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back to article Top tip, power users – upgrading Ubuntu may knacker your Linux PC

Canonical says it is working to fix a problem that's crippling some Ubuntu PCs after they've been upgraded to the latest version of the Linux distro. A spokesperson for the company told The Reg it is aware of a "small number" of "power users" are seeing their PCs crash following the move to 14.04. Until there's a fix, the …

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Upgrading anything may knacker anything but don't worry your pretty little head, Gavin - we don't expect you to know that. You're the software correspondent.

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Presumably the Reg has a stylebook, outlining the meanings of knacker, brick, bugger up and fry,

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Headmaster

borked

I believe the correct terminology in this case is "borked". Knackered would imply damage or wear through over use, which is not the case here.

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Dogged very rude but right. This kind of grub breakage is almost an everyday occurance for dual-booting users, as is the well known fix. And muffing grub is hardly knackering your PC. Guess it is still a bug though.

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my 2 cents

Want to never deal with crossed finger upgrades again check out Linux Mint Debian Edition. I actually follow Debian Testing (with latest Cinnamon DE) myself where there are breakages but I like mucking about with my system.

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Yes, but...

Most things are easy to fix from backups. Bugger up the bootloader and it gets nasty.

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Unhappy

Re: my 2 cents

Want to never deal with crossed finger upgrades again check out Linux Mint Debian Edition

Is that because under Mint you're never actually supposed to upgrade anything at all but nuke from orbit and reinstall fresh every time...?

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Re: my 2 cents

Not on Debian Edition. It is, as the name suggests, tracking Debian, so it's rolling releases.

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Grub's a really touchy beast these days

Especially if you've more than one OS installed. Breaks as soon as you look at it. Fortunately fixing it is usually pretty simple. Overall, not necessarily a good situation, though.

I guess it's just become over-bloated as these things always seem to do.

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Upgrade safely

"...Upgrading anything may knacker anything but don't worry your pretty little head, Gavin - we don't expect you to know that..."

With ZFS and Solaris you are immune to this problem. You just take a snapshot of the filesystem before upgrading, and if the system is unstable you just reboot again, into the earlier state and delete the last unstable snapshot. It is a killer feature, as you can take a snapshot on a live system, and upgrade it and test it. And then you just reboot and in GRUB choose which snapshot you want to boot into.

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Re: my 2 cents

Its actually semi rolling as it basically releases update pack snapshots periodically (though somewhat erratically lately). The only real knock I have on LMDE and why I went with Debian Testing is LMDE is too slim on security updates IMHO.

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Re: my 2 cents

FWIW I did clean Mint install last month - new hard drive - and it was ridiculously painless.

It took all of fifteen minutes, including remembering how to disable Caps Lock, plus fifteen more to install the two or three non-default apps that I use.

I shudder to think about how much I used to dread the regular Windows re-installs back in the day.

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This happened to me but I had everything backed up so the quickest thing was to create a bootable usb with 14.04 on it and reinstall wiping the previous install out.

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Un... why didnt you just reinstall the bootloader..?

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Windows

"Un... why didnt you just reinstall the bootloader..?"

Just in case; google "Ubuntu reinstall bootloader using a live CD"

Takes minutes rather than an hour or so for re-install and restore backups. Another trick is the separate /home and / partitions so just the OS can be re-installed using the 'custom partitioning' without copying back hundreds of Gb of 'stuff'.

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Primitive!

Do you really reinstall everything when you bork your Linux system with an upgrade? That is really primitive! Why dont you use ZFS-On-Linux instead? At least on Solaris you can snapshot a live system before an upgrade, and if the upgrade fails you just reboot into the earlier state, and delete the snapshot. You choose which snapshot you want to boot into via GRUB. Really neat. Has saved me many hours of work several times, when I have done something stupid in Solaris. I just take a snapshot (takes a second) and then I am free to do anything such as deleting the kernel, etc.

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Surely you'd use a Windows 7 boot CD to re-install the OS if you're a power user? No?

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"Surely you'd use a Windows 7 boot CD to re-install the OS if you're a power user? No?"

No...

A real power user would take a screwdriver and open up his harddrive and then

use a frigging magnet to re-align the bits in the bootsector himself...

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No they run KDE generally

I have never met a 'power' user that runs Windows.

IF you want a desktop you can can really get to the 'guts' of then KDE/Linux is a good combo.

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Re: "Surely you'd use a Windows 7 boot CD to re-install the OS if you're a power user? No?"

A magnet? Pussy. I just shout at the computer till it starts working, that's how the real IT Professionals roll!

;-)

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Coat

Nah,

the real power user would install SCO Linux and ...

