Improvements in the Update Manager
by clem 62

The Update Manager no longer shows package updates, but updates (i.e. one line per source package). This means you will no longer see 20 lines or so per libreoffice update but just a few. To give you an example, on my box this reduced the number of updates from 550 to just under 200.

Our policy is for users to be selective when they update software, so showing less information and more relevant information makes a lot of sense.

A Cinnamon update for instance doesn’t need to list cinnamon, cinnamon-dbg, cinnamon-common… assuming you were able to only update one of these 3 packages, it wouldn’t work anyway. So that cinnamon update is now listed simply as “cinnamon” and it includes updates for all 3 packages.

Screenshot from 2014-10-15 14:30:38

Short descriptions also now appear in the list of updates.

Size and old version columns are still available in the View menu but hidden by default.

Last but not least, the Update Manager no longer hides itself after applying updates.

62 thoughts on “Improvements in the Update Manager

  1. Niks Oct 15,2014 13:05

    If only you people could use proper tick and untick marks . The “x” confuses so many people .

  2. Giblets Oct 15,2014 13:09

    Have you grouped the packages by version number?
    It would be good if it was possible to expand an update (using a tree button?) to see which packages an update includes.

    • clem Oct 16,2014 07:52

      Not by version number, by source package…

      A package is built from a source package. Typically if I make a code change, I then bump the version of the source package, rebuild it and it produces a new version of all its packages.

      As an example “cinnamon” produces 3 new packages: “cinnamon”, “cinnamon-dbg” and “cinnamon-common”.

      For troubleshooting reasons we added a mention below the description to list the content of the update. You can see it there on the screenshot. The selected “mint-user-guide” update (which is responsible for mint-user-guide-cinnamon, mint-user-guide-mate, mint-user-guide-kde and mint-user-guide-xfce… among which only the first package is installed on this computer) says “This update contains 1 package: mint-user-guide-cinnamon”.

      Note that for troubleshooting reasons, /usr/lib/linuxmint/mintUpdate/checkAPT.py remains at package level as well and so does the installation of software. We simply changed the way data is presented to the user.

      PS: We also rely on the fact that this is THE tool used by everybody, including novice users, in contrast with apt-get, aptitude and synaptic which list individual packages for people who want to get down to that level of detail.

      • Anand Oct 16,2014 09:55

        Exactly Clem, even I wanted to say that experienced users can anyways rely on apt or synaptic.

        An aside – I recently read about Intel installer for Linux and in case you’re not aware of, it currently does not support Mint although they showed some interested to help.
        https://01.org/linuxgraphics/comment/534#comment-534

        Not sure, if such upgrades are safe or could cause breakages but thought will bring it your attention. I currently make it work by changing /etc/lsb-release details to Ubuntu.

        • Jacques Oct 16,2014 13:51

          There is a very easy way to install Intel drivers on Mint. (The answer can be found in that forum you quoted from.)

          However, PLEASE BE CAREFUL. The Intel drivers from the past few releases breaks computers with Nvidia Optimus technology. I always used the Intel drivers and never had any issues in the past. That is on both Mint and Ubuntu.

          For some or other reason it now no longer seems to work nicely with Optimus technology. I have tried it on both Mint and Ubuntu, and also with both Bumblebee and Nvidia Prime installed.

          The computer works when you use the Intel only drivers, but as soon as you switch to Nvidia, nothing but a black screen. There were lots of complaints about it on Softpedia and also OMG Ubuntu, and I still haven’t found out why it does it?

          I will never again mess around with Intel drivers. Wasted a lot of my time and I honestly can no longer trust it.

          • Anand Oct 16,2014 14:43

            Yes, have been using the same method. Thanks for pointing out the issue, I have Mint Box and a Dell laptop with Optimus setup. Thankfully, did not try updating Intel drivers in my laptop and have updated only in my Mint Box.

        • clem Oct 17,2014 08:14

          Hi Anand,

          We work with Intel but on a different project. I’m not in touch with the team responsible for this driver installer.

          Note that since version 17 though, we support the -u argument in lsb_release.

          I’m not expecting Intel to keep up with each of our codenames, but they can simply test the existence of /etc/linuxmint/info to know it’s Linux Mint, and once that’s done, a simple “lsb_release -u -c” for instance will give them the Ubuntu codename “trusty”, “lsb_release -u -r” will give them the Ubuntu release number.. see? -u is for “upstream”, without it you get Mint info, with it you get Ubuntu info.

          • Anand Oct 17,2014 09:24

            Thanks Clem. Helpful details, I will try if I can pass on these details to someone in Intel team.

            P.S. I remember reading a tutorial PDF about installing Mint in a NUC-HTPC, perhaps you were referring to that.

