One Reason I now Feel that the Linux Update Process is Stable

Back in past years, the habit I had had with my Linux computers was such, that I would not do a complete upgrade of all installed packages. Instead, I would often tell my package manager to install some new packages, and view the message it generated, according to which many packages were to be held back and not updated, as part of the new installation. I used to acknowledge this in general, and allow it to happen.

By contrast, I did notice how often Windows Update does its job, and how my Windows computers were never or seldom broken by a Windows Update. However, it had happened to me on occasion, that the Linux computers could get into some sort of stability issue, over upgrades I had done. And so I had reached the vague conclusion, that Windows Update was somehow better, than the habit of doing complete upgrades under Linux.

What I now have is two computers, on which all the packages I have installed are at their most recent version, due to the ‘unattended-upgrades‘ package which I have installed, and which I wrote before in This Earlier Posting.

What I now find, is that my Linux computers that are up-to-date, are at least as stable as my Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines, if not more stable. And so advice which I was once given but had ignored, seems to have been accurate, according to which my earlier practice of only upgrading a minimum of libraries, was a bad practice, and according to which doing so, introduced stability problems of its own.

Having said that, If we are given a Debian / Linux machine which requires upgrades to a large number of packages, let us say to more than 20 packages, then we effectively need to do a ‘dist-upgrade‘ to achieve that most reliably, and even then, this one-time action can fail, and can leave us with an unstable or broken system.

Dirk

 

A Glitch with the Chrome for Linux Package Repository

One of the software packages I have installed on the computer ‘Phoenix’ is “Google Chrome”, for Debian / Linux. And this package is eligible for upgrades via Package Manager because Google makes the binaries available. In order for the upgrades to take place, an ‘apt-get update’ command needs to succeed, with this file installed:


/etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-chrome.list

One problem I’ve encountered recently, is that because my computer is set up to pull both the 32-bit and the 64-bit repositories, I get an error message telling me that there is apparently no more 32-bit version on the Google servers. And so the line of code that is needed in this file requires


deb [arch=amd64] http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main

The only problem though with this, is that as soon as my Chrome package does update, the ‘[arch=amd64]‘ vanishes, because the package overwrites whatever modifications I made to this file.

It could be that this problem has delayed my getting updates through until now. But unless either the Chrome repository starts to include a 32-bit entry again, or until the same package replaces this file with the specification in-place, this problem will eventually recur.

Dirk

 

Printing Legal-Sized on a Canon MX922

Currently my printer is a “Canon MX922″, and perhaps it would be a good subject for a later posting, how I installed the CUPS device drivers to use it under Linux. Being a WiFi-printer, it is also shared by my two Windows machines.

In keeping with modern times, my bank only sends me certain forms in electronic form, that used to be mailed to us in their entirety, on paper. And some of the forms, which I need to submit along with my Tax Declarations each year, are in Legal-Sized format, which in Canada and the USA means 8.5 x 14 inch paper, instead of a 8.5 x 11 inch format.

I had never realized that this printer is capable of receiving paper in the 8.5 x 14 format, until today. Basically, my Linux and Windows software have two different behaviors, when told to print an 8.5 x 14 PDF on 8.5 x 11 paper, but both of those behaviors is wrong. Under Linux, “Okular” tends to resize the document to fit, while the Windows software tends to write past the end of the sheet. A resized document will not get scanned correctly by the Revenue Agency’s machines.

On the MX922 printer, there are two paper trays. The upper tray is for smaller formats of paper, as well as having interesting features that seem to allow printing directly onto Blu-Ray discs.

The lower tray accepts the 8.5 x 11 sheets. But if we take out the supply of 8.5 x 11 (Letter-sized) sheets, we see that underneath there is a slight feature in the plastic of the tray, which seems to lock into one of two openings. Between the two openings there is labeling stamped into the plastic, which has the letters “LGL” and which seems to point between the two openings.

What one needs to do, is to depress the button which seems to fit, with our thumb, not to pull on that part of the tray, but to pull on the outermost edge of the tray, so that the button we’re holding down slips out from under the visible surface of the tray, and then slides into the second opening, which is located in the tray facing down, further away from the body of the printer, next to the first opening. Once the button clicks into this second opening, the tray is able to accept 8.5 x 14 sheets.

One needs to be careful though, not to apply brute force if something doesn’t move, because this mechanism looks fragile, and could easily be damaged if force was used.

Also, one needs to remember that after we have extended the tray and fed in Legal-sized paper, we still need to slide the tray back into the printer, so that the printer will register the fact that paper is available. At which point in time extra length of tray will be standing out from the printer, where the tray was flush when accepting 8.5 x 11 paper.

Next, our software needs to be told that it is printing to 8.5 x 14 sheets, so that this software does not decide to resize, or otherwise to mismanage the print job.

Once the correct paper-size is set up on the printer, my Linux “Okular” program is as able to print the tax documents, as the Windows “Acrobat Reader DC” is.

Dirk

 

Why I Am Happy, that my Computers Are Working Again

The recent power failures left me in quite a state of distress, not knowing what the fate of my computers would be.

The computer acting as my Web server, ‘Phoenix’ is a Linux computer, running a “Debian” version of Linux, and a flavor of that, which is “Kanotix / Spitfire” . After the second power interruption this morning, ‘Phoenix’ was actually easier to restart fully, than my Windows 7 machine ‘Mithral’ was. This was somewhat reassuring, since ‘Mithral’ has stronger hardware, and since If the software on ‘Mithral’ was ever permanently messed up, I could in fact try to resurrect it by installing Linux on it. It seems that Linux was after all more stable than Windows.

But what happened to ‘Phoenix’ was also better than a scenario would have been, which I had running through my head between 7h30 this morning and 12h00, the time at which I got ‘Phoenix’ running again.

I had had the scenario in my head, that ‘Phoenix’ could have started to perform an ‘unattended upgrade’, at the moment the power went off, a coincidence which I would have been unaware of.

Luckily, this was not what happened.

But had this happened, my own version of what would have gone wrong differs slightly from the official version, according to which the package manager would simply have gotten jammed in some locked state.

There happen to be other power-users, who complain on the Kanotix user forum, that they had been running a lengthy upgrade while their power was strangely cut. Those people ask for Expert support in unjamming their package manager, which more detached people on the forum give advice on how to do.

According to me, they had such a hard time unjamming their package manager, because this is not all that was wrong with their computers. According to me, those users suffered from two problems at once: A jammed package manager, plus A corrupted file system.

I had a vision of having to approach the Kanotix user forum with the familiar line, ‘An upgrade was running, when the plug was pulled.’ But luckily, no upgrade was running at that time…

…And, there is a specific reason why No Unattended Upgrades Were Running. After I rebooted ‘Phoenix’ successfully, I performed the upgrades manually, which were to have run, just to confirm that my package manager still works 100% .

Link To Previous Posting

Dirk