Updating Flatpack applications on Linux Mint 19

Since upgrading to Linux Mint 19, I have installed some software from Flatpack. The cause for my curiosity was that you could have the latest versions of applications like GIMP or Libreoffice without having to depend on a third-party PPA. Installation is straightforward given the support built into Linux Mint. You just need to download the relevant package from the Flatpack website and running the file through the GUI installer. Because the packages come with extras to ensure cross-compatibility, more disk space is used but there is no added system overhead beyond that from what I have seen. Updating should be as easy as running the following single command too:

flatpack update

However, I needed to do a little extra work before this was possible. The first step was to update the configuration file at ~/.local/share/flatpak/repo/config to add the following lines:

[remote "flathub"]
gpg-verify=true
gpg-verify-summary=true
url=https://flathub.org/repo/
xa.title=Flathub

Once that was completed, I ran the following commands to import the required GPG key:

wget https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.gpg
flatpak --user remote-modify --gpg-import=flathub.gpg flathub

With this complete, I was able to run the update process and update any applications as necessary. After that first run, it has been integrated in to my normal processes by adding the command to the relevant alias definition.

Sorting out sluggish start-up and shutdown times in Linux Mint 19

The Linux Mint team never pushes anyone into upgrading to the latest version of their distribution but curiosity often is strong enough an impulse to make me do just that. When it brings me across some rough edges, then the wisdom of leaving things alone is evident. Nevertheless, doing so also brings its share of learning and that is what I am sharing in this post. It also also me to collect a number of titbits that may be of use to others.

Again, I went with the in-situ upgrade option though the addition of the Timeshift backup tool means that it is less frowned upon than once would have been the case. It worked well too part from slow start-up and shutdown times so I set about track down the causes on the two machines that I have running Linux Mint. As it happens, the cause was different on each machine.

On one PC, it was networking that holding up things. The cause was my specifying a fixed IP address in /etc/network/interfaces instead of using the Network Settings GUI tool. Resetting the configuration file back to its defaults and using the Cinnamon settings interface took away the delays. It was inspecting /var/log/boot.log that highlighted problem so that is worth checking if I ever encounter slow start times again.

As I mentioned earlier, the second PC had a very different problem though it also involved a configuration file. What had happened was that /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume contained the wrong UUID for my system’s swap drive so I was seeing messages like the following:

W: initramfs-tools configuration sets RESUME=UUID=<specified UUID for swap partition>
W: but no matching swap device is available.
I: The initramfs will attempt to resume from <specified file system location>
I: (UUID=<specified UUID for swap partition>)
I: Set the RESUME variable to override this.

Correcting the file and executing the following command fixed the issue by updating the affected initramfs image for all installed kernels and speeded up PC start-up times:

sudo update-initramfs -u -k all

Though it was not a cause of system sluggishness, I also sorted another message that I kept seeing during kernel updates and removals on both machines. This has been there for a while and causes warning messages about my system locale not being recognised. The problem has been described elsewhere as follows: /usr/share/initramfs-tools/hooks/root_locale is expecting to see individual locale directories in /usr/lib/locale but locale-gen is configured to generate an archive file by default.  Issuing the following command sorted that:

sudo locale-gen --purge --no-archive

Following these, my new Linux Mint 19 installations have stabilised with more speedy start-up and shutdown times. That allows me to look at what is on Flathub to see what applications and if they get updated to the latest version on an ongoing basis. That may be a topic for another entry on here but the applications that I have tried work well so far.

Upgrading avahi-dnsconfd on Ubuntu

This is how I got around problem that occurred when I was updating a virtualised Ubuntu 16.04 instance that I have. My usual way to do this is using apt-get or apt from the command line and the process halted because a pre-removal script for the upgrade of avahi-dnsconf failed. The cause was its not disabling the avahi daemon beforehand so I need to execute the following command before repeating the operation:

sudo systemctl disable avahi-daemon

Once the upgrade had completed, then it was time to re-enable the service using the following command:

sudo systemctl enable avahi-daemon

Ideally, this would completed without such manual intervention and there is a bug report for the unexpected behaviour. Hopefully, it will be sorted soon but these steps will fix things for now.

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.

Forcing an upgrade to Windows 10 Anniversary Update

There remain people who advise those on Windows 7 or 8.x to hold fire on upgrading to Windows 10. Now that the free upgrade no longer is available, that advice may hold more weight than it did. Even so, there are those among us who jumped ship who do not mind having the latest versions of things at no monetary cost to see what is available and I must admit to being one of those.

After all, I do have a virtual machine with a pre-release version of the next update to Windows 10 installed on there to see what might be coming our way and to get a sense of what changes that may bring so that I am ready for those. Otherwise, I usually am happy to wait but I noticed that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update only came to my HP Pavilion dm4 laptop and not other machines with Windows 10 installed so I started to wonder why there was a lag when it came to automatic upgrades.

So that these things do not arrive when it is least convenient, I took advantage of a manual method in order to choose my timing. This did not involve installation from a disk image but was in-situ. The first part of the process is standard enough in that the Settings app was started and the Update & security item chosen. That dropped me onto the Windows Update and I first clicked on the Check for updates button to see what would happen. When nothing came of that, the Learn more link was clicked to bring me onto part of the Microsoft support website where I found that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update installer could be downloaded so I duly did just that.

Running it produced a screen asking whether or not I wanted to proceed. Since I wanted to go ahead, the appropriate button was clicked and the machine left alone until the process complete. Because the installer purely is a facilitator, the first stage is to download the rest of the files needed and that will take a while on any connection. Once downloading was completed, the actual process of installation commenced with several restarts before a log-in screen was again on offer. On logging in to the machine, the last part of the process started.

The process took quite a while but seemingly worked without a hitch. If there was anything that I needed to do, it was the re-installation of VirtualBox Guest Additions to restore access to shared folders as well as dealing with a self-inflicted irritation. Otherwise, I have found that previously installed software worked as expected and no file has been missed. Waiting a while may have had its advantages too because initial issues with the Anniversary Update will have been addressed but it is best not to leave it too long or you could have the feeling of being forgotten. A happy balance needs striking.