Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

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emorrp1
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Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Post by emorrp1 »

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: http://forums.linuxmint.com/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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Fred
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Post by Fred »

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?

Post by dequire »

I assume on the "other" methods is using a distro-based package website like removed/. 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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shayney
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Post by shayney »

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?

Post by Muzer »

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?

Post by dequire »

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

Post by shayney »

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?

Post by Muzer »

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?

Post by emorrp1 »

dequire: yes, removed 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?

Post by SallyK »

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?

Post by David Hunter »

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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emorrp1
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Re: Why are my applications not the latest possible version?

Post by emorrp1 »

SallyK: the security issue is moot, see http://forums.linuxmint.com/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?

Post by SallyK »

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?

Post by emorrp1 »

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?

Post by vrkalak »

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?

Post by exploder »

You can keep your release reasonably up to date by using packages from removed, 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.

htismaqe

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

Post by htismaqe »

toolz wrote: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.
I'm a Linux noob, and I've had a TON of success getting apps from 3rd-party repos (PPA). I've gotten upstream wireless and video drivers, more stable apps, all kinds of stuff, and if you're careful about which repos you use, they pretty much all work.

Also, it's MUCH preferable to downloading software directly so that you don't lose track of the software you've installed in apt/synaptic.

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

Post by BastianBalthasarBux »

Great explanation, but I have to remark that your firefox-example is the very worst example i could ever think about! ;)
I won't update evolution, vlc or aptana (ups, isn't included anyway *gg*) since there are not really anoying bugs (or really awaited new features) which are resolved in the next version, but i will always update my browsers (all of them) to the latest stable version the manufacturer would provide!

And a second remakr: there is no 'tweak" necessary to get ff 3.5. running on mint (also as default). just download the original software from mozilla.org, install it, and just correct one single symlink (AFAIR it is /usr/bin/firefox).
But you have to keep in mind:
You should update this piece of software manually yourself since then!

htismaqe

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

Post by htismaqe »

BastianBalthasarBux wrote:Great explanation, but I have to remark that your firefox-example is the very worst example i could ever think about! ;)
I won't update evolution, vlc or aptana (ups, isn't included anyway *gg*) since there are not really anoying bugs (or really awaited new features) which are resolved in the next version, but i will always update my browsers (all of them) to the latest stable version the manufacturer would provide!

And a second remakr: there is no 'tweak" necessary to get ff 3.5. running on mint (also as default). just download the original software from mozilla.org, install it, and just correct one single symlink (AFAIR it is /usr/bin/firefox).
But you have to keep in mind:
You should update this piece of software manually yourself since then!
There are often reasons that the absolute latest version of a given piece of software isn't available via the official repos, though.

In my case, Firefox is a perfect example. Downloading the latest "stable" version from Mozilla wasn't actually stable at all, and I had also lost the ability to manage the package via apt/synaptic, because I had compiled it from source. In my experience with several Jaunty variants over the last few weeks, FF 3.0 is better than FF 3.5.

htismaqe

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

Post by htismaqe »

Another one that comes to mind (primarily because I'm messing with it right now) is WICD.

The latest version available from the Ubuntu repos is 1.5.9-2. The stable version available from the WICD PPA is 1.6.2-2. Both of them install just fine, and both of them connect just fine.

However, if I type iwconfig wlan0 rate 54M while using 1.6.2-2, my connection goes up and down every 5-7 seconds. 1.5.9-2 does not do that.

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