Friday, March 25, 2011

How about a Ubuntu LTS Backports repository?

In the comments to my article on Debian’s Mozilla team offering newer Iceweasel builds, I eventually wound around to an idea that I believe would provide an enormous benefit to Ubuntu users:

There should be an official Ubuntu LTS Backports repository.

I see a lot of value in the Ubuntu long-term-support releases, but they’re pretty much treated by the project as regular six-month releases with a longer support life.

Just as in Debian, after the release only security and major bug fixes are allowed as updates. The message from Ubuntu is that if you want any newer applications, you should follow the six-month release cycle and get off the LTS.

But Debian does this differently. Debian supports a Backports repository with the following stated policy:

You are running Debian stable, because you prefer the Debian stable tree. It runs great, there is just one problem: the software is a little bit outdated compared to other distributions. This is where backports come in.

Backports are recompiled packages from testing (mostly) and unstable (in a few cases only, e.g. security updates) in a stable environment so that they will run without new libraries (whenever it is possible) on a Debian stable distribution. It is recommended to select single backports which fit your needs, and not to use all available backports.

Now I know there are PPAs in Ubuntu that allow users to install newer versions of packages, but the quality of these PPA packages is not terribly consistent, or so I’ve been led to believe.

Having an official Ubuntu LTS Backports repository would go a long way toward allowing those users who wish to stick with the LTS the option of adding select newer applications to their system while maintaining the same stable (or at least “same”) core.

Ubuntu users, what do you think?