Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

An in situ upgrade to Linux Mint 12

4th December 2011

Though it isn’t the recommended approach, I have ended up upgrading to Linux Mint 12 from Linux Mint 11 using an in situ route. Having attempted this before with a VirtualBox hosted installation, I am well aware of the possibility of things going wrong. Then, a full re-installation was needed to remedy the situation. With that in mind, I made a number of backups in the case of an emergency fresh installation of the latest release of Linux Mint. Apache and VirtualBox configuration files together with MySQL backups were put where they could be retrieved should that be required. The same applied to the list of installed packages on my system. So far, I haven’t needed to use these, but there is no point in taking too many chances.

The first step in an in-situ Linux Mint upgrade is to edit /etc/apt/sources.list. In the repository location definitions, any reference to katya (11) was changed to lisa (for 12) and the same applied to any appearance of natty (Ubuntu 11.04) which needed to become oneiric (Ubuntu 11.10). With that done, it was time to issue the following command (all one line even if it is broken here):

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Once that had completed, it was time to add the new additions that come with Linux Mint 12 to my system using a combination of apt-get, aptitude and Synaptic; the process took a few cycles. GNOME already was in place from prior experimentation, so there was no need to add this anew. However, I need to instate MGSE to gain the default Linux Mint customisations of GNOME 3. Along with that, I decided to add MATE, the fork of GNOME 2. That necessitated the removal of two old libraries (libgcr0 and libgpp11, if I recall correctly but it will tell you what is causing any conflict) using Synaptic. With MGSE and MATE in place, it was time to install LightDM and its Unity greeter to get the Linux Mint login screen. Using GDM wasn’t giving a very smooth visual experience and Ubuntu, the basis of Linux Mint, uses LightDM anyway. Even using the GTK greeter with LightDM produced a clunky login box in front of a garish screen. Configuration tweaks could have improved on this but it seems that using LightDM and Unity greeter is what gives the intended setup and experience.

With all of this complete, the system seemed to be running fine until the occasional desktop freeze occurred with Banshee running. Blaming that, I changed to Rhythmbox instead, though that helped only marginally. While this might be blamed on how I upgraded my system, things seemed to have steadied themselves in the week since then. As a test, I had the music player going for a few hours and there was no problem. With the call for testing of an update to MATE a few days ago, it now looks as if there may have been bugs in the original release of Linux Mint 12. Daily updates have added new versions of MGSE and MATE so that may have something to do with the increase in stability. Even so, I haven’t discounted the possibility of needing to do a fresh installation of Linux Mint 12 just yet. However, if things continue as they are, then it won’t be needed and that’s an upheaval avoided should things go that way. That’s why in situ upgrades are attractive though rolling distros like Arch Linux (these words are being written on a system running this) and LMDE are more so.


  • Matt says:

    There’s gotta be a simpler way in the future. If linux is ever to be for the mainstream user, a one click upgrade is necessary. My Mom will not be able to follow this guide! (But good job anyway).

    • Sam Slyce says:

      I agree with Matt with this exception, I could not follow that
      guide. I dual boot between Ubuntu and Mint. I will not be upgrading to Mint 12 because I do not like the three options
      available when the Mint 12 upgrade starts. Instead I will rely
      on Ubuntu for automatic release updates that saves your data.

      • John says:

        It’ll be interesting if perspectives like yours have any bearing on the Linux Mint stance on automatic upgrades. Yes, doing the in situ run at the moment is far from straightforward and a certain amount of Linux knowledge is needed to make it work.

    • Mike says:

      The easier way is simply to do a backup and then install Linux Mint 12 from a disk over top of your existing installation. This is what you’d have to do for Windows or Mac. Upgrading such a long jump (usually over several versions of upgraded packages) is risky and should only be done by someone who isn’t afraid to break their machine. Having a rolling distro (like Debian Mint) mitigates the problem a little bit, but then you may get the odd package break as you upgrade.

      Anyway, the situation is already better for Linux distros than the more mainstream OSs. At least you have a choice.

      BTW, thanks for the blog posting. I was wondering if it was a good time to upgrade ;-)

      • John says:

        Thanks Mike. Doing what you suggest is the recommended way forward but I didn’t fancy the downtime this time around.

        Now probably would be a good time to upgrade because any rough behaviour seems to have been eradicated by a few updates since I upgraded. All seems stable with what I am running at the moment, which could not be said for the original state of my system following the upgrade. It ran mostly OK but with the occasional freeze that grew steadily more and more occasional to the point where there is none anymore.

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