The last time I followed a distribution’s suggestion to remove some packages that were no longer needed, I completely hosed the system. Could not use it afterwards. Though the machine was a test machine, the experience thought me to always let sleeping dogs lie.
If what those orphaned packages, as they are called, are doing is just using up a few MB of disk space, then all is well. I do not recall whether the distribution was Debian, Ubuntu or a derivative, but I do remember clearly that the command the system suggested I use was apt-get autoremove.
The reason the system became unusable after running that command was that a major component still depended on an orphaned package. Is APT not smart enough to know this?
I have come across similar suggestions to remove orphaned packages after upgrading test installations of Sabayon, a Gentoo-based Linux distribution, but have largely ignored them. Yesterday, I decided to find out. The screen shot below shows the list of orphaned packages. This was on an installation of Sabayon 7 KDE, a distribution I recently reviewed. See Sabayon 7 KDE review. Notice that they were labeled as “orphaned vital packages.”
To remove the first orphaned package, I ran the following command: equo remove –pretends icedtea6-bin. A dry run. Afterwards, I ran the command without the –pretends switch. Repeated for the other two packages. For the third package, the dry run showed that an extra package was also going to be removed. Followed through.
What do you think happened to my test installation of Sabayon 7 KDE after removing the three (plus one) orphaned packages? Well, the most obvious hit the system took was that the network manager applet disappeared from the system tray. Not good! But considering that one of the “orphaned vital packages” was knetworkermanager, this was not really unexpected.
But why would the system label a package as “orphaned vital package?” Does that even make sense? How can a package be an orphan and be vital at the same time? Or within this context, does the term “orphan” have a meaning different from what I think it means? Whatever “orphan” means, the advise to self is this: Do not remove a package labeled as an orphan or a vital orphan on a production system.
So, my experience with removing orphaned packages on Sabayon and Debian or Ubuntu did not go too well. How does your distribution’s package manager handle such packages, and what was your experience in messing with them?