Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Kubuntu upgrade and gam-server (gamin) nightmare

My desktop has been upgraded from Debian testing (Etch) to Kubuntu Breezy. I did this in a kind of stupid way: I commented out all Debian sources in sources.list and used aptitude to do the upgrade. The version of aptitude in Etch has an AWESOME dependency resolution system - I marked a few Kubuntu packages for install and it noted that they would be broken. Next, I told Aptitude that these packages must be installed and set it to search for a way to make it work. After a few hundred thousand possibilities (about 30 minutes), it came up with a list of about 500 downgrades/upgrades/installs/removals that would satisfy my criteria. So far, so good.

The first problem came during the install. There were a few libraries that dpkg just refused to install citing dependency problems. I manually installed these from the apt cache folder with dpkg -i --force all, and then set aptitude to work again. This pattern worked pretty well.

The next problem was that the config I chose in aptitude left a handful of Debian packages around (a few hundred). This wouldn't be so bad except that the version of aptitude that breezy installed doesn't have the spiffy dependency resolution mentioned above. The only thing that made it easier to chase down the stragglers was that at some point breezy replaced my trusted apt keys, which marked Debian packages as untrusted. All I have to do is keep an eye out for packages marked with a U in aptitude. Overall I would not recommend this procedure. It might not be so bad if a. Breezy had a newer aptitude and b. 90% of the Ubuntu packages are downgrades from Etch, making the process a bit like pulling teeth.

I do love Kubuntu though. I am a huge supporter of free software but I can't use an all-free system. Nvidia drivers and an installable JRE were the first things I noticed. In fact, after running the popular Automatix script, I think my version of Firefox works with more websites than Firefox on XP.

Gam-server is driving me crazy. It's the daemon component of gamin, the gnome file alteration monitor. That's a bit of a misnomer because there are a bunch of KDE dependencies on it and it's not an optional component. Reading the ubuntu forums, I don't know why more posts aren't about gam-server, except that maybe not everyone knows how to open ksysguard or another process monitor app. Both on my work systems and at home, gam-server will start to leak memory quickly. Here's how I see the problem. I get to work and tap a key to pop the password prompt on my screen saver. If the prompt takes more than 2 seconds to appear, I know gam-server is now using 750MB+ RAM or so. The system has 2GB but I run a bunch of virtual machines and stuff so I can't afford to have some crap runaway process eat all this memory. I don't even know what triggers the problem, perhaps opening folders in konqueror? I can't find an obvious cause.

The only post I've seen with a solution has you download gamin packages (and one or two dependencies) from the Dapper repository, which sounds like it will work. There's also this bug which describes most of the gamin problems. I'm pretty surprised that they didn't backport a new gamin to Breezy. This is a game breaker unless you are used to rebooting your system daily (or digging a little deeper to periodically kill gam-server).

The bugzilla has another solution which is a surefire fix:

sudo mv /usr/lib/gamin/gam_server /usr/lib/gamin/gam_server-disable && killall gam_server

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