Ubuntu is old, most of the time

One thing that I really don’t like about Ubuntu is that, by default, it doesn’t automatically upgrade popular software releases until a whole new version of the operating system is released. This means that right now Ubuntu 9.10 (the latest stable release) is still running Firefox 3.5.8 and OpenOffice.org 3.1.1, when the latest versions are 3.6 and 3.2, respectively.

I can definitely understand why such a policy simplifies maintenance on older releases, allowing the developers to focus on the upcoming release, but why can’t they just change this policy at least for the most popular desktop programs?

The way they do things today is annoying and makes Ubuntu feel old-fashioned. Is there another Linux distro that has a better software upgrade policy that I can switch to instead, or am I stuck having to upgrade software manually and store the programs in my home folder?

9 thoughts on “Ubuntu is old, most of the time

  1. David Tenser

    No, that’s the thing: Ubuntu disables that functionality. To be fair, having applications self-upgrade isn’t something that is typical in Linux since apps are installed at a location that isn’t writable by the user. The system then handles software updates on its own.

    You can of course make the Firefox application folder user-writable, and then it will be possible for it to auto-upgrade again.

  2. Topher

    For Firefox in Ubuntu, I quit using the one that comes with the distro and just grabbed my own copy. Then it’ll do its automatic updates on its own.

    This stale software issue is the primary reason I left Ubuntu. I went to Arch, which has a more complex install (which I found fun) but once it’s done the day to day maintenance is *exactly* like Ubuntu. Except you get new stuff when it comes out. Pidgin 2.6.6 came out yesterday, and I already have it from my distro.

    Others you may want to try are Sidux and Slax. Arch is my favorite though, the docs are fantastic.

  3. Neil T.

    I think Asa Dotzler touched on this some time ago. It’s a shame that software vendors like Mozilla and OpenOffice.org are essentially taken out of the picture on Linux – while Mac and Windows users can download and install the latest version themselves, Linux users have to rely on their distro vendor to issue an update. While Ubuntu et al are usually good at providing minor updates to their users quite quickly, updates from say Firefox 3.5.x to 3.6.x are usually held back to an operating system update.

    This is one of the main reasons why I use OS X and Windows as my main operating systems and not Linux. I don’t feel like I have as much control over my system as a Linux user.

  4. David Tenser

    Neil T: I don’t think it’s about a lack of control, though — it’s more a lack of convenience. As I said, it’s perfectly possible (and frankly not that hard) to install your own version of Firefox, OpenOffice.org, and Thunderbird. The only problem is that you end up with two installations of Firefox, and you need to do some things on your own, such as adding shortcuts to your local installations yourself (they don’t end up in the Program menu automatically for example).

    In my opinion it’s not a reason to switch to a proprietary OS — it’s just an annoyance, and frankly something that would be fairly straightforward for Canonical/Ubuntu to fix.

  5. Thomas

    But where should Canonical draw the line? Why should Firefox and OOo be preferred? Only because of the big user base especially in the proprietary world? This arouses envy.

    I’m using Ubuntu 9.04 (with Firefox 3.0.x!) and I’ve installed the newer version in my home directory. I can live with that, except that’s not so easy to install a newer version of OOo beside the version of the distro.

    Firefox 3.6 was released at the end of January, OOo 3.2 at the beginning of February. Ubuntu 10.04 will be released at the end of April. That’s 3 months. For normal users it’s irrelevant to wait 3 months for the update. But we are not normal users. 😉

  6. dominik

    I am using Ubuntu and openSUSE: While their policies regarding updating software like Firefox and OpenOffice are quite the same, I find it easier or rather more convenient to keep them updated to the latest stable version on openSUSE, because there exist official (but formally unsupported) repositories for the latest stable releases of these packages. While there is somewhat a similar possibility on Ubuntu (ppas), it seems to me less polished and causing more issues than the openSUSE counterpart.

  7. Someone Else

    I personally wish the Ubuntu release schedule was a little less aggressive, and that they would take the time, once in a while, to polish a release.

    As I am so passionate about computing, I would probably get impatient and install the latest Firefox on my own, but most computer users aren’t even going to be aware of a new Firefox release.

    As long as Ubuntu provides security updates to its current Firefox release, the it doesn’t really matter much to most users. Waiting six months for the latest, cutting-edge, Firefox features isn’t even going to phase most users.

    I have installed Ubuntu on a couple friends’ computers, and they have “complained” that the updates pop-up so frequently. I am happy they are using relatively secure computers, when so many people out there never update their Windows installations, virus software, and are still using Internet Explorer 6.


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