LTS == 15 Years Not 5

LTS image

Once again the battle between tiny x86 minds and reality has happened. They continually claim an LTS is only 5 years when it needs to be a minimum of 15. It’s a result of AGILE hacking on the fly instead of planning and actual Software Engineering. Btw, our featured image was graciously provided by lemontreesites.

I’ve written before about short term thinking at Qt. This “good for this quarter” mentality sadly isn’t unique to that company. Anywhere MBAs and x86 cross paths you will find “good for this quarter” thinking that trashes a companies future.

For Those of You Who Don’t Write Software

A roofer buys a hammer.

Hammer, tool png sticker, transparent

Perhaps they even buy a shingle nail gun

From that point in time, unless one breaks or is lost, they have no need to “upgrade.” They may desire to get something new, but they have no need. Both will drive nails allowing them to earn money.

This is the way production commercial software works. Once a company gets a tool in place to perform a task, it is never replaced until abject failure strikes. Very few companies will replace something knowing abject failure is imminent. Why? Someone else might be running the division by then and it will be their problem. It just has to keep working today.

During the Days of Software Quality

Back when software quality actually mattered and companies viewed software as a competitive advantage, they used actual Software Engineering (Agile was and still is hacking on the fly only used by losers.) You gathered requirements, created the SDLC with all of the blue-sky future wants written in. The first major release of a system might take two years because you were creating many unused tables in databases and getting proper storage. The first release had to put all of the plumbing in place. I talk a lot about this in my latest book.

Large systems such as integrated order processing, inventory, and warehouse management would take about seven years to settle in. Each year after initial release there would be another 1-3 releases delivering another well designed and tested chunk of the original blue-sky requests. As users got more comfortable with things there would naturally be a few other blue-sky requests.

At the end of the seven years you would start the next major journey either for a completely different version of this system or another competitive advantage for your company.

You always delivered the complete architecture first. The ultimate sin was delivering a system that worked like this.

Today that is the output from every Agile Sprint and you are just supposed to accept it.

Those Who Did Not Learn From Y2K

It’s inconceivable that today we have people in charge of software projects who never learned anything from Y2K. The year 2000 problem happened because high quality systems had to make a storage cost decision. They only stored 2-digit years because a 1.2 MEG removable disk platter was around $5,000.

RL 02 disk packs

Eventually the floppy disk came out for around $5 and quickly dropped below $1.

1.2 MEG floppy

MBAs kept kicking the can down the road when it came to cleaning up that looming problem until they had about one year left to do it.

The lesson they failed to learn: High quality software written in the 1970s is still in production use today. There will be additional flurries of coding happening in 2027 (hack most used for the dividing line between 19 and 20) 2038 (a Posix/C time data type limitation) and 2099 when the next iteration of the 2027 hack has to be coded to choose between 20 and 21.

Tiny x86 Minds Think 5 Years is Eternity

If you look at just about every software tool vendor like Qtc or even Ubuntu, you will find they all brand an LTS as 5 years of support. There are two problems with that.

  • 5 years is a joke, not long term
  • It’s not 5 years for everything

To understand that last one, you need to visit the Qt-Interest archive and pull down the messages for 2021-March as a text file. Search for “4k monitor” and read the messages from/with scott at The LTS of Qt 5 dropped support for his Cent OS 7 despite it being in-use at Intel for some part of chip production. Would not have been a huge problem but 4K monitors fell below $300 and the fix for use with 4K didn’t happen until after the OS he needed was dropped. It’s a great read.

Feel free to read about the Cent OS history here. Even Intel follows the philosophy of our roofer. Don’t replace it as long as it works. This is contrary to what their sales team preaches to the world claiming we should upgrade every 1-2 years creating an e-waste catastrophe much line Apple.

The Latest Brew-Ha-Ha

Apple developers are the latest victims of tiny x86 minds. If you want to read up on it you can pull down the messages for 2023-January and look for the message thread of:

Qt 6.5 Is Irrelevant for More than 95% of Mac Desktops

Subject line of message thread

Much of the “decision” such that it was is based on a false belief. Here was the utterance that proved the belief.

Anyway, Catalina is by definition not safe to run any more.

