Cussing and Praising Kubuntu
I took the plunge and decided to upgrade my two Gutsy boxes to Hardy. These are real working PCs, not experimental test boxes, so I was hoping for a straightforward dist-upgrade that preserved all of my settings and applications. Doing a complete wipe-n-reinstall on real working PCs is for Windows luzers; real geeks dist-upgrade forever.
I have never had a successful Ubuntu dist-upgrade, so I had low expectations. Amazingly, it was successful on my computer...
...which surprised me because the poor thing gets thrashed in all kinds of ways. I'm forever installing weird software and hardware, and doing source builds and backports and you name it, and it keeps on chugging anyway. I gave it a good housecleaning first to give it a fighting chance and deleted all the weird junk, and it went fine except for one thing-- those dratted NVidia drivers. We hatess Nvidia. Unfortunately we hatess all the 3D alternatives even more, though I've been thinking it's time to give the open source ATI 3D chipsets a try.
The upgrade failed on the video completely-- it installed a newer kernel and the correct binary Nvidia driver, but it did not install the kernel headers. So instead of falling back to some lower-quality 2D video, it barfed completely and booted to the console. No X at all. Which for a gnarly old Linux geek is no big deal-- it booted, I can enter commands and fix it. Still, how hard is it to make kernel headers a dependency of the driver, or to have some kind of graceful failure? Why am I still fighting this same old battle?
I didn't feel like wasting a day messing with it, so I edited xorg.conf manually to use the 2D nv driver and booted to an older, known-good kernel. Did a fast Google and learned about Envy-ng. Installed it, ran it, and in mere minutes dumb old Nvidia was fixed. The Kubuntu restricted drivers manager was useless and helpless, so hurrah and thank you for Envy-ng.
I toyed with the idea of forgoing 3D entirely-- I can live without Frozen Bubble and Quake and Doom and all that-- but that turned out to not be a good option, because the nv driver, at least in the current Hardy release, sucks. Screen redraws are slow, blinky, and jerky-- what century is this again? When will basic video functionality be a solved problem?
Too Many Ways to do the Same Thing
The upgrade on the second PC failed after downloading all the new packages with this error message:
*** stack smashing detected ***: /usr/bin/perl terminated
Interestingly, an Ubuntu bug report is the #1 hit on a Google search for 'perl stack smash':
This bug was filed way back in August 2008, and is marked 'Invalid' and 'Incomplete'. There is a related bug, Bug #283942, and that report is marked as 'fix released' for Intrepid. Oh goody, that sure helps us Gutsy users trying to upgrade to Hardy.
So I futzed with this and messed with that, and then tried the "Safe Upgrade" option in Adept. That was the magic incantation that completed the upgrade, or maybe some of my futzing cured it. Who knows. In the olden days I kept detailed notes. In these here modern times I am bored with wasting time troubleshooting the same old guff, so I poke and cuss and when it's sorted out move on.
Mandriva used to be famous for including every known graphical configuration tool in the Linux universe, which created conflicts and problems of all kinds. Kubuntu seems to have the same disease-- my Kubuntu boxes have the KDE control center, the Ubuntu System Settings menu, the fully-functional Adept, and the stripped-down Adept which is called Add/Remove Programs, and Synaptic. Of course as a wizened old command-line commando I prefer to use aptitude. That's an awful lot of sort-of the same things, and while they don't seem to conflict, what's the point of having so many? Pick one for the default, document it well so users actually know what to do with it, and leave the rest as installable options for users who want them.
The good news is that both dist-upgrades eventually succeeded without too much pain. Hopefully actually using Hardy Heron will also be not too painful. The other good news is both Mac and Windows are way worse, and it's a lot harder to fix problems on your own because everything is a Big Secret. The other good news is for the first time ever, I have two successful *buntu dist-upgrades. I do hope this is a trend.