Sunday, June 24, 2012

Upgrade to Linux Fedora 17

Fedora 17 was released on May 29, 2012. As a regular user of Fedora Linux since version 12 (after a long past with Redhat until version 6.2, followed by a trip to FreeBSD, Debian and Ubuntu), I try to stay abreast of the new versions.

My computer is nothing extravagant, neither bleeding edge nor old crap: it is a decent quad core, with 8GB of RAM, an Asus Motherboard purchased in 2008 and a NVIDIA GeForce 9600 video card. Concerning this last item, I know this forces me to either use the buggy nouveau driver (nv) or use the binary installer provided by NVIDIA.

So I decided to upgrade my Fedora 16 to a shiny new 17. Looking at the support forums, I found that there is a method called preupgrade to perform an upgrade without downloading and burning a media. So I decided to give it a shot.

Unfortunately, I missed the not so fine prints: my /boot partition is around 128MB, and after spending almost an afternoon downloading all the packages, the installer told me that unfortunately, there are things that are not supposed to be. In this case, using preupgrade. DVD it is, downloaded and burned.

The first issue is related to my video card. From a few pages and messages found on Google, it seems that the nv driver shipped with the install has a few issues. Mine is that my screen goes completely dark and nothing reacts short of a hard power off. The solution is quite easy: chose to edit the boot line and add "xmode=vesa nomodeset". This will force a compatible mode to be selected, with the detriment that the screen are larger than the display and will scroll.

For the quick and observant, two error messages flashes: the first one concerning the floppy - the installer loads the module but I do not have a floppy drive anymore, and the second one that I can't even read. Not important and the installer boots just fine.

The install (1422 packages in my case) seems to stall with SELinux. On my machine, it took about 10 minutes to go through that package, during which restorecon was using 100% of a core. Going from one virtual terminal to another gives you some information, the 2nd VT even gives you a shell. But if you do that, your upgrade screen will be completely white, except for the mouse pointer. Passed SELinux, the install continues at a decent rate and goes to the reboot. There, I was a bit surprised as the installer did not eject the DVD. Also, there was no offer to add a repository to do all the upgrades during the install phase.

First boot, the Fedora logo fills and ... nothing. It hangs. Pressing num lock shows that the machine is not frozen, but nothing seems to happen. So reboot and edit of the boot line: at the "linux" line, I removed the "quiet" and added "single" to force Linux to stop at runlevel 1. As soon as the Fedora Logo appeared, I also pressed ESC to continue seeing the messages. It boots OK and drops me at a shell. It, however, took a very long time with a message informing that the lp module was loaded, but no device was found. I do not know if that module is the actual cause of the temporary freeze or if the next module is.  Let's head for runlevel 3, to compile a new NVIDIA driver and do some upgrades.

The NVIDIA script died as the version used to compile the kernel (4.6) is different from the installed version (4.7). Surprising. So, I decided to upgrade the whole system.

The first "yum update" failed with "Cannot retrieve metalink for repository", which I solved using "yum makecache". The following "yum update" succeeded, with the minor exception of a timeout while trying to retrieve the information from a mirror hosted at the Princeton University. But boy! The upgrade totals 1048 packages summing 1.8GB! I accept and look at the first messages. After a while, this gets old and I decide to leave the machine alone. My alarm clock is set to ring in two hours, approximately the time needed to transfer the upgrades.

Two hours later, back to the computer. It displays an invite asking whether I want to accept the PGP key using in two repositories. Okay, that's good. From there, two things:

  • Several packages are marked as duplicate of the same version ... for Fedora 16!
  • Several packages failed the install due to a missing required: xserver-abi(videodrv-11) >= ('0','0',None) (This is an actual bug)

A quick rpm -qa tells me that almost half of my packages are actually Fedora 16 (2251 packages installed, of which 1456 packages are marked as Fedora 17). Worse, I also found packages belonging to Fedora 15, 14, 13, 12 and even 11!

To try to go further, I followed the instructions in the bug report before trying another "yum update".  Of course, one of the instructions nukes the package cache, which means that all the packages need to be downloaded ... again!

Time for desperate measures.

*** Warning - I this can completely ruin your install  - Don't do it unless you know exactly what you are doing ***

There are two types of issues here -

  • Duplicate packages between FC17 and a previous release
  • Missing dependencies for a package from a previous release

The duplicates packages is the easiest: rpm -e --nodeps <complete package name>. This removes the packages.

For the missing dependencies, I found that installing the package (without the version) works fine in most of the cases: yum install <package>. For a few package, I had to remove the package first, then add it.

I ended with "yum update" that almost worked, except for a few broken dependencies for a few packages. Nothing is critical, so I removed them (yum erase). After the update, I added them back.

Conclusion -

I am still a fan of Fedora, but I must admit that the upgrade to version 17 stinks. If you know what you are doing and have a day to kill, this is for you, otherwise, stick to FC16 and wait for all the bugs to be corrected!

Edit 1 -

After the reboot, I added "single" in the boot line, to drop to runlevel 1. I moved to runlevel 3, stopped a few services using systemctl (powerful tool!), recompiled my nvidia driver. I then issued "init 5" to move to the graphic interface and voila! Fedora 17.


  1. Hi Jean,
    Could you have backed up your home folder(s) and just done a clean install? I did the pre-upgrade without problems, but later, decided to do a clean installation. The clean installation got rid of many applications that I had looked at, but never used more than one time.
    I am using Fedora17 for the what's new stuff, and for some tutorials as multimedia works just fine.

  2. I could have, as I am a big fan of Duplicity, that backs my whole home folder on a small NAS. I followed the manual path to see how far it could go and if it would work. Which it does.