Permission denied error from show-motd when updates available

Bug #1873545 reported by Hayden Barnes on 2020-04-18
This bug affects 7 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Release Upgrader
Fix Released
Ubuntu WSL
Patrick Wu
ubuntu-release-upgrader (Ubuntu)
Status tracked in Groovy
Brian Murray
Brian Murray

Bug Description


 * This impacts focal (20.04 LTS) users on WSL. On WSL version of Ubuntu 20.04, on the first time of the launch in a day, the MOTD will show. This error will show if apt gets update but packages are not upgrade.

[Test Case]

* Install Ubuntu/Ubuntu 20.04 LTS from Microsoft Store and setup a user.

* `sudo apt update` and remove `~/.motd_shown`, quit and terminate the running distribution by `wsl.exe -t <distro>`.

* Restart the distribution, the MOTD will be shown again, and the error should be gone.

[Regression Potential]

 * None for now. The file being called in WSL right now is only being used by WSL confirmed by CPC

[Original Bug Report]

motd on demo of 20.04:

Welcome to Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (GNU/Linux 4.19.84-microsoft-standard x86_64)


26 updates can be installed immediately.
0 of these updates are security updates.
To see these additional updates run: apt list --upgradable

/usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/release-upgrade-motd: 31: cannot create /var/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/release-upgrade-available: Permission denied

Related branches

Hayden Barnes (haydenb) wrote :
Hayden Barnes (haydenb) wrote :



 # if the current release is under development there won't be a new one
 if [ "$(lsb_release -sd | cut -d' ' -f4)" = "(development" ]; then
    exit 0
 if [ -x /usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/release-upgrade-motd ]; then
    exec /usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/release-upgrade-motd

calls /usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/release-upgrade-motd:

 if [ -f "$stamp" ]; then
 # Stamp exists, see if it's expired
 now=$(date +%s)
        lastrun=$(stat -c %Y "$stamp") 2>/dev/null || lastrun=0
        expiration=$(expr $lastrun + 86400)
        if [ $now -ge $expiration ]; then
  # Older than 1 day old, so update in the background
  /usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/check-new-release -q > "$stamp" & # <--- Line 31
 elif [ -s "$stamp" ]; then
  # Less than 1 day old, and non-empty, so display now
  cat "$stamp"
 elif [ "$(id -u)" = 0 ]; then
 # No cache at all, so update in the background
 /usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/check-new-release -q > "$stamp" &

on 20.04 wsl:

 $stat -c '%A %a %n' /var/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/
 drwxr-xr-x 755 /var/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/

 $ ls -la /var/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader
 drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Nov 8 13:31 .

same on 16.04 wsl

I don't think /var/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/release-upgrade-available can be created because /var/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/ belongs to root.

This works fine in containers where users are privileged by default but runs into an issue when WSL starts as an unprivileged user.

Users are not going to invoke motd with sudo normally and this error is confusing to inexperienced users so it should be fixed.

/usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/release-upgrade-motd is in ubuntu-release-upgrader-core:

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) wrote :

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

Changed in ubuntu-release-upgrader (Ubuntu):
status: New → Confirmed
Changed in update-motd (Ubuntu):
status: New → Confirmed
Patrick Wu (callmepk) wrote :

I can also confirm this bug here runnning on focal

Changed in ubuntuwsl:
status: New → Confirmed
Patrick Wu (callmepk) on 2020-04-27
Changed in ubuntuwsl:
importance: Undecided → High
Balint Reczey (rbalint) on 2020-04-27
tags: added: rls-gg-incoming
Patrick Wu (callmepk) on 2020-05-05
Changed in ubuntuwsl:
assignee: nobody → Patrick Wu (callmepk)
Patrick Wu (callmepk) on 2020-05-18
Changed in update-motd:
status: New → In Progress
Changed in ubuntuwsl:
status: Confirmed → In Progress
Patrick Wu (callmepk) wrote :

Got a possible fix solution for update-motd:

The attachment "update-motd_3.6-0ubuntu7.debdiff" seems to be a debdiff. The ubuntu-sponsors team has been subscribed to the bug report so that they can review and hopefully sponsor the debdiff. If the attachment isn't a patch, please remove the "patch" flag from the attachment, remove the "patch" tag, and if you are member of the ~ubuntu-sponsors, unsubscribe the team.

