Improve Non-LTS upgrade rates?

From various metrics (Canonical internal) I believe this is close-enough metrics for active non-LTS users:
19.10 50
19.04 120
18.10 25 (out of support)
17.10 4 (way out of support)
17.04 1 (way out of support)

The second number is a usage number (divided actual usage by some large number) just to show the difference in usage per release
This is not desktop only, but I’d expect it to over sample desktop users.

The significant users using 18.10 still make me quite nervous. What can we do to be more aggressive to upgrade them -as they have been out of support for months?

Sorry, I may be being dense, but your message seems too terse to explain what the issue is, and what the data you’re presenting represents. What exactly do those numbers represent and what is the problem you want to solve?

I imagine you’re suggesting we have a bunch of people on old releases, and we should work harder to get them to upgrade?

If it’s what’s he saying, maybe you should send notifications which explains that their systems are out of support with a button says “Upgrade”

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These numbers make me think if it would make sense to reconsider the non-LTS point releases at all, replacing them with a kind of of rolling tech preview, which gets into stable for LTS release time.

Since few years I’m using ubuntu+1 releases, and I’m planning to keep like this with focal. I think that if we could check who are typical non-LTS users we eventually consider switching to such rollings to LTS (or not).

Of course I’m just coming out with this idea, there might be good reasons for non-LTS I’m missing at the moment :blush:

P.S. I just noticed 1=possibly many users

P.S.2 With ZFS, it could be easier for users to rollback to a last known working state of the system. So suppose, after 20.04, we could have a 22.04 rolling tech preview, which techy people use daily, with ZFS support for rollbacks. In this way early adopters can report bugs earlier in the cycle but not risk (or have a lesser chance) their system be compromised in an update.

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@popey Clarified in original post. But yes, at least 15% of non-LTS users are on an unsupported release.

@fcole90 > These numbers make me think if it would make sense to reconsider the non-LTS point releases at all,

I don’t disagree… see but I’m not planning to propose that again at this time.

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You will be astonished to know how many people still run 12.04 in schools and colleges. Those places are mostly without internet and even if you send a notification, it won’t reach them. There should be some community level awareness to make those people move to a supported version ( mostly for security point of view ? ). Also, upgrading is not easy as enter the DVD and press upgrade from the screen that comes out of it.

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What about making the interim releases rolling, and maybe few months before the major update/LTS, there’d be a prompt asking if they want to stay in the LTS (and they can toggle that manually)?

Another idea could be a prompt to upgrade, and let them know that they have up until a certain time before the OS becomes unsupported. And list the downsides of not upgrading. Also, make it a little aggressive by not being able to close that notification prompt.

Thanks for clarifying. There’s a lot to unpack here.

As we don’t have a direct line to many of these (thousands) of users, it’s hard for us to ascertain why people are sticky on old, unsupported releases. Anecdotally we get people in various Ubuntu support channel who ask for help on these old releases and we do often encourage them to upgrade.

On the subject of upgrades, some people have been burned by upgrades, and will hold off for as long as they can on a release that “Just Works” . No amount of pop up dialogs will encourage them - indeed they may just irritate them - so they’ll just stay where they are.

Old releases do atrophy, slowly. The number of 17.04 and 17.10 users is diminishing, slowly. There’s often a large surge when a new release comes out, then a long tail of people who stick on their current release. For example it only took ~15 days for the number of 19.04 users to overtake the number of 18.10 users, with 18.10 userbase diminishing as users upgraded.

In the last 3-4 months, the number of 18.10 users has halved, so while I appreciate they’re a good target as it’s a recently EOL’ed, it is already dropping. Many of those users will be using a VM, and may only wake their system up periodically, to do some work. The overhead of having to do a 800MB download to upgrade the thing is a daunting task when you’re trying to get a job done.

