Not all bugs are reportable in the debug.err btw. Some don't crash the game, such as the 'spys still spying on a dead civ' bug. Reguardless, humans are humans and don't always follow directions.
"First question: Do I need to get any updates beyond that and where ?"
For the updates, you need to install and run Impulse. You can find it here:
Your population 'bug' is just a lack of info that the game doesn't give you offhand. I would read the Wiki to learn more:
From the sound of it, you have mostly PQ 4, 5, and 6 planets which cap out at the numbers listed below. You can increase PQ of planets 2 ways: Research /build a tech /building that raises the PQ of the planet, or research the 'Soil Enhancement /Habitat Improvement /Terraforming' techs and terraform the appropiate yellow /orange /red tiles.
For Approval, I would keep at or above 76% for growing colonies, and above 20% for colonies that have maxed their population. If you research one of the Governments and opt to take it instead of Dictatorship, you want to keep the average approval as high as you can around voting time or risk losing your Political Party bonuses. The 'Super Breeder' trait works on a per-colony bais. You can set taxes so your new colony has 100% approval for the Super Breeder bonus, and your capital has 50% approval but does not benifit from the bonus.
Copy-pasting some info here:
Numbers for Maximum Population per Planet quality in billions:
- PQ 1 = 0.16 b.
- PQ 2 = 0.54 b.
- PQ 3 = 1.28 b.
- PQ 4 = 2.50 b.
- PQ 5 = 4.32 b.
- PQ 6 = 6.86 b.
- PQ 7 = 10.24 b.
- PQ 8 = 14.58 b.
- PQ 9 = 20.00 b.
- PQ 10 = 26.62 b.
- PQ 11 = 34.56 b.
- PQ 12 = 43.94 b.
- PQ 13 = 54.88 b.
- PQ 14 = 67.50 b.
- PQ 15 = 81.92 b.
- PQ 16 = 98.26 b.
- PQ 17+ = 100 b.
Approval rating also impacts planetary population growth as follows:
- Approval from 1% to 19%: population decreases 10% per turn
- Approval from 20% to 40 %: population is static
- Approval from 41% to 75 %: population increases according to formula given in the population page (given sufficient food).
- Approval from 76% to 99%: 25% bonus growth
- Approval 100%: double population growth