How will OS upgrades work?

I'm wondering how upgrades of the base OS will work. I have a Linode onto which I have installed RedHat 9. When RedHat 10 comes out, how will I upgrade? For my personal system, I simply boot from the RedHat upgrade CD and there's not much more to it. A new kernel is installed, and in addition all of the packages on my system are upgraded.

But with a Linode, I won't have the ability to boot from an upgrade CD. Is it possible to upgrade RedHat Linux "in place", meaning, to reboot to single user mode and then run some kind of program which will do the upgrade from the network? And if so, what will the RedHat upgrade program do with regards to the kernel, since my Linode doesn't even have any kernel installed? The kernel image and the booting thereof are controlled by the Linode Platform Manager. Would I have to run the RedHat 10 upgrade process "in place", then shut down my Linode, then use the Platform Manager to switch to the proper RedHat 10 kernel, before booting up the newly-upgraded system?

I'd like to know how this would work since I am very close to committing to moving all of my services off of my home-grown physical server and onto my Linode, and updating my DNS records accordingly. But I'd like to know how my future OS upgrades will work so that I can feel confident that I won't be stuck with RedHat 9 forever …

2 Replies

Linode Staff

You can use the Linux distribution's specific package tools. For RedHat, you could use up2date if you have an RHN membership.

You also can use apt-get, since we included the "apt" package manager for RedHat. When a new distro comes out, just edit your /etc/apt/sources.list to add the new source for the new distro, and then run "apt-get dist-upgrade".

Sometimes apt/rpm refuse to over-write config files, so if there are major changes between what's currently installed and the new package, some merging might be required.

Linode.com provides kernel upgrades; in fact, look for 2.4.22 to be online soon.

-Chris

@caker:

You can use the Linux distribution's specific package tools. For RedHat, you could use up2date if you have an RHN membership.

I searched for instructions on doing this, and the only hits I found suggest that it's possible to use up2date to upgrade your base distribution, but not supported. I've read that you first manually upgrade your redhat-release package and then up2date will do the rest. But I wonder if there aren't pre/post upgrade scripts that would be run by the normal upgrader that would be missed by up2date? It sounds risky to me and I'm wondering if anyone else has done this successfully, or even unsuccessfully …

@caker:

You also can use apt-get, since we included the "apt" package manager for RedHat. When a new distro comes out, just edit your /etc/apt/sources.list to add the new source for the new distro, and then run "apt-get dist-upgrade".

Hm, I uninstalled that, I prefer to use RedHat's tools where possible, but I guess I could look into re-installing it and using it as you have said. I just searched on Google and found mostly success stories using this technique, although there were a few worrying complaints about things going wrong …

@caker:

Sometimes apt/rpm refuse to over-write config files, so if there are major changes between what's currently installed and the new package, some merging might be required.

Yeah, that's the kind of stuff that I read about going wrong in my google search. I wish there was an officially supported way to upgrade a RedHat distribution in place …

@caker:

Linode.com provides kernel upgrades; in fact, look for 2.4.22 to be online soon.

That's cool. I assume that when RedHat 10 comes out, the kernel that it works with will be available on Linode.com shortly thereafter.

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