Ubuntu Backports: Frequently Asked Questions

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If you've noticed, it's all pretty old. For the sake of stability, Ubuntu will not update any software with newer version replacements. I question this practice. Fedora and Gentoo are two big-name distros that do provide the latest version of (at least) desktop applications, and they barely ever suffer from stability issues. I want to carry over this practice to Ubuntu, to make it the ultimate distribution."); question("So, what kind of stuff are you going to backport?"); answer("Good question. Mainly, I'll focus on desktop apps. People tend to care more when their Firefox isn't latest-and-greatest than when libbonobo-activation is a few minor revisions off."); question("Ok, so what's the deal with the hotplug/grepmap backport in Warty?"); answer("Yes, Hotplug and Grepmap are pretty mission-critical system packages. However, Warty's Hotplug took ridiculously long to run -- sometimes more than 15 seconds. With the Hotplug+Grepmap backport from Hoary, I was able to cut this time down to 5 seconds & less. I think that's worth the backport.
So, whenever there's a big problem with something included in the stable release, I'll backport."); question("What's with the switch in servers? Are you too good for Sourceforge?"); answer("Well, in a way, Sourceforge could not satisfy me. I have a fairly slow upload speed -- about 25KB/s. It takes me about 5+ minutes to upload the average backport! During this time, if you access the ubuntu-bp.sourceforge.net repository, you get weird \"403 Forbidden\" errors. When numerous people began complaining about this error, I decided enough is enough. My new method of choice is Subversion -- Subversion waits for everything to be uploaded, then instantly shows the changes made to the repository!"); question("But I see that the Old Repository is still up. Can I use it?"); answer("Yeah, it's still working, but it is Warty only. Many Warty backports have been added to the new repository, so I strongly advise you to switch. Be advised that the old server's performance is very quirky -- don't be surprised when downloads stall."); question("You're slacking... Program X is still old!"); answer("This is a community driven project -- I need you to tell me what you want! Unless someone mentions it, I probably won't do it. However, if someone requests a backport, it's usually uploaded within 24 hours."); question("What's this 'staging' tree, and why is all the good stuff in there?"); answer("After we backport packages, they'll directly be uploaded into the -staging tree, usually without any testing! Testing locally doesn't work -- you really need a APT repository to make sure all dependencies are correct, everything fetches/installs, etc.

Packages stay in the -staging area until people start telling me that the package works. So, if you want your favorite program out of -staging, report that it works on the Forum!"); question("Why aren't there amd64 or powerpc packages?"); answer("Simple. Nobody with such hardware has stepped up to help. I have an AMD64, but have plenty of stuff on it that only runs in 32-bit mode. I don't have a Mac, so there goes ppc...
The repository is ready to be populated with packages of all Ubuntu archs, but nobody is here to package them."); question("I've heard that upgrading from Warty backports to Hoary is a mess."); answer("This is a myth that grew completely out of proportion. It's false!
A bit of history: When I first started this project, I only wanted to backport a few (LESS THAN 10) packages. I assumed that for such a simple setup, I need nothing more than 50MB of space and a small internet link. I assumed that since Hoary was moving so fast, there's gonna be a new version of whatever I backport come upgrade time.
However, as Backports picked up momentum and Hoary development started stabilizing, it became apparent that some packages may not upgrade smoothly over to Warty, since the Backports version suffix actually bumped the versions up! I immediately warned the community to be cautious (which sparked all the myths! GRR).
The truth:
To further investigate, I upgraded 3 controlled VMWare virtual Ubuntu setups from Warty Backports to Hoary. All of them migrated over flawlessly -- with the exception of Synaptic, which didn't upgrade (at that time). Packages that do not upgrade signify that they are UNCHANGED from the time I backported it to the time you're trying to upgrade. It makes little difference whether the package came from me or from Ubuntu -- they're the exact same thing!"); question("Ok, but having these remnants still makes me quite uncomfortable. What's being done in Hoary backports to prevent such a headache?"); answer("Relax. This issue has been resolved in Hoary Backports. I am using the '~' operator in the backports version suffix, which forces the version to be lower than the actual package. We should see NO upgrade issues from Hoary to Hoary+1!"); question("I see a 'projects' folder in the repository. What's that?"); answer("I'm working on a few autosetup scripts, such as for properly installing Java and other restricted stuff."); question("Ok, I'm using Hoary Backports, but APT always says 'WARNING: Package cannot be authenticated.' Why's that?"); answer("Hoary uses APT signing to authenticate its packages. I do not have such an infrastructure set up yet. If anyone can point me to some good articles about this, or have information on how I can implement this easily, or disable the message, please E-Mail me."); question("This is a short FAQ..."); answer("Got a question? E-Mail me!"); ?>