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How to run testing and stay sane?



Greetings, all.

I've got a fair amount (5-6 yrs) of GNU/Linux experience under my belt, but
I've only been using Debian for about a year now; I'd previously used
RedHat and Slackware.  I've been running stable to give myself a chance to
get used to the Debian Way.  A number of folks have suggested that I
upgrade myself to either testing or unstable, and I'm beginning to see the
benefits in doing that.  (Primarily, I'm not terribly wild about relying on
Ximian for all of my GNOME apps.)

Before I do the upgrade, though, I'd like to ask for advice on general
tactics people use for running testing or unstable and still maintaining a
mostly usable system.  I know breakages will happen from time to time, but
I'd like to minimize their impact as much as reasonable.  Basically, I
don't mind spending a little bit of time and energy dealing with issues,
but I'd prefer to use my computer primarily to get useful work done, rather
than constantly tweaking the OS and packaging system.

So, what I already know:

* Know the packaging tools.  Besides just reading the man pages for apt,
  dpkg, and dselect, are there any other places I should go for
  information?

* I know how to do the upgrade (edit /etc/apt/sources.list, then apt-get
  update ; apt-get dist-upgrade); I'm mostly interested in methods for
  maintaining the system after it's been upgraded.

What I'm not clear on:

* If a particular package breaks, it would be useful to roll back to the
  last working version of that package (where possible).  Trick is, this
  requires having the last working version of the package available for
  install somewhere.  Do the Debian download servers maintain old versions
  of the package files, or would I have to keep copies of them all locally?

* I've heard a couple of things that suggest that it's possible to run
  testing, with the exception of a few packages from unstable.  Is this
  true?  If so, how?  Obviously, I could do this by manually downloading
  the unstable .debs, but I'd prefer to have apt/dselect keep track of all
  this for me.  (Otherwise, I'm back to RedHat---automatic upgrades were
  one of the major reasons I switched to Debian.)

Any other advice would be more than welcome.

Thanks in advance,

Richard



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