Trying out a new way to upgrade Linux Mint in situ while going from 17.3 to 18.1

There was a time when the only recommended way to upgrade Linux Mint from one version to another was to do a fresh installation with back-ups of data and a list of the installed applications created from a special tool.

Even so, it never stopped me doing my own style of in situ upgrade though some might see that as a risky option. More often than not, that actually worked without causing major problems in a time when Linux Mint releases were more tightly tied to Ubuntu’s own six-monthly cycle.

In recent years, Linux Mint’s releases have kept in line with Ubuntu’s Long Term Support (LTS) editions instead. That means that any major change comes only every two years with minor releases in between those. The latter are delivered through Linux Mint’s Update Manager so the process is a simple one to implement. Still, upgrades are not forced on you so it is left to your discretion as to when you need to upgrade since all main and interim versions get the same extended level of support. In fact, the recommendation is not to upgrade at all unless something is broken on your own installation.

For a number of reasons, I stuck with that advice by sticking on my main machine with Linux Mint 17.3 instead of upgrading to Linux Mint 18. The fact that I broke things on another machine using an older method of upgrading provided even more encouragement.

However, I subsequently discovered another means of upgrading between major versions of Linux Mint that had some endorsement from the project. There still are warnings about testing a live DVD version of Linux Mint on your PC first and backing up your data beforehand. Another task is ensuring that you are upgraded from a fully up to data Linux Mint 17.3 installation.

When you are ready, you can install mintupgrade using the following command:

sudo apt-get install mintupgrade

When that is installed, there is a sequence of tasks that you need to do. The first of these is to simulate an upgrade to test for the appearance of untoward messages and resolve them. Repeating any checking until all is well gets a recommendation. The command is as follows:

mintupgrade check

Once you are happy that the system is ready, the next step is to download the updated packages so they are on your machine ahead of their installation. Only then should you begin the upgrade process. The two commands that you need to execute are below:

mintupgrade download
mintupgrade upgrade

Once these have completed, you can restart your system. In my case the whole process worked well with only my PHP installation needing attention. A clash between different versions of the scripting interpretor was addressed by removing the older one since PHP 7 is best kept for sake of testing. Beyond that, a reinstallation of VMware Player and the move from version 18 to version 18.1, there hardly was anything more to do and there was next to no real disruption. That is just as well since I depend heavily on my main PC these days. The backup option of a full installation would have left me clearing up things for a few days afterwards since I use a bespoke selection of software.

Compressing a VirtualBox VDI file for a Linux guest

In a previous posting, I have talked about compressing a virtual hard disk for a Windows guest system running in VirtualBox on a Linux system. Since then, I have needed to do the same for a Linux guest following some housekeeping. The Linux distribution used is Debian so the instructions are relevant to that and maybe its derivatives such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and their kind.

While there are other alternatives like dd, I am going to stick with a utility named zerofree to overwrite the newly freed up disk space with zeroes to aid compression later on in the process for this and the first step is to install it using the following command:

apt-get install zerofree

Once that has completed, the next step is unmount the relevant disk partition. Luckily for me, what I needed to compress was an area that I reserved for synchronisation with Dropbox. If it was the root area where the operating system files are kept, a live distro would be needed instead. In any event, the required command takes the following form with the mount point being whatever it is on your system (/home, for instance):

sudo umount [mount point]

With the disk partition unmounted, zerofree can be run by issuing a command that looks like this:

zerofree -v /dev/sdxN

Above, the -v switch tells zerofree to display its progress and a continually updating percentage count tells you how it is going. The /dev/sdxN piece is generic with the x corresponding to the letter assigned to the disk on which the partition resides (a, b, c or whatever) and the N being the partition number (1, 2, 3 or whatever; before GPT, the maximum was 4). Putting all this together, we get an example like /dev/sdb2.

Once, that had completed, the next step is to shut down the VM and execute a command like the following on the host Linux system ([file location/file name] needs to be replaced with whatever applies on your system):

vboxmanage modifyhd [file location/file name].vdi --compact

With the zero filling in place, there was a lot of space released when I tried this. While it would be nice for dynamic virtual disks to reduce in size automatically, I accept that there may be data integrity risks with those so the manual process will suffice for now. It has not been needed that often anyway.

