Fixing my problem of a stuck 'dnf updateinfo info' on Fedora Linux

February 23, 2024

I apply Fedora updates only by hand, and as part of this I like to look at what 'dnf updateinfo info' will tell me about why they're being done. For some time, there's been an issue on my work desktop where 'dnf updateinfo info' would report on updates that I'd already applied, often drowning out information about the updates that I hadn't. This was a bit frustrating, because my home Fedora machine didn't do this but I couldn't spot anything obviously wrong (and at various times I'd cleaned all of the DNF caches that I could find).

(Now that I look, it seems I've been having some variant of this problem for a while.)

Recently I took another shot at troubleshooting this. In the system programmer way, I started by locating the Python source code of the DNF updateinfo subcommand and reading it. This showed me a bunch of subcommand specific options that I could have discovered by reading 'dnf updateinfo --help' and led me to find 'dnf updateinfo list', which lists which RPM (or RPMs) a particular update will update. When I used 'dnf updateinfo list' and looked at the list of RPMs, something immediately jumped out at me, and it turned out to be the cause.

My 'dnf updateinfo info' problems were because I had old Fedora 37 'debugsource' RPMs still installed (on a machine now running Fedora 39).

The '-debugsource' and '-debuginfo' RPMs for a given RPM contain symbol information and then source code that is used to allow better debugging (see Debuginfo packages and this change to create debugsource as well). I tend to wind up installing them if I'm trying to debug a crash in some standard packaged program, or sometimes code that heavily uses system libraries. Possibly these packages get automatically cleaned up if you update Fedora releases in one of the officially supported ways, but I do a live upgrade using DNF (following this Fedora documentation). Clearly, when I do such an upgrade, these packages are not removed or updated.

(It's possible that these packages are also not removed or updated within a specific Fedora release when you update their base packages, but since they were installed a long time ago I can't tell at this point.)

With these old debugsource packages hanging around, DNF appears to have reasonably seen more recent versions of them available and duly reported the information on the 'upgrade' (in practice the current version of the package) in 'dnf updateinfo info' when I asked for it. That the packages would not be updated if I did a 'dnf update' was not updateinfo's problem. Removing the debugsource packages eliminated this and now 'dnf updateinfo info' is properly only reporting actual pending updates.

('dnf updateinfo' has various options for what packages to select, but as covered in the updateinfo command documentation apparently they're mostly the same in practice.)

In the future I'm going to have to remember to remove all debugsource and debuginfo packages before upgrading Fedora releases. Possibly I should remove them after I'm done with whatever I installed them for. If I needed them again (in that Fedora release) I'd have to re-fetch them, but that's rare.

PS: In reading the documentation, I've discovered that it's really 'dnf updateinfo --info'; updateinfo just accepts 'info' (and 'list') as equivalent to the switches.

(This elaborates on a Fediverse post I made at the time.)

Written on 23 February 2024.
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Last modified: Fri Feb 23 22:10:47 2024
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