Ubuntu 11.10 is out. I upgraded one computer and Ubuntu damaged the network settings plus other things to the point where I could use the computer. The network connection failed. Ubuntu refused to let me log in, making repair impossible. All other upgrades to Ubuntu 11.10 are on hold until the big errors are fixed.
The upgrade started at 6:06, was almost finished at 6:46, then failed on two counts. Ubuntu refuses to connect to the network and Ubuntu refuses to let me log in.
I am writing this page from an Ubuntu 11.4 computer connected to the same network but with all updates switched off.
Both computers were happily connected to the network before Ubuntu 11.4. Neither computer has unusual hardware. Both have network chips recommended for Linux. The Ubuntu 11.10 network connection failure is something purely in Ubuntu 11.10 and nothing to do with the computer.
From what I can see in the incident reports for Ubuntu, the problem was reported by several people weeks before Ubuntu 11.10 was released and nobody at Ubuntu thought it would cause a problem. That is another strike against Ubuntu. Ubuntu remains easy to use when it works but has unreliable updates.
This type of upgrade disaster is exactly the type of thing people complain about when talking about Windows. The Microsoft automatic update for Windows often crashes your system trying to install .NET and there is no option to switch off everything .NET. Linux lovers say it never happens on Linux, well not on their favourite distribution of Linux, but problems of this type have happened on every one of the dozen or more brands of Linux I have used.
Ubuntu appeared to suffer least from the problem, except compared to Debian but Debian always used such old versions of everything that Debian rarely worked with any computer less than a couple of years old, long after I upgrade to new hardware. Over the last two years my use of Ubuntu has increased
The current word out among the more flexible Linux users is the move to Linux Mint. Mint does not have big annual updates and is supposed to better test updates before shipment. I think one of my computers is about to become Mint flavoured.
The OSX brand of Unix is also claimed to be bullet proof until you work along side people using it then you find out OSX also fails during upgrades.
The big failure is an almost universal problem when you implement one big change every 6 or 12 months. The individual components are tested with some changes but the full range of changes common to an operating system upgrade are not tested together. Ubuntu compounds the problem by upgrading all the applications at the same time.
USB keyboard failure
Do you use a USB keyboard connected through a hub? In many cases the USB keyboard will fail to work through any external device. Switch off your computer, plug the USB keyboard direct into a USB port on the computer, then try again.
Plug your mouse in the same way.
Rescue a broken system
Ubuntu CDs will boot into a recovery mode labelled
Rescue a broken system but that is just a 1970s DOS box as copied by 1980s Unix. If you are happy with command line hell, you might be able to recover that way. I avoided the command line until I was desperate then I worked through all the recommended command line changes and not one fixed the problem. The command line work was worthless.
You can boot a working Linux from what is called a
live CD but you are then stuck with a horrible choice. Every time you download regular Linux, you can download a duplicate Linux for the live CD. Some of the latest Linux CDs will boot and work live including the Ubuntu desktop but the Ubuntu desktop version does not have RAID, making it useless for everything except the smallest desktop computers.
I downloaded the Ubuntu 11.10 CD and am trying it with a view to recovering the system from the CD Linux. The Cd is up to the Try or Install question.
Install from CD
The install from CD option says I need 4.5 GB of free disk space, an Internet connection, and gives me the option to download updates while installing. No thank you. You should be able to complete the whole installation purely from CD.
You are then asked if you want to unmount existing disk partitions. If you do unmount them, you lose the opportunity to install Linux. What I should have done is to unplug the RAID and external disks to protect my most valuable data.
The computer is now sitting there doing nothing. This is one of the really annoying parts of Linux, the number of times you see nothing happening for long times. In windows it means the system is crashed or you are using Internet Explorer, which amounts to the same thing. In Linux, it is often just the lack of a progress indicator.
Ubuntu will not let me proceed. Ubuntu offers the choice to destroy my existing data or to partially destroy my existing data. No thank you.
Luckily I have a second computer to download whatever is needed to recover from this Ubuntu mess. One of the second computers is Linux and, based on extensive experience, burning a CD will be an unreliable nightmare. Luckily I have a Windows computer among the second computers. A CD burnt in Windows XP will work.
Boot from old versions
Linux shares the Windows startup option to boot from older versions of the operating system. I have not tried booting Windows 7 from an old version. Vista never worked for anything complicated. XP was the most popular and successful version of Windows and trying to boot an old version of XP rarely worked. Ubuntu shares the same problem as Windows XP.
Three hours wasted
Three hours wasted and the only progress is to eliminate the unworkable. Looks like I will have to treat Ubuntu the same as DOS and use pre stone age tools to muck about in configuration files of which there are hundreds of thousands and often Linux lacks a usable editor.
