Living on the bleeding edge: Debian wheezy/sid

Hello world!

I've decided to start this blog and share my experience with Debian sid/unstable, the development version of Debian GNU/Linux. It's the leading edge, but sometimes also the bleeding edge of Debian development. The stuff that enters this fast developing repository spends anywhere from 6 months up to 2 years in it before average Linux user sees it in form of a polished stable release (Debian, Ubuntu or some other Debian Pure Blend).

So, with Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" released exactly 7 days ago, there has been an avalanche of new software in sid, all the stuff that has been patiently waiting for the stable release to happen before it's pushed to the new unstable branch that will become Debian wheezy in about 2 years. Ubuntu users will no doubt see the software slightly sooner, but for the adventurous of us, even that would be too late. ;)

Most notable additions in sid at the time of this writing are LibreOffice 3.3.1~rc1, Ghostscript 9.01, Xorg 7.6, but also many other applications and libraries got upgraded to newer versions. Right now, I have no outright broken/uninstallable packages (of about 5200 installed on this desktop system). But, of course, there are some bugs that lurk in this heavy developmental distribution, which is the exact reason that prompted me to start this blog. To share my experience with others, and sometimes even ask for help from fellow Debian unstable users.

So, one thing I noticed after an upgrade a few days ago was that my desktop (running compiz) became somewhat laggy. Switching among workspaces became much less smooth, like I had much slower CPU and/or video card (Nvidia, btw - using nvidia official drivers 270.18). Also resizing terminals and other windows became slower. After some searching and experimenting I finally found the culprit. The new version of Cairo graphics library (1.10.2-2) is bugged, it looks like it forces some screen primitives to be rendered by host CPU instead of using much faster GPU. The workaround is easy at this time, just downgrade libcairo2 to the last known good version, which is 1.8.10-6 (quite easy to obtain from the official Debian package repository). No package at this time expects libcairo2 to be upgraded, so that's why this was quite easy to workaround, although I spent much more time searching for the solution.

I also see another problem with URL handlers and gnome-terminal. If I right click on a HTTP link displayed in the terminal, and select "Open Link" from the context menu, the link gets opened in Gedit. Yeah, Gedit, the Gnome editor! I tried uninstalling Gedit to see what happens, and funny enough, gnome-terminal then complains that it has no application configured to handle the link. I double checked that Firefox is selected as the preferred application for HTTP links, and it is. I still haven't figured this one out. I guess I'll give it some more time, because I see that also Gnome 2.32 parts are finding its way into repository, so maybe after things settle down a bit, URL handlers will once again work correctly.

So, that's it for the first entry, feel free to leave a comment (you don't need to register to do that), especially if you have the solution for the second problem. But, I'd like to hear from other Debian unstable users even if you're just going to say "hi, another sid user here!". :)



Yep, I'm another Sid user! I've not upgraded anything for about 2 weeks now, as I was waiting for Squeeze to be released, and now I am waiting for KDE 4.6.0 to enter the Debian repos.

Other than some newer KDE and a few other desktop apps, I don't have any big reason to update, so I'm waiting this out a bit. Current attempts to update (including the repos listed at ) want to remove a lot of stuff which I don't really want to do! So, I can and will wait it out.

Thanks for stopping by! Always great to hear another experience!

But, I now also see where I'll be lacking. Being a Gnome user myself, I won't really know what's goin' on on the KDE front. Who knows, maybe you could fill that void, I feel your experience. ;)

This is Debian!

Just install KDE also, and choose at the log-in screen which you want to run this time.

All the applications work just fine on either or multiple other window managers.

Here's a tour I did for fun a few days ago:

But hey, I always want to run Gnome. ;)

Jokes aside, sometimes handling 5200 packages gets hard enough, so I try to keep what I'm using. Years ago I decided that I don't really need many desktop environments.

But, you're right that sid got much more stable in recent years, I can't remember any serious breakage in last few years. Some bug here and there, yes, but overall it has been a pleasure, with a most recent software installed, running smoothly.

I stayed with Lenny because of KDE3, but other than that time, I've always run Sid on my desktops. Right now I have Sid on 5 different machines, desktop, server, three laptops.

