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Official Release Update Method

I mean, is there a standard operating procedure for updating from one
release to the new stable? Or is it only a matter of what the release notes
say for each update?

I have been informed that it could be disastrous to simply change
sources.list from "etch" to "stable" and wait for the switch to lenny. I had
been under the impression that there is an upgrade period for every release
in which transitional packages are included with staged package upgrades for
the new stable release. 

That then would represent the user's safest bet at not getting stuck with an
expiring OS.

If it is a case by case issue, it seems to put the user in an odd situation.
The user is stuck with an expiring OS, as sarge just did, or the user must
relearn the upgrade process for each new release.

TIA for any insight! :)

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