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I want to schedule my machine to run all my updates unattended at night, but this requires my authentication (which pretty much axes the unattended part). Would it be best to use a cron job or is there something better?

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Check out cron-apt. It can do exactly that. I use cron-apt to download packages and send email that tells what can be updated.

If you are running anything critical (not your own desktop computer, that is), automatically installing updates is risky.

  • Something breaks (for example some software removes some configuration parameter you were using, and it's not starting anymore; that's why something important was down for several hours / you were paged in the middle of night).
  • Your server do not boot after it upgraded something. You reboot it several days later, and you have no idea what went wrong (of course, you can fix this by sending out those update report emails).

If you perform attended update (meaning you are sitting somewhere during your computer actually installs new packages), you can fix problems immediately, not in the morning, when everything has been broken for several hours already. Or alternatively, you'll wake up when your excellent monitoring system alarms that important things are not working.

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@Olli Do you mean cron-apt? – Reuben Swartz Mar 1 '11 at 15:00
In more than 5 years i never received an update which I didn't install - to what information would I refuse that? So why not let it automatically happen? I guess the risk is very low. – user unknown Mar 1 '11 at 15:47
@Reuben Swartz: of course, thank you. I updated my answer. – Olli Mar 1 '11 at 16:21
@user unknown: in more than 5 years I have received multiple updates that broke something, and required manual intervention. Including mysql, apache2, and LDAP libraries. With Ubuntu LTS and with Debian, for example. Also, few times there have been dependency which removed important package(s). Therefore, I would claim running unattended updates during night is risky. – Olli Mar 1 '11 at 16:24
If those updates broke something - how did you knew it before? Why were they rolled out, while it was public, that they will brake something? Or did it actually break, and why is it better to break at daylight attended, instead of nightly? – user unknown Mar 1 '11 at 16:38

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