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There are so called "point releases" for LTS versions of Ubuntu. 10.04.3 for instance.

What are those "point releases" releases?

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See Precise Pangolin Release Schedule for the "when" and "how many"-questions. –  gertvdijk Jan 16 '13 at 8:08
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If you are familiar with the way Microsoft Windows manages its versions, you can relate point releases to Service packs that are released after a while when the product is released to the general consumption.

The basic idea for having point releases in LTS versions is to ensure that the LTS version works on newer hardware and doesn't necessary have to download a huge amount of updates when freshly installed.

The point release essentially contains the bug fixes the version has gone since it was released to the public, which includes security fixes, package updates, translation packs updates, etc.

You can read Mark Shuttleworth's blog, where he talks about the point releases of 8.04. An excerpt from his blog that is relevant:

These point releases will include support for new hardware as well as rolling up all the updates published in that series to date. So a fresh install of a point release will work on newer hardware and will also not require a big download of additional updates.

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The comparison to Windows service packs is slightly misleading: Windows service packs introduce new / previously unseen changes, whereas Ubuntu point releases merely bundle together the updates that have already entered the repository since release. –  8128 Jul 26 '12 at 8:20
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Well yes. I know it wasn't the best analogy that I can provide. Was trying to keep the answer relevant to commoners, who are slightly technical but not too familiar with the Ubuntu system. I can't imagine how to edit my answer to clarify your comment though. Maybe you could help me on that? :-) –  jokerdino Jul 26 '12 at 8:30
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Point releases are specific for LTS (Long Term Supported) versions of Ubuntu. Because these versions get 3 years of support (5 years for servers), the changes between the initial release image (10.04 for instance) and the current packages grow huge.

To quote https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LTS:

Furthermore, we define the LTS to be:
[...] Compatible with New Hardware: We will make point releases throughout the development cycle to provide functional support for new server and desktop hardware.

Each point release is merely a snapshot of updated packages in the LTS version at that time which includes security updates and bug fixes.

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The point releases are new CD images including all the latest packages from lucid-updates and lucid-security.

These will support newer hardware than the original lucid CDs, and save some download time + bandwidth for updates. So, if you find yourself downloading and burning a Lucid ISO, grab the latest point release. Also, if 10.04 won't install on a new machine, try the latest point release.

If you already have Ubuntu 10.04 installed, the point releases probably aren't of any interest. If you install updates, you're already running everything that the latest point release provides.

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You can see thorough description about Ubuntu 12.04 maintenance releases (applies to other version of Ubuntu) in the following link:

Ubuntu 12.04.1: LTS maintenance release

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Please include details from the link as if the linked site were to go down for maintenance or forever, your answer would be invalid and may not help future users. –  hexafraction Sep 27 '12 at 21:03
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Point releases are just the result of merging all the changes that has been made since the last point release or original release of the distribution.

They are the equivalent of the Service Packs of Microsoft in the Windows World

Ie : Ubuntu 12.04 went out in april 2012 the 12.04.1 wen out in august and had 186 fix included since 12.04 (see here : https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+milestone/ubuntu-12.04.1)

Watch out, 186 fix is not 186 patches or packages.

One fix is the answer to a problem witch can include more than one package.

You'll find more information here for precise : https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/precise and for all milestones of ubuntu here : https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+milestones

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In addition to all the answers given here, I'm adding some info about how to see the milestones for the next point release so that, you can be sure whether your problem (if you have any) with your LTS release is going to be fixed there or not. It's also helpful for tracking bugs and helping Ubuntu development by informing about existing bugs

To see the milestone for the next release

  1. Go to Ubuntu project's page at launchpad. The url is http://launchpad.net/ubuntu

    enter image description here

    The page has links for the Ubuntu releases (which are active) and upcoming release.

    current = means the current Ubuntu version. That is last released Ubuntu version. Now it is 12.04 LTS

    supported = means the Ubuntu versions, which are still supported. That is they will be delivered security updates.

    frozen = means the feature of the next Ubuntu release is got frozen. That is no new feature will be added and none will be removed. It is the final stage of development release.

  2. Click on the LTS releases' next milestone. That is 12.04.2 (as of this writing). After clicking on that link you will be redirected to the page for the milestone. In that page, you will see which bugs are targeted to fix and which are already fixed or in progress of fixing. Also the importance of those bugs will be listed there.

    enter image description here

You can then click on the bug link and participate on the bug tracking. More information on tracking bugs and reporting is in this question:

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Much of the general background on Ubuntu point releases for LTS support is covered in this Ask Ubuntu question. What follows is some additional details in regards to the 12.04.2 release coming up next month.

Excerpt from ubuntu-devel mailing list as of 11.01.2013:

Ubuntu 12.04.2 is currently scheduled to be released on Jan 31st 0... At this time we feel it is better to delay the release by two weeks to allow time for extra QA testing.

This would put the new release date on 14 Feb 2013. No other dates would change (i.e. freezes etc.), we are just using the extra two weeks for testing and possible bug fixing for identified issues.

According to the schedule, there are 4 point releases to be expected within the 12.04 lifecycle. 12.04.2 is scheduled for release on 14 Feb 2013 and the last point release 12.04.4 is scheduled for January 24 2014.

What is a Point Release?

12.04.2 will provide users with a new kernel as well as a roll up of previous 12.04 package updates and security patches.

Goals (as outlined in the Ubuntu Point Release Process):

  • Refresh hardware support in LTS releases for carefully-selected hardware
  • Roll up accumulated stable updates into updated images to reduce download requirements for new deployments
  • Maintain stability of existing installations

How often do these updates come out?

Currently, the schedule for 12.04 LTS point releases looks like this:

  • 12.04.1 (23 August 2012)
  • 12.04.2 (31 January 2013)
  • 12.04.3 (15 August 2013)
  • 12.04.4 (24 January 2014)

Are there upgrades to the kernel version?

Yes. 12.04.2 will be shipping with a backported Quantal kernel according to Launchpad. See here for some additional details. (The following is speculation on my part) The current Quantal kernel is 3.5.0-18 and will move towards a 3.8 kernel as release candidates are available. I am expecting 12.04 to follow suit, but I have not sussed out all of the details just yet.

Will the system perform better after a point release?

I believe that is the goal. ;-)

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