[kwlug-disc] is it just me, or is debian package management painful?

Chris Frey cdfrey at foursquare.net
Thu Aug 13 22:27:47 EDT 2009

On Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 08:29:23PM -0400, Robert P. J. Day wrote:
>   i already assumed that that size of upgrade would cause massive
> breakage.  but does debian upgrade have the ability to let me upgrade
> from, say, 3.1 to 3.2?  fix breakage.  3.2 to 3.3.  etc, etc.  it
> would actually be trememdously useful for me to be able to do that,
> even if it takes a little longer.

As far as I know, Debian updates the same main repo when they do a point
release as minor updates.  If you are tracking the main repo, then
these updates come in a bunch every so often.  Version 5.0 (Lenny)
is still called 5.0 and still called Lenny, even though there have been
2 updates to it so far.  The /etc/debian_version file shows 5.0.2.

http://www.debian.org/releases/ lists releases back to 2.0 hamm.
And packages are still available at http://www.debian.org/distrib/archive

Upgrading from say, sarge to etch is just a matter of setting your
/etc/apt/sources.list to use the right name.

Each major release includes a document on debian.org on upgrading,
and how you should do it.  And while it is supposed to work painlessly,
there have historically been such time spans between releases that some
serious changes happen in the process.  So there are always a few minor
gotchas.  Also, the versions of apt-get and aptitude change along the way.

For a system that is of critical importance, I would recommend making a
copy in a VM and seeing how the upgrade goes.  I did that on my machine
here (upgraded itself in a QEMU VM), and it was very helpful to have a
list of commands I knew would work in advance, with the small gotcha's
worked out ahead of time.  And the machine itself was only down briefly
for the upgrade, after doing the trial run at my leisure in a VM.

None of this sounds like fun in your situation, I'm sure.  But I hope it
helps a little.

- Chris

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