LTS releases – Discussion

I read about the kernel and Plasma LTS releases and I don't understand why the major distros are not using them.

Last LTS kernel 4.14 will not be used by Fedora 28 (4.16), openSuse Leap (4.12) and Ubuntu LTS (4.15). Only Debian sticks with LTS kernel and, since it was released in 2017, it will stay on 4.9 LTS, which will be supported until Debian 10.

On the other hand, Plasma's LTS releases are used more often. Both Kubuntu and openSuse Leap 15 will use the latest LTS release which is 5.12. Debian is using an old 5.8 LTS. On the other hand, neither of these distros are updating Plasma to the latest LTS minor release. Debian still uses 5.8.6 even though the latest is 5.8.8 LTS, claiming that these minor releases are not stable enough. openSuse Leap 42 and Kubuntu are not much better even though they release their own patches that "contain some of the bugfixes from the new minor LTS releases but also the major releases (if req)". Both distros claim the same thing for their kernels.

Can someone tell me why this is a tradition in the Linux world? Isn't the LTS garanted by the teams that develop the software more credible than the LTS support given by the distributions, since they wrote the code? In my opinion, the only answer is inertia and conservative societies of these well known long lasting distros, since these LTS releases were first published a few ago.

As being a developer myself, to me it sounds more logical for distributions to use LTS kernel and Plasma LTS and their minor versions and then to make their patches available upstream so that users of other distros could benefit. Moreover, the kernel devs that are prepearing the next kernel release could add these fixes to their code. The benefit would be less time spent for distro maintainers (which can be used for other stuff) and better workflow which could influence more volunteers to join their communities. Isn't that the one of the main ideas of open source?

I only mentioned the LTS releases of the kernel and one of the biggest desktop environments, since they represent one of the main of the Linux desktop/laptop OS, but this is only an example and is also valid for other open source software. Conitnuing with this example, I will list their LTS release dates (even though I know they are not strict and that they were released when ready):

  • Plasma 5.12.5: 1 May 2018
  • Plasma 5.12.0: 6 Februar 2018
  • Linux 4.14: 12 November 2017
  • Plasma 5.8.5: 27 December 2016
  • Linux 4.9: 11 December 2016
  • Plasma 5.8.0: 4 October 2016
  • Linux 4.4: 10 January 2016

From here, in my opinion, the perfect stable distro would have a flexible (when ready) release, once a year or year and half. It would have stable base and more frequent update of other apps. The release could be for example in January 2017 with Plasma 5.8.5 and 4.9 kernel and in Jun 2018 with Plasma 5.12.5 and 4.14 kernel. This release cycle is almost as often as the one that MacOS has. Other distros could use GNOME with half a year release cycle (like Win10) and etc.

It is also common in open source world to schedule releases in cordination with others. For example, Plasma scheduled their last LTS release after they talked to openSuse and Kubuntu, and a similar thing happened for 5.8 release. I really appreciate this kind of cooperation and I think that Linux would have been much better if it had happened more often.

submitted by /u/mihjok


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