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I'm running Debian 7 on vmware workstation. When I run Applications - System Tool - Software Update I just get a blank window, nothing happens.

Updating the system works fine with "apt-get update && apt-get -u dist-upgrade".
But when I do this, I get a GUI window with "Could not get update, failed to process request - more details: Operation was cancelled". I'm running gnome as a normal user (not root).
Not able to find anything interesting in /var/log/*

Anyone got any ideas what's causing this?

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When I was having a similar issue with Debain 7.4 "Wheezy", it seemed to be with the gnupg setup.

When I ran apt-key update for the first time, it failed with errors about no central gpg skeleton, I think was the error (Sorry it escapes me now..)

So, I installed the gnupg2 package:

  1. su -c 'apt-get install gnupg2'

Then to generate all the necessary configuration in your ~/.gnupg directory, I manually started the gpg-agent:

  1. gpg-agent --daemon

I was then able to update the local APT keyring:

  1. su -c 'apt-key update'

Hopefully that will get you on your way, or at least give you a place to start. Good luck!

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I saw the issue of Software Update not showing available updates.

It seems to be a bug:

As a workaround, I tried installing the package "update-notifier" for the package "update-manager-gnome". I ran the Update Manager (Applications - System Tools Administration - Update Manager) and it let me find updates and install them.

I don't know about the "Could not get update, failed to process request - more details: Operation was cancelled" part of your question.

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