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Windows

Re: No they run KDE generally

Hi there, pleased to meet you....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No they run KDE generally

"I have never met a 'power' user that runs Windows."

They mostly do in the enterprise. All the traders here with 6-8 HD screens each on a single PC and each running dozens of trading applications, market data feeds, broker screens and Excel sheets, etc. etc. all run Windows 7. We do get the odd few that want a UNIX shell or to compile stuff so we just install Services for UNIX - which lets them run and compile what they like and offers a choice of shells - but without all the security and management issues of a native Linux OS...

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Re: "Surely you'd use a Windows 7 boot CD to re-install the OS if you're a power user? No?"

Na! you need a hammer & a nail and lots arm muscle

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Windows

Re: No they run KDE generally

"All the traders here with 6-8 HD screens each on a single PC and each running dozens of trading applications, market data feeds, broker screens and Excel sheets, etc. etc. all run Windows 7. We do get the odd few that want a UNIX shell or to compile stuff so we just install Services for UNIX - which lets them run and compile what they like and offers a choice of shells - but without all the security and management issues of a native Linux OS..."

And what runs the servers that the clients connect to?

I'm genuinely interested, not trolling...

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>>"Surely you'd use a Windows 7 boot CD to re-install the OS if you're a power user? No?"

Or better, just run it in a VM. Either GNU/Linux on Windows (7+ obviously) or Windows on GNU/Linux. Either way, dual-booting is so 2007. ;)

Plus if you have two monitors like me, you have the best of both worlds at the same time!

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Pint

Re: Nah,

There are at least 4 commentards here that don't understand sarcasm. Here, have an upvote (and a cool one)

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Re: No they run KDE generally

"And what runs the servers that the clients connect to? I'm genuinely interested, not trolling..."

Can't say exactly without knowing what the person was doing / who they were working for. A lot of these systems are running on Windows Server, but the London Stock Exchange itself has moved from that to Novell Linux following a nasty crash that happened back in (I think 2008).

That's a software crash, btw. Not the usual wipe-out-your-pensions-give-money-to-the-banks-quick financial crash that happens every few years.

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Joke

Using a frigging magnet to re-align the bits in the bootsector

Obligatory XKCD reference:

http://xkcd.com/378/

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Devil

Re: No they run KDE generally

Where I come from "power users" are the BANE of real IT professionals.

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Anonymous Coward

Hold on... power users... Ubuntu... Must be a mix up there. No power users would use Ubuntu :P

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Re: No power users would use Ubuntu

But "power users" are newbie incompetents, who only think that they know stuff. The shiny, shiny new kids' distro-for-dummies was made especially to appeal to the ex-softie "power users".

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Trollface

Bah!

So ... not so "trusty" after all. What do you expect if you name your OS after livestock?

Shoulda gone with "Turbothrust Annihilator" like I said before.

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No problem for me.

I upgraded, which is always a tense and nerve racking experience anyway as you never know what is going to go wrong. Thank god I didn't hear about this first. I didn't have this problem, indeed quite unusually I have had no problems at all, yet. It even left Windows alone.

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Re: No problem for me.

No major problems with the upgrade here to Xubuntu 14.04. The only glitch I ran into was a problem where Xfce didn't want to let me change my wallpaper. I'm not sure exactly what I did to fix it, but I think I mostly just logged off and back on the session and it magically went back to normal.

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Re: No problem for me.

>...as you never know what is going to go wrong.

Of course, you don't, foolish human; it never goes wrong the same way twice. That's what makes it 'interesting'.

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Boffin

Re: No problem for me.

"I upgraded, which is always a tense and nerve racking experience anyway as you never know what is going to go wrong."

@Connor

Life is too short for being tense and nerve-wracked by a computer!

I use recycled laptops, one for serious work and one for playing around with. No guarantees so I practice 'defensive backup' as follows...

1) Do the full jwz backup thing (google 'jwz backup'). Find out about rsync and the command line options you need to use for NTFS external hard drives. Test out the various rsync command line options.

2) Once a full backup of all your files has completed, test the readability of both backup drives on another computer before proceeding. Save the command lines you used in a text file for future use. Google 'bash history' and the bash 'Ctrl-r' command search functions.

3) Download Clonezilla and make a bootable USB stick and have another external HD dedicated to clones of your hard drive. Just use the simple settings and image whole drive of the computer you want to upgrade. There are guides available by Googling

4) Nuke target computer hard drive. Restore the clonezilla image as a test. If all works well...