  3. peter Oct 15,2014 13:30

    Giblets: I agree.
    I would also like to have the option to see the list of individual packages.
    maybe this is a little too “user friendly” for us old school types.

    :-) but I am not complaining

    • clem Oct 16,2014 07:56

      As a developer I need to warn you about one thing. It’s a very bad idea to upgrade some packages and not others from the same source package..

      Usually the maintainer of the package would make sure you’re not able to do it (cinnamon for instance depends on the exact same version of cinnamon-common), but it’s not always the case.

      At the beginning of Mint 17 we changed mesa to a level 4 update. Updating mesa worked well, but some of the mesa packages had very different names, and updating some and not others created a weird dependency situation where totem, clutter and cinnamon would be removed from your computer!

      What we want you to do is not to update everything blindly, and to be selective.. but not to select half of the same thing without knowing it comes as one same update.

  4. Matthew Morgan Oct 15,2014 13:31

    I really like this. This seems like a great useability upgrade.

    This may not be the place to mention it, but while I’m thinking about it another great feature for Update Manager’s useability would be an option to have it automatically set up a polkit entry to allow updating without the entry of a password. Something like a checkbox at the bottom of Update Manager that says “Allow updating without a password”. I know I can do it manually, but it’s hard to take the time to remind myself how to do it (though it’s MUCH easier now that the password dialog tells me which policy applies to the action).

    • d[-_-]b Oct 15,2014 16:06

      Agree. I think this is THE thing people ask me about most after starting to use Linux Mint (coming from Windows).
      If you implement this, please add automatic updates (say once every day). Don’t think I would use it because I hate this in Windows already. But telling your parents they have to manually do updates all the time gets somewhat annoying after some time…

      • clem Oct 16,2014 08:01

        Automatic updates are a complete no-no.

        You’re asking us to make it easy for novice users to automate something which can break their computer overnight.

        You should not tell your parents to update all the time.

        If you’re experienced and you’re not afraid to fix things after they break like that, or if you’re running a server or you’re an important target and security is more important to you than stability, then by all means set up automated updates. It’s already there, you can already do it via apt-get+cron, just like sysadmins and experimented users do.

        • d[-_-]b Oct 17,2014 14:52

          So they should not install updates? Isn’t it unsafe to not install security fixes?

          • Monsta Oct 18,2014 18:54

            Update Manager -> Preferences -> “Always show security updates” – turn this setting on and you’ll always see the security updates in the list, regardless of their level.

          • KDB Oct 19,2014 09:35

            This setting is supposed to be on by default if I remember correctly!

          • d[-_-]b Oct 19,2014 11:35

            I’m totally aware of that. The question was, wether or not automatically installing updates would be safer for inexperienced users than not installing updates at all.

          • Anand Oct 19,2014 14:39

            I think, it is best to leave the choice to user, as Mint currently does. I once felt so brave and adventurous and upgraded a kernel only to see that my system does not shutdown and hibernate anymore but only reboot! Latest Mint Updated list kernel regressions for a version, so user can exercise discretion before doing an xorg or kernel upgrade.

            http://segfault.linuxmint.com/2013/11/answering-controversy-stability-vs-security-is-something-you-configure/ – All this is clearly explained by Clem.

          • Mel Dec 18,2014 12:02

            @d[-_-]b : You must unlearn what you have learned.

            The rules of Windows do not apply here [in the Linux world].

          • Mel Dec 18,2014 12:04

            @d[-_-]b :

            (referring to your comment:

            <>

            @user d[-_-]b on Oct 17,2014 14:52 :

            So they should not install updates? Isn’t it unsafe to not install security fixes?

            <>).

  5. josefg Oct 15,2014 18:25

    Matthew,

    Could we bother you buy asking you what the procedure is for setting the PolKit this way? Sounds like a nice little enhancement to my desktop environment, to be able to apply updates without entering password.

  6. Pjotr Oct 15,2014 18:51

    Nice! I like it. This makes applying updates less “high-tech” for inexperienced users. :-)

    The suggestion by Giblet is a good one, in my opinion: for experienced users it would be cool to be able to expand an update to see what packages it contains.

  7. vihar64 Oct 15,2014 22:51

    Actually I’m not a geek, so I don’t really know what those “packages”-dbg, common etc mean and all that stuff…

    But I know, that Linux is Linux.
    I use Linux because I want to KNOW what is going on in my os.
    I want to take control over my os.

    I don’t use Windows.
    I USE LINUX.

    and detailed information is a main difference between Linux and Windows.

    I think you agree with me.
    If you don’t, you must be a guy who wants windows. There is no problem with that. Go and buy it.

    Like:

    “”problem with “x” instead of “tick” “”
    “”please make It more user friendly – not to ask for root password””

    -really????????? —> like I said, Windows. Perfectly fits for you. It is NOT a shame, go and use that software, it ok.

