Some thoughts on upgrading open source server software
Yesterday I spent a couple of hours avoiding real work by upgrading my software. Specifically I upgraded MySQL 4.1, Apache 2, and PHP here on cafe.elharo.com after noticing that MySQL had crashed. I didn’t do any major version upgrades, just moved everything up to the latest point release of the branch I was using. Along the way I noticed big, gaping holes in the documentation for all three. Not one of them had any upgrade instructions. They all had poorly written instructions for a first time install (Apache was probably the least bad here, PHP the worst) and a couple had instructions for moving between versions (e.g. 1.3 to 2.0 or 4.1 to 5.0) but not one had anything to say about how you should upgrade from 4.1.1 to 4.1.2 while keeping your data, configuration, and extension modules intact. Since point releases often fix security holes, these are the most critical upgrades. I had to go to IRC to figure out how to upgrade MySQL, where I was told it would happen by “magic,” which would be nice if it were true, except it wasn’t.