Distro-provided mechanism to clean up old kernels

Martin Pitt martin.pitt at ubuntu.com
Fri Feb 17 06:23:34 UTC 2012

Dustin Kirkland [2012-02-16 10:11 -0600]:
> I don't want to go into all the ways and reasons that the one-liner
> above is sub-optimal or even evil, but I would like to call attention
> to the generic problem and suggest that as a distribution, we provide
> a supported and recommended utility to handle this.

I agree. Especially since we switched to a two-weeks kernel update
rhythm where almost every update in the most recent stable and LTS
releases breaks ABI, kernels pile up like mad.

>  1) Surely we're not the only Ubuntu users whose /boot or root
> partition has filled up with age-old kernels, are we?

Certainly not. I ran into several "home support" cases where Ubuntu
started acting strangely because the root partition filled up, and we
removed about 15 old kernels.

>  2) Is computer-janitor here to stay, or to be abandoned in favor of
> something else?
>  3) Can we expect computer-janitor to work on command-line only
> environments (Ubuntu servers) too?  If so, can we get SRUs out so that
> it works on older distributions?

TBH, I don't think c-j or any other manual tool is the right answer
here. While it's nice to have it, it doesn't feel right that Ubuntu
"automatically" introduces the problem, but not automatically clean
up after itself.

>  4) Can we, as a distro, provide and recommend a utility to clean out
> specifically old kernels (perhaps aside from cleaning up userspace
> cruft a la computer-janitor)?

I think it'd be best if update-manager would auto-remove all kernel
packages except the most recent two or three during dist-upgrade. This
needs to be specified carefully of course, as people might explicitly
run a kernel from the previous distro release. So perhaps some
clevernes like if you install linux-image-3.2.0-N-generic, delete all
kernels up to linux-image-3.2.0-(N-2)-generic. 

linux-headers-* is already covered by apt-get autoremove, which is
good. Perhaps we can mark older kernels as auto-removable as well, so
that without any other tools you at least have one command to clean
them up all?

For servers it'd be even better if apt-get dist-upgrade would do the
cleanup itself, of course. But we have fewer places to hook into the
logic than in update-manager, so this might be tricky.


Martin Pitt                        | http://www.piware.de
Ubuntu Developer (www.ubuntu.com)  | Debian Developer  (www.debian.org)

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