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Linux By The (Version) Numbers

What's in a version number? More than you might think, if the number in question is attached to your favorite desktop Linux distro.
What's in a version number? More than you might think, if the number in question is attached to your favorite desktop Linux distro.Over the weekend, Ars Technica published an interesting, and potentially very useful, article covering the ins and outs of Linux dsitro version numbering and release cycles, along with details about how some of the leading desktop distros handle their pre-production releases:


We often hear from readers who want to track the development process of their favorite Linux distribution but don't know where to start. Budding Linux enthusiasts frequently ask how the release cycles work, what the version numbers mean, and what options are available for end-user testing prior to official releases. The answers to those questions differ depending on the distribution, but we are going to attempt to address those questions for Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSEthree of the most prominent desktop Linux distributions. We will also provide a brief visual comparison of upcoming versions with screenshots of the prereleases.

Ars makes another interesting point here: Desktop Linux release cycles are inherently highly incremental, as a result of the open-source development process. Even if you don't want to check out some hot new feature in the latest Ubuntu or OpenSUSE nightly build, chances are that other Linux enthusiasts will check it out -- and chances are, they'll share what they learn by posting blog entries, forum posts, or even full-scale published review articles. The result is a steady flow of information -- and, inevitably, either praise or criticism -- at every significant step in the desktop Linux development process.

Compare that to a typical Windows release cycle, which involves 2-4 years of rumors, gossip, and speculation -- most of it wrong -- followed by a 12-month media feeding frenzy once reviewers actually get their hands on working pre-release product. Not that there's anything wrong with this approach, mind you.

In any case, if you're looking for good content to add to your company's "Linux 101" library, this piece certainly fits the bill.