Modernizing freebsd-update or moving to source upgrades

Polytropon freebsd at
Sun Nov 5 23:27:05 UTC 2017

On Sun, 5 Nov 2017 09:11:48 -0500 (EST), Colin Henein wrote:
> With the new EOL policy, people will need to be upgrading a lot more
> than before, and I am wondering if there are plans to improve or 
> replace the freebsd-update utility with something more modern.

This will soon be pkg's task. If I understand the ongoing development
correctly, pkg will also manage the base (i. e., the OS) components
which will then be thought of as packages, too.

> I have enjoyed using freebsd for almost 20 years. I was delighted when
> freebsd-update first came out, but have found many challenges using 
> it. It works fine for within-release upgrades and pretty well for
> minor-point releases, but I have twice had catastrophic failures when 
> upgrading across a major release boundary that could not be downgraded
> using the tool. This makes me extremely nervous to run 
> freebsd-upgrade. 

For the common security upgrades, freebsd-update is very convenient.

> Aside from catastrophic failures, the system provided for "merging"
> configuration files is one that only a robot could love. Tens to 
> hundreds of files to merge (frequently the code intended to prevent
> version numbers from needing to be merged does not work, especially if 
> freebsd-update has been used to perform upgrades more than once,
> especially multiple major upgrades). If any error is made in this 
> delicate process it is impossible to go back and fix a file that has
> already been saved. No warning if any merge tag is missed, and merge 
> characters can easily be saved into (and break) critical files.

Configuration files are the things you still need to _really_ pay
attention to. Sometimes, new system facilities are added, others are
abolished, and things like /etc/passwd or /etc/ttys need to reflect
those changes. Of course, a system administrator probably has lots
of his own changes to those files, to properly (!) merging is needed.

> I certainly appreciate the work of the original developer in creating
> the tool, but if the community is moving to more frequent updates 
> then I would suggest that this tool needs to be revisited to improve
> usability and safety.
> If this tool is not going to be updated soon, then I think I need to
> move to updating fbsd from source.  

This doesn't free you from the task of caring for those changes (usually
in system configuration files).

> QUESTION: Do I need to do anything special to change over to updating
> fbsd from source if I have been using freebsd-update in the past? I 
> see the instructions at section 23.5 of the handbook. Can I just check
> out a new source tree with SVN from the 11.1 repository and follow 
> the steps to overwrite 11.0 with 11.1? Very much appreciate any tips,
> especially on merging files in etc.

Just pay attention to /usr/src/Makefile's comment header which shows the
correct updating and installation procedure. When if builds, it usually
installs. Make a backup (as always). But: No, nothing special is needed
to perform updates from source.

Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...

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