MandrakeUser.Org - Your Mandrake-Linux Knowledge Base!


*DocIndex - Installation

Considering A Distribution Update

* Do I Need An Update?
* Getting The Update
* Ways To Perform An Installation Or Update
* Update Or Fresh Installation?
* How To Update By Installing Anew

Related Resources:

'README' in CD's 'images' directory

Revision / Modified: Sep. 20, 2001 / Oct. 09, 2001
Author: Tom Berger


* Do I Need An Update?

The GNU/Linux software market is a very busy place. Have a look at Freshmeat and you will find some 50 announcements every day. And much software doesn't even make it to Freshmeat. Judging solely from this, a distribution update seems to be obligatory: you get all the latest program versions at once, nicely packaged by your favorite GNU/Linux distributor ;-) and don't have to worry about library versions, dependencies etc.

One cannot deny however that an update of the entire operating system poses a possible threat to the system's integrity. Updated program versions may introduce new bugs. Mandrake (like every other serious GNU/Linux distributor) does its best to get everything in order, but accidents happen. Mandrake runs a lot of tests before actually releasing a new version, but you can't possibly verify thousands of software packages on a myriad of different hardware configurations.

It boils down to this: If you are a savvy GNU/Linux user who can pick and install the important updates, who has an eye on security alerts, doesn't mind compiling or dealing with package dependencies, then you do not have to worry about distribution updates. Many users still run Mandrake-Linux 5.3 and are happy with it.
If this description doesn't fit you, you should consider updating your GNU/Linux installation with each new release, since this will be the most convenient way for you to make certain that your GNU/Linux is up to the latest standards in security, libraries and other issues.

Notice that updating from releases prior to 7.0 is not supported. Run a full installation instead.

* section index * top

* Getting The Update

You can get the packages needed to perform the update via various means:

  • Buy the packaged version (this is of course what Mandrake loves most ;-). You get a nice box, 7 CDs loaded with software, two printed manuals and free support upon registration. This is the only way to get the CDs with proprietary programs like Blender, RealPlayer, Opera etc.

  • Buy or download the FTP edition. Since Mandrake Linux is free, you can either download the distribution package by package or in prebuilt ISO images from one of the many Mandrake FTP mirrors worldwide or buy a cheap CD set with this version from online stores like Cheapbytes(US), Linux Emporium (UK), EverythingLinux (AU) and others.
    As for CDs covered by magazines I would be cautious. Some people have reported problems with such CDs. If the magazine is trustworthy and has some experience with GNU/Linux however, you might give it a shot.

If you download the ISO images, make sure to download the 'MD5SUM' (or 'md5sum'(s)) file in the same directory, too, so that you can run an md5sum check on the images afterward.
In Linux, it's as simple as running:

md5sum *.iso

in the directory where you've downloaded the images to. In Windows, you have to get md5sum.exe first, copy it to the 'windows' directory, open a command line window and run

md5sum -b [path to]\*.iso

In both cases, this process will take a while (about ten minutes per image, depending on hardware configuration). You will then be presented with the actual md5sum of each image. Now compare these with those in the MD5SUM file you downloaded. Only proceed if these numbers are matching! If they are not, the image you've downloaded is faulty and will lead to severe installation errors when used.

* section index * top

* Ways To Perform An Installation Or Update

Currently, Mandrake supports these installation or update methods:

  • 'live_update'. This script in the root directory of the first Mandrake CD allows you to update your current Mandrake system to that on the CD during runtime. Run as 'root':
  • Booting and installing from CD. This is by far the most popular method. You may have to adjust your computer's BIOS to make it boot from the CD drive before accessing the hard drive. All motherboards manufactured since 1998 support this method.
  • Booting from DOS and installing from CD. Run 'autorun.exe' from the 'dosutils' directory of the CD. Notice that this does not work from a DOS window inside Windows.
  • Booting from floppy and installing from CD. In case you can't boot from CD, you can create a boot floppy in Windows and use that for booting. Just insert your Mandrake CD under Windows and follow the screens. The image you need is 'cdrom.img', located in the 'images' directory.
    To create the image in Linux, run dd if=[path/image] of=/dev/fd0 bs=1440k
  • Installing from a hard disk partition. Either copy or download the complete distribution or the ISO images to a directory on a Windows (FAT16/32, not NTFS) or Linux (ext2) partition. Start the installation using a boot floppy with the 'hd.img' image.
  • Installing via network (NFS, FTP, HTTP, USB). Use a boot floppy with the 'network.img'. On a laptop with a PCMCIA/PC-Card network card, use 'pcmcia.img'. For installation via USB connections, use 'usbnet.img' (new in 8.1). Installations via PLIP or SLIP are not supported currently.

