2011-10-13

Catastrophic failures while upgrading to beta releases

GNOME 3.2 was released last month, for which I attended a release party and met cool people.  I've wanted to upgrade to it from GNOME 3.0 for a little while, but I use Fedora and Fedora's next release including GNOME 3.2 comes out on November 8th.  Obviously, I'm not that patient.



One way I could start using GNOME 3.2 would be to build it locally using jhbuild.  That might be fun, but I'd like to ensure that the surrounding distribution played well with it, so my intent had been to upgrade to a Fedora 16 Beta.  A beta release: what could go wrong?  I mean, it's not an alpha!  For the record, I usually wait until one of the release candidates comes out before prematurely upgrading to a new Fedora.  On the weekend, I used preupgrade with a Fedora 15 installation on a tablet to successfully upgrade to Fedora 16 Beta.  (Yay for an on-screen keyboard, though I have to file bugs for when using it eventually prevents mouse clicks somehow?)  So, I thought upgrading on my main laptop should go just as smoothly!






Basically says there was a catastrophic failure and installation can't continue

So yah, one of the core packages, util-linux, failed to upgrade, and the installer could not roll back, and my hybrid Fedora installation could not boot afterwards, stuck in its half-upgraded, inconsistent state.  OH NO.



How I've avoided disaster


  1. backed up: All my personal data is backed up regularly, even in another city.  Two back-ups, different locations, and backed up before trying the upgrade.  Phew.

  2. separate system and data partitions: My personal data is on a separate partition.  On a 500GB HD, I had half for the system (of which only 12GB were actually used) and half for my personal data (of which about 100GB is in use).  This would let me re-install my system without reformatting everything and losing my personal data. 

  3. recovery live USB key: I have a nifty Live USB key with Fedora 15 on it that my laptop can boot from, so I can still access my files and use my computer.

  4. creating redundant system partitions:

    • I don't actually want to get rid of my old system set-up: if possible, I want to figure out what went wrong, and I want to have access to the list of packages I previously had installed so I can let them reinstall overnight, so I can use resize2fs and lvreduce to first resize the system's file system down to something petite (25GB), resize the partition (logical volume in my case) down to the size of the file system it holds, and then create a new system partition with the left over space (actually, I just used another 25GB for that).

    • Now I have one large partition with personal data (which is safe), and
      two smaller partitions for system installations: I can actually install
      two systems and switch between them if I like (dual-boot between two
      Fedora Linux installations? :D).  I'll keep this layout for a while, so
      if things go wrong in future upgrades, I'll always have a safe
      installation to boot from without needing a Live USB key.




If you have any advice or tips of your own for recovering from system upgrades gone awry, please share :D

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