How to deal with Linux Releases?

These are more philosophical doubts. First of all I’m almost Linux Rookie :wink:

I’ve been having Linux (such as Knoppix-HD, Red-Hat, Mandrake) for many years but always as a secondary system, more for fun than for normal use.

Primary system was always Windows XP. Now I’ve switched to Linux permanently.
It’s not an easy way but sometimes the effect is even better.

I moved 2 months ago to SUSE 11.1. I spent many weeks customizing it and tuning-up. I tried different applications and finally found a set of them that do the job for me.
Now I feel like at home and most of thinks work.

I really would not like to go once more thru all the steps, such as OpenGL support drivers, changing Yast under Gnome to KDE look, remapping key etc, etc.

Doubts #1
Installing applications in Linux is easy when you have the Internet connection and your distribution was not closed down. Go to repo, click – works.

But in Windows XP I really felt much safer about the future. I had the OS installation CD, CD with all the necessary drivers and DVD with all my favourite applications.

In Linux it’s quite difficult to do like this (Image of HDD is not an solution). Any good ideas?

Doubts #2
More than loosing the distribution support I’m confused with releases of the SUSE (and any other Linux). The are appearing so fast. I’m not a Linux maniac, I prefer working under my OS rather than working on the OS to make it work ;-).

2a. Tell me guys, should I always upgrade my system to the newest release?

2b And what will happen if I don’t? (I have enabled auto-update of the system, so it looks like it is kept up to date).

2c. How long can live with one release? With Windows XP I managed almost 8 years! Is it possible to stay with SUSE 11.1 for 8 years?

2d. Upgrading system to the newest release like from 11.1 to 11.2 is it perfectly-smooth upgrade? Will absolutely all the settings, colours etc. be the same after update?

2e. And I don’t like any kind of upgrades of the system. It always takes more hard drive space than doing it from scratch (I’m comparing drive space of course after making them equal with applications, settings etc.) Is it the same in SUSE, that after upgrade I will have some hidden backups or just rubbish like old kernels etc. (I’m not advanced user enough to clean those thing up.)

Well that’s it.
I would like to listen your opinions. I hope the it’s not so dark as I feel right now :wink:


Hi, interesting questions.

  1. Towards the end of life of a distribution I keep a local copy of the installation DVD and the update repo (you can rsync it). You may want to mirror OSS and NON-OSS repos as well, as HD space is cheap and abundant these days. This way you will be able to install additional packages even after the end of life of a release.

2a. My opinion is: no. A perfectly running system which is used for work is kept as long as it does the job. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

2b. I do updates manually. Just those I want to do. This will usually be updates for apps exposed to security risks (e.g. bind). Others (like TeX) never need updates. They are frozen and bug-free.

2c. Yes. Want an example? Packman on is still on SuSE Linux 8.2.

2d. No, it’s a PITA. When changing to a new release a fresh install is strongly recommended.

2e. You name it. See 2d.

Why is it difficult in Linux? I do not understand this assessment.

No you should not. For example, some time back, on my main PC, I jumped from openSUSE-9.3 to 10.2, skipping 10.0 and 10.1.

As the distribution gets older, there will be less and less packages made for it. Then about 20 months after the release, Novell will no longer support it. Shortly after that, Packman and other packagers will stop packaging for it.

The risk wrt no Novell support is you do not get the security fixes. As long as you want no updates, nor new packages, then the stop in Packman support is not a problem.

That is up to you. After 20 months, no Novell Support and Packman support to drop soon after. But if you know how to rebuild and compile apps yourself, and are very skilled at it, you can go for years.

From 11.1 to 11.2 ? It depends. If going from Gnome to Gnome, and if you keep the /home, then it should be fairly smooth. If you want the next ext4 files system (which IMHO is faster than ext3) then it will not be so smooth, as extra work will be needed.

If going from KDE-4.1.3 (on 11.1) to KDE-4.3.1 (on 11.2) than IMHO it could be a bit bumpy. If it were me, I would do a careful backup of /home (checking EVERY directory (including file sizes) to ensure every file backed up properly) and then I would reformat /home. Thats what I did on my 4 PCs with 11.2.

