Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mythbuntu/MythTV updates (or I want to upgrade the distro to get the latest version of MythTV)

From time to time I have seen questions about how to upgrade to the latest version of (Myth)buntu. Reasons I hear when asking why do you want to upgrade.
  • "I want to upgrade to the latest version of MythTV"
    • This is a valid concern as new versions of MythTV often have quite a few bug fixes as well as some awesome new features. Upgrading the distribution is not necessary though as the Mythbuntu team provides a PPA with frequent builds of the latest version of MythTV, available for previous releases of (Myth)buntu.
  • "I need a newer build of MythTV to fix (bug#)
    • Again a valid concern, but one that is easily resolved by the previously mentioned PPA.
  • "The latest version of Ubuntu has (FeatureX) that I heard was awesome"
    • Mythbuntu (and most Ubuntu+MythTV systems) run slimmed down versions of the OS. This makes the installation footprint smaller and is lighter on system resources. Unless the new distribution release is adding support for new hardware there usually isn't a need to upgrade. 
  • "Ubuntu just released the latest version, so I must upgrade."
    • People tend to want DVR's that aren't a lot of upkeep, so this one baffles me. Upgrading the OS is a lot more work than keeping specific packages up to date. 
Let me be clear when I reiterate an old saying.

If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

Why not upgrade? Upgrading the entire OS is a large and fairly involved process that can occasionally cause some breakage. Unless the reason to upgrade is to fix a known issue outside of MythTV (and you haven't already deployed a workaround) it is much easier to upgrade just the MythTV packages through other means.

My Recommendations
My recommendation is instead of upgrading the entire OS, use a long term supported (LTS) OS and just upgrade the packages. Stick with an LTS release (such as 10.04) and then either clean install or upgrade only to LTS releases. Keep the MythTV software up to date using the Mythbuntu-repos package to activate the MythTV updates PPA and get bug fixes and new MythTV releases via regular system updates.

For LTS releases, new MythTV releases are provided by the Mythbuntu team for each LTS release up until the next LTS release. This means if 10.04 shipped with MythTV 0.23 and MythTV 0.27 doesn't get released until June 2012 that 10.04 would have received MythTV builds for each MythTV release (0.23, 0.24, 0.25, and 0.26) via the MythTV-updates PPA. The builds in this PPA are built frequently from the corresponding upstream MythTV fixes branch, so even if your distribution released with the current version of MythTV, it is beneficial to use the MythTV-updates PPA to get bug fixes.