Updating Slackware

I do not like updating computer operating systems. I am not referring to security and maintenance bumps of packages. I am referring to updating the entire system.

Why? Something always breaks. Always. No exceptions. No delusions.

For some time I have wanted to update all of my Slackware systems from 32-bit to 64-bit. With the release of 14.2 I want to update my Slackware 14.1 32-bit systems to 14.2 64-bit.

Yes, 14.2 was released some time ago. I tend not to be in a hurry to update because something always breaks.

I have updated Slackware systems many times. I use a ritual of sorts to updating Slackware systems. Each time I create a check list to remind me of what I need to do and what needs testing.

Slackware tends to be less volatile than most distros, but yes, something always breaks. Anything from apps changing interfaces or features to local scripts needing revision to accommodate new or changed methods.

Some people might offer that I use a rolling release, but that approach moves the stress from every few years to almost daily. With free/libre software, updating almost anything often means something breaks. Always.

Yes, I am aware that updating proprietary operating systems often results in breakage too.

No, I am not picking on Slackware. Updating any operating system results in something breaking.

My challenge is I customize my systems. That is one of the great attractions of free/libre software, particularly Slackware. My opinion is all computer operating systems suck. All are user-hostile. The goal then is for each person to find the system that sucks the least for that person’s needs and work flows. For me, that system tends to be Slackware.

Slackware requires sweat equity to provide final polish. That design model means I am the one who chooses how to customize the system to my taste and not some upstream developer or marketing wonk.

A challenge with customizing is that each little tweak moves the final product further from the original stock product. That means updating a system presents many opportunities for breakage.

A new item in this updating ritual is, unlike all previous Slackware updates, I now use a dedicated server. That additional complexity adds a few twists and turns compared to updating only a desktop.

Because all of my Slackware systems are 32-bit, there is no way to update from 14.1 32-bit to 14.2 64-bit. I will need to install 14.2 fresh and then methodically customize and tweak thereafter.

Here is my check list and plan for updating to 14.2:

Phase 1

  • Install a fresh 14.2 system in a spare non production machine.
  • Note the differences in the rc.d scripts from 14.1.
  • Note the differences in /etc from 14.1.
  • Tinker with the newer version of Xfce and MATE and note the differences from 14.1.

Phase 2

  • Install 14.2 on a separate partition in my office desktop, laptop, and living room media player.
  • Test the video display and resolution.
  • Test my /etc customizations.
  • Test my rc.local and rc.local_shutdown scripts.
  • Test user accounts (I use a separate /home.)
  • Add my /usr/local collection of files, which includes several hundred bin and sbin scripts, sound files, fonts, etc.
  • Test and revise local scripts.
  • Add my local collection of cron jobs.
  • Adjust /var/log permissions — I dislike the traditional anal log access permissions.
  • Build and install many slackbuilds.org packages.
  • Compile some preferred older apps.
  • Test daily usage apps: Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Geany, Conky, etc.
  • Test multimedia apps.
  • Test VirtualBox.
  • Test lm-sensors.
  • Test smartd.
  • Test fancontrol.
  • Test wake-on-lan.
  • Test hddtemp.
  • Test TV capture cards.
  • Test XBMC.
  • Test the living room media player (LIRC, remote control, etc.)
  • Update remaining workstations.

Phase 3

  • Install 14.2 on a separate partition of my LAN server.
  • Temporarily disable cron jobs that synchronize files with the server.
  • Repeat the steps of Phase 2.
  • Methodically enable cron jobs that synchronize files with the server.
  • Test backup scripts.

Phase 4

  • Wait and watch to see what breaks. Fix as needed.
  • After several months, delete the 14.1 partitions.

I do not like updating computer operating systems.

Posted: Category: Tutorial, Usability Tagged: Slackware

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