In all seriousness, I have always found Sid, although labeled "unstable", to be just as reliable as other distributions' "stable".

The need to manually examine every "apt-get upgrade" is magnified, since there is no assurance that anything will work today that worked yesterday.

So welcome to the Sid brotherhood!

I also run sid on all my machines, be it desktop, laptop or server. And also share your opinion, sid has become much more stable in the recent years. I guess we have a very similar taste. ;)

Many of my friends are running testing on their desktops, and I also tried it few years ago, when it was introduced. Strangely, I had more trouble with testing than with unstable. Somehow, the rules that defined when some package was eligible to move from unstable to testing weren't that useful and I soon returned back to unstable. I don't know if testing has improved since then, but I don't really care. :)

Another SID (*) + KDE4 user!

(*) Well, honouring the truth, I have machines running Lenny, Squeeze, current testing (future Wheezy) and SID.

Truth be told, sid is currently not that far away from squeeze, so you don't need to apologize, really. :)

And of course, if you need stability, I guess lenny is still the right choice. Servers, mission critical stuff etc...

What I find interesting is that KDE is popular among sid users. Is it because some major KDE release has just missed squeeze (or lenny?) release? Or something else?

I agree with you. Sid is kind of boring. Experimental is much more exciting. it breaks my system couple of times per year (but you have almost in 100% of all cases some quick/dirty workaround).

I need to warn you about libc6 v. 2.13-0exp1 which is broken. Your system leaves in pretty much broken state. You can apply dirty workaround from here

I didn't bother ... Have just replaced my system with a week old backup and then pinned related packages for the time being :)



Ha ha ha, you made me laugh. Yeah, I guess experimental is where true alpha males stick around.

I occasionally pull something from experimental, but that is very rare. Typically when I can't even wait for some package to get into sid.

Tell me one thing, do you have experimental listed in your /etc/apt/sources.list, or do you cherry pick packages?

I wouldn't like my libc6 to get messed up, to be honest. ;)

Listed in sources.list and in preferences with the highest Pin-priority. What is interesting is that occasionally unstable has higher package versions than experimental.

For your problem with the way links are handled, it's because it's now done via information embedded in .desktop files (see #612985). Iceweasel has not yet been updated.

Edit ~/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list and ~/.local/share/applications/defaults.list. Put this in both files:


Good stuff! Thanks for explaining that one Raphael!

Though I spent another 15 min trying to persuade gnome-open to use firefox 4 b11 (installed in /usr/local, and without accompanying .desktop file). This is what my conf files now look like (both are identical):

[Added Associations]

And I also had to make a symbolic link in the same directory (~/.local/share/applications):

ln -s ~/.gnome2/panel2.d/default/launchers/firefox.desktop

Now it works properly. I just hope that before wheezy is released, this procedure won't be mandatory for end users. ;)

I'm Running Debian wheezy (testing) on my MacBook Pro (5,5) - and I like it far better than the previous version of Ubuntu that I had on it. I've always used Debian on my servers but Ubuntu for my desktops, but that's changed; maybe I didn't try squeeze as a desktop, but wheezy is great! As for Gnome/KDE, I always run Openbox - far faster, and just have autostart run things like gnome-power-manager, nm-applet for the things you need from Gnome. Going to install it on my work-workstation next week, really happy to have my desktop and servers finally synced up!

I recently upgraded to Sid in my main desktop. The other times I tried it, Xorg would break instantly. If it does it again I'll just build it from source.

This may be a firmware issue(?) On both squeeze and wheezy my mouse pointer is invisible. It's there, I know because icons appropriately highlight, but you can't see it - no white arrow. I'm going to try with ubuntu, and fedora.

I just installed squeeze on a dell latitude D400 and have the same issue with my mouse pointer. however if I suspend the computer and turn it back on the pointer is back to normal....
i have know idea why this works....

Maybe you mistakenly installed unclutter package and something runs it automatically?

unclutter - hides the cursor in X after a period of inactivity

Just had the same problem after upgrading a Dell D44.
Can be fixed by installing kernel from proposed-updates.

Make the changes to sources, update, install newer version of kernel, comment out the sources.