[This is an automated message performed by a Launchpad user owned by ~brian-murray, for any issue please contact him.]

tags: added: patch
Balint Reczey (rbalint) wrote :

Maintainer scripts must not change files installed/owned by other package.

The fix should be done in u-r-u.

--- update-motd-3.6.orig/debian/show-motd.postinst
+++ update-motd-3.6/debian/show-motd.postinst
@@ -0,0 +1,43 @@
+case "$1" in
+ configure)
+ # if it's WSL and we have 91-release-upgrade, disable it
+ if [ -e "/proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc/WSLInterop" ] && [ -e "/etc/update-motd.d/91-release-upgrade" ]; then
+ [ -x "/etc/update-motd.d/91-release-upgrade" ] && chmod -x "/etc/update-motd.d/91-release-upgrade"
+ fi

Changed in update-motd:
status: In Progress → Invalid
tags: removed: patch
Patrick Wu (callmepk) wrote :

> Maintainer scripts must not change files installed/owned by other package.

Noted, I will pay attention to that in the future, and thanks for the heads up for here should the fix go

Mathew Hodson (mhodson) on 2020-05-23
no longer affects: update-motd (Ubuntu)
Changed in ubuntu-release-upgrader (Ubuntu):
importance: Undecided → Medium
Patrick Wu (callmepk) on 2020-05-27
Changed in ubuntuwsl:
status: In Progress → Fix Committed
Brian Murray (brian-murray) wrote :

This will need SRU information if this is to be fixed in releases other than groovy.

tags: removed: rls-gg-incoming
Changed in ubuntuwsl:
status: Fix Committed → Fix Released
Patrick Wu (callmepk) on 2020-06-01
description: updated
Patrick Wu (callmepk) wrote :

Hi Brian Murray,
I have updated for SRU. This needs to be SRU to 20.04 LTS only.

Mathew Hodson (mhodson) on 2020-06-13
affects: update-motd → ubuntu-release-upgrader
Changed in ubuntu-release-upgrader:
status: Invalid → Fix Released
Changed in ubuntu-release-upgrader (Ubuntu Groovy):
assignee: nobody → Brian Murray (brian-murray)
status: Confirmed → In Progress
Changed in ubuntu-release-upgrader (Ubuntu Focal):
assignee: nobody → Brian Murray (brian-murray)
status: New → In Progress
Launchpad Janitor (janitor) wrote :

This bug was fixed in the package ubuntu-release-upgrader - 1:20.10.3

ubuntu-release-upgrader (1:20.10.3) groovy; urgency=medium

  [ Dimitri John Ledkov ]
  * Use ubuntu-archive-keyring to verify upgrades, irrespective of how
    apt-key is configured.

  [ Brian Murray ]
  * utils/ also use the ubuntu-archive-keyring when determining
    packages that were demoted.

 -- Brian Murray <email address hidden> Tue, 30 Jun 2020 09:15:09 -0700

Changed in ubuntu-release-upgrader (Ubuntu Groovy):
status: In Progress → Fix Released

Hello Hayden, or anyone else affected,

Accepted ubuntu-release-upgrader into focal-proposed. The package will build now and be available at in a few hours, and then in the -proposed repository.

Please help us by testing this new package. See for documentation on how to enable and use -proposed. Your feedback will aid us getting this update out to other Ubuntu users.

If this package fixes the bug for you, please add a comment to this bug, mentioning the version of the package you tested, what testing has been performed on the package and change the tag from verification-needed-focal to verification-done-focal. If it does not fix the bug for you, please add a comment stating that, and change the tag to verification-failed-focal. In either case, without details of your testing we will not be able to proceed.

Further information regarding the verification process can be found at . Thank you in advance for helping!

N.B. The updated package will be released to -updates after the bug(s) fixed by this package have been verified and the package has been in -proposed for a minimum of 7 days.

Changed in ubuntu-release-upgrader (Ubuntu Focal):
status: In Progress → Fix Committed
tags: added: verification-needed verification-needed-focal

All autopkgtests for the newly accepted ubuntu-release-upgrader (1:20.04.20) for focal have finished running.
The following regressions have been reported in tests triggered by the package:

update-manager/1: (armhf)
update-motd/3.6-0ubuntu6 (armhf, ppc64el, amd64, arm64, s390x)

Please visit the excuses page listed below and investigate the failures, proceeding afterwards as per the StableReleaseUpdates policy regarding autopkgtest regressions [1].


Thank you!

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