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I recently performed a "do-release-upgrade" on one of my company's development machines to go from 11.04 Ubuntu Server to 11.10. The process actually downgraded a custom PHP installation and I had a heck of a time getting the dependencies right to recompile to the newer version. That said, I'm a little hesitant to perform the upgrade on our production machine. I then got to thinking, I want to keep up to date on software updates and security fixes, but do I really need to upgrade Ubuntu releases?

Wikipedia roughly describes a Linux Distribution as a certain kernel combined with a set of software packages. Now, if I run apt-get to manually do software and kernel updates (of which I can choose what to upgrade and what not to upgrade), how is it really any different? Only thing I can think of is that if new packages were added as part of a new version, I wouldn't get those by default. If I need them though, I can add them myself. Am I missing anything vital?

This also relates to a similar question I've had as to if there is any real advantage with using an LTS release. If a software package has an upgrade, how can you be stopped from upgrading to it? Thanks.

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You should not have both the Ubuntu package, and a custom compiled version of a program installed at the same time. Either use the Ubuntu package, or build and install it yourself; do not do both. When you have both installed they will conflict with one another as you have seen.

You can not choose to upgrade to new versions in the newer release; you only get upgrades in the old release, which are limited to security fixes. If you are satisfied with that, then no, there is no need to upgrade until the old release reaches end of life. This is the reason to stick with an LTS release: it is supported much longer so you won't have to upgrade after less than 18 months.

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Thanks for the info. But what actually prevents me from upgrading to new versions? If a release is just a certain kernel with certain packages, could I just change /etc/issue and sources.list to get new versions of both? I'm guessing there's more to it but I can't help but wonder why there is this rule that says "Hey, you're version x.y so you can't get this new software". –  XHR Dec 27 '11 at 14:59
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@XHR, a release is the entire set of packages in the archive. What prevents you from upgrading is that you are still using the archive for the previous release. Mainly what do-release-upgrade does is change sources.list to point to the archive for the new release, then upgrade all packages. Technically you can configure your sources.list to allow you to manually pull certain packages from the newer release archive, but this is unsupported and often will run into problems with dependencies. –  psusi Dec 27 '11 at 15:18
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