Ubuntu Versions Reaching End of Life

Part of Canonical’s predictable versioning scheme includes an expectation of how long any given release will be supported. Support here means updates to the various software packages, increasingly just critical security fixes as versions reach the end of their projected span. The company behind Unbuntu has two different time scales when it comes to that span of providing updates.

Ubuntu 8.04 (released in April of 2008) is a long time support release which means Canonical has committed to keeping it patched for three years. The H Security notes that the clock is about to expire for this release, code named Hardy Heron. If you have any aging systems still using this ultra stable release, it is time to finally upgrade it to a newer LTS release. Come May, Heron will no longer receive updates.

Ubuntu Desktop 8.04 LTS approaches end of life, The H Security

Regular, non-LTS releases are supported for 18 months, half as long as the long term cycle. Canonical has another version, according to Linux Journal, 9.10 that is come up on its end of life. According to the article, the recommended upgrade target is the current LTS version, 10.4.

Canonical To Drop Support For Ubuntu 9.10, Linux Journal

Since Ubuntu hits a new version every 6 months, it is possible to stay ahead of obsolescence without always having to run the latest and greatest which for many software packages, let alone full Linux distros, often require a bit of shakedown before proving trustworthy.

feeds | grep links > 4th Amendement Protects Cell Tower Data, Possibly Ubuntu Move Away from X11, WikiLeaks Splitters to Setup New Site, and More

  • Cell tower data protected by the 4th Amendment
    As The Register explains, the ruling is in a district court in Texas, so just an incremental part of the evolving case law. The reasoning, at least as revealed by the article, seems arbitrary. I would have expected more thought along the lines of what is accessible by the average citizen rather than comparisons to continuously recorded reality television.
  • Canonical’s Shuttleworth contemplates a future Ubuntu without X11
    Ryan Paul at Ars Technica does a nice job of laying out both the motivation and challenges inherent in any Linux distribution moving from the ancient graphic display system, X11, to anything more modern. Undoubtedly a newer stack, like Wayland, would allow the Linux desktop to compete more effectively with other OSes but video driver support has been one of the platform’s greatest long running problems, one that a drastic change would multiply considerably. There may be a way, as Paul lays out in the article, to take a hybrid approach, which has worked for other software shifts of this scale.
  • WikiLeaks defectors to set up another leaks site
    Give the psychodrama around WikiLeaks, the news as reported by Jacqui Cheung at Ars Technica is hardly surprising. Let’s not forgot the work of John Young and Cryptome, though, when we talk about WikiLeaks and this new effort. Assange’s brain child is hardly the only or necessarily the first of its kind. It just happens to be the highest profile at the moment. Giving whistle blowers more options and opponents a more diffuse front should be all to the good, regardless of the reasons for the split.
  • Did the W3C sell out to Microsoft?, Tom’s Hardware, via Groklaw
  • UK copyright law to be reviewed, BBC, via Groklaw
  • EU Commission also wants to reform copyright, Open Rights Group

feeds | grep links > Limited Lending on Kindle, MIT Media Labs’ 25th Anniversary, Unity as Default in Future Ubuntu, and More

  • Amazon to allow lending of Kindle books
    Groklaw pointed to this ABC News piece over the weekend. Details are scant, other than while a user has lent a book out, they will not be able to read it themselves. Books can be lent for two weeks at a time. Slashdot has one more tidbit, namely that books can only be lent out once. Superficially attempts to emulate the scarce nature of physical books but utterly fails on the one time limit and that lending is enabled or disabled by the publisher, a right of action current unencumbered for print editions.
  • MIT Media Lab’s 25th anniversary
    I clearly didn’t read closely enough the BBC article on the Lab to which I linked last week. Several other sites since then have posted reminiscences about the various interesting projects to come out of the Media Lab. John Timmer at Ars Technica posted this one over the weekend, which is a bit more whimsical but I think very much in the spirit of play that animates much of what the Lab has done over the past two and a half decades.
  • Ubuntu switching to Unity for future desktop
    Ryan Paul at Ars Technica was one of several people to mention this in my feeds today. Unity is the alternate shell for Gnome developed by Canonical specifically to improve the experience of users on netbooks. Reactions to the announcement so far are mixed, with some even thinking this signals a split between Canonical and Gnome, which I think is far from the case. Bear in mind that Linux has a long traditional of experimenting with desktops and undoubtedly if you dislike Unity, replacing it with the ordinary Gnome shell, or anything else for that matter, will remain trivial.
  • Carl Malamud’s ignite talk on why building codes should be open, BoingBoing
  • Mozilla pre-alpha demonstrates new way to customize its browser, The H
  • What you need to know about link shorteners, O’Reilly Radar
  • Bees beat machines at traveling salesman problem, Slashdot

My Mixed Meerkat Experience

In a moment of what hindsight has confirmed as very poor judgment, I decided I would upgrade my home system last night to the latest version of Ubuntu, 10.10 or Maverick Meerkat. I still am not sure what made me throw caution to the wind. I had several good empirical reasons for holding back to see what fixes percolate through the mailing lists, forums and blogs in the next couple of months. Installing the previous version of Ubuntu, 10.4 or Lucid Lynx, came with concerning problems and difficult to find workarounds for my ATI RadeonHD card. The packaged versions of the driver for my FireWire mixer didn’t work in Lucid requiring a hand compile. The changes to my preferred desktop environment, KDE, are much more modest with this upgrade than with Gnome.

After baby sitting what looked like a smooth upgrade, I was greeted with my X server crashing when trying to use Firefox. Click on the location bar, start to type and the screen would first go black, then come up with the GUI login prompt. I thought this might be some odd interaction with the beta version of the browser that I run. I did some research without finding a firm answer, just some vague suggestions something like this happened with the beta versions of Meerkat. The proposed fix was supposed to be in the final version. Either it didn’t make it or I have found some entirely new X crash.

