The Unattended Upgrades process, which did not seem to complete yesterday morning, March 14, resumed completing normally today, even though this time, there were simply no upgrades to install. This tells me that having performed no configuration changes on my part, did not prevent the service from resuming, and that the interruption was due to something transient.
I previously wrote about the Debian package ‘unattended-upgrades’ Here. This morning however, this system did not install any upgrades, almost as if it had not run. Yet, I found no changes to any of the relevant configuration files. But I do have a tentative explanation as to why, maybe, this package did not run as usual.
When I prompted my KDE desktop tool to do the pending upgrades – that tool having been named “Tasker” in some versions of KDE, it showed that there was an upgrade pending for the package “Wireshark”. What I dimly seem to recall, is that the previous version of Wireshark had a severe bug. It is entirely possible that the unattended upgrades did not run this time, because I also have installed ‘apt-listbugs’.
If this supposition was true, then today would have been the first demonstration, of how this package will prevent an unattended upgrade from running. If true, this would come as a relief, because I previously had the fear that although this package would prevent a potentially damaging upgrade, it might also corrupt the state of ‘apt-get’. Apparently it will not. Let us keep our fingers crossed.
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.
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% .