Raspbian Support Timeline

I have quite a lot of Raspberry Pis out there in the wild and quite some of them are still running on a Raspbian that is based on Debian 8 ‘Jessie’. I have no incentive, from an application point of view, to upgrade them to a new Debian version because you are never save from side effects. I speak from experience. Last time it broke my channel bonding redundancy setup. Another option is to re-install and configure the applications I use on a fresh install. But that’s not a trivial 5 minute task either.

This has become a bit of a concern to me because the current Raspberry Pi images are based on Debian 9 ‘Stretch’ and there isn’t a firm commitment on any official Raspberry Pi web page that I could find out how long security fixes will be provided for Debian 8 based Raspbian.

In case you want to check your own installations, here’s the command with which to do it:

$ cat /etc/os-release

PRETTY_NAME="Raspbian GNU/Linux 8 (jessie)"
NAME="Raspbian GNU/Linux"
VERSION="8 (jessie)"

As Raspbian is based on Debian I am hoping that they will continue to draw the security fixes provided by the Debian project until they stop supporting Debian 8. On the Debian Long Term Support (LTS) page, they state that Debian 8 ‘Jessie’ is maintained as old-stable until end of May 2018. After that, Debian 8 will be supported by the LTE team until the end of April 2020.

Sounds good but there is a catch: The LTS page says that support is limited to ‘i386, amd64, armel and armhf (?)’ whatever the (?) means. Unfortunately, Raspbian seems to be built on a different arm platform:

$ uname -a

Linux Gateway-Pi 4.9.40-v7+ #1022 SMP Sun Jul 30 11:16:10 BST 2017 armv7l GNU/Linux

So is ‘armv7l’ compatible to either ‘armel’ or ‘armhf’ or will the (?) magically turn out to be ‘armv7l’?

I guess we have to wait until June/July 2018 to find out by monitoring if security updates are still coming.

[UPDATE 2. September 2018: My Pi on Debian 8 still updates so the deadline has come and gone and things are still fine!]

At some point an upgrade to deployed Pis will become unavoidable and obviously the later this is required the fewer of my Pis will require it.

And here’s a link to instructions how to update for when this becomes unavoidable. The procedure basically works as follows:

“To upgrade, first modify the files /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/apt/sources.list.d/raspi.list. In both files, change every occurrence of the word ‘jessie’ to ‘stretch’. (Both files will require sudo to edit.)”

And then run the update:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get -y dist-upgrade

# If you are not using PulseAudio for anything 
# other than Bluetooth audio, remove it.
$ sudo apt-get -y purge "pulseaudio*"

Keep your fingers crossed…