Monday, December 10, 2012

Ubuntu and the perril of distribution upgrades

Most people would agree that software updates can be extremely annoying. This is especially true if you are a Windows user and have experienced sudden shutdowns or a half hour delay while Adobe Acrobat updated. Updating antivirus, Firewall, Flash, browser, Java and Windows can be a big annoyance. further more the updates are usually enforced at the most inconvenient times. If I have been in the situation that I needed to quickly open a PDF-file in order to print it and then have to wait 40 minutes for the program to update.

Luckily most Linux distributions have a much better way of installing updates. The unattended upgrades in Ubuntu is rarely noticed. They may require restart of Firefox or a reboot of the machine to use the new kernel but it can usually be delayed until it is convenient. This is made possible partly by filesystem that unlike Windows allows you to update a file while in use (the program will just continue to use the old file until restarted) and partly thanks to the brilliant program knowns as Apt.

Apt is a wonderfull thing. apt-get, aptitude and synaptic was the programs that always attracted me to Debian and then Ubuntu made it easily accessible I was not late to make the switch from Debian to Ubuntu. After all time is the limiting resource in my life so allowing me to use more of it is great.

There is however one thing that still does need improvement and that it the distribution upgrade process. It is not that it is worse than for any other operating system. It is better than installing a service pack for instance but it is not as good as it could be. Yesterday I updated an old Ubuntu 11.04 machine to Ubuntu 11.10. I fired up the update program and soon afterwards the program started to get files. The time remaining bar said about two hours. As my time are too valuable to spend two hours looking at a bar moving I want to do better things. After two hours I returned to see that it had stopped after 30 minutes to tell me that it had updated postgreSQL from 8.4 to 9.1 and asked my to click "Ok". Was it absolutely necessary to halt the installation for 90 minutes to ask me to make no choices at all? So I went away to use the next 90 minutes for something productive. When I returned a new popup box had appeared and asked me for the password to phpmyadmin. At least this time the program actually asked for information but was it importent to halt the remaining updates for 30 minutes to ask me that?

Sometimes I just opt for a full reinstall. I have a separate /home so it is not that big a deal. However this is not limited to my desktop but affects my Debian servers too. Servers that I prefer not to take down and reinstall if I can avert it.

It is not that it is bad compared to other operating systems, it just isn't as good as it could be and that annoys me.

No comments:

Post a Comment