Over the weekend, I upgraded my trusty Thinkpad to the new Beta release of Ubuntu, Gutsy Gibbon. Thought I would post my notes so far.

It's a T43, and I got it around a year ago. The first thing I installed was the beta version of Edgy Eft, and then about a month before Feisty Fawn came out, I upgraded.

This time around, the upgrade wasn't as clean. First off, my root partition was too full, so I had to do some shuffling to make enough room for the upgrade. Once I did that, it took several hours to download all the packages and start installing. At some point, a Latex package was broken, but the installation continued. When the installation progress bar was about 50% done, the installer crashed with a fatal python error, with the last messages indicating failing to configure Lyx, which depends upon Latex.

The installer couldn't continue, and couldn't roll back--I was stuck with a half-upgraded machine. Now you might think this is a serious issue, and for someone without much Linux experience, it might be. But my system never crashed, and I was able to finish the upgrade manually.

If you find yourself stuck half way between an upgrade like this, maybe these notes can help you finish. First off, don't reboot. As long as your system is running, you've got all your tools and Internet access. Here are some things I did to get through, all in a shell window:

  1. nm-applet & -- restart the network applet, because at some point in the upgrade, the panels had crashed and my system had lost its IP address.
  2. dpkg-reconfigure -a -- Configure every package that needs to be configured. This took a couple hours, and stopped frequently to ask a question about whether to keep my current configuration of a package, or replace with new. This command failed part way through the first time, but when I ran it again, it made it all the way through (repeating many of the same questions it had the first time).
  3. apt-get update, apt-get dist-upgrade -- download system updates, and install. This fixed the broken Latex package.
  4. apt-get autoremove -- Remove the old packages.
  5. apt-get -f install -- force installation of packages that still need to be installed. This didn't do anything in my case, since I had already run dpkg-reconfigure -a, which probably did everything this command would do.
  6. apt-get install app1 app2 -- there were a couple of applications that were "held back" by the other install commands, not even completing with a dist-upgrade. So I named them directly and apt found a couple other missing packages they depended upon, and installed.
  7. Crossed my fingers, and rebooted.

When my system came back up, at first I couldn't log in. But I was expecting that--one of the key features of Gutsy is a new version of X Windows, with a new configuration system. I had a fair amount of customizations of my xorg.conf file to support multiple monitors, and other things. I used Ctrl-Alt-F1 to switch to a VT console, logged in, and ran dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg, accepting all the defaults. The next time, the X server came up fine, and I could log in.

Now, with Gutsy finally installed, all its new features started to shine. The system immediately asked if I wanted to install the restricted ATI driver for my graphics card. After doing so, and rebooting, it asked if I wanted to enable Xgl, for enhanced desktop effects. I wasn't expecting this to just work like this--I wasn't counting on having desktop effects on this laptop at all, due to conflicts with things I need to do with it (multi-monitor, Google Earth, etc).

So I was quite surprised that once I did that, I could enable the Desktop Effects, and soon had all the glitsy stuff working. Well, wobbly windows anyway--the desktop cube didn't seem to work.

A quick Google search led me to install the ccsm tool -- compizconfig-settings-manager, and wow, has this come a long ways. It didn't seem to work, though--I had wobbly windows but nothing else. Finally, I tried running compiz --replace, and suddenly I have it all. Desktop cubes, Expo, windows that burn up when they close, windows that fold up into a paper airplane and fly off the screen--all the good stuff that can keep you away from productive work for hours!

Gutsy Beta initial impressions/issues

  • Even though the update-manager failed, everything seems to work fine right now. About the only issue related to installation that I currently see is a bunch of extra stuff in the "Other" menu, most of which is long gone. Have some menu cleanup to do. Also, Thunderbird disappeared, and I had to reinstall it.
  • Thunderbird profile moved from ~/.thunderbird to ~/.mozilla-thunderbird.
  • Evolution calendars lost all the color coding. Had to reapply a color to each of my calendar, and these didn't get saved the first time. Now they save, but no colors in the gnome calendar widget.
  • Google Earth doesn't work with Compiz or XGL. (to be expected, and I haven't tried turning these off yet)
  • Suspend no longer works correctly (again to be expected with Xgl--in Feisty, I had trouble after using any video output).
  • Subpixel rendering is SWEET... everything looks fantastic.
  • Compiz task bar shows applications across all work spaces--cannot seem to limit it to just the current one. Also, the pager doesn't turn the cube--it seems to track its own work spaces. It minimizes all the windows, then takes you to a clean desktop and you can't spin back to the old one...
  • Tracker seems to be much better at searching than Beagle. After only a few hours, it had indexed everything, and found more relevant searches than Beagle did until recently...
  • In the gnome calendar, tasks can be hidden and appointments shown. This is a great improvement for me...
  • Every now and then, it seems like a key or a button press gets stuck. I went to close a few tabs in my development program, and after the first few closed, it then closed every tab I had open--not what I wanted.

These are impressions from less than a day of use. I'm sure I'll find more to talk about soon--overall it seems quite nice, and I look forward to the new external monitor management, perhaps the key reason I upgraded. I'll probably turn Compiz/Xgl off in a day or so, to get more of a sense of how well suspend and other OpenGL programs work. For now, it's quite entertaining...

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