It may happen (and actually happens) that a backend for a particular radio is in alpha (preliminary) phase because none of the known contributors has it or can play with it. We are fortunate because the developers are working fast and very intensively, however the necessary changes appearing first in a CVS snapshot and waiting for more thorough testing. The release cycle is not very short, though.
If you are in trouble with your radio, I highly recommend to install a CVS version from source code (./configure && make && make install). The probability that the problem is known and solved is quite high, however the official stable release does not contain the new, working backend but the old (obsolete one) which won't work at all. I know that installation of CVS snapshots is not intended for an average user but you don't need to be worried, the CVS versions of hamlib are pretty stable!
Find the hamlib CVS snapshot here:
The Ubuntu Linux is also a software masterpiece. It is probably the most easy distribution available and it does wonders - if works. Unfortunately the repositories are full of outdated, obsolete software (which is a Debian tradition, isn't?). If we talking about hamlib 1.2.10, the repository contains version 1.2.8, you bet. The actual development phase is light-years away, so the installation of CVS version (from sources) is often the only possible solution.
Unfortunately, Debian (and all its followers) uses some non-standard options resulting in the fact that a software which works almost everywhere fails here, also a software developed in the Debian environment causes unbelievable troubles in some other distros. Here is a hamlib related story:
I am using Slackware Linux since 1996. It is a very generic distribution intended for Linux tinkers. Not so comfortable as Ubuntu, SuSE, Mandriva or Fedora, with its unique packaging system which does not handle dependencies etc. Everything works but with pain and hamlib was not an exception. I'm using also Ten-Tec Orion, so I'm using the 1608 backend since it appeared. Kudos to Martin, AA6E, the Orion backend became mature very quickly and I am using it on daily basis since hamlib ver. 1.2.5. There was only small glitch - radio control failed when tuned to 7015.9 (and some other frequencies). The problem was solved very quickly but it took several months to include the fixed backend to the stable release. Of course, the next-day CVS snapshot had it all. No problem, I was happy with CVS, later with stable version until I moved to Ubuntu. The repo had 1.2.8 so I installed them but it didn't work. On Slackware, all versions 1.2.5 to 1.2.8 worked like a champ. I downloaded and installed the CVS 1.2.10 and, voila, I was back in the game! Unfortunately, nobody was able to make clear, why versions prior to 1.2.8 on Slackware were working and the Ubuntu package 1.2.8 not...
I don't need to beat my head against a brick wall because there is CVS. With high probability, it can help you too!