Then, either

5a) Do the upgrade with the warm feeling inside that you can go back to the known working Clonezilla image

OR

5b) Nuke again and clean install new system with same user name and password. Then restore home drives, perhaps having renamed the dot files depending on changes in the UI. (I have a separate backup of just the dotfiles).

dotfiles: watch out for email programs that store email in .mail or something. If using Firefox, export bookmarks as html file now and again. If using Evolution, export an archive now and again. Watch out for version changes with Evolution!

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Use the VM, Luke

The best thing to do with any new Linux release is to run it in a VM first (e.g. VirtualBox) and have a good play with it to make sure it behaves itself. Then you should wait a month or so for updates to fix the initial release problems (because the wider audience will discover stuff not found in testing) and if you're still worried, set up a dual boot between the old and new Linux versions so you have an easy way to go back if something insurmountable still crops up.

Sadly, I'm finding neither Fedora nor Ubuntu particularly attractive at the moment, so I have now-unused VMs with them in and stick with my trusty CentOS 6.5 as the bare metal OS (along with a dual boot to Windows for games of course).

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Re: Use the VM, Luke

The best thing to do with any new Linux release is to run it in a VM first (e.g. VirtualBox) and have a good play with it to make sure it behaves itself.

Except that it probably wouldn't have helped here. If userland components work in a VM that's a pretty good confidence test but for anything dealing with the hardware - the kernel, drivers and indeed boot loader - it's pretty much a stab in the dark. Differences between emulated and physical hardware are always potential issues. It sounds like something like that is happening here since it's only affecting a subset of users and not everyone, suggesting it is some hardware quirk at issue.

A similar thing happened to me a couple of months ago upgrading a server from NetBSD 6.0 to 6.1. Fire up a VM - yes, the bare OS works. Rebuild the applications and test those.. check. Apply current production configuration to the VM and make sure nothing breaks... check. Install on the physical hardware and make sure it boots - no problem. Re-install applications and user data - again no problems. Load on some archived data from DVD+R - fine. Drop in a DVD-RAM... oops.

VMs just don't show problems like that.

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Re: Use the VM, Luke

Sure, why don't we all wait until 'the others' try it and fix the bugs... kinda like what happened with OpenSSL.. heartbleed ring a bell ? Must have been the same 'others' that were supposedly looking at that code since they had the source to it.

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Re: Use the VM, Luke

"stick with my trusty CentOS 6.5 as the bare metal OS"

Just install Hyper-V Server - It's a free download and you can run both Windows and Linux under it. It's faster and more efficient than any production Linux hypervisor at the moment.

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It happened to me, but a boot repair via a system loaded from DVD only took an hour or so, so I didn't bother reporting it.

Not the first time an Ubuntu upgrade has trashed grub, so I kind of expected it.

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same here too

Me too, grub complained about fonts and dropped me into a nonfunctional recovery prompt.

I happen to have a boot repair disk from

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Boot-Repair

around, it was able to repair grub automatically so I didn't have to do anything except click apply and reboot.

Its very handy.

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Meh

I've been having this problem for years

It's been a few years since I made a clean install and every time I made an upgrade I had to reinstall the bootloader. Can't remember when it started. Never found anything on the forums. But I'm getting a new hard disk, and with news of this bug, a clean install of 14.04 is looking more and more attractive.

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I read through the launchpad comments to get more details since they're scant in the article. Either Phillip Susi is a master troll or a mindless jerk who will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes... or both.

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Just a note that might be useful

I always have an Ubuntu bootable USB pen with Grub-rescue installed on it. I have a proper weirdy bootloader with about seven OSs on it, and it often gets eaten when I start playing with EFI shizzle - so it's a handy thing to have in a drawer somewhere.

Detects your filesystems, rewrites GRUB, Bobs your uncle, Fanny's your aunt, and gertrude is your second cousin twice removed that you need to be careful about getting drunk around because that sort of thing isn't really approved of these days.

Steven R

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Not such a big deal... just reinstall the bootloader from a livecd...

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Anonymous Coward

Grub problems.

Never ending. Every version of any flavor of Linux screws itself up when trying to fiddle with Grub entries.

Ubuntu is by far the worst, leaving all sorts of crud around after updates, 17 kernels spewed on my hard disk, and of course safe modes for each of them. You can bet it break any Windows boot loader entries too, just to be safe. And you can also bet that the mess that FakeRAID is will confuse the hell out if it.

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Re: Grub problems.

Really?

I didn't have any problem upgrading a machine from debian wheezy to the current testing a couple of weeks ago.

It just worked (tm)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Grub problems.

Mine doesn't leave old kernels behind - sometimes I've had to do an auto remove to get rid of them but..

Done several upgrades on this laptop with a EUFI configuration (dual boot into Windows 7) and its never glitched at all.

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