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If there is a new release/major update of a program (e.g. Rhythmbox 2.97, Skype 4.0 or Gimp 2.8), is there an easy way to tell whether and when they will make it to the current official Ubuntu release repositories (especially to the LTS release, e.g. Ubuntu 12.04)?
Or whether it will never be added to the official repositories, so I don't need to wait and just install it through an added PPA/repository?

I would like to use the program updates, but preferably when they are well tested and adjusted to the Ubuntu release I use (easily updated by the update manager). But some programs seem to never be added/updated and as I want to stick to the LTS release, I would need to add another repository.
I know that there are restrictions to what will be updated (Why don't the Ubuntu repositories have the latest versions of software?, StableReleaseUpdates). But for example Firefox and Thunderbird are now regularly updated and Gimp 2.8 might be available in the backports. There is list of pending Ubuntu stable release updates, but I don't find Firefox, Thunderbird (or Gimp) on it, although they are updated.

I just want to know how to find out whether there is an easy way to know (e.g. one webpage) which programs will be added/updated in the official Ubuntu repositories. Or do we have to ask a question on Askubuntu for every single program?

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3 Answers 3

There is no easy well to tell. But generally the answer is a simple no - major updates will not land in the repositories of an already released Ubuntu version.

Three notable exceptions to this are Firefox, Thunderbird and Chromium. The reason for this is that these have 'rapid release' schedules (new versions every few weeks). It would not be practical for the Ubuntu security team to continually backport security fixes to older versions.

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And even in LTS versions? Two years without any major update? –  Filbuntu Jun 25 '12 at 5:54
    
@Filubuntu Even in LTS versions. The whole point of the LTS is that they provide a stable foundation that doesn't change. –  8128 Jun 25 '12 at 7:18
    
@Filubuntu 2.97 might sound like a small update, but it has some significant changes (see ftp.gnome.org/pub/GNOME/sources/rhythmbox/2.97/… and webupd8.org/2012/06/rhythmbox-297-released-with-improved.html). As I said in my post, you should assume that the answer is no. The same goes for Evolution. –  8128 Jun 25 '12 at 7:26
    
Thanks for the further comments. I hoped they would do more minor and medium upgrades and some important major upgrades (with testing, so the LTS stays stable). Two years without big improvements sounds like a long time. –  Filbuntu Jun 25 '12 at 11:40
    
Do you know how to find out what program will be backported? –  Filbuntu Jul 23 '12 at 5:34
up vote 1 down vote accepted

There is no list that covers all yet, especially for possible future updates/upgrades. Maybe somebody can work on this ...

That is what I could find out so far: If a program is updated/upgraded, it will be automatically added to the software centre (and will be updated by the system), viewable also with Synaptic (needs install) and apt-cache (command line). The page packages.ubuntu.com shows past updates, but do not inform what the future will hold.

Stable Release Update/Backport
Every SRU (Stable Release Update) and Backport is manually requested. SRUs are done only to fix an important bug. Backports are done upon request, if volunteers and resources are available. Requests for packaging and/or backports are generally tracked as bugs. They are not really bugs, of course. But bug trackers usually track more than just bugs, see backports list. If you poke around in Launchpad, you should quickly find the similar tracking lists for the Packaging Team, the Security Team, and the SRU Team. There is doubt that tentative release dates are realistic for most packages, since many backporters seem to work more-or-less at random from the list. If some backporter has specific interests, then they could certainly post ETA dates in the comments and assign the package to themself.

PPAs and alternative repositories
As there are not many significant updates/upgrades that are added in the official repositories of a Ubuntu release (although this might change with future LTS releases), PPAs and alternative repositories are chosen by a lot of people, but it takes time to find them:
I would also promote a list of PPAs and alternative repositories, but this is not supported by Canonical as many PPAs and alternative repositories can cause problems to a system. But a list with the possibility of rating and comments (problem, success) would be better as the scattered information without or little feedback from the community. Unfortunately the Ubuntu brainstorm page will be closed, so I add this idea to this answer, perhaps somebody knowledgeable reads it and can work on it. There is a related brainstorm idea regarding this topic as long as Ubuntu Brainstorm exists.

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I've been wondering this too, but haven't figured it out yet. I suspect the answer may be found at http://packages.ubuntu.com/, particularly these two:

http://packages.ubuntu.com/precise

http://packages.ubuntu.com/precise-updates

But not sure yet.

In the meantime, I suggest using Debian/Ubuntu's excellent update-alternatives tool to manage the latest versions of software. It provides the best of both worlds between repo/PPA and manual installation.

Here's an example of how to use it to install Haskell, but the general idea should work for any package. In a nutshell, download the zip/tar archive of the software you want to install, extract it to /opt, then use update-alternatives to soft-link its binaries to /usr/bin. Voila, you're good to go.

I like this method even better than repo, PPA, or dpkg, because it lets keep you the entire package in its own compact directory structure, say /opt/firefox, instead of spreading its binaries all throughout /usr/bin, /usr/lib, /usr/share, etc. Kind of like Gobo Linux's file system.

It also lets you install multiple versions side-by-side and make only one active at a time, and makes it easy to update to a new version or rollback to the old version if there's a problem with the new. More explanation of that at the Haskell link above.

Anyway, will update if I figure it out.

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Thank you for your answer and alternative & interesting tool. I will check it out. I am looking forward to any answer update. –  Filbuntu Jun 25 '12 at 5:59
    
It seems the links you suggested only show past updates, but do not inform (yet?) what the future will hold. –  Filbuntu Jun 25 '12 at 6:00

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