    Dear Clem, and others,

    Do not over simplify the things which make the difference between Windows and Linux. I am not a geek. But I adapt. At least trying.

    Maybe I don’t know the working flow of Linux, but I do understand that the “same” beginning before each package means they are common. It’s not that hard.

    • clem Oct 16,2014 08:11

      It’s not true though, what you think you know.

      Let me give you an example:

      libxatracker2
      libgbm1
      libegl1-mesa-drivers

      I only listed 3 of them here.. but there are 34 in total, they’re all parts of “mesa”. Any given update can potentially introduce code changes and dependencies between them in any number of these packages. It’s really important you apply them together.

      You say we show less info than before? That’s the opposite. We condensed it visually and we actually show more than before.

      Prior to this we’d show x updates and you couldn’t see what source package they were from. Now, we show one update and clicking on it lists the included packages. So there’s more info there now.

      There’s less choice of course because you’re no longer able to select parts of an update as opposed to the entire update, but that’s a good thing. First because it’s dangerous to do so, second because even if you really wanted to (the only case I can think of is to troubleshoot, for devs) you can still do so (assuming the maintainer didn’t make it impossible via deps as he should..) with apt or synaptic.

      Don’t fall for the cheap Windows comparisons. Nobody here likes what we call “click and pray”. This tool is to empower you to make decisions on a very sensitive matter, the more effective it is the better, and that means showing you relevant information, not drowning you in details you don’t need without telling you what really matters.

      • peter Oct 16,2014 13:22

        Clem said above:”Now, we show one update and clicking on it lists the included packages. So there’s more info there now.”

        Absolutely perfect!

        that little detail makes all the difference, Thanks Clem.

        I sure hope this trickles down to LMDE soon, looking forward to it.

        • clem Oct 17,2014 08:16

          Yes but in Betsy. We’ll basically discontinue mintupdate-debian and we’ll have the same update manager in both distros then.

      • Maycon Oct 16,2014 20:33

        I think that the comparison of Mint and Windows is automatic because sometimes the interfaces are similar. My change from Windows to Linux came when Windows 8 was announced. That interface doesn´t fit on standard notebook without touch screen. I´m not a heavy linux user, and I think Mint is perfect for my needs ( programming and internet). Too bad that linux is not yet good as windows for gaming , but Im pretty sure that this will change someday .

        But changing back to the subject. I think this change to update manager is really good. Everybody i know just update Mint and that´s it (without even read what is changing). But for those who just like me read everything but doesn´t really know what can happen updating a single package, is perfect.

        Good work!

      • vihar64 Oct 17,2014 21:16

        I have to say I feel a little embarrassed, and ashamed. Please accept my apologize, I think I overreacted a little bit, without having proper knowledge about the situation.

        I just had the feeling of “too much simplifying”. I am absolutely happy, that I was wrong. I just saw the post, and after that the requests like “the ticks not x” and “updating without password” -which made panic, thinking maybe you are accepting these, and heading to somewhere I don’t want watch.

        I hope you will make the decisions later with the same picture in your mind, like how you explained it.

        I am happy to use Mint, and not only because it’s the best (maybe a little buggy), but because the thinking behind it. How you guys are working on it.

  8. CupidsHelper Oct 16,2014 00:53

    This really helps, on a lappy, that has access to less screen real estate. Thanks. :)

  9. bidinou Oct 16,2014 08:34

    This is a smart move, thanks ! BTW, is it similar to the Canonical update manager ? Not been using it for ages but I kinda remember it also makes groups (although there are definitely fewer pieces of information).

    • clem Oct 17,2014 08:18

      I’m not sure tbh. I know they do show descriptions but I don’t know whether they show packages or source packages sorry.

      • Monsta Oct 17,2014 10:02

        They show binary packages (as of Xubuntu 14.04) and so they show the description for each binary package.

  10. Jeremy Boden Oct 16,2014 12:43

    Why not give an option to “show ALL affected packages”, as now – one day I might have installed some fancy package that has dependencies.

    • clem Oct 17,2014 08:19

      That happens once you press the Apply button. The Update Manager runs the scenario and identifies the list of packages being installed and packages being removed, if any aren’t in your selected list (i.e. if there are additional changes as a result) it shows a dialog with details and asks you to confirm.

  11. usman Oct 17,2014 01:32

    I was disappointed at the time of the update feature removed from synaptic. But after getting used to using the mint-update-manager it turns out that i get a lot of benefit.
    With the above explanation, now i understand why Linuxmint remove the update feature from synaptic. I used to think that every 1 package come from 1 source, i was not aware about some related packages come from one source.
    I’m synaptic user, 100% happy with this improvements in the update manager.

  12. Georgi Oct 17,2014 11:38

    That’s great news again, Clem! :)

    The update manager is better than ever now!

