In my experience, the most stable desktops are those that change the least — at least, with regard to extended functionality such as applets, indicators and extensions. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule as any piece of software can end up with bugs. But generally speaking, I've found XFCE/LXDE and MATE to be the most reliable desktops.
Therefore by sticking with an LTS release of your favorite Ubuntu derivative, you'll minimize any chances for new bugs to be introduced. Again, I didn't say you're totally free from new bugs or regressions. You're simply minimizing new opportunities for new issues.
One of the oddest things I've seen in recent years is this obsession with having the latest Linux kernel installed. While one could make a case for staying current on brand new hardware, generally speaking, it's totally unnecessary. Your LTS release addresses kernel security with each new update offered. And unless you're looking to upgrade to a new kernel to help with power consumption, performance or a needed new feature – stick with what's provided.
Why introduce a new kernel using PPAs or a non-LTS Ubuntu release just to "see what the new kernel feels like." Newsflash folks: it's going to feel a lot like the previous version. As I mentioned before, upgrading one's kernel should be done to address a need, not merely for bragging rights. Most people won't see any benefit at all in upgrading to a non-LTS just to use a new kernel.
Now let me take a moment and explain something a bit deeper. Yes, kernel updates do indeed provide performance enhancements, new hardware support, etc. But unless you've taken the time to read the notes on what the latest kernel is offering that will specifically enhance your PC, there's simply no value in needlessly upgrading to a new distro release.
Most of my computers that have had Ubuntu MATE installed for a period of time are running version 14.04. There was simply no reason for me to upgrade them as they're configured to my specifications and I know they work great. This is especially true of my wife's Macbook Pro. It dual-boots OS X and Ubuntu MATE 14.04. Why in the world would I upgrade it to a newer version of Ubuntu MATE when the current version works great? I'm not missing anything on that specific machine. Therefore leaving it alone with a supported LTS made the most sense for me.
My daily work PC is a desktop with a fairly current Intel i7 CPU, decent NVIDIA graphics, 32GB of RAM and two hard drives. The SSD runs my operating systems and the HDD handles my user data. This PC triple boots Ubuntu MATE 14.04, 16.04 and Ubuntu GNOME 16.04. My primary desktop for daily work is my Ubuntu MATE 14.04 installation. I know that it's always stable and will work as expected day after day.
The secondary installations are used to see what's coming down the line. By sticking with the LTS release cycle, I can spot issues on my secondary partitions without affecting my daily workspace. I should point out, however, that I often use my secondary partitions for daily tasks. This allows me to find show-stopping issues and be ready for them if they're left unchecked. Obviously, this is overkill for most folks, but it works really well for me. Plus, when someone has a 16.04 question or needs a software review using this release, I can provide accurate results using the relevant Ubuntu release.
I covered a lot of ground in this article. I've talked about everything from avoiding "time sucks" with needless troubleshooting down to rethinking which desktop environment is going to be the best for your LTS. The big takeaway I'd ask you to remember is this: find an LTS or stable release and stick with it. Don't fall into the nonsense of needlessly upgrading because everyone else is. Unless you're upgrading to add a needed feature or to correct a bug that's been fixed, stick to a solid LTS and apply those patches.
What say you? Do you think that using the six-month release cycle is a better idea? Perhaps you agree, but prefer to use a non-Ubuntu based distro that also offers a long-term release cycle? Hit the comments and tell me about it.
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