Keeping Your Computer Updated
No OS or piece of software is perfect. This means that Ubuntu developers release a number of security and other updates. These come as needed and are quite easy to install.
Most of the updates to your machine will be security related. This means that the developers have found a weakness in a particular program in Ubuntu and have released a fix for it. There will also be a small number of updates to fix some critical bugs. For a home user, there is generally no reason not to install these right away, as not installing them might leave your computer open to security breaches, virus infection, or worse. Ubuntu developers also have a very strict policy about not putting new versions of programs into stable versions of Ubuntu, which keeps your system more stable by not introducing new problems.
Helpfully, Ubuntu will tell you when you need to update your machine.
Ubuntu 9.04 handles package updates by launching update-manager directly instead of displaying a notification icon in the GNOME panel as was done in earlier versions. Users are still notified of security updates on a daily basis, but for updates that are not security-related, users will only be notified once a week.
Learning about What Was Updated
The update window, shown in Figure 4-8, will also show you specifically what is going to be fixed. In the details pane, it will show you what got fixed and how. It might also list a CVE number. The CVE number is a unique identifier for a security vulnerability. You can look it up on http://cve.mitre.org to see what the exact flaw was. However, most people don’t need to worry (and really don’t care) about these details.
Using Synaptic to Check for Updates
You can use Synaptic not only to manage packages but also to check for updates. When you launch Synaptic, it will ask you for your password. After it starts, first click on the Reload button in the upper left. This will prompt Synaptic to check the repositories for new updates. After it has finished, click Mark All Upgrades. This will prompt Synaptic to mark all software upgrades as those you want to install. If Synaptic does not tell you there are any updates to be made, everything is already up-to-date. If something requires updating, it will tell you which packages need to be updated. Close the window, and then click Apply. This will install any needed upgrades.
Sometimes the updater will tell you that it cannot update certain programs. This is because updating those programs would require the removal or addition of certain packages on the system. This is where Synaptic comes in. Synaptic can do what is called a smart update, which will figure out what needs to be added or removed. Synaptic will perform smart updates by default, and then you can just update as described in the previous paragraph. You can confirm that this feature is activated by going to Settings > Preferences (Figure 4-9). Make certain that the System Upgrade option is set to Smart Upgrade.