All floppy images are located in the 'images' directories on the first Mandrake CD. In the 'alternatives' subdirectory you'll find floppy images with older kernels, which you might try in case the standard images do not work on your machine.
Also located in 'images' are:

  • other.img, which is an image with less used drivers for SCSI or network devices.
  • blank.img, which allows you to start the installation with a kernel of your own.
  • memtest86.bin, a stand-alone floppy based RAM integrity checker image. Use this if you are getting strange installation errors to check if the system RAM is OK.
  • README, a text file which contains further instructions.

* section index * top

* Update Or Fresh Installation?

Facing the task of updating your GNU/Linux system, you have two choices: a 'real' update which will install the new versions on top of the old software or a new installation after a backup of customizations.

While a 'real' update is much faster to accomplish and requires almost no work, the second method has several major advantages:

  • 'The spring-cleaning effect'. Judging from my own experience, the more you get to know GNU/Linux, the more picky will you get when it comes to installing software. Who really keeps track of all the packages installed and who doesn't forget once in a while to erase a package he no longer needs? With each installation you will get wiser and install less but better suited software.
    Furthermore it can be very difficult to track down errors: a failed update? wrong dependencies? a program error?

  • RPM problems. While RPM is good at updating some packages once in a while, a system-wide upgrade is a much heavier task. It works surprisingly well for most people but provides a lot of problems for a few. I once belonged to the latter (using a different distribution which I dropped after this experience) and since then I've done an installation instead of an upgrade.

  • 'The backup effect'. For a new installation you will have to backup your customizations first. This backup makes a first rate life insurance for your system, since you can tuck it away to some safe place and use it again if a problem occurs. Otherwise you may encounter a problem that makes you wish you had a backup - and one part of the problem is you can't do backups anymore...

These are the reasons why I prefer installing to upgrading.

* section index * top

* How To Update By Installing Anew

While being the better alternative - in my opinion -, doing an update by installing anew means a lot of work:

  • Make backups. This involves all the changed configuration files. A backup of all configuration files is not advisable.
    To find out which configuration files have changed since installation, run

    find /etc -mtime -60 -type f -print > changed.txt

    as 'root'. This will give you a list of files ('changed.txt') in '/etc' which have been changed (or installed) during the last 60 days. You might need to adjust the -mtime value according to the age of your current installation. Create a backup directory in your home directory (mkdir ~/backup). Check 'changed.txt' for accuracy and run

    find /etc -mtime -60 -type f -exec cp {} ~/backup \;

    as 'root'. Repeat this for your own, for root's and for any other user's home directory.
    You might want to copy the backup directory to an external medium (it should fit on a floppy). If '/home' doesn't have a partition on its own, youhave to do this!
    Consider whether you want to backup downloaded program packages or source directories, too.

  • Install the new system. If you haven't copied the backup directory to an external medium or if your home directory contains much personal stuff, do the installation in 'custom' or 'expert' mode. You need to do this to prevent the installation program from formatting your '/home' partition!

  • Apply the backups to your new system. Do this with consideration! The configuration files of the new system may contain important new content, which you should not blindly overwrite. You should use the 'diff' command to see if there are changes besides your customizations, like

    diff -y --width 80 --suppress-common-lines [your backup file] [appropriate new config file]

    If there are, apply your customizations to the new config file rather than overwriting it with the old one.
    This is the reason why you shouldn't just back up all the configuration files on your old system: comparing these would keep you busy for quite a while... ;-).

  • Install your own programs again (optional). This might be a good chance however to check if there are newer versions of them out there...

I usually need two hours to be up and running again, if everything runs smoothly, that is ;-). But it leaves me with a shiny new system to mess around with again...

* section index * top

Legal: All texts on this site are covered by the GNU Free Documentation License. Standard disclaimers of warranty apply. Copyright LSTB (Tom Berger) and Mandrakesoft 1999-2002.