Just backup /etc, /boot, /home, on to an external hard drive. Then install 11.2 in a brand new formated /home. Then do NOT restore /etc/, /boot, /home but consult with them as required.

Hi vodoo,

I like this idea with mirroring all the repo. Why not. Is it just a simple copy over ftp the entire remote folder?

Some applications I can also try to collect as RPM.

Sounds promising. but let’s imagine that there is a new interesting application in the SUSE 14.1 :wink: can I try to mount this
repo in 11.1? How you install smth like this.

And one more thing since this is a general chat :wink: Why the releases are published so often? Isn’t it better to stay for some years with 11 and ensure updates for it?

The reasons vary IMHO from distribution to distribution.

But some reasons are:

  • New hardware
  • sometimes a substantially new kernel is needed for new hardware, where the new kernel could break many exisiting things. Hence it may be preferable to support the new hardware in a new Linux release
  • Generate revenue
  • some distributions obtain some of their revenue by the support they provide with a new release, or by selling the new release boxed set;
    *]Test new kernel/apps/libraries/drivers - some distributions (Novell with openSUSE for SLED/SLES, Red Hat with fedora for “Red Hat”) use the new releases as a means of testing kernels, applications, libraries, drivers, destkops, configurations, etc … that they plan to put in their commercial Linux releases. They want to encourage users to use these new open source releases so as to test. Once tested, they can encorporate what works reliably in their commercial releases. The longer the releases are apart, in practise the less the testing. Like it or not, with the business model in use by Novell and Red Hat, we are to certain extent all considered testers.

Sounds promising. but let’s imagine that there is a new interesting application in the SUSE 14.1 :wink: can I try to mount this repo in 11.1? How you install smth like this.

No, mixing repos is calling for severe trouble. When I have to bring an application to an old unsupported release I compile from source. That’s where dependency hell starts. This wonderful app may require library.x.y and that keeps me busy compiling a bunch of libraries as well. Best (or worst) example for this is gnucash. So there is a point in time when I really need a new application I upgrade to the latest distribution.

But as I said: as long as it meets my needs I stick with it.

Why the releases are published so often? Isn’t it better to stay for some years with 11 and ensure updates for it?

New kernels are coming at a fast pace and support for new hardware is added. There is some need for new users with new hardware to have the latest version available. It’s much different once your box is running and ageing. Then it’s better to keep what you have. Otherwise you even risk that your old graphics adaptor may no longer have any drivers available in the latest release.

One thing you can do is try to rebuild an application. Please take a look at this thread here, and my “rpmbuild --rebuild some-src-file.rpm” example for “camorama” : openSUSE software installation hints - openSUSE Forums

Of course the older and older the distribution gets wrt the current application, the less and less likely that the rebuild will work.

Well but isn’t this more up to kernel? And the kernel you could update like you do normally.

Also I wonder what is making a release?
Let’s imagine that there will be a talented guy with free time who will for many years build a repo for 11.1 implementing new soft from upper releases (I wish to became one like that ;)).

Then I can update my soft or remove old and replace it with new, such as kernel, Gnome … well basically everything - so still what is the reason.

Why not have a SUSE 11 with Gnome in many ver?

That sounds logical. Maybe I should think to buy a corporate box one?

Or maybe use the Debian Stable ;>

Let me jump in and say something here about mixing repositories.

Repositories hold packages, as we all know. Now these repositories may contain the same package, but different versions, or different naming conventions (1.1.1 vs 20091129.x.x). There are more variation than that. But basically you end up fighting dependency conflicts with versions, and that’s if your dealing with one package. Say you add a repository that has a several packages, maybe a hundred packages. Now your dealing with dependencies, perhaps, for every package in that repository compared to your system.

If used wisely, repositories can enhance your system, but you really have to know what your doing. If you don’t know what your doing, you can totally trash your system.