In addition, some people just do not upgrade, but just clean install. So some of the 18.10 to 19.04 conversions will have been nuke-and-pave re-installations. So we’d see 18.10 go down, and 19.04 go up, but can’t tell which method the users used to achieve the same goal.

In the spirit of looking for solutions however. In the future, perhaps Update Manager could have a slightly more aggressive nag screen than it already does. Maybe it could be almost annoying, putting a (removable) overlay/watermark on the screen as a reminder. Bear in mind these are other people’s computers, and they may not like this.

For the current state, I don’t believe we can push updates to Update Manager in ye olde releases such as 17.04 as their archives are closed, and may have even been migrated over to old-releases instead of the stock archive in some cases.

I think we should organize a social campaign, with some less dense upgrade guides to explain how some of these users on EOL systems can get from their current release to a supported platform.

But after all that, we have to accept these are their computers, and if they want to run insecure, old, crusty software, they can.


I just did a fresh install of 18.10. Now I’m not expecting a lot of users to be able to find an older release to do an install with, just getting a better idea of what they have.

  1. During Install, says click here for the Release Notes which actually didn’t say that the release was EOL. I added that to the last 4 non-LTS release notes.

  2. Finish install and reboot, first dialogue says 350 MB updates available. Nothing about this release being EOL. Happily updates me to the latest 18.10. Rebooted.

  3. Manually run another update check and I get the:
    “Software updates are no longer provided for Ubuntu 18.10
    To stay secure, you should upgrade to Ubuntu 19.04.”

If I press OK. How often does it alert me to it? Certainly that could be made more aggressive.

I like the watermark concept. How’s this:
1 month before EOL - we change their background to something that says support is ending soon.
at EOL - we change it to something saying support is over

It can be a systemd unit or something that they can disable if they really want to set a different background on their EOL system.

Other notes:
The upgrade does take much longer than a fresh install.


Upgrades take longer than clean installs if you a) don’t value your data, b) have no backups, c) have no devices to juggle data before you wipe and install, d) don’t have a separate partition for /home (which we don’t by default). I don’t think it’s valuable to compare upgrade and install times.

Personally, I don’t think that changing user’s background as soon as 1 month before EOL is a good idea. Sure, it is a cosmetic change and reversible, but still invasive. Not to mention all the “Canonical is Microsoft of Linux” comparisons incoming after this change is announced.

I am fine with more aggressive and perhaps more alarming pop-ups informing about security risks and updates, but users do what users do and if you are not standing with USB stick above their head and their system works, there’s nothing that will change that.

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I see a lot of complexities arose in the discussion on the mailing list. However it seems to me that the topic concerned having a sort of stable every month. Instead, what I’m suggesting is that the packages land as they usually do during a +1 version, so it would be similar to Debian where a rolling gets finally stable after some time. Just that this time would be 2 years, rendering the rolling stable only in the last months before LTS release. So this should, in my opinion, ease the work of ubuntu developers, as there isn’t a proper release every 6 months, but just every 2 years

If they’re without internet and haven’t had the urge to upgrade they’re probably fine tbh.

Is they’re without internet then they aren’t going to count in the stats @bryanquigley has.


As a quick follow-up to this.

I have scheduled a few social media posts to go out over the coming weeks. They are light-hearted reminders that 18.10, 17.10 and friends are End of Life, with a pointer to the EOLUpgrades doc on the community wiki.

I appreciate this isn’t anything that directly hits users, but it’s a low-impact easy win. We can re-schedule these posts to go out repeatedly over the coming year to keep recommending people move up. First one is lined up for Monday with others spread over the coming weeks. I don’t want push them out all at once because people will ignore them, so they’ll lose their impact.


Thanks! That sounds like a good thing to do.

I just determined that the metrics I was looking at likely aren’t as transparent as I had hoped. I can’t tell what time period they cover but there has been a significant switch over to 19.10:

19.10 74 (+24)
19.04 95 (-25)
18.10 25 (no change)
17.10 1 (no change)