Debian – Choosing between stable, unstable and testing.

After installing Debian, one of the problems that I faced was which version to use. Version as in stable, unstable or testing. Since I personally knew a Debian developer, Praveen A, I turned to him for guidance. The reason why I got into this state was because I found out that Debian squeeze stable had python 2.6 in its repositories. However, I wanted python 2.7 for my work.

I asked him what these versions mean and how I could switch between them. He gave me the following explanation:

“Sid is where all development happens, all new packages come there. Then it moves to testing when certain requirements are satisfied. At a certain point focus is shifted to fix all bugs in testing and this is called freeze.

So main distributions are stable, testing and unstable. There are nicknames for each. Unstable is always called sid – that kid in toy story who always break things. Current stable is squeeze, testing is wheezy and next testing is jessie. When wheezy becomes stable, squeeze becomes old stable and jessie becomes testing. A copy of testing is made and it is called stable, testing is renamed and freeze is lifted for next release cycle.

So change to testing means change stable/squeeze with testing/wheezy in /etc/sources.list and do apt-get/aptitude update and dist-upgrade. If you choose wheezy, you’ll get stable when it is stable, if you choose testing, you’ll always be on testing. Same for sid as well.”

Since testing sounded stabler than unstable, I decided to go with testing. So here is how my /etc/apt/sources.list looks like:


# deb cdrom:[Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.5 _Squeeze_ - Official i386 CD Binary-1 20120512-13:45]/ squeeze main

# Line commented out by installer because it failed to verify:
deb testing/updates main
# Line commented out by installer because it failed to verify:
deb-src testing/updates main

deb testing main
deb-src testing main

deb testing-updates main
deb-src testing-updates main

I’m still not sure whether I should add any other repositories, but as of now, this has worked well for me. Once you make the changes to the sources.list file, you have to run:

$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Prepare yourself for long hours of download. It took me almost 8 hours to have my distro upgraded. Have fun!


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