Upgrading from Etch to Lenny

So my Debian Etch based server has been ticking along for a while now. I chose Etch over lots of other distros as I don’t like loads and loads of updates.  I just want something reasonably stable and reasonably up to date.

However, recently I tried to upgrade the non-free adobe flashplayer plugin to 10.something … and hey it doesn’t work on Etch. Basically the flashplayer needs a more modern glibc (as to why glibc keeps having so many major version changes is beyond me). Anyway, I started reading about the next version of Debian ; Lenny. They currently have it as an RC1 so I thought that must be reasonably stable. So I downloaded the netinst ISO for the 64 bit version. My current Etch is 32bit, and I’ve never seen much necessity to upgrade to 64 bit, as I don’t have lots of memory and I’ve never seen a review that says ‘the 64 bit version goes much better than the 32 bit one’.

So I installed the 64bit lenny on a separate disk to play with for a while. It all seemed good. Didn’t seen any faster really … but I did notice (at least for the 64 bit Lenny) that the flash player is the free one (can’t remember its name). I remember reading that adobe had recently released a 64 bit alpha version of the flashplayer for linux … but the fact that it was alpha was a worry.

I then remembered that debian lets you do a whole distribution upgrade and I had never tried it. So I made a dd backup of my root partition and gave it a shot. It’s relatively simple to do (google for ‘debian etch lenny dist–upgrade’):

  • edit /etc/apt/sources.list and change all the references to ‘etch’ to ‘lenny’.
  • Do a ‘apt-get update’
  • Do a ‘apt-get dist-upgrade’

And then wait a long time. It does download a lot … and then you’ll get asked some questions about various packages and also some questions about some files that have changed. The latter generally related to some printer drivers I had manually installed. I made a note of these files but told the installer to use the new versions (After the install was finished I manually loopback mounted my dd of the old root partition and compared by hand)

The main prob after the install was getting X windows to start. I have an nvidia video card and I had installed a linux driver using a driver direct from nvidia. I see now (maybe they’ve always been there) that you can install these nvidia drivers using apt-get. I can’t remember the exact steps, but it went something like;

  • apt-get install nvidia-glx
  • apt-get install nvidia-xconfig
  • dpkg-reconfigure xserver -xorg

I suggest googling for more help. The nvidia-xconfig thing seems to be definately required. And when you do the reconfigure I told it not to use the framebuffer for mode switching … but I’m not sure if thats required or not

I also had problems printing afterwards. But that turned out to be a major ‘Doh!’ moment as my printer had no paper in it … and the LED indicators aren’t exactly very descriptive.

Speedwise, Lenny doesn’t seem much different. My gdm login possibly takes longer now … which I’m thinking may be more to do with data fragmentation due to the major upgrade. Not sure. I’ll see how it goes.