Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

October 2, 2022

Upgrading Debian Unstable – How to avoid obvious problems

Filed under: Computer Tips,Linux/Unix Related,Tech Related — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

If you are using Debian Unstable there is a possibility that your system might not work correctly after an upgrade, because as the name states it is an ‘unstable’ distribution that might have bugs. I use it because Debian Stable has older versions of the software available and I want to the latest versions if possible. Plus I don’t mind tinkering with the system if things break so that helps as well. Over the years I have found some easy ways to prevent the most obvious problems when upgrading and I will share them here.

First option is to upgrade the system regularly. You can decide what the frequency of the upgrade is but do it regularly. I upgrade twice a month and that ensures that the system has the latest updates and we are not so far out of sync that we need to download a ton of files for the upgrade. This is very useful when you don’t have much free space available in the root partition as the longer you wait the more files you have to download and the less free space we have for the actual upgrade.

Another thing I do that has helped me a lot is to ensure that you look at the packages being upgraded, specifically any packages being removed. Don’t upgrade if there are a lot of packages being removed without updated versions being installed. To give an example, I tried upgrading my system yesterday and it told me that it was going to “457 upgraded, 11 newly installed, 297 to remove and 0 not upgraded.” Looking at the packages it was going to remove I found that if I had blindly allowed the upgrade to proceed it would have ended up uninstalling my entire KDE install, VPN server and a whole bunch of other stuff. I waited for a day and tried again and the bug that was causing the system to insist on removing KDE during the upgrade was resolved and I was able to upgrade successfully.

I also pipe the output from the apt-get dist-upgrade command to a log file so that I have a log of what was changed and any errors are logged so I can look at it later in case there are issue. The command I use for that is as below:

apt-get dist-upgrade 2>&1 |tee ~suramya/Documents/Suramya/Computer\ Update\ Logs/StarKnight/2022/10032022

I keep all the logs from the upgrades so I can see exactly what was changed on the system and when. Makes it a lot easier to troubleshoot issues caused due to an upgrade.

If you have multiple systems, then I recommend you don’t upgrade all of them at the same time. I stagger them by a day or two so that in case of issues I have a working system. This has saved my sanity a few times.

Well, this is all for now. Do share any tips you might have for avoiding issues during an upgrade.

– Suramya

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