With only two days left until Fedora 14 release, I went ahead and upgraded the behemoth in my home office, a Dell XPS 730x workstation, to the new “Laughlin” release. Once again I used preupgrade to do the bulk of the work. Because there’s not an official preupgrade update out yet, I customized a releases.txt file to include a definition for Fedora 14, setting the baseurl and installurl values to a local mirror in my home network where I was mirroring the development/14 tree. (I probably should do something with MirrorManager to make my local network accept mirror requests locally, but I haven’t got a Round Tuit since I updated my server.)
Normally a user wouldn’t have to do this, of course. I only did it because I was impatient and didn’t want to wait. Most users could simply run preupgrade and click next a few times to do everything they want.
The key to preupgrade happiness is making sure that you have plenty of space in your /boot partition, and wherever you’re keeping /var/cache/yum. You can run df -h /boot /var/cache/yum to find out — You’ll probably want a few hundred MB free* in /boot, and 2 GB in /var/cache/yum should suffice, depending on how much stuff you have installed on your system. Even with quite a lot installed on my system, I only needed 1.2 GB to store packages, and had about 4.4 GB free, so it was smooth sailing.
Incidentally, this is where Logical Volume Management (LVM), as opposed to old, simple physical disk partitions comes in so handy. You can use LVM to adjust your partitions to give more space where you need it, when you need it, and in cases like this it’s an invaluable Fedora feature.
Once preupgrade downloaded everything it needed, it presented a dialog telling me I could reboot any time to finish the upgrade. After saving my work, I rebooted and the upgrade process started with no intervention needed. For 1549 packages, the final step of the process — upgrading the packages after rebooting — took approximately 75 minutes. A yum update process performs a lot of work beyond simply copying files onto the disk, to ensure your system’s integrity, so this extra time is to be expected. I like to wander off and work on something else while preupgrade runs, so the computer’s not wasting my time!
The only (optional) step I had to take was to switch my desktop background to the new artwork. (There are extra laughlin-backgrounds-* packages that include a number of striking photographs and alternate artwork, including an animated background that changes to reflect the time of day.) I also think this picture and this picture, both by Design team superstar Emily Dirsh, are beautiful alternatives.
This is the third time I’ve used preupgrade for an upgrade to the next Fedora release on a home system. From everything I’ve seen, it’s a great way to proceed if you don’t want to install from scratch and reconfigure lots of stuff. It’s exceptionally helpful in cases where you have a non-optimal setup that you don’t want to mess with, for example not having a separate /home partition, where otherwise you’d need to have a backup and restore process bracketing your installation.** Preupgrade is simple enough that almost anyone should be able to use it, just by clicking through simple prompts.
* The default for Fedora installations now is to use 500 MB for /boot — though it used to be much less. If you have less, you may want to consider doing a full backup, reinstalling (and choosing at least 500 MB for this partition), and then restoring your data. That way in the future you can use preupgrade.
** Note that frequent backups are still absolutely vital though, no matter what you run or how you upgrade.
Update: Changed the title of the post, which I can’t explain other than my not thinking clearly. Wrong idiom! Bad writer, no cookie!