CSAIL Ubuntu

2014-08-18: Upgrades from CSAIL Ubuntu 12.04 to 14.04 are now available. Please See UpgradingLTS for more information.

CSAIL Ubuntu is TIG's supported GNU/Linux spin, which comes pre-configured for CSAIL Kerberos for authentication, AFS/NFS filesystems, and our CUPS printing infrastructure. This allows easy, transparent access to all the standard network resources without you needing to know the details of how everything works. As a derivative of Ubuntu GNU/Linux, CSAIL Ubuntu provides the benefits of a vast collection of up-to-date software packages, and a maintainable long-term release cycle. The default installation features the XFCE display environment, and is configured via Puppet.

A word on Ubuntu versions

Ubuntu releases are of two types. Long-term-support releases, or LTS releases are supported by the upstream Ubuntu project for three years on desktops and five years on servers, and have LTS after their release number. Non-LTS releases are generally supported on desktops and servers alike for about 18 months.

“Support” in this context means that important fixes such as security upgrades are available from the Ubuntu repositories. (The distinction between support on the server and support on the desktop in the LTS releases is essentially a distinction in what packages continue to be maintained; a package like apache2 or mysql-server in an LTS release would receive security updates for five years, as would core components of the OS like the kernel and the shell.)

So, if you choose an LTS release, you can go longer between release upgrades. (It's fairly easy to upgrade across Ubuntu versions these days, though, especially from one LTS release to the next.)

Ubuntu version numbers are named after the last two digits of the year and the two-digit month number of the release, so the most recent version of Ubuntu as I type this, 12.04 LTS, was released in April 2012. (And the LTS suffix tells you it will be supported until early 2015 on desktops and laptops.) They also have an internal codename consisting of an adjective and an animal; the codename for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is Precise Pangolin. That's often shortened, so if you see somebody refer to an Ubuntu version as “Precise”, they mean Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Wikipedia has a list of Ubuntu releases.

TIG will offer a CSAIL spin of the current Ubuntu LTS release, as well as a spin of the latest Non-LTS Ubuntu release. The LTS release will always be fully supported, and we will make an effort to make sure that everything works. The latest Non-LTS Ubuntu release is available for convenience. We'll support what we can, and make sure not to break things on our part, but due to the fast release cycle of non-LTS Ubuntu versions, we can't promise that everything will be bug-free. We can only support LTS versions within Ubuntu support (starting with 12.04 not retroactively) and the current non-LTS release, support outside these releases may take the form of "here's how you upgrade or reinstall" depending on how far out of support the release is.

A word on Ubuntu upgrades

It is important to note that upgrades are from one LTS release to the next LTS release or from the most recent release to the next release. This means you can stay with 12.04 LTS until 14.04 LTS is released and make a single upgrade, but if you install the current non-LTS 12.10 you will need to go through all the intermediary releases 13.04 -> 13.10 -> 14.04 LTS. This combined with the lower level of support by TIG and somewhat less stringent entry requirements for packages in non-LTS releases means you will personally spend much more time dealing with OS issues if you step outside the LTS release.

So if you want a system that "just works" stick with LTS. If you love the bleeding edge or are just compelled to live there we advise you move to the current release within a month or two of release (watch this page for known bugs in our setup and any warning against doing so for a particular release).

-- StephenJahl - 04 Dec 2012
Topic revision: 28 Aug 2017, JasonDorfman

MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory


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