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Consolidating terminology: update and upgrade

Feature state

openSUSE Distribution


In the past, we just used the term "update" for all update related things, because we were told "upgrade" is suitable for hardware related upgrades only.

With the advent of zypper, the term "upgrade" (dup, dist-upgrade) is back for upgrading the system complete from one version "n" to the next version "n+1" (yes, you can "upgrade" within one version, but that's a special case...).

The term is fine and I'd like us to use "upgrade" in YaST and everywhere else where suitable.

User benefit:

Avoid confusion. ATM, I'm forced to use different terms in the chapter of the manual, if I describe the same task.


icons/user_comment.png J. K. wrote: (8 years ago)

I'm not an expert on English, but my understanding of these terms as should be used with software is as follows:

upgrade = installation of newer (major) version of a package or distribution, which brings NEW FEATURES

update = installation of ANY NEWER VERSION of a package or distro

In short, upgrade is 'feature-wise', update is 'time-wise'. If we'd agree on this definition, then:

  • upgrades are a subset of updates
  • bug fixes (e.g. openSUSE updates/patches), are mere 'updates' - they should not bring new features
  • distribution update is always an upgrade - it always brings new features

So if one wants to emphasize that the update brings new features, s/he should use 'upgrade'. In all other cases just 'update' is fine.

What do you think? What do experts on English think?

icons/user_comment.png K. E. wrote: (8 years ago)

Yes, but let's decide with customer focus in mind ;)

The customer does only package updates (via online maintenace updates) and system upgrades (e.g., from 11.1 to 11.2).

Those who do "zypper dup" within Factory or from from one milestone to the next, are developers and not the default audience of our manuals.

This means, zypper messages are fine and yast needs adjustments.

icons/user_comment.png J. E. wrote: (6 years ago)

>What do you think? What do experts on English think?
From a math standpoint, it's clearly defined by action/source code:
update = offer all packages with an increased version number and the same vendor for installation
upgrade = move all installed packages to the version present in enabled repositories, allowing for downgrades and vendor changes.
In that regard, an upgrade is actually a superset, because it allows more actions to be carried out.
On an English note, the words update/upgrade are closely related, and for starters the different may not be intuitive. Adding to the problem is that other rpm managers, here yum, make update and upgrade the same thing, due to 1. downgrades being realized by increased EVR using the rpm epoch field that is deprecated in SUSE, 2. not doing any vendor locks.

Once the very definition of up and dup (see above) is conveyed to the user by documentation though, I see no issue with continuing to use these terms, also because changing them now would cause a unnecessary stir.

icons/user_comment.png J. W. wrote: (8 years ago)

Jan, I like your definition in #1, feature-wise vs. time-wise.
Although the distinction is not very precise.

Karl, I haven't seen any reason why the term upgrade should only apply to hardware. Do we have a reference for this?

I'd like to go one step further and suggest:
"Upgrade" applies to changes in the version of a distribution. Whenever /etc/SuSE-release changes, it is an upgrade (or downgrade). When going from one milestone (aka alpha .. beta .. RC) to another, this is also an upgrade, even if the exact milestone is not visible in /etc/SuSE-release.

"Update" applies to changes in the version of a packages.
when installing a newer package version that is still released for the same version of the distribution, then it is an update. (No Idea, what installing an older version should be called ...)

Installing a new package that would belong to the next distribution, into a system, would qualify as a package upgrade with Jan's definition. For disambiguation, I'd rather call it a cross-distribution package update, or something else.

How do other linux distros (or windows?) use these terms?

This fate requires two things:
a) come up with sound definitions.
b) implement the definition.

I am aware that implementing exact definitions here may create additional workload for yast, zypper, and documentation team.
For my part, I'd say, it is worth the effort.

icons/user_comment.png J. E. wrote: (6 years ago)

>I like your definition in #1, feature-wise vs. time-wise. Although the distinction is not very precise.

Technically, new features can also show up in the update repositories. This can happen if a maintainer decides that pushing a new upstream release to openSUSE users is easier to deal with (including subsequent new bugs) than to maintain large stacks of (possibly even backported) patches.

The SLE11 kernel update from 2.6.27->2.6.32 was like that.

icons/user_comment.png K. E. wrote: (6 years ago)

We do not have to solve academical or philosophical questions ;)

We have two or three package management related procedure that need a proper name:

1. The user has version X installed and then, version X+1 appears and he want to renew his system with this version X+1 without installing it from scratch. He wants to use what yast calls "Updating (an existing system)". -- In this context, is here "update" the proper term?

2. He wants to do the same using "zypper dup". -- Is this a distribution update or upgrade?

3. Installing a security update (kernel, java, fixing an arbitrary memory leak, etc.). -- Is this, what we are currently calling an online update, a package update or upgrade?

icons/user_comment.png J. S. wrote: (6 years ago)

Well, mostly (obviously not always) we use update for installing newer versions of packages and upgrade for installing newer version of the distribution. Which should answer these questions (and in fact also say that in your example you showed the inconsistency)

icons/user_comment.png O. K. wrote: (10 months ago)

Crosschecking the documentation e.g. on https://doc.opensuse.org/documentation/leap/startup/html/book.opensuse.startup/cha.update.osuse.html

I would say this feature is implemented completely. The documentation properly reference update and upgrade. Do you agree? If not, please reopen the request for the distribution.

Last change: 10 months ago
Score: -1
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  • Neutral: 3
  • Positive: 4
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