The one thing I don't like about OpenSUSE so far (both 10.1 and 10.2) is the mechanism for setting up Automatic Updates to the system (i.e. when security patches are released for packages you've installed). To me, it's needlessly confusing, though I think I've got it mostly under control in my head. This post is part investigation, part what-worked-for-me. I hope it helps those experiencing the same frustrations that I did.

If you prefer to jump to the solution, please feel free to do so.

The Recent Ugly History Of Software Update Software In Suse

On this aging page, I learned that pre-10.1, SUSE used to get updates via the Yast Online Update (YOU) and the "SUSEWatcher" applet.

But I started playing with OpenSUSE in 10.1. I learned (from this article) that YOU+SUSEWatcher was replaced by ZenWorks solution, libzypp and the zen-updater applet starting in 10.1 (another link). With a default 10.1 install, this zen-updater icon (icon+screenshot) appeared in my System Tray as a globe with blue and red arrows circling it. When patch updates became available, it turned orange and hovering the mouse over it told me how many updates/patches are available for download. Clicking it let me choose the patches I want to update and away it went.

I should note that the zen-updater/zmd system was broken in 10.1 default shipment (read more), though fixed in a later drop of opensuse 10.1. After I had manually fixed it on my 10.1 system, it worked great. However, Opensuse 10.2 was released about a month later. When I installed that and tried it out, zen-updater once again appeared broken in 10.2 out-of-the-box. The icon never turned orange after a month of using, and even after I configured it with some catalogs, it would hang and never display updates.

Muddy Waters

Now if YAST is the designated tool in Suse for configuring the system, one would logically think that the zen-updater feature would appear somewhere under there. However, if you go to YAST under "Software" I see icons (with status bar descriptions listed) for:

  • Online Update - Get patches to correct and improve your existing installation
  • Automatic Online Update - Set up automatic online update
  • Installation Source - Choose the source for installation of software packages (CD, network, etc)
  • Online Update Configuration - Online Update Configuration
  • System Update - Update your entire system

Which one should I click on to configure my system to automatically inform me when patches are released? The choices are not obvious to me and seem to overlap. Worse yet, none of these things appear to directly configure zen-updater/zmd/zypp though they share icons and do affect the catalogs that zen-updater uses (I might be wrong on this). Some folks alternatively suggest to use the SMART package manager. On top of all this, there are a variety of command-line ways (yum, rug, rpm, Zypper) of managing your packages and updating your system...

To me, this is one of the roadblocks for Linux on the desktop: Too many options for the newbie to sort it out. This applies to distributions (should I go with Suse, Redhat, Ubuntu?) and packages within a distro. Sure, the number of options can be perceived as a strength to those Linux die-hards, but in this case, there should only be one obvious, clearly-communicated, GUI-type application and applet to handle system-level configuration like this for a given distribution. Especially if you want to tout how quick security patches can get rolled out. It seems like YAST is the gateway for all of this, so hopefully future versions of Suse make this clearer by hiding/removing redundant applications.

Answers from Users

Anyway, too much frustration led to me going onto the IRC channel for suse on freenode to vent and ask some questions. If you've never done this, I highly recommend it. In Suse go to the KMenu > Applications > Internet > Chat > Konversation. Set up a server on the server, choose an unused nickname and specify to join the #suse channel.

First time joining the IRC channel, you might want to just "lurk" and watch conversations - get a feel for the community vibe. When you feel up to it, ask your question to the channel (don't ask to ask, just lay your question out there). When I did this last weekend, I got some helpful pointers and direct answers almost immediately. Once someone answers your question, make sure you thank them - this is what building a great community is about. Maybe a year from now you can hang out in that channel and help out another couple newbies who are struggling like you did.

The Solution That Worked For Me

The solution to my software update woes that worked for me, was by following this guide which involved:

  • Shutdown all zmd processes (close the zen-updater applet from sys tray, kill zmd processes)
  • Remove zen-updater/zmd from Suse (su -c "rpm -e zmd libzypp-zmd-backend sqlite-zmd rug zen-updater")
  • Configure update sources with 5 links (see here).
  • Run opensuseupdater applet (read more about opensuseupdater with accompanying screenshots)

Now I've got a NEW icon in my system tray: a globe with a green checkmark next to it (third icon from left here). When updates are available the checkmark turns orange and clicking the icon lets me manage my packages just fine. So far I haven't experienced any glitches.

Please feel free to leave comments - especially if my understanding is wrong in the above.

§334 · February 27, 2007 · Life, Linux, Software, Technology · · [Print]

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