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I've been using Linux for more than 2 years now, and I'm a satisfied user. I started with Ubuntu, then switched to Fedora and now I'm fond of Linux Mint.

Linux is often described as "stable". I have some inkling of what it might mean, but today I felt the need to understand it completely.

So my question is...

What does it mean that operating system is stable? What are the features of stable system?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 31 '11 at 20:08

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Fortunately you're young enough and never had to use anything below Windows XP. Then you'd understand what an instable operating system is and by contrast what an stable OS is. Google for BSOD –  OscarRyz Mar 31 '11 at 21:18
    
I'm almost 22 years old and I used Windows 98 about 12 years ago. I just wanted precise definition, not definition based on feelings. –  Maciej Ziarko Mar 31 '11 at 21:37
    
For precise definition ( if you trust in wikimedia ) here's what stable means: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/stable#Etymology_2 Hence an "stable" operating system would be one that is "relatively unchanging, permanent; firmly fixed or established, not easily to be moved, changed, unbalanced, destroyed or altered in value." For instance, if a wild program runs in it, that program should not shutdown the whole OS ( as happened very frequently with Windows OS prior the XP version ) –  OscarRyz Mar 31 '11 at 21:42

5 Answers 5

'Stable' means that a version has already been tested and used, so it will often times have fewer bugs than the 'unstable' version, which is less well-tested. , it is less prone to errors

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The Debian project (and possibly other Linux distributions) uses the term "stable" and "unstable" to describe releases in the manner @evotopid states.

@KeithS is also correct. "Stable" doesn't have an official definition apart from that.

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There are often both stable & unstable versions of software by open source projects. 'Stable' means that a version has already been tested and used, so it will often times have fewer bugs than the 'unstable' version, which is less well-tested. If you're using Linux as a production server NEVER use a unstable version, because it may have security holes or unknown bugs. However, sometimes the stable version won't have some features that have been added to the unstable version.

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Red herring. There is nothing saying that an unstable version of software will have either more bugs or more security holes than a stable version. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Mar 31 '11 at 20:11
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@Ignacio: there's a saying, I think from TDD people, that goes something like: "code that hasn't been tested is wrong". –  ninjalj Mar 31 '11 at 20:18
    
@ninjalj: Sure, but that has nothing to do with the stable/unstable designation. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Mar 31 '11 at 20:19
    
I think you're confusing the term with development stages. In the OP context it means the whole OS ( linux , any version ) compared with OTHER OS ( Did you ever used Windows ME? ) :) –  OscarRyz Mar 31 '11 at 21:22
    
Or Win 98 which I refer to as the original BSOD OS...youtube.com/watch?v=IW7Rqwwth84 –  Moab Apr 1 '11 at 22:20

For me, "Stable" means it doesn't change very much. So a "Stable" version of a distribution, might have security updates but few other changes; certainly none which are likely to make a working application stop working.

An "Unstable" means that it is liable to change its interfaces, e.g. APIs, command structure, filesystem layout, or other things which can cause a working system to become a non-working one.

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A "stable" OS, much like a "stable" application of any kind, is simply one that is not prone to error, or is robust enough to deal with said error without the operating system ceasing to, well, operate. There is no real standard for calling an OS "stable"; it can vary among distros, and even build-to-build (you may hear of getting the "latest stable build", as opposed to a "beta" build), but generally the term will stick where it applies.

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