I didn’t want to give up right away, especially consider the time it would take to revert to the old version. I re-named the hidden directory containing all my desktop and shared KDE preferences on a hunch. I thought it worked, too, as after logging back into my desktop, I was able to use Firefox crash-free. I moved on to poking at the necessary software to drive the venerable engine of my podcast, my humble Alesis MultiMix 8 FireWire. As I feared, Jack, the audio connection kit that plumbs my mixer into all the Linux audio tools I use, refused to start up, burping up an inscrutable message about some missing symbol. An update of the sources and a re-compile didn’t help. Worse, when trying to run down the various device and permission settings from my notes on originally getting my mixer running, I encountered another X crash. Opening the same audio control program post-crash caused the same heart ache, just as stubbornly consistent as the Firefox crash I thought I had worked around.

There are a few bugs in the Ubuntu bug database that might be or relate to my video related crashes. Unfortunately, with two podcast episodes to produce a week, I didn’t feel like doing the necessary debugging work to contribute a new bug or attach further details on an existing one. Instead I made sure I had a good, recent backup of my data files and configs and re-installed the old version of Ubuntu.

Trouble shooting problems like these when they are not simple or obvious is time consuming. You can take your best guess at what log snippets may be helpful but really you have to wait for a developer to take a look and give feedback. Ideally what ensues is a dialog where the developer asks you to try different things and provide log snippets after each attempt. That is why I say I don’t really have time to do what I should, leaving the buggy software in place and metaphorical poking it with a stick to document each odd bleep and blart it produces. My system would need to stay broken until the developer had what they thought they needed. And that wouldn’t even mean I’d have a fix, just that they’d have some clues, hopefully vital, on the way to one.

For future upgrade attempts, I did get a very good suggestion from my friend Jay. His idea was to use Linux’s software raid to establish a mirror of my system on a second disk. With this in place, a future upgrade would be preceded by removing one of the disks from the raid array. If the upgrade were to break again, this plan would ideally produce a quick restore, regenerating the array from the offline copy. A clever idea worth looking into further when I have more time. And a second disk that matches my current one. I do like the idea of a much simpler, faster recovery than a complete re-install and restore data and configs by hand. Being able to snap back to a known good state would make me more inclined to stick out future upgrade breakage to help contribute towards an eventual fix.

For now, I am mostly back to Lucid with just a couple of lower priority things to restore. My mixer is working again, most importantly, so I will be able to do some work this evening for tomorrow’s show. My first thought when realizing how badly my Meerkat upgrade was last night was that I’d have to scrap this week’s show so I’d have time to recover. Thankfully having a functional laptop, a solid backup, and a fast internet connection made the restoration go faster than I initially feared. All things considered, this sort of problem comes with the prospect of upgrading any OS and as bad as the problem I ran into was, I think I got off pretty light.

Ubuntu 10.10 Successfully Released Yesterday

The H has some highlights from the new version. I upgraded my work machine today without any problems. I am hesitant to do so with my home machine because I am concerned about having to re-configure my audio hardware from scratch. After I’ve had a chance to live with it for a while at work, I am sure the fixes and enhancements will draw me past my anxiety over possibly breaking the driver for my mixer.

Ryan Paul at Ars Technica has some more detail, in particular around the installer and the new netbook interface, Unity. If you are a Gnome user, which is the default desktop for Ubuntu, it looks like this is a major upgrade well worth the time.

I am a KDE user and after a few hours of playing around with Maverick, the update to that desktop doesn’t seem all that big. I was pretty happy with the version of KDE I had before the upgrade so it isn’t like I was looking for anything earth shattering. Which is good, because for us Kubuntu users, the update feels much more modest.

No doubt once I upgrade my home system, I may have further thoughts to offer. For one, right before I switch back to Linux I got a touch pad out of sheer frustration with Apple’s horrible lineage of mice. Sadly, the Wacom Bamboo Touch is a beast to get working well under Lucid so that is one very attractive reason to upgrade sooner rather than later. The KDE system settings have a dedicate section for touchpads which makes me optimistic that peripheral, at least, may work better under Maverick.

Canonical releases Ubuntu 10.10 “Maverick Meerkat”, The H

Following Up for the Week Ending 10/10/2010

Ubuntu 10.10 Goes Live on Sunday, 10/10

I use Ubuntu, specifically Kubuntu which is the flavor that bundles KDE, on almost all of my computers now. I don’t have any spare systems at the moment or I would have given the late betas and the release candidate of the version about to drop, 10.10 “Maverick Meerkat” a trial. I’ve been reading with interest some of the updates others have given a test drive and have already looked at the versions of some of my key programs that will get updates (Hurray for a version of Ardour that fixes the mute button bug!)

Paula Rooney at Open Source has some good high level details of what to expect across the various editions of Meerkat. As she notes, the big feature, if you can call it that, with the desktop edition is the set of improvements to Canonical’s cloud service, Ubuntu One. The Register digs into the changes much more, pointing out how Canonical is trying to make the service more useful across more devices. There is even a beta version of a Windows client.

If I didn’t already have plans for the weekend, I’d be looking for festivities at the area local communities or LoCos. It is probably just as well as I won’t be rushing out to upgrade right on release day. I will be very careful about upgrading my newly minted Kubuntu box in my home office as I have no desire to undo all the audio driver work I only recent got completely sorted.

Ubuntu 10.10 to debut on 10.10.10, Open Source

feeds | grep links > Promiscuous Android Apps, Virgin Media Throttling P2P, Maverick Meerkat Approaches Release, and More

feeds | grep links > DuckDuckGo Launches Tor Hidden Service, Wikipedia Experiments with P2P for Video, and More