Versions of Ubuntu
Ubuntu recently released its latest edition 8.10. Most Linux distributions have release cycles (an interval with which they release a new version of the OS). To me a sign an active forward looking OS is one that is on a steady release cycle. Ubuntu releases a new version every 6 months. This is both good and bad. Open source projects update their software so fast that running older versions of Linux might not be compatible with newer software. So constantly upgrading keeps your Linux kernel up-to-date and ensures that you can run most of the latest and greatest software on your system. However, upgrading isn’t a painless task and can often lead to some broken packages or services that stop running, and so upgrading every six months becomes a very arduous and daunting task (I’ll point out in a minute how Ubuntu bridges both gaps). So a lot of people question how a release of 8.10 can happen (I actually had a friend drop the 0 and thought that it was a typo to have the 0 there in the first place). Remember Ubuntu is releasing every six months so it does version numbers based upon the year and month (hence 8.04 is released in April of 2008, and likewise 8.10 was just released in October). Ubuntu also tacks LTS at the end of some versions. 8.04 is actually an LTS version (long term support). This is how Ubuntu gets around the annoyance of constant upgrades and this is also why businesses can consider Ubuntu. LTS versions have considerably longer support cycles and Ubuntu tries its hardest to only include well established stable software. This gives you the best of both worlds. If you need cutting edge or just like to remain up-to-date than you can install the latest Ubuntu version (in this case 8.10), but if you want stability and want a machine that will be supported and last a long time than you will want to install an LTS version (in this case 8.04). So far LTS versions have come out ever other year so 6.06 was the last LTS and we should expect another LTS in 10.0x.
So the question comes which version do I choose? I’d say for most desktops (ie the browsing and picture machine) the latest version, why not typically we don’t have advanced configurations and anything an upgrade would break is minimal. But for a serious work machine or a server (even if it is a home server) I would stick with only LTS configurations. For instance at home I have MythTV setup. It takes a good amount of time to configure MythTV and I have several other services running off of the machine. If the upgrade broke my configuration I would have to spend hours trying to reconfigure so for now I am sticking with 8.04.
For those of you using Windows your best bet is to use Wubi (which has already been mentioned). The main advantage is that you don’t need to partition your disk. Most default windows installations use the entire disk for the boot drive. Linux offers some very powerful, but potentially dangerous tools to resizing your disk. Wubi takes care of this problem by essentially creating an expandable file that Linux boots from and changing the default windows boot loader to load Linux (so Wubi is not touching the partition table or resizing partitions). For most users in a dual boot environment this is probably your safest and easiest way to get going. The only major catch that I could see to this setup is if you wanted Linux as a backup to Windows. If your Windows configuration became corrupt (particularly a file system corruption) than your Linux config is still worthless, but if you partition it like normal than your Windows config could totally corrupt itself and you could repair it from your Linux configuration. Check these detailed instructions for how to get started with Wubi. In my next post I’ll show you how to install Ubuntu through the alternate installation.