A few more shell commands

Here are some Linux commands that I encountered in a feature article in the current issue of Linux User & Developer that I had not met before:

cd --

This returns you to the previous directory where you were before with having to go back through the folder hierarchy to get there and is handy if you are jumping around a file system and any other means is far from speedy.

lsb_release -a

It can be useful to uncover what version of a distro you have from the command line and the above works for distros as diverse as Linux Mint, Debian, Fedora (it automatically installs in Fedora 22 if it is not installed already, a more advanced approach than showing you the command like in Linux Mint or Ubuntu), openSUSE and Manjaro. These days, the version may not change too often but it still is good to uncover what you have.

yum install fedora-upgrade

This one can be run either with sudo or in a root session started with su and it is specific to Fedora. The command performs an upgrade of the Fedora distro itself and I wonder if the functionality has been ported to the dnf command that has taken over from yum. My experiences with that in Fedora 22 so far suggest that it should be the case though I need to check that further with the VirtualBox VM that I have created.

A collection of legal BitTorrent sites

It was an article in a magazine that revealed these legal BitTorrent download sites to me so I thought that I’d keep them on file for future reference while also sharing them with others who might need them. As far as I am aware, they are all legal in that no copyrighted material is on there. If that changes, I am happy to know and make amendments as needed.

My own interest in torrents arise from their being a convenient way to download installation disk images for Linux distributions and at least one of the entries is devoted to just that. However, the distribution also lends itself to movies along with music and books so that is reflected below too. With regard to downloading actual multimedia content, there is so much illegal downloading that a list like this is needed and has blackened the reputation of BitTorrent too because it only ever was conceived as a means for distributing large files in a peer-to-peer manner without the use of a single server. Of course, any use can be found for a technology and it never has to be legal or morally acceptable either.

BitTorrent Bundle



Legit Torrents

Linux Tracker

Public Domain Torrents

The Vuze Blog

Installing Citrix Receiver 13.0 in Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 64-bit

Installing the latest version of Citrix Receiver (13.0 at the time of writing) on 64-bit Ubuntu should be as simple as downloading the required DEB package and double-clicking on the file so that Ubuntu Software Centre can work its magic. Unfortunately, the 64-bit DEB file is faulty so that means that the Ubuntu community how-to guide for Citrix still is needed. In fact, any user of Linux Mint or another distro that uses Ubuntu as its base would do well to have a look at that Ubuntu link.

For sake of completeness, I still am going to let you in on the process that worked for me. Once the DEB file has been downloaded, the first task is to creating a temporary folder where the DEB file’s contents can be extracted:

mkdir ica_temp

With that in place, it then is time to do the extraction and it needs two commands with the second of these need to extract the control file while the first extracts everything else.

sudo dpkg-deb -x icaclient- ica_temp
sudo dpkg-deb --control icaclient- ica_temp/DEBIAN

It is the control file that has been the cause of all the bother because it refers to unavailable dependencies that it really doesn’t need anyway. To open the file for editing, issue the following command:

sudo gedit ica_temp/DEBIAN/control

Then change line 7 (it should begin with Depends:) to: Depends: libc6-i386 (>= 2.7-1), lib32z1, nspluginwrapper. There are other software packages in there that Ubuntu no longer supports and they are not needed anyway. With the edit made and the file saved, the next step is to build a new DEB package with the corrected control file:

dpkg -b ica_temp icaclient-modified.deb

Once you have the package, the next step is to install it using the following command:

sudo dpkg -i icaclient-modified.deb

If it fails, then you have missing dependencies and the following command should sort these before a re-run of the above command again:

sudo apt-get install libmotif4:i386 nspluginwrapper lib32z1 libc6-i386

With Citrix Receiver installed, there is one more thing that is needed before you can use it freely. This is to put Thawte security certificate files into /opt/Citrix/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts. What I had not realised until recently was that many of these already are in /usr/share/ca-certificates/mozilla and linking to them with the following command makes them available to Citrix receiver:

sudo ln -s /usr/share/ca-certificates/mozilla/* /opt/Citrix/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts/

Another approach is to download the Thawte certificates and extract the archive to /tmp/. From there they can be copied to /opt/Citrix/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts and I copied the Thawte Personal Premium certificate as follows:

sudo cp /tmp/Thawte Root Certificates/Thawte Personal Premium CA/Thawte Personal Premium CA.cer /opt/Citrix/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts/

Until I found out about what was in the Mozilla folder, I simply picked out the certificate mentioned in the Citrix error message and copied it over like the above. Of course, all of this may seem like a lot of work to those who are non-tinkerers and I have added a repaired 64-bit DEB package that incorporates all of the above and should not need any further intervention aside from installing it using GDebi, Ubuntu’s Software Centre, dpkg or anything else that does what’s needed.