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Curious Case Of Linux Distribution Code Names

Have you ever wondered about the code name of the latest release of your favorite Linux distribution?

The upcoming Linux Mint 18 has been codenamed Sarah. Ubuntu 16.04 will be called Xenial Xerus. The list goes on like that.

The question about the code-names is really trivial. It doesn’t make any difference to how a particular Linux distribution function. Yet, as a curious Linux user, you might want to know the logic behind codename of a release. After all, the code name is an integral part of a release and the dev team puts an effort for that as well, isn’t it?

I am going to tell you about the logic behind code naming of some of the most popular Linux distributions. Sit tight, this is going to be a fun ride 🙂

Ubuntu version numbering and codenaming

Ubuntu logo wallpaper

One of the most popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu follows a biannual release cycle with one release coming in April and other in October.

The month and year of the release play a vital role in the version number of an Ubuntu release. An Ubuntu release has version number of the format XX.YY. The XX is the year of the release and YY is the month of the release. So, we get Ubuntu 16.04 in the 4th month (April) of the year 2016. Ubuntu 15.10 was released in the 10th month (October) of the year 2015.

So far, there has only been one exception to the Ubuntu releases in either April or October in the past 11 years. Release of Ubuntu 6.04 was delayed for two months and this is the reason why it was named Ubuntu 6.06, instead of the usual XX.04 or XX.10.

[Tweet “Ubuntu 6.06 is the only release which was delayed in last 11 years.”]

Now coming to the code naming of Ubuntu. You may have noticed that any Ubuntu release has a two worded code name that start with the same alphabet. For example, Ubuntu 14.04 is called Trusty Tahr (starting with a T).

Ubuntu code names are indeed made of two words, first being an adjective and the second being an endangered species (lately it also contains mythological creatures such as Unicorn or Werewolf). In the previous example Trusty is an adjective meaning some who could be trusted while Tahr is an animal with some of there sub-species considered to be endangered.

Another interesting fact is that these code names are incremented alphabetically in each release (except the few in the beginning). So, we have Ubuntu 14.04 as Trusty Tahr, Ubuntu 14.10 as Utopic Unicorn, Ubuntu 15.04 as Vivid Vervet and so on.

I presume that now you have pretty good understanding of Ubuntu version numbering and codenames. If I have to summarize all of the releases, they go like:

Ubuntu version and codenames

So, as you can see, following Ubuntu releases improves your English vocabulary and introduces you to species you might not have heard of 🙂 If you prefer videos, here is a video explaining Ubuntu naming convention:

Linux Mint version numbering and codenaming

new features in Cinnamon 2.6 and installation instructions in Ubuntu

The distant cousin of Ubuntu (if I may call it that), Linux Mint is another popular Linux distribution. Now, let’s dig into the version numbering and code-naming of Linux Mint.

Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu. So, a couple of months after an Ubuntu release, a Linux Mint releases comes up based on that Ubuntu release.

Unlike Ubuntu, Linux Mint versioning doesn’t follow the month and year. It is simply incremental. So, we have Linux Mint 15 then Linux Mint 16, Linux Mint 17 and so on. This is for major releases. The minor releases (loose analogy to service pack in Windows), are incremented in decimal points. So, that gives us Linux Mint 17.1, 17.2 etc.

That was about version number, let’s talk about the code names. Each of the Linux Mint releases, be it minor or major, has a code name. And like Ubuntu, they too are in an incremental alphabetical order.

One more interesting thing about Linux Mint codenames is that these female names ending with alphabet ‘a’ and the names have origin in the mythology of Abrahamic religion. That gives us names like Linux Mint 17 Qiana etc.

The major releases increment the alphabetical order of the codename while the minor ones carry the same starting alphabets but change the name. For example, Linux Mint 17.1 is Rebecca, 17.2 is Rafaela and 17.3 is Rosa.

To summarize all the Linux Mint releases so far, here is a table:

Linux Mint codename and version numbers

Sarah is the only exception in the list that doesn’t end with an ‘a’.

elementary OS version and codenaming

Beautiful Elementary OS Luna logo

Since we are talking about Ubuntu and Linux Mint, let’s extend this family and include elementary OS (also based on Ubuntu) in the discussion.

elementary OS has version numbers that match the incremental pattern like 0.X. So, the first stable release of elementary OS was 0.1 and then come 0.2 and the current stable version is elementary OS 0.3.

As far as the codename is concerned, elementary OS prefers to have a mythological god’s or goddess’ name. Usually these names are taken from Roman/Nordic mythology. This gives us codenames like Jupiter, Luna, Freya (earlier ISIS) and perhaps the upcoming Loki.

There are no alphabetical constraint here.

0.1  —  Jupiter
0.2  —  Luna
0.3  —  Freya

Debian version and codenaming

Migrate debian to Ubuntu

Let’s switch to grand daddy of Ubuntu, Linux Mint and elementary OS. Debian, of which Ubuntu has been derived, has a very curious naming system. In fact, Debian itself was named after its founder Ian and his girlfriend Debra. Debian founder Ian Murdock died mysteriously before two years but his name has been immortalized in Debian.

Debian version numbers are incremental. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting fact is that all Debian releases are codenamed after the characters of Toy Story movie. That explains why you have Debian Jessie or Debian Woody.

[Tweet “#LinuxFacts : Debian releases are named after Toy Story characters.”]

Here is a table for a quick glance on all the Debian releases and their codename:

Debian version codename

And if you have watched the first Toy Story movie, you might remember the villain of the movie Sid. This neighborhood kid is a destroyer of toys. This is why all Debian unstable releases are codenamed Debian Sid.

I think there are plenty of characters in Toy Story movie series so we should not run out of codenames for future Debian releases 🙂

OpenSUSE version and codenaming


The first OpenSUSE release in 2005 was OpenSUSE 10.1. I do not know why it started with 10 and why not 1. But ever since, the major release increases the version number before the decimal while the minor releases increase the version number after decimal points. This gives us version numbers like OpenSUSE 11.3, 11.4, 12.1, 12.2 etc.

Initial releases of OpenSUSE did not have a codename. It was with the release of OpenSUSE 11.2 that we start seeing a codename.

Needless to say that OpenSUSE has a green aura with it. This greenish touch is extended to the codenames as well. OpenSUSE codenames are actually a shade of green color. That explains the codenames like EmeraldTeal etc for OpenSUSE.

11.3 — Teal
11.4 — Celadon
12.1 — Asparagus
12.2 — Mantis
12.3 — Dartmouth
13.1 — Bottle
13.2 —  Harlequin
Leap 42.1 — Malachite

Don’t worry if you think you have never heard of these shades of Green ever. And if you think maybe OpenSUSE will run out of codenames in future, I say stay positive. If there can be fifty shades of grey, there can be plenty for green as well 🙂

Your take?

What’s your take on codenames? Do you think it is easier to remember a release with the codename than a version number? Do you think codenames are needed at all? Which Linux distribution’s codename pattern you like the most? Feel free to express your views in the comment box below.


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