Run new packages on older distros with backports
If you run a stable system, you don't have to miss out on the latest and greatest releases of your favorite applications -- just use a backport to get a package of a new release that's been "back-ported" to your older distribution.
Backports are new software releases -- often beta or development releases -- that are recompiled under the libraries and environment of an older distribution, so that they can be run on "stable" systems that haven't yet upgraded to all the latest software. They allow you to run recent versions of your favorite software applications -- versions that your system wouldn't otherwise meet the dependencies for.
Ubuntu's Backports Project leader John Dong says that most of the time, his project's backports are simply recompiled in an older environment, and that he typically doesn't like to change packages to get them to compile. "However," he says, "if there is pressing reason [such as an important bug fix], we do manually tweak packages to build, or work closely with the other Ubuntu developers to upload a version to the development tree that more readily backports to previous Ubuntu releases."
Just about any package can be backported.