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Ubuntu constantly offers me number of updates. But it takes lots of my time to review such offers to find relevant updates (for example, if I am not interested in kernel updates).

Second, it almost always causes new problems. I like new features, but I also like my settings and I really hate Ubuntu if after update it starts into a text-mode shell, with sluggish responsiveness, doesn't mount my nfs folders, etc. And there is no easy way to revert changes! Maybe I don't understand something? Please, help me if you know:

  • Is it possible to see only offers to update only those packages, which I specify in a list? For example, if I am not interested in any other update, but only in firefox?
  • Is there a way to see what problems will it make before I start any update?
  • Is there a way to revert changes automatically if I don't like the state after an update was done?
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2 Answers

Generally speaking, updates should provide improvements. I don't think it's recommended to put security updates on hold, for instance. And security updates should rarely cause any problems to the system. If updates of normal packages are causing you problems, I would guess that your system is instable in some way.

However, you can chose what type of updates you want to receive. Start Update Manager, hit the Settings button down in the left corner. This should take you to the Updates tab in Software Sources. Untick the checkboxes for the kind of updates you do not want Update Manager to present to you. It's highly recommended to keep security updates though.

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You do not get new versions of packages or the kernel in Ubuntu as normal updates. They do, however, provide security fixes, and that is very important since the kernel is responsible for everything, including everything that has to do with networking. The kernel is the most important package to always keep updated. Otherwise, you might suddenly find that computer is being used by other people. :)

Some packages are exceptions, like Firefox which is only supported for a short time by Mozilla. For security reasons, new versions of Firefox is provided. Ubuntu 10.04, still uses Firefox 3.6.24 for instance, since that is still supported by Mozilla. So, package updates normally do not mean new features, but are only provided to fix small problems or to close security holes. They are called Stable Release Updates, and you can sometimes see people refer to them as SRUs. You can read more about that here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/StableReleaseUpdates

No such updates are intended to break your system, so it is not possible to get a list of problems in advance. However, if you use AMDs proprietary drivers for VGA, then that is known to cause problems with kernel upgrades. The solution, then, is to uninstall the proprietary drivers before you reboot after a kernel upgrade, and then reinstall them. It's really ugly. Luckily, the open drivers have no such issues at all and just work out of the box -- when it works. :) They don't work well for all cards, but Radeon HD5 and 6-series should work well.

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