Linux Release Cycles

Linux distributions are often released at predetermined intervals; the process of how a system is released during these intervals are known as the release cycle.

There are two primary types of release cycles within the Linux community: Standard or stable releases and rolling releases.

Standard/Stable Releases

Distributions that follow the standard release cycle are those that are often released at a fixed point of time — every six months, two years, et cetera. Major updates rarely occur in between standard releases, bar any important security updates. This is not to say packages or the operating system is never updated in between releases, but updates are limited to bug fixes, not the introduction of new features. These are called point releases because a decimal is added after the release (ex. Debian 8.1).

Those unfamiliar with Linux may look to Windows or OSX for a comparison of release types. Windows and OSX both use the standard release system, and upgrading to a new version of the operating system often involves an entire reinstall of the OS, or at least time and some patience for everything to download and upgrade.

A distribution developed under a standard release cycle traditionally handles packages to maximize stability. Distro developers take the needed packages for the distro, freeze these packages at a predetermined point in time, and spend part of the development process testing and examining how these packages work against the system to ensure stability. This means there is often more than one working branch of a release, and more than one version of an operating system can be supported and maintained at one time. For example, at the time of this writing, Debian still supports installs of both Debian 7 and 8.

Due to the nature of standard releases, they are popular choices for servers, especially those in large or complex ecosystems, where sysadmins require function over having bleeding edge updates and features. However, this often means packages can be months or even years behind their actual latest releases to ensure compatibility with the distro. Newer version of packages can always be downloaded and installed through source.


Some distributions, such as Ubuntu, offer LTS or long-term support versions of their distributions. These distributions are maintained for a longer-than-usual time by the developers. Because the support and stability this provides, LTS systems are optimal for hosting servers.

End of Life

Standard releases of operating systems have a limited timeline in which support is provided. In an example above, we note that Debian 7 and 8 are both maintained distros at this time. This means they receive the necessary security updates and bug fixes. Once a distribution reaches end of life status, however, it is no longer maintained and thus considered a security risk to use. Debian 6, which was released in February 2011, just reached EOL in February 2016. Because of this, it should no longer be used in environments, especially critical ones.

Rolling Releases

In contrast to standard releases, rolling releases are not released in a major update schedule, but continually receive small updates, additional features, bug fixes and security updates throughout the course of its entire life as a distro. If Debian is maintaining multiple branches of its distribution by having both 7 and 8 active, then rolling release distros, like Arch, work from a single branch. While Arch has release numbers (concurrent with the month and year it is being released), these work more as “updates” than the full installation process of a standard release distro. These updates are pulled in through the package manager from remote repositories, like any other update.

When using a rolling release distro, you are on the “bleeding edge” — this means new features are added promptly, package versions are in-line with (or closer to) the package maintainer’s releases, and bug fixes tend to be released sooner. However, this also means less testing goes into each release, and instance-breaking updates are a greater risk. Because of this, rolling releases are often more popular as desktop operating systems or workstations.

Unstable/Testing Releases

Some standard release distributions offer users access to their unstable or testing branches. These are closer in nature to rolling releases than the standard because they receive updates frequently and are constantly in development. Debian users, for example, may use Sid, the unstable branch of Debian. This allows for users to be more on the bleeding edge while still using Debian. These unstable releases have the same risks as traditional rolling releases, however — but also the same benefits.

CS source

Ubuntu – Steam Client Installation and Review

Some time ago, Valve announced that they were releasing a Steam Client targeted at Linux systems. At the time, it was rumored that their first Linux playable game internally (other than independent titles that already had Linux versions) was Left 4 Dead. Although we have not seen the rumored L4D port, we do now have a full blown Steam client for Ubuntu Linux (at least that is the officially supported distribution, however, I have seen clients working in Mint, Fedora and OpenSUSE). Here, we are going to talk about the installation and configuration of the client, along with some of the ‘gotchas’ involved. We will then talk about a couple of the games available and some of the lessons learned during the client use and subsequent gameplay.



Ubuntu Linux – Apache and Self Signed Certificates

Whether it is on your desktop or server installation of Ubuntu, there will come a time that you may need to work with Apache and certificates. We will go into full certificates from Certificate Authorities (like Verisign or Entrust) as well as exploring some of the ‘Open Source’ Certificate Authorities (read: free) in a later article. Today we are discussing how to prepare Apache to answer HTTPS requests in the VHOSTS as well as installing and configuring the pieces. Finally, we will install a self signed certificate and access our system over HTTPS to verify it all works.


Stephens Home

Ubuntu and Multiple Monitors – AMD Edition

There are several ways to end up with a satisfactory experience on the desktop with Ubuntu despite their recent confusion of the user interface. We will discuss some of those another day (KDE vs. Gnome vs. Cinammon vs. Unity). Today we are going to talk about setting up your desktop environment for multiple monitors. This article assumes you are running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or 12.10, however, the process should work equally well back to version 10.04 LTS unless otherwise noted.

Assuming you have installed Ubuntu and are successfully sitting at the desktop (the window manager at this point is irrelevant), a couple of questions will now come to mind. What am I going to be using my linux desktop environment for? If you are going to be running office applications, email, basic web browsing and the occassional movie, you might be done. The default (read: Open Source) binary video drivers for both AMD (radeon) and Nvidia (nouveaux) are perfectly acceptable for all of those things. In fact, recently, they both have picked up some compositing support (so you can run the nifty 3D window effects in Compiz or KWin) as well as support for gaming. However, that support is spotty and performance still leaves a lot to be desired.


Linux Penguin

Changing MySQL User Password

Alright, so you’ve created a new MySQL Database, you’ve added a user, even granted permissions to the user. Yet, that user forgot the password to their MySQL user account. How do you change the user’s password? There are several ways to do this, one of which we can do without even entering the MySQL command console. This quick tutorial will show you three separate ways to change a MySQL user password



Managing your pictures in Ubuntu

Ah, the holidays.  For me, the holidays are about getting stuff: getting fat, getting happy and getting lots of good pictures of your adorable nieces and nephews to embarrass them with when they become teenagers.  But now that you’re on Ubuntu, what program should you use to manage the evidence pictures?    Well, here is my review of some of the more popular (and free!) offerings available to Ubuntu users.