Howto: Set up and Maintain a Mixed Testing/Unstable System

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Postby reidar » 2007-09-16 17:55

I am trying this again, after having gone back to etch again :-)

I now started with etch, upgraded to lenny, and then wanted to start doing as explained in this article. But on my system /etc/apt/apt.conf is a directory rather than a file. Is there a misprint, or should I create an apt.conf file in the /etc/apt/apt.conf/ directory?

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Postby rickh » 2007-09-16 18:02

/etc/apt/apt.conf should not be a directory. Assuming that directory is empty, I would remove it and create the file.
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Postby reidar » 2007-09-16 18:06

Hmmm, strange thing is, it is not empty.

Code: Select all
mosvold-laptop:~# ls /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/
00trustcdrom  01autoremove  10periodic  70debconf


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Postby rickh » 2007-09-16 18:13

apt.conf.d is a directory. You don't have to be concerned with that. The "file" you are interested in is apt.conf
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Postby reidar » 2007-09-16 18:18

Aaah, I actually didn't see the ".d" until now...
How dyslectic can a man be...

Thanks, and sorry for bothering you with such stupidities :-)

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Postby Eck » 2007-09-20 18:32

Hey again,

rickh, does what I did here:

viewtopic.php?p=101428#101428

with /etc/apt/preferences seem to be correct to handle the situation with my 3rd party repo's?

And, what about that security repo? Is what I did in there okay for having that repo do its stuff (being preferred when it pushes something to Lenny)?

As I said in the post, I had tried the apt.conf way and aptitude was showing the Lenny versions instead of my 3rd party versions. Probably because putting in a default distro designation for it in an apt.conf makes it pin to 990 and being an official distro overrides any 3rd party repos.

Same thing happened with apt/preferences (with no apt.conf) until I lowered Lenny to Pin 500. Then things appeared to get sorted in the correct manner.

Just not sure, and concerned about the security repo. But as far as I know it looks okay.

What do you think?
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Postby rickh » 2007-09-20 21:06

I have read and studied a bit about pinning, but I don't use it myself. I choose to not install applications that can't be handled by apt.conf alone. Therefore I don't feel qualified to render an opinion on your fairly intricate setup.

What I would do is use apt-cache policy <package-name>. It gives the pin value and possible source for any package you are interested in. If I were experimenting, that's how I'd do it.

If you're using Sid, the security repo is not an issue, since any security upgrade will be posted to Sid immediately anyway.
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Postby Eck » 2007-09-20 22:38

No, still on Lenny. That's why I put Sid all the way down to a pin of 80. The only things I installed from Sid were the linux-image-2.6-k7 and the linux-headers-2.6-k7. Those pulled in the appropriate 2.6.22-k7 Kernel and Headers.

Aptitude still pulls its upgrades from Lenny after setting that up and things appear okay, but I'm mostly concerned with that testing security repo.

You know, I think putting the default-release in apt.conf is equivalent to putting the apt-pin at 990 in apt/preferences. It appeared to have the same effect. I needed to lower testing to 500 and put unstable at 80 to get the results I wanted from the Shame Compiz Fusion, WineHQ, and, debian multimedia. Those, as you see, are way up in the 990's so they hopefully take precedence. That's not possible with apt.conf, or at least it didn't work out correctly when I tried it. Aptitude would pull everything from testing, disregarding the 3rd party repo's. That wouldn't be right, so that's why I did what you saw.

Thanks again. I just wish I could be certain the security repo is going to do what it's supposed to the way I have it in there.
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Postby rickh » 2007-09-21 12:52

I just wish I could be certain the security repo is going to do what it's supposed to the way I have it in there.


Here is a good link to keep track of security issues in Unstable and Testing.

http://security-tracker.debian.net/trac ... se/testing
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Postby Eck » 2007-09-21 15:46

Thanks. Maybe I can check what I'm getting against that list and see if I get the new fixes from the testing security repo when they're mentioned there. At least at first to see if what I've got is working.

The whole point of having the repo there is so I don't need to go check things on my own, but perhaps I'll be able to see if I have it setup right this way.
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Postby cb474 » 2007-11-18 07:53

Thanks for the great Howto. I'm migrating from Ubuntu to Debian and I'd say I'm an intermediate/newbie. I followed the Howto for the mixed system because I wanted to install VLC.

Several questions now though:

1) Is the -t option necessary if installing a package that only exists in unstable (such as VLC)?

2) The "apt-show-versions | grep unstable" command doesn't work for me. I get: "bash: apt-show-versions: command not found".

3) All of a sudden after I followed the Howto and did "aptitude update," and then installed VLC, the software update icon popped up in the panel and said there are 18 new updates. It said I need to update things like deluge, mplayer, and mozilla-mplayer (which I assume aren't related to dependencies installed with VLC)? It also wants to update libamrnb3, libamrwb3, libartsc0, libasyncns0, libboost-date-time1.34.1, libboost-filesystem1.34.1, libboost-thread1.34.1, libfaac0, libggi2, libgii1, libgii1-target-x, libopenal0a, libpulse0, libx264-56, libxvidcore4.

