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A case study of a new user turned off debian

I finally convinced a sysadmin friend of mine that Debian was the way and the
light. He started a new job and showed up on his first day to set up his
machine by installing Debian. In short, things went horribly wrong and he
started this new job by wasting two days picking up the pieces. He's now very
leery of suggesting using Debian on other machines at work or of using it
himself at home.

What started the chain of events was that a fairly routine minor bug bit the
latest libc6 release. He's an experienced sysadmin though and wasn't the least
bit fazed by that. What drove him batty was that it was so hard to recover
from the mess and all the obvious avenues just made the problem worse.

All he had to do was install an older version of libc6 and every other package
would have been happy. All the infrastructure is there to do this, the old
packages are all on the ftp/http sites, the package may even be sitting in
apt's cache. But there's no interface for it.

The only interface for rolling back is switching the entire machine to an
earlier distribution and telling apt to try to downgrade -- which is unlikely
to work. And worse, every time you run apt it only downloads and unpacks
*more* packages, all of which, of course, fail as well.

What would be really neat would be if aptitude or perhaps even apt checked for
earlier versions of the package in the pool and offered them as options if the
current one fails to configure.


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