Symptom of false belief

What is the false belief if that is the symptom? That a system is safe to run as long as it is getting security updates, is a false belief. The security updates happen because penetrations and vulnerabilities get found after production machines have been breached. That doesn’t make them “safe.” Nothing connected to the Internet could ever be considered safe.

Another False Belief

Most of the macOS users are quite quick to take on new OS versions

statement from the thread

Thankfully others shot that down pretty hard. I have met many people that use Apple/Mac products. None of them “upgrade to a new OS.” The horror stories of Apple software not being backwardly compatible are legendary. If you ever get a full software set to work properly on an Apple product, you stay exactly there. The short list of links to OS upgrade horror stories from the actual media companies that follow Apple were hilarious.

People who want to sell you new shit push that false narrative.

How Long for LTS?

A minimum of 15 years. Last time I had any communication with anyone involved in the “Choices” database stuff for Burke publishing (circa 2010 I believe) they were still supporting these:

Why? Because that’s what the libraries still have. Nobody has donated anything newer. Even if someone did they wouldn’t throw these out because they still work and there is a significant investment in software.

Is it secure? You bet! Not one of those libraries has Internet. That’s why they buy a children’s book guide database. They can’t “Google it.”

Many of their customers were still in America, not just third world countries. Despite ConnectALL and the ReConnect Loan and Grant Program, there are still big chunks of the country without usable broadband. Most of those satellite and cellular plans tend to cap out around 10Gig/month. Windows can consume all of that just checking for and applying updates. If you leave your email open, every so often it has to send packets back and forth as well. Those ain’t free.

Here is a good article with some data that should shock you.

just 67 percent of tribal lands in the continental U.S. have access to broadband internet, with the majority only having access to broadband speeds considered by the Federal Communications Commission to be less than “minimally acceptable.”

From the article

It’s “better” but not by a lot in most rural communities. On most days I am less than a 2-hour drive to the corner of State and Wacker in the Chicago Loop. Best-of-the-best Internet available to me is 25Mbps line-of-sight. To get anymore I have to pay $17/foot to trench cable (assuming one can get the permits) for multiple miles.

I have a friend living about half an hour outside of Des Moines, IA. Very close to where Microsoft is building a $417 million data center. Line of sight was all he could get as well. That close to a major data center and no Internet services spiderred out from it.

You Have to Understand the Hardware Cycle

Intel (and perhaps AMD, most definitely Apple) may be telling customers to upgrade every year or two, but for 98% of the market, there is no need. Just think about it for a bit.

How do you use your desktop/laptop computer?

  • Surfing the Web
  • Checking/Answering email
  • Word Processor to write letters/documents
  • Occasional to heavy spreadsheet use
  • Maybe an accounting/budget package for expenses and taxes
  • Stream the occasional video/music if you have enough Internet speed and data limit left

For 98% of the global market, that’s it. Despite the millions spent on games, gaming systems themselves are a small market. Let’s also be honest here. With the exception of streaming, you all did the above when you had a 386 running Windows 3.1. You can easily do that now with a decent Linux distro on an original Core 2 Duo. There are people on eBay right now selling those machines complete with monitor, classified “Refurbished” for under $200 with free 4-day shipping. Some of them claim to have Windows 10 loaded.

Early Hardware Cycle

In the early PC days, hardware was shit, it didn’t last. Wikipedia says the Core 2 Duo first shipped on July 26, 2006. Some time near the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s is when desktop/laptop computer quality began to improve. It wasn’t until then that manufacturers and retailers had to deal with the hardware cycle. Previous it was built, it was sold, maybe lasted long enough to be gifted to friend/relative, then landfill.

Keep in mind the IRS made businesses depreciate computers over something like 5-7 years as a capital expenditure. This wasn’t unreasonable of them. Starting salaries for programmers was in the $20-$30K range. You could buy a fully loaded Caprice Classic for under $8K and IBM branded desktop computers complete with monitor and hard drive listed for $5K or more.

I lived through that era. It was nothing to find an entire room full of abandoned desktop computers at a client site. They had to keep them until fully depreciated. I did a project for Waste Management to replace these $30K burnt EPROM unites used to run the landfills with these cast-off computers and some off-the-shelf cards. An original IBM PC with its 10 MEG hard drive wasn’t suitable for current desktop needs in the 286 world, but it could run the equipment at the landfill just fine. When it finally died it wouldn’t have far to go!


