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Re: Buster and apt wanting to remove tons of packages...

On Tue, 10 Jul 2018 12:55:26 +0200
sgarrulo <sgarrulo@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Hello everyone!
> I had an installation of debian stable (stretch) which was fully
> upgraded something like a couple of months ago. Then I passed it to
> testing (buster).
> Now I'm facing this situation:
> * 5031 installed packages
> * 1292 upgradable packages
> If I do a normal upgrade, 676 packages are to be upgraded, but only
> the gtk/qt unrelated ones (for example, apache2-doc but none of the
> apache2 *real* packages, or vim-addon-manager and vim-doc but none of
> the vim *real* packages, and so on)
> And if I try to upgrade, let's say, vim-* packages, it wants to
> remove a ton of seemingly unrelated packages, like calibre,
> evolution, gir1.2-*, gstreamer things, kid3, libqt5-*, pidgin, vlc-*,
> etc etc...
> This happens when I try to upgrade or install apparently *anything*
> related to GUI programs (GTK/Qt related).
> I am worried to make an upgrade like that.
> What can I do to debug this situation and try to understand which
> package(s) is/are breaking everything?
> I have no pinned packages.

It's probably not a single package. I run an unstable workstation, this
sort of thing is not that unusual. Whole subsystems get upgraded, such
as GTK or the kf5 stuff, but not everything is ready at once. Also, many
applications dependent on this subsystem have precise dependencies
specified, and are not happy with the new libraries. Those applications
have to be upgraded, not necessarily to change them, but to mark them as
compatible with the new libraries after testing. So a major change can
require hundreds of dependent packages to be revised. This kind of
thing never happens in stable, but is fairly common in testing and

What I do is to temporarily switch from upgrade-system to Synaptic. It
is relatively quick to select a few innocent-looking packages from the
big list, and check that they go through without a problem. After a few
tries, you can see where the trouble is, and leave those packages at
the current state. People comfortable with the aptitude interactive
interface can do the same there, but for some reason, I prefer
Synaptic. Generally the state of difficulty lasts only a few days,
though it can go on for a week or two sometimes. 

It's the price you pay for having more up-to-date software than stable
has. At the point of release of a new Debian stable, testing is
identical to it. At the time of the next release, about two years
later, testing is very different, many changes of architecture of major
systems having been made. If you use testing or unstable over this
period, you have to ride out these upheavals, hoping that nothing
important breaks. About eighteen months after release, testing is
frozen for bug fixing before the next release, and the ride is much
smoother after that. It's quieter in unstable as well, since unstable
has to be kept in a condition where it can be copied into testing after
the release occurs, so changes to unstable have to be kept within
limits. All hell breaks loose at release time...