  13. BigHurt Oct 17,2014 17:54

    Are the updates (such as the one mentioned in this post) available already? Some posts sound as if some users have tried them out? Is it possible to use these updates yet?

  14. Tony Oct 17,2014 18:49

    Hallo Clem,
    Now that’s at least a useful improvement compared to the ‘nemo bookmark’ idea. But let me make you aware of and ask you the following:

    Have you already fixed the following 4 suspend mode problems?
    –> No WLAN after returning from suspend mode.
    –> Distorted sound when scrolling through folders and websites after returning from suspend mode.
    –>Keyboard language changes back to default US English after returning from suspend mode.
    –> Often computer will not suspend on first attempt!

    • mtwebster Oct 17,2014 20:27

      This blog is not the place for this – use github or launchpad to search existing bugs, or file a new one (personally it sounds like an issue with your system, not a bug,) and quit reposting this. I’ll trash any further duplicates.

  15. erg Oct 20,2014 12:29

    what about the software manager because has a lot of problems? this is the week point in cinnamon.

  16. Liam Dawe Oct 21,2014 19:28

    Fantastic idea. I always thought the update managers had a loft of cruft with needless information. As usual with Mint/Cinnamon updates it’s a small, but nice change for end-users not looking to be overcomplicated.

  17. Warlon Oct 23,2014 09:38

    What’s a recommended “mom” setting for show/select security updates?

  18. Warlon Oct 23,2014 09:52

    Also, will level 4 and 5 security updates later be available as level 1, 2 or 3 updates?

  19. Daniel Oct 24,2014 20:09

    @Clem: You said:
    “Don’t fall for the cheap Windows comparisons. Nobody here likes what we call “click and pray”. This tool is to empower you to make decisions on a very sensitive matter, the more effective it is the better, and that means showing you relevant information, not drowning you in details you don’t need without telling you what really matters.”

    But “click and pray” is exactly what “mintinstall” does…

    For example:
    Try to remove “gnupg” with apt… Would you confirm that warning message?
    Then try to remove it with mintinstall. Ther is only a list of other packages before you choose “remove” but no warning at all. (don’t try this, it will remove apt!!)

    I think the information “If you apply you remove a very important package, that’s dangerous” is a very important information.

    If it’s possible to add the warnings from apt to mintinstall it would be great to see this in a further version.

    Sorry for my english, i hope you understand what i mean.

    • clem Oct 24,2014 21:32

      It’s there as well. “Impact on packages” lists all the packages which would be removed. So no, I don’t agree with you that mintinstall follows that philosophy or hides important details away from you.

      Now with that said, I fully agree.. that information isn’t presented in a clear manner and it’s certainly not obvious enough in such a scenario. Call it a bug, or room for improvement if you want (I’m adding it to the roadmap here on my side).

      • Daniel Oct 25,2014 10:30

        Thanks, i think it’s “room for improvement”.

        Maybe it’s also possible to add a warning if cinnamon would get removed.

        In this way i “destroyed” my first Mint 13. I thougt it would be a good idea to remove software i don’t need. Then I remove “caribou” cause i don’t need a on-screen keyboard. But this removed cinnamon as well.
        After that i knew about dependencies…:-)

  20. me Oct 29,2014 10:03

    hmmm I don’t think it’s a good idea to hide whats happens…
    Dimension and number of pakages updated it’s a minimum requirement imho…
    Or, better, an expandable tree that show all pakages.

  21. Fred Oct 30,2014 23:56

    Now if you could only send changelog information along with ALL of your updates instead of just “some” of them. Not everyone accepts blind updates, and it’s a PitA to track the information down when you have that “Changelog” tab right there in your app.

    • clem Oct 31,2014 00:43

      Noted. We’ll try to improve on that.

      • Fred Oct 31,2014 14:17

        Thank you, sir. That’s one of only three things that annoy me about this distro (which is about 25 less than average, so you’re doing great!). I realize that if the developer does not provide the information, there’s not much you can (reasonably be expected to) do. I do appreciate reading that you’ll work on the issue, though. Thanks again!

  22. Craig Nov 11,2014 15:42

    This is an improvment I have been waiting a long time for. Thanks!

  23. peter Dec 18,2014 14:48

    Clem: about the level 4 and 5 security updates, Update Manager Preferences.
    Kudos for the copious warnings!
    Can you please Change the Default settings?

    IE uncheck “always show security updates” as Default
    ( http://jsmylinux.no-ip.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Updates-02.png )

    Compulsive updaters continually check the unsafe and dangerous Level 4 and 5 packages and soon they have problems. The warnings are great but they get ignored.

    I caution people to change that setting upon install but people don’t listen… or read the warnings. :-)

    Thanks, Peter

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