Friday, June 13, 2008

Ubuntu server 7.10 to 8.04 upgrade experiences

Yesterday I upgraded my server at home (running 3 websites and a small e-mail server) from Ubuntu 7.10 to 8.04. My main system is a nice looking iMac, completed with an eeepc for traveling and kitchen table work. But I use Ubuntu in the closet and at work.
The upgrade went rather well. Of course, I had installed as little packages from outside the repositories as possible. I even did the upgrade over ssh while that is not recommended.

Unfortunately, I only just noticed that no e-mail was being received anymore. After some head scratching (I had also changed the firewall settings), I decided to compare my backup of /etc (yes, I had one!) to the current copy.

So how do you compare such a complex directory as /etc on a Mac? I tried Eclipse and IntelliJ. Despite their excellent compare tools, they have no such thing for complete directories. Searching the web for open source solutions did not give any conclusive evidence as well. Kdiff3 was mentioned most frequently, so I decided to try that one. Kdiff3 can be installed with MacPorts, but make sure you have plenty of time. It took more then more then 2 hours on this screaming iron!
Kdiff3 is not so intuitive as the commercial products Araxis and Beyond Compare (which I have used professionally), but once you get used to it, it is a nice and powerful merging tool.

And there it was: a small copy/paste error in my dovecot configuration. Postfix uses dovecot for authentication so every TLS connection failed. Copy, paste, restart, done!


  • Make sufficient backups of all your configuration files.
  • Use the packages from your distribution as much as possible. Do not install later versions of a package unless you are prepared to install it again and again and again.
  • Kdiff3 is an acceptable diff tool on the Mac.
  • Do not be afraid for an Ubuntu server upgrade!


  1. Goo you hear your sudo apt-get upgrade went successfully. I have had mixed results in the past with this upgrade process, buy like you mention, its usually to do with non-standard packages, binary kernel drivers, hand-installed code or custom script/environment changes.

    Interesting to hear about your experience with KDiff3; I recently needed to do similar and ended up installing Beyond Compare on Wine (Kubuntu 7.10) - it worked perfectly!

    Of course, I always favor the open solution. That said, Kubuntu has .exe associated with Wine, so the install process really is as easy on Windows. (download and double click file!) Always nice to have the option to install that old Windows app that you still need, especially if you are transitioning to a new (and better) operating system.

  2. Actually, it was a sudo do-release-upgrade :)

  3. the commandline diff tool allows you to compare directories

    Macintosh:~ admin$ diff test1 test2
    Only in test1: four.txt
    diff test1/one.txt test2/one.txt
    < not one
    > one

  4. Ubuntu's release upgrades are pretty painless nowadays
    I took it one step further and have a mercurial repository on my /etc ;)
    this is then pushed to a 'backup' repository

  5. @Jelmer: yes, I know. But /etc is quite large. A graphical overview has a lot of value.

    @Gert-Jan: that is brilliant. Very clever!