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How Debian does it

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.90.11.226] on September 17, 2007 09:25 PM
The author didn't seem to have a very solid grasp of Debian's package management system.

There are *no* automatic updates in Debian unless you do something like set up a cron job to check each day. Also, there aren't any buttons to click on with the currently recommended apt front-end (Aptitude) or the venerable apt-get (which was only supposed to be a "proof of concept" program, but wound up working better than anything else in the world in its category). These are both command-line utilities (Aptitude also can be used with an ncurses-based interface). Maybe you're referring the the gtk-based Synaptic.

So, to check for updates, you type "aptitude update" (or "apt-get update") to synchronize the package database with the repositories on you apt list. Then, you type "aptitude upgrade" to check for what packages have newer versions available, including any dependencies. All of the affected packages are listed. You can block updates of specific packages if you like with "forbid-version".

Now, the net effect depends greatly on what repositories you have in your sources list (/etc/apt/sources.lst). If you are running the Stable distribution, as you should be in any production environment, all you will get are security and other important bugfixes. There will not be any new features.

If you are running testing or unstable, you will get new versions via the above process as they migrate into Debian. "Testing" will avoid the most dramatic breakages, because packages don't get to "testing" until they have been in unstable for two weeks with no critical bug reports. However, any fixes also will need to spend two weeks in unstable before they get to testing, so testing isn't necessarily more "stable". "Experimental" is really just for package developers.

Also, Debian "unstable" doesn't mean "crash-prone" - it just means "constantly changing". I am the upstream developer for two programs in Debian, and releases go into "unstable" at the same time they are posted for public download outside of Debian, and sometimes significantly later. By the time a package gets into "unstable", it has generally had a reasonable amount of public use.

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