Is this just a coincidence? How do I tell which repos Software Updates is getting the packages from?

It does occur to me that I didn't have the debian-multimedia.org repos in my sources.list until I followed this Howto, could that be where the updates are coming from?

4) Is not doing the pinning still considered a fairly safe way to go? I guess I don't want to have to meticulously have to keep track of every dependency and upgrade.

5) I kind of like the idea of the mixed system and learning about it, but was all this really necessary just to use VLC?
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Postby rickh » 2007-11-18 16:12

1) If it only exists in Unstable, it will install without the -t.

2) aptitude install apt-show-versions

3) It's very likely that those updates are coming from "multimedia" ... and, get rid of that stupid "updater" application. If you're sophisticated enough to run a mixed system, you don't need to be reminded to update regularly.

4) That's how I still do it.

5) I suppose it's not really necessary, but it's the best way.
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Postby cb474 » 2007-11-18 20:05

Thanks for the answers!

What's wrong with the automatic Software Updates program? Like I said I'm an intermediate/novice at this, so I have a part of me that's fine with the command line and likes it and another part of me that's lazy and likes graphical user interfaces. And I guess I do like that the Software Updates program automatically tells me when updates are available.

On the other hand, I'm now a bit confused about updating. I presume that the proper command line way to update is "aptitude upgrade" or "apt-get -u upgrade"? When I run either of those command right now (after doing "aptitude update") they both tell me there are the same six packages to upgrade: libmozjs0d libnspr4-0d libxul-common libxul0d mozilla-mplayer xulrunner-gnome-support.

But Software Updates has 27 packages it wants to upgrade (those I listed in my post above, plus these here and a couple more). Also Software Updates wants to upgrade mplayer, deluge, and a couple other things that aptitude wants to hold back.

Any thoughts on what's going on here? Is this because Software Updates doesn't work properly with the mixed system? Is the proper thing to do to upgrade with aptitude and to ignore Software Updates' many recommendations?
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Postby cb474 » 2007-11-19 06:41

Okay, I mostly answered my own question. It seems like the Software Updates program does a dist-upgrade, not just a plane upgrade. So when I run "aptitude dist-upgrade" it shows all the same packages to be installed or upgraded. Although aptitude did come up with one more package than Software Updates did.

I'm still wondering, however, what's so bad about the Software Updates program?
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Postby Eck » 2007-11-21 20:08

I don't share the anti-gui sentiment many have. I figure that if both a command-line and a GUI do EXACTLY the same, or if the GUI is even better, than I'd give preference to the GUI.

But in this case, the command-line is better, or at least aptitude even with its gui. Not because it's a gui vs. command-line, but because the software updater and synaptic are front-ends to apt, but aptitude, although another front-end yeah, offers a user a different way that if used should be used alone. That means if you want to use aptitude, that's all you should use. It needs to be kept aware of everything that gets installed to make use of its advanced removing automatically installed packages. The only way it is aware of these is if it installed them. So when you remove something, things auto-installed by dependency or recommends are also removed if nothing else uses them. I'm glad it's there to keep track of these sort of things rather than my needing to do that!

I have no problem with the software updater however. I just never used it to actually install anything, but rather to let me know there are upgrades available. As soon as it popped that up, I would open a terminal and do:


su -
(root password)
aptitude update
aptitude safe-upgrade
Go through that
aptitude full-upgrade (which is the dist-upgrade formally)

Yeah, I'd dist-upgrade daily on Lenny. On Sid, if I were to run that, I would uninstall or deactivate software updater since I would only want to do safe-upgrades frequently and full (dist)-upgrades perhaps weekly once I saw that they would have everything they needed to work properly put into Sid. Sometimes apps get put into Sid in pieces and will break stuff if all the newer pieces aren't in there yet.

See, not wanting to actually do the full or dist-upgrade as soon as they are available, which would be the case for me in Sid if I used it, makes the software-updater a pain in the neck since it would always be flashing and beeping at me!

But in a case where one is on Lenny and wants the easy reminder I found the software updater to be handy. But I would NOT use it to install things as it would not use aptitude to do so, but simply use its front end to apt-get commands. Not good enough for me. I only want aptitude to install or remove things in Debian.

Lots of differing opinions on this stuff, but that's how I've felt about it.

Whatever, don't bother with Adept on Debian if you use KDE. It's buggy. I think they fixed most of the bugs on Ubuntu, so there it's okay (also because one shouldn't use aptitude at all these days on such a customized distro like Ubuntu).

Aptitude for Debian. Apt-get for any other Debian based derivative distro. And so Synaptic and the software update and also Adept (as long as it's been fixed) are fine for the other distros since they just are nice front-ends for apt that do precisely the same things.

There is no GUI (except for Aptitude's own) that does exactly what Aptitude does.
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