If you have to ask, you shouldn’t try it

This is that time of year (or twice a year, I guess I should say), when a lot of eager, well-meaning but somewhat out-of-their-league Ubuntu users get crazy and start installing the beta of the next release.

I have two things to say to that, and in no way am I trying to be rude or demeaning.

First, if you have to ask how stable or safe it is, you probably shouldn’t be using it. It’s still development software, possibly buggy, and likely to cause problems for you. Unless you’re prepared to tackle anything that might come your way, you should probably wait until the release candidate, and possibly later.

Don’t pin your expectations on beta software, please. It looks like fun and it probably is, but breakage happens. I’ve been there. And it can be frustrating if you don’t have the know-how to resurrect your machine when it turns crashtastic. I’ve been there too.

This is where someone always says, “Well it works fine for me and I’ve been using it since Tribe 2!” or something like that. Okay, sure. Maybe it has worked perfectly for you. But reassuring someone less experienced than you that beta software is safe to use is … a little foolhardy. You might be creating problems for someone who isn’t prepared to solve them, by telling them “things are fine” on a unique installation.

And this is also where someone usually says, “Well, I’m going to try it because I need the patches that are included in kernel 2.6.25.13, that support my Raybotec 802.11w wireless firewire transponderizer-plus-blender attachment.” Okay, sure. Maybe that’s something you’d rather not live without, and for that I support you.

But in that case (and this is the second thing I have to say), is a periodic release really what you’re after? Arch has been using the latest kernel for weeks, if not months now. Crux uses whatever kernel you tell it, no matter how new or old. And if you’re capable of riding the software development wave, why rely on beta software with future product support, when you could be using rolling release software that’s current, fresh and improved on a daily basis?

Again, I don’t want to be rude by insinuating that you can’t handle beta software, or that you should wait around sucking your thumb while things get fixed. I’m arguing for prudence as the better part of valor, and waiting until the cake is baked before you start eating it. :)

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7 Responses to “If you have to ask, you shouldn’t try it”


  1. 1 itsgregman 2008/03/31 at 8:24 PM

    Youre certainly correct that new users and the inexperienced should stay away from beta releases until they have become more accomplished at maintaining their systems. An inexperienced user running a beta release is just asking for heartache. I also agree that rolling release distros are the way to go. Not only for new users but for anyone who want a system that runs consistantly and without the aggravation of having to reinstall their entire operating system every 6 months.

  2. 2 Mic 2008/03/31 at 9:30 PM

    I am using Debian for the past years but to date, I’ve yet to get Kubuntu behaving properly on my 2 computers :-)

  3. 3 Caraibes 2008/04/01 at 5:04 AM

    Well, I would suggest running Debian Testing, as it is a “rolling release”, and you get most of what the latest *Buntu will sports, without going really too daring, like those users running Debian Sid :)

    I run Debian Testing on my main box, and Debian Stable on all others (just because it takes to much time to update all those boxes ;) )

    I use Debian on i586, i686, amd64 & ppc…

  4. 4 Dirk Gently 2008/04/01 at 6:35 AM

    I run unstable in Gentoo but often find myself rolling back to earlier versions fairly often. Though I am not really a programmer, I like to be able to look at new software and give feedback to developers. Gentoo users are fortunate though that the people that put them in the tree usually give them a good testing before doing so. This said, I’m not sure I’d try another Ubuntu beta again. It ran ok… but with some odd glitches. Ubuntu betas (correct me if I’m wrong) have little to do with stability and are often light nightly-builds which means they could have a good amount of experimentation in them. Ubuntu may want to warn its users about betas, as the often friendly face of Linux they be misleading users by not doing so.

  5. 5 Sir Sid 2008/04/01 at 8:50 AM

    I actually learned most of my linux know how by testing the beta of 7.10. Id actually recommend a beta to a inexperienced user who has been using a distro for a month or so and wants to take it to next level of know how. It really forces know the system inside and out and teaches a user how to deal with system crashes. The only reason I learned about manual partitioning and ability to have /home on its own partition was because my beta system crashed on me so often and I had to reformat so many times. It also taught me the power of the console in a way I would have never learned if I wasnt forced to enter recovery mode so often.

    I think the beta is one of the best ways to teach a new user the structure and the abilities of linux.

  6. 6 wolfric 2008/04/01 at 10:26 AM

    I agree with whats been said about rolling release distro’s.
    Ive been thinking about moving off Ubuntu and onto Debian Testing for the reasons mentioned by itsgregman.

    I ran Gutsy from Tribe 2, but not too keen to repeat the experience again. That said Hardy with the LTS support _should_ be more stable than Gutsy which was more of a development version.

    The other distro I have been looking at is Parsix (Deb testing/Kanotix based). Which seems very nice.

    Nice blog by the way, I often end up here from tuxmachines. :)

  7. 7 Danny 2008/04/02 at 2:25 AM

    The cool thing about being part of Free Geek is that we get to test early releases. We have plenty of equipment to try things out -or as aircraft engineers used to say, “Strap it to your ass, see if it’ll fly!” Sometimes, things work fine. The last few releases have had some major boink-out issues in tribe/alpha releases.

    We tried out Xubuntu 8.04 beta on a laptop and desktop lastnight (1 GHz for the laptop, 800 MHz for the desktop), and I’ve got to give major kuddos (just what are kuddos, anyway) to the Xubuntu team. Excellent work. Xubuntu 8.04 absolutely flew on both machines. I’m not sure what’s different, but I’m glad it is.

    Free Geek CF usually waits till about 1 month after a release to start installing it on new systems. Even after a release, there’s issues. Within a month, most are dealt with.


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