"
  • Get a new name for the non-lts releases of Linux Mint (that suits the tech-savvy faction)
  • Put the re-labled LTS version in the focus of communication (screencasts, website, design & text etc.)
  • Let users decide whether they want to get "all secure updates" (average user) or "security updates only" (corporations)
  • Provide security updates/fixes like server edition (5 years)
  • Put mintInstall into focus of communication (and improve it...un-installing apps)
I especially like the idea of communication mintInstall more prominently. The concept becomes more and more familiar for average consumers. If you tell them "it is an app store for free opensource software that will also update automatically" they will like it...i am sure :)

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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by emorrp1 »

Yep, that's a nice summary, though I think the support cycle is least likely to change, as that is largely dependent on upstream ubuntu's support.
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by nebcanuck »

emorrp1 wrote:Yep, that's a nice summary, though I think the support cycle is least likely to change, as that is largely dependent on upstream ubuntu's support.
With heavy marketing around a stable release, the change in support could be a long-term goal. With effective marketing, a larger customer base will allow for more paid developers, and I would imagine this would free up the team to actually offer better support for those bi-yearly releases.

Otherwise, a great summation of how Mint could potentially move forward! :)
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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by neo21 »

emorrp1 wrote:Yep, that's a nice summary, though I think the support cycle is least likely to change, as that is largely dependent on upstream ubuntu's support.
isn't it possible to port the security fixes from the server edition to the regular lts??

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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by blevo »

+1
I concur.

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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by Borsook »

I really hope Mint won't concentrate on LTSes... Regardless of my personal tastes, there seems to be a misconception that LTS releases are more stable. This is not really the truth, they are supported for a longer period of time and thus may eventually get more stable, but when released they are no different from any other release. Furthermore even though you do get a new release after 6 months it does not mean that support for the previous one is cancelled at once, and hence there is no immediate need to switch.

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Re: Emphasizing on LTS

Post by emorrp1 »

I practically wrote an essay on release cycles in response to TuxRadar's Open Ballot - http://www.tuxradar.com/content/open-ba ... -too-short which was mostly inspired by this thread.

Borsook: actually it does mean they're *more* stable - since the major feature of LTS is stability, the devs spend more time on bug fixes than normal, have an earlier feature freeze, and release more betas rather than alphas - see http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.p ... 14#p191413 for my opinions of the stability of various Ubuntu releases.
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