apt-checkpoint (The anti-whiprush)

I finally got tired of OSX so I installed Debian on my iBook. After getting it up and running, I decided to try getting GNOME 2.6 installed from the experimental repository. Boy, was that a big mistake. One of the reasons it is still in experimental is that it’s not being built for all platforms yet. Unfortunately, there seem to be some critical packages still missing for the PowerPC (ppc). After an unfortunate dist-upgrade, I was left with a horribly broken GNOME install and no easy way of getting back. I whiprushed myself.

<StoneTable> `whiprushed
<rewt> To be whiprushed is to bring hell upon yourself by apt-get dist-upgrading without knowing wth you’re doing, and then being pulled over with expired tags and <cut to jail scene> ending up in a jail cell for the night with a heroin addict for a roommate. All because you messed up that Debian system.

The problem:
No way to revert the system back to a point-in-time when the system was working (ala restore points in Windows).

I started thinking about the process I went through to restore my system to the point it had been before I destroyed GNOME. Removing all of the GNOME 2.6 packages I had installed, including their dependancies in experimental. Being left with a broken apt-get and having to remove it, download the .deb from unstable and manually installing it. Becoming intimately familiar with querying out package data with dpkg, and finally reinstalling all of GNOME 2.4 and all of the subsequent packages that got removed in the process.

What a pain in the ass.

The solution:
It hit me as I was driving to work: apt-checkpoint. What we need is a method to create a ‘checkpoint’ that says this is a known good working system at this point in time and records the installed packages, versions, configurations, as well as the original packages (optionally, if available). Then an apt-diff tool could be used to compare the current system with this checkpoint of the working system to pin-point differences, and an apt-rollback tool that could actually restore the known good system configuration to an otherwise whiprushed system.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like to live bleeding edge. I run Debian unstable on all of my desktops and occasionally something gets screwed up, either by my own ineptitude or that of a package maintainer. Shit happens. If I had these tools, though, reversing the change that broke my system would be a relatively simple task (or at least the identification of the broken package/dependancy would be easier to find).

With the solution in hand, I’ve started work on apt-checkpoint, apt-diff, and apt-rollback, an anti-whiprush toolkit to save me (and you) from destroying your system by an ill-advised dist-upgrade. Hopefully I can get a simple, working solution in relatively short order. After all, simple solutions are often the best kind.

3 thoughts on “apt-checkpoint (The anti-whiprush)

  1. Seriously, that’s an amazingly good idea. Best of luck! I’ll certainly be watching your progress!

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