I noticed today when running git annex sync that it was unhappy with one of my remotes:

remote: git-annex: Repository /home/anovak/annex/.git is at unsupported version 7. Automatic upgrade exception! actually-broken.log: getSymbolicLinkStatus: does not exist (No such file or directory)

Digging in, it looks like that machine is running Ubuntu 20.04, which ships Git Annex 8, which only supports repo version 8. The rest of my machines are a mix of Ubuntu 18.04 and other Debian derivatives, which all ship older versions of Git Annex, which can't support repo version 8.

Is there a way for me to get out of manually installing Git Annex on every machine to upgrade everything to v8 at the same time?

And, before I've upgraded, is there a way to screw up my repo by e.g. running git annex sync from the newer Git Annex and pushing commits in the new format over to machines that still only speak the old format?

How are other people handling this transition where there's no repo format that's speakable by all the machines? Just upgrading everything at once and replacing the distro's git annex with a manually installed version?