The LTS Conundrum

During my time with openSUSE Tumbleweed I noticed that this specific ecosystem moves faster than Fedora, Arch Linux and sometimes even light itself. It stands to reason, as Tumbleweed (TW) is the testing ground for future Leap 42.x service packs and openSUSE software in general. Despite this, TW is surprisingly stable and reliable. Alas, the same cannot be said about the most recent Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support) releases. I believe the below cartoon is more than appropriate.

computer_error_rage

‘LTS’ is a bit of a magical term in software development. It marks an operating system or piece of software as inherently stable and meant to be supported for years. For instance, all Windows releases thus far were LTS, because their support cycle extended for years. Yet, they would get regular and security updates nevertheless. In the Linux-verse LTS means ‘more stable, less updates’ and in the case of Debian’s regular releases, only security updates are pushed to the audience. I’ve used Ubuntu since version 12.04 LTS and all of the XX.04 releases were rather solid. Of course, minor bugs happened from time to time, though nothing game-breaking. Until 16.04 LTS hit…

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is a bug-fest across all main flavors – Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, etc. Recently, when setting up a Dell Latitude D820 for a colleague I chose Lubuntu 16.04 LTS, believing that it’s going to work out-of-the-box and that all I need to do is just install the additional software. First, in stark contrast to previous Lubuntu releases, the installer in this one did not do the standard Internet connection/power supply/disk space check. Huge minus already. Then, it suggested I install extra proprietary software, yet failed to provide the firmware for the Broadcom BCM4311 chip. When I somehow managed to complete the install, booting stopped on the ext4 fsck (file system check), because the Intel driver package xserver-xorg-video-intel was missing entirely and X11 could not load. What sort of shoddy work is this? I am amazed that this sort of bug was not caught prior to the release.

To me LTS means that I can safely rely on the software. I can install it, configure and Get The Job Done. Imagine a company that is in the process of transiting to 16.04 LTS. Absolute nightmare! All Hell breaking loose! That’s part of the reason I moved to openSUSE for good. If I want breakage, I choose Tumbleweed. Should I feel the need for a stable environment, Leap 42.1 is within hands reach. As a teaser, Leap 42.2 Alpha 3 is already there for the taking. Guess what – thanks to the SUSE base it’s solid even before release!

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