Ressources documentaires pour Mandriva Linux et les Logiciels Libres

How to see when you should not upgrade

Long time no blog. I missed several opportunities to blog, but finally today I found the time. Today the subject will be : How can you see that you should have not update your workstations.

In our Call Center, we have 64 workstations and 2 laptops. All the workstations are running Gnome, whereas the laptops are running KDE. 4 weeks ago, I upgrade the 6 manager workstations from Mandriva 2008.0/2008.1 to Mandriva 2009.0 : I guess I should not have done it … Indeed since this time I have to deal with many issues or regressions. You can see that something is wrong when Call Center director is sending you a big letter listing all their different new issues 🙁 Let’s see some of their issues :

  • Numlock is disabled at start : Ok, this one is not really important, but still this is a new behaviour for the users. During several years they had numlock activated at boot, and now this is no longer the case. As they have numbers in their password, they often did some mistakes. This one is due to bug bug #36893 caused by the necessity to disable the numlock package in order to not have inverted NumLock LED. At least I can say that they have the default Windows behaviour …
  • Inability to unlock screensaver : IMHO this is due to bug #44027 and thus even if they are using Gnome/GDM. The pam_ccreds prevent them from unlocking the screensaver, they have to click on switch user and log in again as the same user. Can be workaround, but annoying. Please note that installing pam_ccreds package will make things even worst.
  • Empty users list at connection screen : This one is bug #45833. Indeed, the dm service requires that the network-auth service to make it start before the display manager ( KDM, GDM ), which is fine. However authentification services like ypbind are not required by network-auth, and so they end up being started _after_ the dm service. This one is easy to solve as you just need to edit the corresponding init script on all the computers.
  • Bad default paper size in Firefox : When printing a web page, the printer tend to be blocked, and they have to go to the printer and select manually the paper size. This is especially annoying when several people are printing several web pages, as they all have to wait for their different print jobs to be finished. This is bug #45371 where Firefox is defaulting to the US default paper size ( Letter ) instead of using the one for the user locale ( A4 in France ). It seems that doing File -> Page setup and selecting the printer in the list will choose A4 as default paper size. However this settings seems to be forgotten when closing Firefox 3, or when changing the web page, etc …
  • OpenOffice.org can’t open files with accentuated caracters in the filename : I’m not using UTF-8 locales, only fr_FR ( ISO-8859-15 encoding I guess ). Because of this OpenOffice.org is unable to open file containing accentuated caracters in the name. What’s worst is the fact this issue exists since Mandriva 2008.0 but only for the KDE version of OpenOffice.org ( bug #16890 ). However the issue is now happening with the GNOME version. Before, switching to native OpenOffice.org dialog usage allow to workaround the issue, unfortunately this is no longer the case. Now in 2009.0, the issue is even more stranger : OpenOffice.org will be able to open an accentuated filename if this is the first file opened by OpenOffice.org. At the contrary, if one or several OpenOffice.org windows are already opened, then OpenOffice.org will be unable to open an accentuated filename. Please note the accentuated caracters can be located in the file name or in the path of the file. Renaming the files allow to workaround the issue, however after 4 years, there are many files, and we still have file with accentuated caracters. On top of that sometimes we received some as email attachments.
  • Can no longer open/browse shares from « Computer » : Nautilus used to show the NFS shares in /etc/fstab in Computer. This was usefull as the users just had to go in computer to mount the needed share ( if user option was present ). However since GNOME 2.22 and the introduction of GVFS, Nautilus will no longer show the NFS shares ( bug #42792 ), especially if they don’t have a mountpoint located in /media … The only way to solve the issue was to use autofs and create a symlink from the mountpoint to the user Desktop. When the share is not available, this is a little bit ugly, but at least this work most of the time.
  • Sounds issues with Totem or Audacity : To listen the recorded calls, the manager are using totem or Audacity ( seems to have higher quality ). However sometimes they have no sound at all in Audacity or many drops when using Totem. This is due to a Pulseaudio like with bug #45390. Totem was using xine engine in 2008.0, so when upgrading, they will end uop using the Xine engine. However if the xine-pulse package is not installed, then they will have gaps and dropouts with Pulseaudio. So the fix is to install xine-pulse, or switch to the gstreamer backend for Totem by installing the totem-gstreamer package and selecting the right totem with update-alternatives. With Audacity, they need to edit the preferences and be sure to use as output device « ALSA Front » or « ALSA dmix » instead of the hardware reference ( hw0,1 ). Sometimes the issue may come from the audacity wrapper script for which pasuspender will spit out in CLI a cryptic « Failure to suspend: Invalid argument » …

As you can see none of theses issues are blockers : most of the time some workarounds exist. Happily as i follow Cooker, there are many others issues that I managed to catch before. However this put more charge on me as I have to find, apply and maintain all of theses workarounds. On top of that the users are only seeing the negative sides of the upgrade which force them to learn new things, or to do more actions in order to have the work done ( less productivity ). The only positives things they noticed are the ability to do more complex and better graph in OpenOffice.org, a faster OpenOffice.org startup, and a good background …. This is short !

So to all the happy Linux sysadmin, I will just say the following : If it works, don’t break^Wupgrade it.

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