Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Releases and User Responsibility

Hi all,

I thought I would type some lines about some noise coming out of recent reviews of Ubuntu. I have to say, though, that these concepts apply to all Linux distros out there.

It seems Karmic Koala is not having an easy landing, and many users are complaining of a bumpy ride as they upgrade or install this new version. I want to provide some simple suggestions to make that ride more confortable, but will also discuss what I consider is part of the responsibility of the community.

Some easy steps to make your transition to a new release easy and safe:

1.- "If it ain´t broken, don´t fix it"
: In other words, do not upgrade/install a new release unless it is necessary. Obviously, this does not apply if you are installing a new release just for fun, but if your machine is used for work/studying, and it contains applications and information that is important to you, then you need to think twice before upgrading.

If you positively know that a new release will bring more stability to your system, or perhaps detect hardware that your current release cannot, by all means go for it, but understand this is not a trivial sudo apt-get update thing.

2.- Do backup your data before you upgrade!: Lots of people just blindly trust an upgrade process, unaware of its complexities. Even Windows and Mac have a tough time with upgrade process (Just read about the nightmare it is upgrading Windows Vista into Windows 7). These processes involve quite some risk, so you should prepare yourself to recover your info in case anything goes wrong. Not only there are great applications for backing up your information, but you can also create a live CD with your current installation, so restoring it can be a piece of cake.

By the way, these activities are best practices anytime, not just when you are about to upgrade.

3.- Try to avoid upgrading!: If possible, try to run a clean installation instead of an upgrade. Like I just said, an upgrade process is always delicate and complicated, so avoid it if you can.

Another reason to avoid upgrades has to do with the very concept of moving to a new release. By definition, certain upgrades cannot be made effective. For example, if you upgrade from any previous release of Ubuntu to Karmic, you will not be able to enjoy GRUB2.

4.- Do NOT upgrade/install right after release date!: I know, I know, you´ve been hearing about that new release, about its promising enhancements and you just can´t wait... well, DO WAIT!.

Let´s be honest, the involvement in Alpha and Beta testing for most, if not all, releases is really below what is needed to guarantee a proper release stability. The only true testing time a Release gets happens after GoLive, so be sure you are ready for a bumpy ride if you decide to update on release day.

On average, I would recommend to install a new release about a month after release date.

Remember, you have a choice. If you decide to upgrade/install early on, please do not rant about how bad that particular release was, but help fix bugs instead.

5.- Smile!: A positive attitude will take you a long way. Remember we are a community, so unleashing your frustration with mindless rants won´t really help. In fact, it will probably create a lot of noise that really has nothing to do with the actual quality of a release.

After all, even if you had a small issue (very very few people actually have serious problems), you are getting a wonderful OS for free, so you might as well breath deeply a number of times before biting the hand that´s feeding you.

In summary, please do take a new release seriously. It is a step that involves risk and you should only take it if you know what you are doing and are willing to accept that risk.

In addition, all users in the community are directly responsible for the quality of any release. The more people who seriously apply for Alpha and Beta testing, the better off we will be, so I encourage everybody to do so in case you haven´t already.

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