How to increase the stability of your system

Hey,
I keep seeing a lot of discussions about how “arch tends to fuck itself” from time to time. I’m trying to summarize and give a few simple advices about this “issue”.

I’m starting with explaining first why is breaking. It does it because our users have full control over their systems and they customize it in any possible and impossible ways.

I’m a developer and a contributor in Arch Linux for about 3 years and an arch user for about 6 years now and I noticed that the number one reason for “arghh updates screwed up my system”, is replacing important stock packages with unsupported ones. With unsupported, I mean, mostly builds from AUR, but it can include 3rd party repositories that cannot keep up with us. (yes, i’m looking at you archlinuxfr :D)

So what can you do to increase your system stability?

  1. Always read the news entries, subscribe to the rss feed, arch-announce mailing list
  2. Know your system more. If I’m replacing a stock package, I know that I have to take care of it if a news entry specifies something.
  3. Don’t use 3rd party repos and always install packages from AUR using makepkg manually. This allows you to know your system better and yaourt and other scripts that “helps” you, in fact does a lot of disservice.
  4. Always do pacman -Syu and never use -f along with it.

13 Comments

  1. Owain says:

    I couldn’t agree more about most of the ‘Arch breaks on update’ complaints aren’t really about Arch.

    Maybe you could contribute a bit more of an explanation to relevant parts of the Beginner’s Guide, explaining how the use of AUR will put the onus on the user to update or recompile the necessary packages at times? Suggestions from the Beginner’s Guide have caused widespread trouble in the past after certain library updates, for example (cairo-something vs libpng, IIRC?)

  2. karol says:

    @Owain
    > Suggestions from the Beginner’s Guide
    Which suggestions?

    At first I thought that the news item’s author was silly to explicitly mention cairo-* but it turned out wonder knows best :-)

  3. This article is so true. Just look at arch-general mailing list. How many times weird AUR packages are guilty for weird bugs ?

    And for archlinuxfr, the only time I’m using this repo is when I had yaourt. After that, I comment the repo, and use yaourt instead of pacman.

    I know it is bad, but it is simpler for me when I have to maintain some of my 8 or so packages on AUR.

    Yaourt could be useful with AUR for one thing : -G which grabs all the files needed. After this a little makepkg, and yaourt or sudo pacman -U ;)

  4. bobwad says:

    This is deeply depressing.

    As a user of yaourt, but I would never consider replacing a “stock package” from another source. Yaourt is great for managing those packages which are not available from core, extra or community. At no time have I had a problem with a package installed from aur via yaourt. Most certainly I could not have done better, via makepkg than yaourt did. And I would continue to use archlinuxfr – at the very least for their excellent Verbiste. Nor can any distro forbid the use of third party repos, unless the distro can categorically state that it offers every single useful or desirable package. Not too practical, I think. Not even for Debian.

    Indeed, I would suggest that the “Arch way” specifically leads to the the philosophy behind yaourt and its friends. If we could not extend the functionality of Arch with external software, then we would be in a very sorry state.

    However, I cannot claim that Arch “stock packages” have never caused me any problems. Of course they have. Nobody is perfect. There is a fairly obvious example which is affecting many users right now – udev hanging on boot, anyone? (That is not the first, and it probably won’t be the last.)

    But none of that is the depressing part. In 16 years of Linux usage I have watched more than one distro go down the route of devs ranting at how external software allegedly ruins their perfect work. It always ends in tears. Please, if you have a genuine problem with the compiling directives of yaourt (which I doubt) please sort them out privately. Don’t start hitting out at your best clients.

    Good luck with perfecting the excellent Arch, but, please, be gentle with you supporters.

    • wonder says:

      This is not a rant but an advice for our users.

      3rd party repositories should take care of about our users. I’m talking about ArchBang and archlinuxfr users that had hard time updating their systems after latest libpng rebuilds because the maintainers considered that cairo-ubuntu suites them well as a replacement for cairo and in case of archlinuxfr, awesome and cairo-xcb.

      I do not have anything against them, what I’m against is about delaying rebuilds for days and let their users to fix their broken systems by themself.

      Now about the udev thingy. My post covers only packaging bugs and not upstream bugs. The boot delay issue was caused by udev that changed the way firmware is loaded and some kernel modules, mosly wireless, are broken by design and they don’t permit loading firmware asyncronius.

      • bobwad says:

        Well, thank you for clearing the air. I have to say that the very specific problems you raise in your comment are hardly recognisable as being the inspiration for your original blog comments! Never mind, at least we see the problem which apparently exists (I have not tried cairo-ubuntu, nor do I use Awesome, so I cannot really comment.)

        As regards udev: the fact that this was caused upstream is really no let-out. If ArchBang and archlinuxfr are to be held responsible for their choices of software and their release timings, then that has to hold good for distros like Arch. If a new udev (or whatever) is broken – well, please just refrain from inflicting it on us. And, where necessary, please give us a way out. In this case the problem appears wider and deeper than has been discussed. It is on-going and is certainly not restricted to asynchronous firmware loading problems. And it has been going on for quite a while. Never mind, that is another problem, after all.

        Incidentally, if you really mean for us never to use pacman -f, well, don’t provide it! (No, that switch was required recently, I know, but the abbreviation -f could always be disabled as a disincentive.)

        Regards

  5. nico says:

    > always install packages from AUR using makepkg manually.

    I use cower for this. It handles dependencies and checks for updates but only downloads the packages, it doesn’t install anything.

  6. Kyle says:

    I just use Pacmatic. (See my site link.) Before it lets you upgrade it makes you read the news and summarizes arch-general. After the upgrade it makes you deal with pacnew files.

    By the way Ioni, even you forgot about taking care pacnew files. This is why we should let computers do these routinue events.

  7. BigMac says:

    [...] questo per i neo arcieri sprovveduti, e per me quando me lo [...]

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