Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3...

I was catching up with season 3 of the Ubuntu UK Podcast this week (I’m a bit behind) and in one of the earlier episodes, one of the guys (Dave I think) mentioned that you could turn Debian into a rolling release by using the Testing branch and referencing it as Testing rather than it’s release name. They didn’t go into any detail, because it was just a throw-away remark as part of a discussion of the impending (at the time of recording) release of Ubuntu 10.04, so I hit the Debian forums in search of more info.

I like the idea behind rolling releases, but had resigned myself to the fact that my chosen distros (Debian and Xubuntu) didn’t offer it. I’m running Debian Squeeze (the current Testing branch) on my SheevaPlug (see my about page for the reasons why), so I was keen to try this on it.

It turns out that it’s very easy to achieve this – simply update /etc/apt/sources.list, replacing all references to “Squeeze” with “testing”. Then run sudo apt-get update followed by sudo apt-get dist-upgrade and voila! Instead of tracking Squeeze throughout it’s lifecycle, my SheevaPlug will keep tracking the Testing branch. In practice, this means that when Squeeze goes stable, my SheevaPlug simply switches to the next Testing release, keeping it bang up-to-date.

For reference, my new /etc/apt/sources.list file contains the following two lines:

deb http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ testing main contrib non-fre-e
deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free

Simples 🙂

EDIT: Due to the way that the SheevaPlug boots (it doesn’t use the /boot directory, but boots a kernel image from a separate partition) updating the kernel to the very latest Testing kernel has no effect. I’m not sure what happens if you remove the old kernel via apt-get, but I don’t fancy trying it in case it bricks my system (OK, so I’m booting the SheevaPlug off an SD card, so I could take an image of the card first, but I’m not that bothered about updating the kernel … yet ;-))

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