Vi is not viable
Sadists tell you to use Vi to edit files. Visit a museum. Walk past the computing section back to the invention of Morse code. In between Morse code and punched cards, you find the teletype. If you manage to learn how to use the teletype, you are still a long way off the pain of using Vi. Remove all the keytops from the teletype then try to type. Now you understand Vi. Oh, except on the other computers. Vi manages to be different from computer to computer. After you remove the keytops from the teletype, ask someone to randomly change the wires around every time you blink.
Sorry about the diversion complementing Vi. Vi is really far more painful than it sounds. I have wasted hours watching people with years of Unix experience attempt to find Vi, or the related Vim, then try to workout the keyboard commands for the version they found.
I found my system contains Pico which is slightly better than Vi. Pico has more than one name and varies from Linux to Linux. Pico appears to be consistently available on Debian based Linux distributions. Pico displays the few available editing commands and is suitable only for small text files. Pico does less than Vim is supposed to do but Pico works.
There is an issue reported to Ubuntu for the network part of the problem and the last entry includes the words:
Since it only happens once one has deliberately modified the network configuration of the machine
The change was made by Ubuntu, not me. The change was made by the Ubuntu 11.10 upgrade process. The change was made for absolutely no reason at all because the previous settings were perfect.
Thousand dollars lost
The Ubuntu Linux problem has now cost me over a thousand dollars of my time. $200 for a windows upgrade is looking really good.
The randomness of Linux
If I follow the same procedure several times, Ubuntu produces a different result each time. During the boot from CD, Ubuntu fails fifty percent of the time. Sometimes it stops early in the process. sometimes it is later. There is no message. The only indication is the sudden lack of noise from the CD drive.
If you follow a procedure where you would expect to have only read access to existing files, you get write access. When you follow a process to change configuration files, you end up locked out by a read only setting on the file system. There might be some logic in there somewhere but I do not feel like starting a three year computing science degree to find out how someone could justify such an inconsistent approach.
Command line hell
You may become trapped in command line hell. Known as the
DOS box by people who hate it and the
Unix command line is different by people who like the neanderthal approach. If you are stuck in the command line, here are some commands you might use.
Ctrl-Alt-F1 will sometimes put you into command line hell when a Linux system is broken. The results vary. In the current Ubuntu mess, you have to wait a few minutes before you can use this keyboard combination.
ls lists the files in the directory you are in. You will need it when the files and directories fail to match whatever is supposed to be there.
sudo reboot restarts your system and may perform a full reboot but on other times will perform only a partial reboot and you will have to press the reset button.
See error report 856810, Boot hangs at "Booting system without full network configuration...".
The first suggestion is to use the following command and it did nothing because
gdm is already there. A reboot ended up at exactly the same situation.
sudo apt-get install gdm
The second suggestion is the following two commands, effectively the reverse of the previous command. I tried this and nothing changed.
sudo dpkg-reconfigure lightdm
sudo apt-get purge gdm
Gdm is the Gnome user interface and better than the Unity interface inflicted on all Ubuntu users. I reran the following command to install Gnome.
sudo apt-get install gdm
The following line is the third suggestion and I tried it followed by a reboot. The system rebooted and let me login. I currently have to repeat this command every time I start Ubuntu.
sudo rm /var/run/dbus/pid
An update. 21 hours with no fix. How often can you afford to not use a computer for 21 hours? I suggest you always test major Ubuntu upgrades on a spare computer that is a copy of your regular computer or wait a few weeks before upgrading, exactly the same as for Windows or OSX.
I tried escaping out of the Ubuntu start up screen. It works after a minute or two. You are dumped into the DOS style startup log. I found the following odd message. The message ties into reports of problems with something named
dbus and the command to delete pid from /dbus.
unable to connect to system bus: Failed to connect to socket /var/run/dbus/system_bus_socket: Connection refused
You may find other messages that lead to error reports in Ubuntu.
Can now eventually log in
After lots of experiments with changes, the system now limps toward login. 74 hours from the start of the conversion to a point where I can read my email. Next time I will not upgrade to Ubuntu until lots of other people have upgraded. This is what you normally do with Windows because Microsoft focus too much on visual changes and miss major code errors. Canonical appear to be so focused on their pretty Unity face that they are missing critical system upgrade errors.
For my desktop, I switch it on, go away for ten minutes then, on most occasions, it has reached the login screen. If I go out for a few hours, I leave the machine on to avoid the incredibly long startup.
The startup is too slow for use on a netbook, notebook, or to risk during a server restart. Ubuntu 11.10 is unusable until they fix all the problems.