Xubuntu 17 To Debian 9 Update Results

If you followed my last, hastily written, explanatory post HERE, you probably thought that I was a little crazy, trying to update an existing Xubuntu 17.04 system to the new release of Debian, 9.0 named “Stretch”. Well, I followed the instructions that I posted there from start to finish, and the results are: [drum roll – your fingers on your desk will do] it… took a real long time. And some issues were faced after upgrade when using sudo aptitude upgrade -y followed by sudo aptitude -f install. What happened, is they pretty much switched back and forth. Upgrade thought that Debian packages took precedence. -f install thought that Ubuntu, Lubuntu and Xubuntu packages took precedence. So each kept overwriting the changes made by the other.

So, just as a general warning, if you try this and it works for you, -f install is pretty well useless from now on, unless you’re lucky and sudo aptitude upgrade –full-resolver works for you. For the record, I use “aptitude” for everything because it is able to find and to resolve conflicts, or to give choices as to how you want a conflict handled, except for autoremove which requires apt or apt-get.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the process worked, and all updating pulls from the correct places and correctly applies, but at this point, I’m unable to figure out, even after autoremove, clean and autoclean, how to restore my ability to use -f install. So I now have a working Debian 9 install with a few remnants of Ubuntu under the hood. It works fine, and is stable.

Xubuntu to Debian

One of my daughters is running Xubuntu on her laptop. Since the latest release of Debian (9.0 “Stretch”) should, in theory, have packages and kernel which are updated and superior to her 17.04 install of Xubuntu, I’m going to try a direct update from Xubuntu to Debian using dist-upgrade.

First, I will do a complete backup of her Minecraft worlds, music and any documents. Then I will edit her /etc/apt/sources.list to comment out all the Xubuntu/Ubuntu repositories and add entries for the new Debian “Stretch” repositories.

nano /etc/apt/sources.list

And comment out the current Xubuntu/Ubuntu repositories, and add the following:

deb http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free

deb http://security.debian.org/ stretch/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ stretch/updates main contrib non-free

# stretch-updates, previously known as ‘volatile’
deb http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian/ stretch-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian/ stretch-updates main contrib non-free

deb ftp://ftp.deb-multimedia.org stretch main non-free

Then I’ll update the package list:

sudo aptitude update

Finally, I’ll check compatibility of the more… “important” packages, and at last run:

sudo aptitude upgrade -y
sudo aptitude dist-upgrade

It’s likely that this won’t work, but it will still be a fun little experiment, since she wants the latest Debian anyway. Worst case scenario, I wipe the drive and do a fresh install. The only customization that her install really has anyway, is Oracle Java JRE 9 and MultiMC for Minecraft. The rest is standard OpenSource.

I’ll be sure and let you know how it worked out!!! If, by chance, it does work well, I’ll do some testing of essential functions to ensure that everything still works smoothly.

OpenSource Privacy

I’ve blogged a bit about OpenSource, and Linux – I’ve even convinced numerous friends and family members to join me. CentOS and Debian are my distros of choice, but for many of them, moving over from the Windows world; simpler is better. So I’ve set them up mainly with Ubuntu (shudder) and Mint. My own children use Xubuntu. I get asked a lot – “How do you get anything done since (insert overpriced product here) doesn’t run on Linux? Well, I’ve blogged about that too, HERE. But in the wake of US Programmes for spying on the American public, such as PRISM, just using OpenSource and expecting the lack of anything Microsoft to protect you isn’t enough. I’ve touched on configuring TOR, using Off the Record plugins for Pidgeon and other similar privacy enhancements HERE. But I’d like to take a moment to post on a basic level for beginners, about the very bare essentials in protecting their privacy. Simple changes that they can make without having to do any real major configuration to their system.

For this, you need to be a bit more clever, doing things such as changing your search engine, what browser you use, how you email and how you generally make use of any web based products. Read more about giving the NSA the finger HERE, and opting out of global data surveillance HERE.

The “Opting out of Global Data Surveillance” link should pretty much cover what you need, and for Linux users like myself, this specific LINK in the Opt Out information is particularly useful. But at the very basic level, even if you don’t feel a need to install, configure and make use of TOR, at the very minimal, use Firefox and make either https://duckduckgo.com or https://www.startpage.com your go-to for your searches each and every time you search. StartPage has the obvious advantage as it provides Google search results (let’s face it, we call searching “Googling” for a reason) but strips out your personal information so that Google never receives your IP or has a chance to laden your machine with cookies. That’s not to say that DuckDuckGo isn’t useful, but you will note a HUGE difference in the quality of search results.

As to email, while it does not have anywhere near the bells and whistles of Google/Gmail, I highly recommend Autistici-Inventati. Their service does provide all of the following, free, and naturally they accept donations to keep these services available. Find them HERE. The webmail is plain and uses Roundcube, but it’s free, private and secure. Couple it with Thunderbird or Earlybird (HERE‘s how you secure them), and it’s a win! Also, you can use K-9 on your Android phone for the secure email feature.

There are other email alternatives, of course, aside from even those mentioned in the Opt Out link. A friend of mine on Mastodon (more on this in a bit) recommends ProtonMail. I haven’t tried it to date, and as such, cannot comment on it positively or negatively. I do, however; respect his opinion and assume that if he recommends it, it’s worthy of said recommendation. You can read about his move to Linux HERE. You can also read his writeup on online privacy (in which he touches on ProtonMail) HERE.

Anyway, these are the surface level important bits gleaned from the Opt Out information. You can read more details and customize more of your desktop environment with apps and web services as you desire based on their guide. These presented here are just the absolute BASICS for preserving a shred of privacy in an ever increasingly watched, regulated and data mined digital world.

The last subject I’d like to touch on, is… well… a touchy one. Social networking. I know… you’re old and stuck in your ways. Facebook is just familiar and easy. Twitter is comfortable and doesn’t require any configuration. Well – that may be true, but they’re also undoing EVERYTHING that we are trying to accomplish in the entire preceding portion of this blog post. Facebook caches every single search. Whether for people or for products. Every page you like. Every status you like. Every news story that you read from their web app. Twitter does the same. Everything that you do on either site is monitored, collected, and placed into a nice little package that allows them to serve all of those ads that you see all over in the side bars, and in between posts. Your email… your birthday… all of your relationships. This data is all theirs. You gave it to them. And they USE IT.

There are two different options for Social Networking that I highly recommend. The first is older (if you don’t count OpenSource predecessors) and it is called Diaspora. It’s pretty much got all of the functionality of Facebook, but without the clutter, without the ads, and without fear of all of your data being mined and sold to any and all bidders. I’m personally on https://diasp.org username theophilus79@diasp.org, but they have a large pool of “pods” to choose from, and you can join any of them. They allow you to follow people from other “pods”, but they aren’t ruled by a centralized, authoritarian data miner. I know, it’s a pain getting your family and friends to switch, but persistence does pay off! The second is Mastodon I’m personally on https://mastodon.technology username theophilus@mastodon.technology – as my main account. It’s essentially a fuller featured Twitter, which allows more character input as well. Like Diaspora, it’s broken into “instances” and not all housed in a central server somewhere. You can join any instance that you like, and like Diaspora, follow people from other Instances. Again, no centralized authoritarian data miner granting you the right to use a website in exchange for all of your digital data. Both Diaspora and Mastodon have mobile apps that you can use. Both are well worth a try, and both will help you protect / control your own data. That isn’t to say that either is foolproof, but both by far outweigh the negative aspects of Facebook and Twitter.