[arch-general] coping with damaging updates

Dwight Schauer dschauer at gmail.com
Sat Oct 29 00:56:11 EDT 2011

On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 12:14 AM, Mick  wrote:
> I did make a mistake when I chose Arch. I asked friends on yahoo chat
> for suggestions for a replacement my then distro when it focused on
> eye-candy to the detriment of function and several suggested Arch. It
> was only when the problems I raised here struck the first time that I
> found Arch made no pretensions to being fit for production. By that
> time I had come to like most of what Arch is.

I run Arch on production systems. Yikes you might think. However, I
run Arch Linux on more than 10 systems, and about 6 or 7 of those are
at work. I've been running Arch since 2007 and used it for several
months at home before using it at work. I update non-critical systems
first, but since I update them daily, any breakage is easy to fix, and
usually I've gotten a heads up as I track arch-general, arch-announce,
arch-releng, and arch-dev-public. I have cron set to automatically
download all updates so when I get around to updating, it is fast. The
installs I've set up for others they typcially never update, but when
I get back with them to help them on something (might even be a few
months) I go ahead and update and while the update is taking place I
open another terminal and pre-fix any issues. I've not had downtime
with Arch, and it is a breeze to update compared to Gentoo, which I
ran for a many years before I found Arch.

And yes, I'll even update while working on a critical job related
issue with a co-worker. I run a very custom installer, and use it to
create cookie cutter installs that I already have everything set up
the way we need to for our work environment, but of course adding a
needing tool or two later is fairly easy. I've not had much success
with the official provided installers, I think my pre partitioning and
other choices mess it up. I had to fix the boot loader on my first few
installs of Arch so I ended up just installing arch gentoo style on
subsequent systems. I don't install base anymore, it has several
packages I never use. Since the provided installer has only worked for
me maybe once or twice, I just use my custom installer, which is much
easier anyways for me, as I just change the hostname and default
username/pass, change the architecture if need be, and do a make all.
I try out he installs first in qemu-kvm for a quick sanity check, then
transfer the filesystem images to the target system. Using a custom
installer is fast, as I use the cached packages on my host. I have a
custom xfce4 desktop setup in /etc/skel, so the install is ready to

I've run Debian and Ubuntu but fought with package management and
custom kernel deployment too much on them so I found Arch much easier
to manage. Arch is much simpler than those and so much easier for me
to wrap my head around it and fix issues. When I do have a question
about something a quick email here about it and it is answered
quickly. Most of the time there is no need to ask. All the relevant
issues are already being discussed here or in arch-dev-public.

All that being said, Arch is certainly not for everyone. But I
disagree about it not being production worthy. I have the lts kernel
installed on every system, but only the most critical ones use it by
default. For any system to be production worthy, you have to be able
to maintain it and fix any issues fast that come up.

The only real mess up I've had was my fault, not a damaging update
from an Arch developer. I mistakenly put an x86_64 bit repo path at
the top of the mirrorlists of two i686 boxes and updated them. Yikes.
I've since switched to using $arch in the mirrorlists rather than
hardcoding the architecture. They were not out of commission long, a
boot of the livecd, a quick $(awking) of /var/log/pacman.log in a
pacman command line reinstalled the invalid packages and I had working
systems back.

Ok, the updated networking setup broke some of my systems earlier this
year, but it was easy enough to fix.

Arch is easy to manage if you insist on having the system set up the
way you want it and you want to be on top of every issue. Distros like
OpenSUSE, Fedora, Ubuntu, and to a lesser extent Debian are too
daunting and confusing to me.

Most Linux users I know would not tolerate Arch Linux if they had to
install and setup it up themselves. But at the same time I have no
real like for the distros they prefer to install and manage for
themselves. A rolling update based distro that is mostly minimal and
lightweight is not without it's issues and problems. All distros have
serious issues and problems, it is mainly a matter of which have the
issues/problems that are easiest for you to manage.

I may not be the typical Arch user, dunno. Especially since I use joe
instead if vi, and was a not amused when joe went to the AUR. But I
have a repo for work stuff, so I just put it there so it is ready on
new systems.

You may have made a mistake when you chose Arch, and I'm not going to
disagree with on your reasoning. Arch does have major/serious issues
if you don't want to stay on top of things. And being a rolling update
distro, you need to stay on top of changes.

If you think Arch is bad though as far as damaging updates, you should
maybe spend some time to spend some time with Gentoo or Sabayon.

One thing though, I use yaourt, so I notice every time a package gets
dropped of the main repos and ends up in the aur. Most of the time
that is an indication to me that I know longer need that package. So
yeah, if you use packages that get orphaned, they might eventually
stop working if you had them installed, and one would might blame an
update for killing those packages.

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