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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 21 Oct 2011

Canonical upping desktop support for its next Ubuntu LTS to 5 years

Ever since Ubuntu shipped its first long-term-support release, the 6.06 Dapper Drake (one of my all-time favorites by the way), the distro's LTS editions have enjoyed three years of support on the desktop and five years on the server.

Now Canonical is extending desktop support for the upcoming 12.04 LTS (to be named Precise Pangolin) to a full five years on both the desktop and server, making the release that much more compelling for enterprise users and others (like myself) who might not necessarily stick with the release for the full five years but want the option of doing so.

It makes the quality and stability of this next release that much more important, as SABDFL Mark Shuttleworth enumerated in a blog post yesterday.

I'm extremely supportive of the decision to extend the life of the Ubuntu LTS. Aside from giving users of the distribution some extra breathing room, the move should encourage OEMs to offer Ubuntu on their hardware and developers to package their software for a known platform that will be viable for a full five years.

While the support isn't as long as Red Hat's, I think five years is long enough for both servers and desktops.

(While Debian doesn't give an exact length of support, it has pretty much fallen into a pattern of releasing every two years and does promise a year of security patches for the previous release as Old Stable whenever a new Stable distribution is released, giving Debian an effective three-year support life.)

If Ubuntu's rendition of the Unity desktop is stable and functional enough by April 2012, and Canonical doesn't stuff 12.04 full of untried and tested code, this will be a win all the way around.

Right now I'm assuming that the other official Ubuntu releases, Xubuntu (Xfce), Kubuntu (KDE) and possibly Lubuntu (LXDE) will all enjoy this extended support on the desktop.

And while I don't see the majority of users sticking with 12.04 for the full five years, I am among those who have run 8.04 LTS for just about the full three years and am now running 10.04 LTS on one machine.

I'm still running Debian Squeeze, that project's current Stable release, and I don't foresee changing that in the near or intermediate future, but Ubuntu does offer some compelling advantages over Debian on the desktop, which I'll get into later (when I have time to think about exactly what they are), mostly -- for me anyway -- having to do with not needing to go outside the distribution's own repositories for things like multimedia codecs and non-free applications like Skype and Dropbox.

And yes, it would take a lot for me to leave the functionality, speed and stability of Debian behind. But for some of the installations I maintain (and probably those you maintain, too), Ubuntu remains a compelling choice, all the more so with this extra desktop support.

* SABDFL: Self-Appointed Benevelont Dictator for Life, isn't Shuttleworth's official title, but he's often referred to as such by those who follow open-source.