What does it make the system.
Isn’t a set of kernel + applications.
So why not build new applications and provide updates for the same release.

Explanation of the oldcpu that it’s pushed by the for example Novel/RedHat to test new soft sounds logical.

Do you know any distribution that doesn’t changes every year but provides updates instead?

Millions of people voluntary and help to build Linux and all of them are doing it just to help some Authority to test their new system?

Ubuntu for instance calls itself as a fully non-profit and also do frequently releasing.

Last years Linux growth for a real alternative for Windows and more and more people will switch to it. The don’t need to be beta testers :wink:

Yes. If that is what you want go for a rolling release distro. That will mean more frequent updates not less, but smaller.

Rolling release
that sound interesting, never heard about it.

I’ve just quickly check repo. of Arch and it looks impressive.


On the other hand for now I stick to SUSE. I’m not use to change girls every weekend ;p

You might want to look at SLED then, from memory SLED10 still goes to
2011-2013. At the moment it’s at SP3 since it’s release in 2006. I’m
running 11 now on my main desktop, openSUSE in VM’s and on my
ASUS netbook.

I create a local rpm repository for all the one off type applications
and also have my own OBS (openSUSE Build Service) repository for others.

You could look at using SUSE Studio ( here
you can build your own openSUSE (or SLES/SLED), upload your own rpm’s
and build a customized version. You can also pickup the latest updates
etc so so many options here.

Cheers Malcolm °¿° (Linux Counter #276890)
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 (x86_64) Kernel
up 9:54, 2 users, load average: 0.26, 0.28, 0.27
GPU GeForce 8600 GTS Silent - CUDA Driver Version: 190.18

I’ve seen a lot of misery Jonathan_R describes. Used “Swich system packages to…” quite a lot on systems with over 20 KDE4 repos, packages from each and all of them installed. All this after just a couple of days of running 11.2, almost every repo possible (just about 10 from /home ) enabled.

TIP: I create 2 30GB partitions on every system I manage. I install the new release on the spare partition, test whatever is needed, reconfigure from a planning list. This way every system can fall back to the previous, working OS. There’s lots of things you can do in advance to make this easy, like moving MySQL databases etc. to a separate partition.
I’ve been doing it like this for years now. Must say, that only 10.0 was hell with my motherboard (that stopped working shortly after 10.1 release).
Even keeping up with the distro’s releases is possible, if carefully planned.

Welcome aboard!

If you want to, simply tell YaST to keep copies of the rpm’s you download. Then you can re-install them should you need to, without the bother of CD’s. With time you will find /var/cache/YaST (IIRC) gets rather large, in which case you may wish to archive them off onto DVD-R or something similar.

No, update upgraded applications via repo. Best to wait a few weeks with things like KDE 4.3.4, so more experienced find and have fixed, the confusing glitches and niggles
that can be a problem, when changing software.

At moment for 11.1, Firefox 3.5.5 is a nice upgrade, as well as KDE 4.3.X, I would recommend those to all but things like the YaST & zypper improvements won’t affect you day to day.

I actually kept oS-10.3 in operation until the week 11.2 came out, a full 2 years of service, without having to re-install the OS or any application.

Good! You will get security and important bug fixes, but not have software ugrades which change user features.

So for example 11.1 sticks with FF-3.0.x; but FF-3.5.4 has been recently updated to 3.5.5 because it addresses stability issues.

Not adviseable if you’re connected to the net. I had a 2003 release of SuSE-8.2 running till late 2007, but the old browsers weren’t working well with modern Web 2.0, so upgrades become pretty necessary.

I think an upgrade strategy can minimise worries, by copying your ‘/’ which is seperate from all your user data /home, and any work you do, is best. Setting 8 GB aside suffices, to try out new version, and you can run an upgrade by copying 11.1’s / filesystem, and adding GRUB entries via YasT Bootloader to try things out.

The other problem with using stale old releases, is you’ll struggle to find anyone who remembers how things used to work. So anyone still on 10.3, or 11.0 really probably ought best to upgrade to 11.2 soon.

