I'm currently running elementary OS Luna, which is based on Ubuntu 12.04. Can I upgrade my installation to have a Ubuntu 13.04 base, but still use elementary OS's desktop environment and applications? Would elementary OS's packages break because they expect the dependency versions in Ubuntu 12.04? Would I be better off installing 13.04, building elementary OS's packages from source, and then reconfiguring all my preferences for everything?

  • I'm not really sure what Elementary OS' desktop environment is, but can't you just install Ubuntu 13.04 (or even 13.10) and install your favorite DE on top of same? – Joseph R. Nov 26 '13 at 15:55
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    @JosephR. I certainly could, but I want to know if I could upgrade without a reinstall, because configuring a new install always takes a while... also, elementary OS uses Pantheon, which uses gala as the wm (based on libmutter), wingpanel as the panel, slingshot-launcher as its application launcher menu, and plank as an osx-style dock (in case you were interested). – Suchipi Nov 26 '13 at 15:59
  • Thanks; desktop customization is indeed interesting to me. I'll make sure to look at these applications :) – Joseph R. Nov 26 '13 at 16:01
  • I wouldn't mess with packages of different distros/forks. – Braiam Nov 26 '13 at 16:07
  • What features from 13.04 do you actually need? As eOS Luna is based in Ubuntu Precise you can easily, with the LTS enablement stack, upgrade the kernel and use PPA's for update software. – Angel Salinas Huerta Jan 7 '14 at 2:34

It might work. Then again, it might not. Upgrading a distribution is a risky process at the best of times, I would be very surprised if you did not run into trouble. A better question would be whether it is even worth attempting?

Upgrading just to have the latest version is rarely worth the effort. You should upgrade to fix security holes or to get new features that you need. The basic principle is if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So, if all you want to do is get a newer version of a specific piece of software, upgrade that, not your system.

In any case, what you are proposing means you basically want to replicate the work that the elementary OS devs are doing. Elementary is basically Ubuntu + Elementary stuff. You are suggesting that you should upgrade to a newer Ubuntu and then install the elementary packages. If that were as trivial as you seem to expect, there would be little point in releasing elementary as an OS.

However, one of the great features of Debian's package management system is that it deals with package dependencies for you. So, if you want to get a newer version of something, modify your /etc/apt/sources.list (which presumably already contains the Ubuntu repositories) and make it point to a newer version of Ubuntu. You can then run apt-get update to refresh your sources and have access to the newer versions:

  1. Change your sources.list from this (or similar)

    deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ precise main restricted

    to this

    deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ raring main restricted
  2. Run sudo apt-get update and then install a newer version of your favorite software, vlc for example:

    sudo apt-get install vlc

Elementary OS also provides a bleeding edge repository (which you use at your own risk, it will not be as stable as the released version), you can find it here.

Finally, if for whatever reason you really really want to risk this and upgrade your distribution (I stress there is very little point in doing this) you can try. However, there is no guarantee that the newer versions of the various core libraries you will install will be compatible with the Elementary packages. You will almost certainly end up having to tweak various things and I would bet it would take you longer than doing a fresh install.

  • It's safe to change the lines in my sources.list to a newer release? In the past, doing so has led to dependency hell- not something I want to confront. My main reason for upgrading is just that I'm getting tired of compiling software from source simply because the packages for precise aren't up-to-date. I've already had to backport cmake, gcc, g++, and many other integral system packages just to get other software to compile at all (and I'm only compiling it because there's no version for precise- I wouldn't be compiling it otherwise). If I used newer repos, this would all be a non-issue. – Suchipi Nov 26 '13 at 16:20
  • @Suchipi that's just it, sometimes it is fine, sometimes it is not and it depends on the packages in question. You might want to look into apt pinning but yes, mixing releases is the road to dependency hell, that's why I don't recommend it. Mixing distributions (which is what you're suggesting) is the highway to dependency hell though so I don't really see a way around it. I repeat that you don't really need the latest versions and if you feel you do, you're on the wrong distro. – terdon Nov 26 '13 at 16:30

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