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The mysql-server package in Lucid is listed as 5.1.41-3ubuntu12.7.

Is there a safe way to upgrade to the latest 5.1 release via aptitude?

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Aaron, not an official way. The safest way would be to download the latest MySQL 5.1 package from Ubuntu (5.1.58 from oneiric probably) and rebuild it. Sit tight though.. it looks like 5.1.61 may arrive via lucid-security soon due to the change in upstream policy regarding security patches.

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