Not seen many ppl complaining. I think Plasma Desktop in KDE can have issues with saved settings. The problem tends to be, that trying out a new version, updates settings, and then you have a problem using the older software.

Hence, I recommend, copying user data and testing as a different user, before migrating.

Make sure you have enabled cleaning up of /tmp and /var/tmp in the YaST->Sysconfig Editor, and look for System Cron and set MAX_DAYS_IN_TMP to 7 or so. MAX_DAYS_IN_LONG_TMP and LONG_TMP_DIRS_TO_CLEAR can be set to /var/tmp, and you could add other directories where you accumulate garbage.

This is not Windows, and the temporary work stuff is cleared up, without you getting 3rd party software you need in XP.

This is done actually. It is just that a limited number of releases can be supported effecively on the community “no cost” distro. In general, if you look at the usage figures, you’ll find latest releases are migrated to astonishingly quickly by the majority of users, so the user base for 10.3 & 11.0 is already very small.

The fact is installing & updating Linux is much simpler than installing Windows to a “ready to work” environment, so the trade-offs are a little different.

Give yourself some time, perhaps in a few months you’ll fancy migrating to 11.2 and it’ll be very stable, with developers testing & working on 11.3

Make sure you have seperated out system data, from things you work on. Then upgrading (whilst still requiring backup of important data) should not be as stressful and work-ful as you fear.

Debian “stable” in past, has managed releases only every couple years, but are now planning a more regular annual update. The drawback was in past that backports of upgrades like Firefox 3.5 and KDE 4.3 weren’t available, though that may have changed.

The easiest way to get a Debian “stable” system was to install via a Knoppix disk, though that may have changed. Typical for Debian though, they are already postponing this years spring release till summer (go figure :slight_smile: ).

Please though, upgrading openSUSE has become much more comfortable than in past, it working for most part with system live. There’s been very little issues & problems with the feature. So give it a chance, if it was traumatic for most, there’d be a huge number of posts with ppl venting off about the feature.

Going to a “rolling release” distro, would be counter-productive, as then changes occur all the time, not just bug fixes, and applications you personally wish to upgrade.

Rather than worrying so much about the 11.2 upgrade possibility, just enjoy 11.1; then when you are ready, prepare system for safe upgradeability in future.

I did this in past, actually rsync(1) -ing update repo. Reason not to, is there’s simply too much software there.

At present 11.2 has 13.8GB of official repo’s, and alrady 1.1GB in updates.

This is a consequence of good support, it is insane to mirror that for private purposes, rather than simply archive the things you do use, by keeping rpm’s.

No, you can usually install old binary rpm’s in a new release, but not those built for a newer release.

Building from source yourself, can work well with simple packages, but not the big ones, because they end up depending on newer features present in system libraries.

New releases are made :

  1. For Publicity
  2. Get Improved software out to end users
  3. Prepare service packs for commercial releases
  4. Linux users like them, and tend to prefer scarily recently released software

I should just update via clean install every other release, about 3 months after 11.3 comes out, if you still feel the same about upgrading. Then you’re best preparing by having an 8GB spare partition to install into anyway.

That way you’ll never be a “beta” tester, and “freshen” up the system only every 16 months.

  1. Free software evolves.

  2. Free software dependencies often create radical change.

Because of these two things, it’s not really possible to
obtain upgrade nirvana without some things breaking (I’m
amazed that it works as well as it does).

8 years? Sure… you can ALWAYS use it for 8 years. It
is VERY rare that some kind of remote exploit will remain.
It might happen. In which case you might have to start
building from source (and all of those lovely dependency
issues… easier to back everything up and do a full
upgrade IMHO).

I simply mirror everything I use in building the older
platforms so at least I can take a GA (from media) and
upgrade it to the latest before the support ended.

If you truly want (more or less) worry free 8 year support
you’ll have to consider an enterprise level distro. I might
recommend Ubuntu LTS, but it’s only 3 years suppot on the
desktop side.

With that said. are you really still using the same
Windows desktop that you were using 8 years ago?