Updated Ubuntu is moving away from its established six-month-cycle and potentially to a future where software updates land on a daily basis.
Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said during an Ubuntu 10.10 conference call last month that a move to daily updates would help the popular Linux distro keep pace with an increasingly complex software and platform ecosystem as Ubuntu goes on more devices and syncs up Android and iPhones. This snippet got buried in the avalanche of Ubuntu 10.10 news, so The Reg circled back.
Software Center - barely a year old - is leading these changes, and Shuttleworth has promised this would "go further and faster than people might have envisioned in the past."
"Today we have a six-month release cycle," Shuttleworth said. "In an internet-oriented world, we need to be able to release something every day.
"That's an area we will put a lot of work into in the next five years. The small steps we are putting in to the Software Center today, they will go further and caster than people might have envisioned in the past."
Ubuntu has been on a solid six-month release cycle since Edgy Eft, version 6.10, in October 2006 paved the way for Feisty Fawn, 7.04, the following year.
It's not just Ubuntu that's updated every six months but also modules and code from the other areas of the open-source world that make up an Ubuntu release.
A new version of Ubuntu will see, say, latest versions of Firefox and OpenOffice added or new packages included that take Ubuntu in a different direction as when Ubuntu 10.10 replaced its default F-Shot photo editor with Shotwell.
It seems Shuttleworth is talking about a future where updates to Canonical's Ubuntu code, Ubuntu's other features and software you have purchased or downloaded for free are updated as and when they become available, instead of waiting for the six-month drop.
Updates could come too, as Ubuntu is installed on more new form factors from other companies, such as netbooks or in-car-systems, and the makers of those systems release new code. The key question will be how widely Ubuntu is adopted on other form factors beyond the traditional laptop or desktop PC, according to Shuttleworth.
Software Center was introduced just a year ago in Ubuntu 9.10 as a graphical package management tool intended to be simpler and easier than to use for those new to Linux than the existing GNOME Add/Remove tool. Software Center took a step closed towards Shuttleworth's vision in Ubuntu 10.10 last month, when it include the ability to purchase and download proprietary software to your Ubuntu machine from online servers. ®
Ubuntu engineering director Rick Spencer has responded to subsequent reports based on this article, by saying Ubuntu is not moving to rolling releases.
In a post on his blog, he said: "We are confident that our customers, partners, and the FLOSS ecosystem are well served by our current release cadence. What the article was probably referring to was the possibility of making it easier for developers to use cutting edge versions of certain software packages on Ubuntu. This is a wide-ranging project that we will continue to pursue through our normal planning processes."
He added that he liked the idea of "making it easier for developer and enthusiasts to use daily builds of software that they really care about, and maybe even have them discover this capability through the software center." But, he said, in his view having a stable six month release with the "option to stay cutting edge on certain packags (sic)" did not constitute a rolling release.
A tip of the hat to Spencer for adding in his blog our article made "some reasonable conjecture about possible implications" and it was links to the piece that contained labels like "Ubuntu Moves to Rolling Releases!" ®