Ubuntu code names

A relatively idle thought after doing Ubuntu support on LinuxChix lists for a while: are the code names really such a good idea? People have an enormous amount of trouble correctly identifying their Ubuntu version. I’ve seen the following problems:

  1. people not realising that the zeros are significant in the version number and asking for support with Ubuntu 6.1 (they probably mean 6.10/Edgy Eft) or 6.6 (they probably mean 6.06 LTS/Dapper Drake);
  2. at least half the time people quoting the Ubuntu version number and codename together quote a mismatched name and number (Ubuntu Breezy 6.06, Ubuntu Dapper 6.10 and that’s not even getting into Ubuntu Breezy 6.1 or Ubontoo/Urbanto/Obonto Dragon and so on), which means that you have no idea which version they actually mean; and
  3. the code names are memorable, but seemingly not memorable enough, there’s a lot of people out there talking about the Edgy Elf, which sounds like a bad drug pusher.

Ubuntu is far from the only software using well publicised release code names. I remember the good old days pre-Windows 95 (the good old days are always more than a decade ago), when you couldn’t talk computers without talking about ‘Chicago’. Debian’s release code names are also very commonly used; potato, woody, sarge, how well I remember thee, and I have no idea what thy version numbers were. In fact, the problem might perhaps be that the release code names and the version numbers are essentially equally well known when it comes to Ubuntu, so people feel the need to state both and aren’t clear on the mapping between them.

I suspect also the regular releases are hard on people: people know that there’s lots of Ubuntus and they have to identify their one, but there’s changes often enough that casual onlookers and users are more confused by the release names than they are aided by them. The release numbers map to the release date (4.10 was released in October—month 10—of 2004, 5.04 in April 2005 and so on) but most people, I believe, treat version numbers as Marketing Magic the like of which mortals do not ken and question no further. The six month release cycle means that the current system always has several easily confused releases too (you can confuse either the first number, mixing up 5.04 with 5.10, say, or the second one, mixing up 5.10 with 6.10).

I don’t have any particular suggestion about an alternative, and suspect that the developer community is wedded to their names even if the users are a bit puzzled. I suppose simpler would be better: Ubuntu 1, Ubuntu 2… but then the numbers get high quickly.