The Magic of Lenny Backports

This afternoon saw me in a really annoying situation. I was in a coffee shop, wearing a beret, and writing poetry, and couldn’t get a ‘net connection. The coffee shop runs an open network access point, but some asshat in a nearby complex was running a secured access point with the same SSID.

For some reason, my version of the network-manager-gnome package (the older one that shipped with Lenny) could not tell the difference, and I could not get a connection. When I attempted to force a connection, it crashed. Repeatedly.

This being my first experience with anything on Linux crashing, I immediately (and rashly) determined that the problem must lie with my (relatively) old network manager. After all, I was running v0.6.6-4 of an application that had since matured to v0.7.7-1! And my companions, who were running the latest version, were connecting no problem! Of course, this also wasn’t the first set of problems that I had encountered with my network manager.

So upon returning to my domicile (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence), I hit the #debian IRC channel and asked about upgrading to the testing repository, where all of the latest and greatest code is awaiting release as Squeeze, the next version of Debian. Having heard that the code was frozen in July, and that the release was slated for early spring, I figured that by this point, the code there would be fairly mature, and easy enough to use. To the contrary, the members of the channel weren’t comfortable giving me advice on how to upgrade, since in their words, I shouldn’t be considering upgrading to testing unless I understood how to do as much.

With this warning, I was then given instructions on how to update (which didn’t make me feel any better – the last step in the instructions was “be ready for problems”), along with the suggestion that I check out first.

Essentially, this site is an alternate repository dedicated to backporting the latest and greatest code from testing to the last stable version of Debian. This means that, with a simple modification to my etc/apt/sources.list file, I could selectively upgrade the packages on my machine to newer versions.

In fact, I had actually already added this repository to my sources.list file, back when I was working on getting Flash 10 installed. At the time, I just didn’t know enough to understand what it was, or what it’s implications were.

So now, running the newest version of network-manager-gnome, a somewhat more recent version of gnome-do, and clinging to the promise that I can upgrade anything else that seems to have gotten better since the time of the dinosaurs when Lenny was released; my urge to upgrade has subsided, and my commitment to wait out the proper release has been restored.

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