Change of behavior: "dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive" unconditionally overwrites /etc/timezone now

Bug #1554806 reported by Hajo Möller on 2016-03-09
This bug affects 20 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
tzdata (Ubuntu)

Bug Description

In previous versions it was possible to set the system's timezone by editing /etc/timezone before running "dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive tzdata".

This behavior changed, /etc/timezone gets overwritten unconditionally during "dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive tzdata":
root@xenial:/# echo "Europe/Berlin" > /etc/timezone
root@xenial:/# cat /etc/timezone
root@xenial:/# dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive tzdata

Current default time zone: 'Etc/UTC'
Local time is now: Tue Mar 8 23:09:39 UTC 2016.
Universal Time is now: Tue Mar 8 23:09:39 UTC 2016.

root@xenial:/# cat /etc/timezone

As a workaround to programmatically set the timezone one now needs to point "/etc/localtime" to the new timezone:
root@xenial:/# ln -fs /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin /etc/localtime
root@xenial:/# ll /etc/localtime
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 33 Mar 9 00:48 /etc/localtime -> /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin
root@xenial:/# cat /etc/timezone
root@xenial:/# dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive tzdata

Current default time zone: 'Europe/Berlin'
Local time is now: Wed Mar 9 00:49:05 CET 2016.
Universal Time is now: Tue Mar 8 23:49:05 UTC 2016.

root@xenial:/# cat /etc/timezone

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) wrote :

Status changed to 'Confirmed' because the bug affects multiple users.

Changed in tzdata (Ubuntu):
status: New → Confirmed
hackeron (hackeron) wrote :

Any workaround for this? - How would one automate setting a timezone on 16.04?

hackeron (hackeron) wrote :

Ah, sorry, didn't read the report properly. Thank you for the workaround! -- Any workaround for echo "en_GB.UTF-8 UTF-8" > /var/lib/locales/supported.d/local?

Michael Shadle (mshadle) wrote :

Looks like for the time being this is the best:

# change this based on desired locale
ln -fs /usr/share/zoneinfo/US/Pacific-New /etc/localtime
dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive tzdata

ignore /etc/timezone, that seems to be properly reflected after the dpkg-reconfigure...

DawnCold (loooseleaves) wrote :

Michael's workaround works for me, but I'm waiting for fix release.

Drors (drors) wrote :

A simpler workaround that was OK for me:
rm /etc/localtime
dpkg-reconfigure -f noninteractive tzdata

After /etc/localtime is removed, it is regenerated properly.

Ian Marsman (imarsman) wrote :

FWIW, at least for a phusion Docker image which is based on Ubuntu 16.04, this workaround seems to work. As with most things in life related to computer administration there may be a wrinkle to this that I have not yet found.

ln -fs /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/Toronto /etc/localtime && printf 'America\nToronto\n' | dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

Lars Kruse (devel-sumpfralle) wrote :

According to the upstream package maintainer in Debian (Aurelien Jarno), /etc/localtime is the authoritive source of information, while /etc/timezone is just a Debian-specific artifact.

Thus the preferred approach for changing the timzone is indeed the change of the /etc/localtime symlink, followed by dpkg-reconfigure.

See and

Please update under "Using the Command Line (unattended)" with the new behavior.

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