Monday, February 16, 2009

Etch to Lenny, Without Much of a Hitch

Yesterday I decided to take the plunge, upgrading my Debian Linux machine from Etch (old stable) to Lenny (new stable.) All reports said this would go seamlessly, and that I would be delighted with the new and improved versions of all my software favorites. My past transitions (from Woody to Sarge, from Sarge to Etch) resulted in complete upgrade failure, requiring that I install from scratch and retrieve my precious data from my prudent backup locations. (I'm careful, but I always loose something, and it's time-consuming to copy all those backed-up data files.)

This time, cutting edge Debian users promised, everything would work! Of course, I made sure my data were backed up, then I edited my /etc/apt/sources.list, replacing "etch" with "lenny," and told my machine (ladymacbeth), aptitude update and aptitude dist-upgrade and waited for the fun to commence.

Unfortunately, the downloading of new packages got slower and slower....hours passed as the files crawled in at 12 kB per second. "Hmmm..." I told myself. "The Debian servers must be very busy, the day after the new release." At five this morning, the upgrade had failed, with half the files still not downloaded. I called my ISP (my unhelpful phone company), and, to my surprise found a helpful and pleasant fellow who told me about their server failures, and gave me an estimated time when I could expect the return of connectivity.

Promptly at 8 AM, I restarted the download, with speeds approaching 400 kB per second. I must have been the only user sucking down bandwidth. It's back to a more stately 130 kB per second this evening.

Anticlimactically, I was able to finish the download and installation, and I've got a new, improved operating system, with all my old settings, preferences, and data. So, although the Debian installation process worked as promised, fate, in the guise of my service provider, provided the hitch installation did not come off without.

One problem with Etch AMD64 was its lack of flash plugins. While I had a workaround solution, it worked erratically, if at all. Lenny lets you run a flash plugin (if the non-free nature of it doesn't offend your open source sensibilities.) The instructions are posted at Download Page for flashplugin-nonfree_2.5_amd64.deb on AMD64 machines. It totally works!


Larry said...

It seems like every time during the past 12 years that I have done a major Linux upgrade something I really need will be broken.

In retrospect, I think the smart thing to do would be to stay with an installation if it keeps working. But the lure of an upgrade is a siren call...

So Flash now works with AMD64? Maybe I should switch back...

Rebecca Clayton said...

This time, it wasn't my machine, or Linux that was broken....the updates are very nice indeed. I'm so pleased, I may upgrade again, to "testing," code-named "squeeze"...well, maybe in a few weeks.

You have to go to the unstable repository to "apt-get" the flash plugin, but it works just fine.