Unattended Updates in Linux Mint

Andrew Bolster

Data Scientist at Sensum Co., Founder/Director at Farset Labs

There’s several very valid tutorials and guides around about getting Ubuntu, Debian and Mint to automatically update and upgrade, but they don’t do much explaining/checking.

This is a short post filling in the gaps I observed.

Get the package

sudo apt-get install unattended-upgrades -y

Enable the package scheduler

File Being Messed With:

/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades

Log File Being Watched:

/var/log/unattended-upgrades/unattended-upgrades.log

I’ve got no idea why this isn’t automatic; possibly that in other environments, you only want security level upgrades to core system components rather than updating all regular applications. (Not doing this left me scratching my head for a while wondering why the logs kept saying No packages found that can be upgraded unattended when apt was telling me something completely different. Anyway, put the following into a new file named above.

APT::Periodic::Update-Package-Lists "1";
APT::Periodic::Unattended-Upgrade "1";
APT::Periodic::AutocleanInterval "21";

Configure the Upgrade

File Being Bessed With:

/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/50unattended-upgrades

Log File Being Watched:

/var/log/unattended-upgrades/unattended-upgrades.log

Not there yet, and this is where the weird changes come in (YMMV). Now that we’ve configured the scheduler to update, upgrade and autoclean, it needs to be told what packages it can mess with. Unfortunately this is where Mint starts to be a minor annoyance (or just my bad respository handling, either way). Most guides say to edit the above named file to uncomment the following lines in the Unattended-Upgrade::Allowed-Origins section.

"${distro_id} stable";
"${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-security";
"${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-updates";

This isn’t enough for me, and I’d still get packages stuck in apt limbo due having non-standard repos, eg using Ubuntu repos on Mint. So I also added:

"Ubuntu stable";
"Ubuntu trusty-security";
"Ubuntu trusty-updates";

This also wasn’t perfect, with packages like google-chrome, python3.3, and ros-* not being caught. So it looks like some of the ‘third party’ repositories are being missed. Easy fix; query the apt-list for what sources should be in there.

Disclaimer Do not under any circumstances do the below on a production or publically accessible system that you actually care about. No matter how awesome the OSS community is, things still break, and blindly trusting third party updates isn’t safe.

Moving on; funnily enough, unattended-upgrades knows exactly what packages it doesn’t look at; the operation is that for each entry in the Allowed-Origins section, each entry in the package cache is searched against that origin:suite pair. (i.e Ubuntu is the Origin and stable/trusty-whatever are the suites).

Using the following command, you can get a rough list of what’s missing.

sudo unattended-upgrade --dry-run --debug | awk -F "\'" '/Origin component/{print $11,$9}' | sort | uniq 

For instance, I got a few really long lines that are useless, followed by this list;

Canonical trusty
Google, Inc. stable
Heroku, Inc. stable
isTrusted:True>])  site:
linuxmint qiana
LP-PPA-fkrull-deadsnakes trusty
LP-PPA-stebbins-handbrake-snapshots trusty
LP-PPA-webupd8team-java trusty
now
ROS trusty

We can realistically discard the “isTrusted” and “now” lines, but the rest look relatively accurate.

With a little bit of escaping to deal with spaces and special characters in names (looking at you Google and Heroku…), the relevant Allowed Origins entries looks like this:

"linuxmint qiana";
"Canonical trusty";
"jenkins-ci.org binary";
"Google\, Inc.:stable";
"Heroku\, Inc.:stable";
"ROS trusty";
"LP-PPA-fkrull-deadsnakes trusty";
"LP-PPA-stebbins-handbrake-snapshots trusty";
"LP-PPA-webupd8team-java trusty";

Annoyingly enough, the Mendeley reference management software I use, doesn’t declare an origin or suite field, leaving both blank. This is sure to be a massive security issue some time, but I manually added one more entry; ":";

The complete list

"${distro_id} stable";
"${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-security";
"${distro_id}:${distro_codename}-updates";
"Ubuntu stable";
"Ubuntu trusty-security";
"Ubuntu trusty-updates";
"linuxmint qiana";
"Canonical trusty";
"jenkins-ci.org binary";
"Google\, Inc.:stable";
"Heroku\, Inc.:stable";
"ROS trusty";
"LP-PPA-fkrull-deadsnakes trusty";
"LP-PPA-stebbins-handbrake-snapshots trusty";
"LP-PPA-webupd8team-java trusty";
":"; //Mendeley

Finally

Note: I don’t want my machine to reboot ‘if necessary’ as I regularly run simulations over night and that would make me not a happy bunny. If you’re in a different situation where that’d be useful; add the following line to the file

Unattended-Upgrade::Automatic-Reboot "true";

As always, if I’ve missed something, lemme know in the comments and I’ll update.

Published: February 06 2015

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