You couldn’t expense a whole computer but corporations could lease for 2-3 years at a lease price far exceeding the cost of the computer and generally expense that. Used computer stores popped up as outlets for the leasing companies but the American consumer simply could not or would not consume all of the lease turn-ins.

Leases allowed computer manufacturers to sell more product just like they did for the automotive world. They also create a problematic secondary market, especially if competition forces you to lease for less than the cost of total ownership. You see, selling a 2-year old low mileage lease turn in cannibalizes new car sales unless you can artificially inflate the price of a low mileage used vehicle. Likewise, if one can purchase a 2-year old desktop/laptop computer for less than half of new, many will make the cheaper decision.

God forbid companies start purchasing and keeping computers for ten years! Oops, some are now. They keep the computers for 5-10 years then simply donate them to underfunded schools. The short list of tasks above is all the school kids need and those machines can do it.

Country Tiers and Cargo Containers

America, some of the EU, England, and some others are considered “First World” countries. They are the top tier for pushing new hardware. Much of this hardware gets pushed by leases and you cannot unload it for profit on garage sale sites like eBay in sufficient quantity. A disposal method that didn’t cannibalize new sales was needed.

Enter cargo containers and “Second World” countries. For many these are the former Soviet Block not yet part of EU and former communist countries. On some lists it also includes Brazil. Let’s not get into a pissing war about what is and isn’t “Second World.” If the national average programmer salary for a developer with more than 5 years experience is under $60K U.S., you are definitely not “First World” where the national average is well over $100K.

Until shipping containers became widely used, these markets could not be reached in a cost effective manner. Now leasing companies could bulk ship their used computers to a “Second World” country used computer distributor or whatever. They could ship them before, but now they could ship them cheap.

In 2019 I worked on a medical device project with an off-shore team in Bulgaria. During one video call we were told they had just upgraded some of their developers to newer machines. We all saw a Core 2 Duo machine sitting there. Let’s be honest. If you don’t need to run a virtual machine or build Linux from scratch, you can compile just fine on those boxes. Not as fast as today, but fine.

When “Second World” countries are done with them, the surviving machines will be shipped to “Third World” countries where age and bad electrical grids should do them in.

Cycle Summary

Thus is the hardware cycle and by extension the software cycle for desktop/laptop computers. With desktops you can replace pretty much every component from the motherboard to the power supply to the add-in cards. Even if you refuse to replace the motherboard, properly cared for systems can last over 20 years. You just have to remember to blow the dust out of them with an air hose at least once per year.

Computers used in factory production systems are never “upgraded.” They will keep doing the tasks required to make that product until the line shuts down for good. In the medical device world this is mandated by federal law. It’s not uncommon for a company to get three units certified during the initial certification process then place two in storage. If one dies it is a minor paperwork thing to replace with an already certified unit.

The bulk of today’s non-consumer items are designed to not need upgrades. Replacement, yes, upgrades, no.

blood pressure cuff

You’ve all seen a blood pressure cuff. Neither hospital nor doctor’s office will “upgrade” their standard adult model just to have the new model (Apple). They will replace it when it fails. They will purchase more if they expand staff. The factory line making them will run the exact same equipment until the line shuts down permanently.

People who create music with computers for a living get something that works and use it until it dies. They have no interest in upgrading. They get paid to deliver background music for movies, games, etc. The output is a sound file. How it gets created the client doesn’t care. If an upgrade trashes their computer they are out of business, so they don’t upgrade.

LTS Summary

Steve Job’s daughter said it best when she sent out a pick upgrading from iPhone 13 to iPhone 14

Those of us creating medical devices, software for factory lines, and systems that matter need a minimum of 15 years for an LTS especially if you have it in your fool head we should pay money for it. Over that course of time you cannot drop our operating system just because you want to. You cannot expect us to use the version you built last week, “move to a subscription model” or any of that. Other than a support contract, you cannot charge money for OpenSource.

Even the automotive world which ships new car models most years got sick of this. They have created multiple OpenSource initiatives to completely replace the never ending fees of commercial stuff. Y’all got too greedy, kept dropping stuff too soon, had too many bugs, and honked off customers with checking accounts big enough to fund high-end OpenSource initiatives.

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