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Otto, thanks for taking the time to email us. I am not on the Ubuntu
Release Team but here are my thoughts.
I don't like your proposal to drop the epoch. That will cause everyone
already using Ubuntu 18.04 (which is now in Beta) to have a version of
mariabdb installed that will not get any updates (for security or bug
fixes). Ubuntu isn't that much different than Debian here. You can't
really remove the epoch in Debian and I don't see how you can
reasonably remove it from Ubuntu either.
It feels to me like it might be better to move Ubuntu 18.04 to 10.2
and completely remove the 10.1 packages.
Do you know when 10.3 is expected to be officially "stable"? How risky
is it for Ubuntu 18.04 to switch to the current 10.3 RC  instead of
10.1 or 10.2?
How long would it take to get 10.2 or 10.3 ready for Ubuntu?
The support lifecycle for either 10.2 or 10.3 look a lot better than
10.1 for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. 
And one more link for reference: https://bugs.debian.org/891641
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