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October 11, 2015

Finally managed to upgrade to latest Debian Testing without breaking my install completely

Filed under: Linux/Unix Related,My Life — Suramya @ 10:19 PM

Some of you might have wondered (for a very brief amount of time) based on my last post and then lack of activity if I had managed to get myself sent to Mars but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The problem was more mundane, basically I had somehow managed to get my desktop in a state WHERE it thought that it needed to uninstall KDE whenever I tried to upgrade to the latest Debian packages using ‘apt-get upgrade’ or for that matter when I tried to install any new package as well. After ignoring the issue for a while I decided to take the plunge and went ahead with the upgrade thinking that I would just reinstall KDE after the upgrade completed. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as planned and I had to do a full reinstall from scratch. It was something I thought about doing so that I could resize the partition allocation but didn’t have the time/incentive to do it. So this was the perfect time to take the plunge.

I re-partitioned the drive and started the install. The first few attempts failed quite spectacularly because apparently some of the packages in the ‘Unstable’ branch are broken (which is not unexpected because after all it *is* called the unstable branch.) After I switched to the Testing branch which is more stable than unstable I got a bit further along but hit another snag while installing KDE as during the upgrade systemd kept complaining about not being able to talk to policykit and died after giving the following error message a few hundred times:

Error getting authority: Error initializing authority: Error calling StartServiceByName for org.freedesktop.PolicyKit1: Timeout was reached (g-io-error-quark, 24)
Failed to execute operation: Connection timed out

This stumped me for a while since I didn’t have the energy at the time to research the issue in too much detail. I would have resolved it faster but as I had my laptop working I was able to get work done and access the net, (even if it wasn’t the most comfortable way to work.) which reduced the urgency to fix the problem. After a few weeks I finally got time to sit and work on the issue. Turns out the problem was caused because systemd was expecting a later version of policykit than what was installed and apt-get wasn’t upgrading policykit before it started installing KDE. The solution was quite simple after I figured out what the problem was, which was to upgrade policykit by issuing the following command as root before installing KDE:

apt-get install policykit-1

After running that command I was able to upgrade to the latest Debian Testing and with that I also got a newer version of KDE (5:90 is what apt-get calls it) which is nice and has a lot of eye candy. However as with all KDE releases/upgrades to a new system (Plasma) it still has issues/missing features. Annoying stuff that I have found so far is listed below:

  • There is no quick icon widget. I put all the software I regularly use in the Quick icon bar and not having it is really annoying. There is a temp workaround where I can right click on a window and select ‘Show as a Launcher when not running’ but it is not the same.
  • There is a bug that prevents you from disabling the beep for system events for all events. So everytime I try to delete sometime I get a loud and annoying beep. I can’t switch off all sounds because then I can’t hear my music either. Lots of folks have been complaining about this so hopefully there will be a fix out soon.
  • Not all software minimizes to the system tray. Specifically, Tomboy which I use to take notes exits completely when I close it instead of minimizing to the system tray which is what it used to do. I am sure there is a setting that I am missing but I haven’t found the fix yet.

There are other minor annoyances but they are mostly caused because the new version does things slightly differently so I guess I just need to get used to the new way. To top things off my UPS battery has gone for a toss and I get an amazing 0.2 mins of backup with a full charge. 🙁 I have ordered new batteries but till they arrive I need to remember to power off the system when I am not around.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later (hopefully more regularly now that I have a working desktop again).

– Suramya

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