Stochastic Geometry

March 23, 2009

Disasterous Kubuntu Hardy upgrade to Intrepid

Filed under: Linux,Systems Administration — Mark Dennehy @ 16:34

What *bangs head on desk* was *bang* I *bang* thinking?

I tried KDE4 before, I didn’t like it. I downgraded back to KDE3 just to get something that worked. I know my new toy upgraded to Intrepid without problems, but that was running Xubuntu, not KDE, so why did I think that a quick apt-get dist-upgrade to Kubuntu 8.10 was going to work on the machine I have all my precious, precious data on?

Argh! This is becoming unacceptable. The whole point of an upgrade is to improve the functionality of the system. In my case, the Intel wifi driver was happily causing kernel panics and locking the machine solidly, with only a sadly flashing caps lock light to indicate that it wasn’t merely “thinking about it”, that it was really right off the deep end into la-la-land and wasn’t going to make it home for supper. Ubuntu forums indicated that the problem is fixed in Intrepid, and it’s been out for a good few months now, long enough to work out the kinks. Right?

Yeah, right.

Not only is the problem not fixed, it’s far far worse – kernel panics every five minutes or so in fact. That’s unbelievable. I had fewer panics than that while writing device drivers for 2.4 for crying out loud. Worse, nothing else works properly either. KDE4 design choices aside, things like menus and submenus render by blotting out a chunk of the screen and then filling it, so you get this distorted and torn section of the screen for a half-second or less before the menu appears. That’s just klunky. Bluetooth, it turns out, doesn’t work at all. It’s in the release notes. Along with a dozen other failings.

Look kubuntu folks, a little word here. A system as large as bluetooth – an entire networking stack – not working, that doesn’t go in the release notes. It is meant to stop you from releasing at all. You do not release something so fundamentally broken because then noone will ever trust your software in future. It’s like the first KDE4 release where proxy support wasn’t available in networking, so every machine behind a commercial or university firewall couldn’t work. It’s stupid and lazy and sloppy to release something that is so widely used in so fundamentally broken a state. This is why most of us abandoned windows at some point – unstable, buggy crap for software doesn’t allow you to just get on with doing work. For crying out loud people, stop playing with stupid eye candy and flashy crap until the basic infrastructure is working, would you? Yes, I like compiz, I like the spinny cube, I like the wobbly windows, it’s all wonderful. It’s just that I need to be able to actually do some work in the windows, not just wobble them about as I drag them around the spinning cube, y’know?

I’m starting to side with the linux hater blog these days because of things like this. I can’t even back out the change and go back to Hardy and KDE3 without hours of work. I’m sick to death of having to think of defensive stratagies to use against the people maintaining distributions these days. What, I have to partition off my /home from the rest of my disk so when I upgrade and it goes wrong I can reinstall without losing data? I could try virtualising my entire PC so that if the upgrade goes bad I can recover?

Would you *”£& off?!!! I’m not virtualising my entire PC because I’m not paying for a fast laptop to make it into a slow laptop in software, and I don’t know how much diskspace my data will use or my apps, so I’m not going to partition them apart in case it makes more work for me down the line. And I shouldn’t have to do it either, we invented directories and hierarchial filesystems in the 1970s for a reason and this is it dammit!

I’m so damn sick of stuff that looks cool but doesn’t just work. It sucks down the time I want to use to do my work. And as designs go, that’s just broken.



  1. Sounds like a kernel oops. Try installing the linux-backports-modules-intrepid package to get the latest upstream drivers, backported to intrepid. It looks like that bluetooth problem was resolved in the intrepid-updates repository according to

    Comment by Dave — March 23, 2009 @ 18:15 | Reply

  2. K/X/Ubuntu’s upgrades have always been broken. I suggest that you try Arch Linux ( as it avoids this problem by implementing a rolling release as opposed to a release every 6 months. I have used it for close to a year without incident.

    Comment by ProducedRaw — March 23, 2009 @ 18:45 | Reply

  3. If you like KDE, I suggest Mandriva or openSuSE. After using Kubuntu for a year, opensuse is much nicer.

    Comment by Joe — March 23, 2009 @ 18:51 | Reply

  4. > K/X/Ubuntu’s upgrades have always been broken.

    This is a pretty strong stance. I have followed Kubuntu versions on my home laptop from Dapper to Intrepid, and only the last one was a total gong show. At work, my MacBook Pro is going through the Ubuntu releases since Gutsy and had no issue.

    I bitterly regret to have upgraded to Kubuntu Intrepid and will replace it with Ubuntu Intrepid as soon as I will have enough time to do so.


    Comment by David — March 23, 2009 @ 18:54 | Reply

  5. If you want smooth upgrades you are better off going with a “Rolling Release” distro like PCLinuxOS or Arch. PCLinuxOS has a brand new release (with KDE 3.5.10). I highly recommend that you give it a try.

    Comment by rm42 — March 23, 2009 @ 20:29 | Reply

  6. Debian. even unstable has _SOME_ quality assurance. I’ve had _two_ packages break using unstable and both were easy to identify and fix.

    Comment by rb — March 24, 2009 @ 03:39 | Reply

  7. I hear you. What’s with Ubuntu ? Seems like they are doing what Micrsloff has been doing for so many eyars. ” Just get the software out there, who cares if it works or not ” . I agree with Mark and I also agree with a rolling release instead of a whole shebang every six months. I finally broke myself of the bad habit of installing a new distro every time some website says they’ve got the latest cool stuff. Who cares … I just want to be able to to use a word processor, spreadsheet program, get on the internet, remotely connect, have the wi-fi work and use a calendar / PIM all while listening to some music. My vote is for stability and functionality.

    Comment by tm — March 24, 2009 @ 04:22 | Reply

  8. @Dave – thanks, but I installed the linux-backports-modules-intrepid package and now the problem is solved the same way a shotgun to the head cures a headache – I can’t connect to the 802.1X network in the lab now at all, so my laptop is now utterly useless in work.

    @Joe – it’s not so much that I like KDE as that I disliked GNOME. I *liked* Windowmaker, but I needed networkmanager as the laptop moves about so much and knetworkmanager/networkmanager-applet was the easier route there.

    On rolling releases – yay, so instead of one clusterbleep every six months they can happen randomly and continously? Bleh.

    I’m seriously looking at just dropping K/Ubuntu completely and Xubuntu (which I’m hobbling along in right now) and going back to my debian roots. I don’t need it to be flashy, I need this stuff to *work*.

    And yes, I have backups (external HDD via IEEE1394) so it’s not as bad as it could have been – but it means a weekend of unnecessary work instead of doing something that produces something, and it means losing time until then. I don’t think I’ll be recommending Ubuntu to anyone for a few more years.

    Comment by Mark Dennehy — March 24, 2009 @ 11:48 | Reply

  9. @Mark,

    PCLinuxOS is very stable. I am writing this on a machine that has been getting upgrades continuously since 2007. (That reminds me, there are new updates on the repo. Got to go. 😉

    Comment by rm42 — March 24, 2009 @ 12:14 | Reply

  10. […] and thought about using Ubuntu for a while. In fact, I’d been thinking about it when I wrote the blog post on the upgrade. And the conclusion I came to was this; I started using Linux with Debian, way back in the days […]

    Pingback by Goodbye Kubuntu, thou foul and fickle temptress. Hello faithful Debian, thy time come round again… « Stochastic Geometry — March 28, 2009 @ 02:47 | Reply

  11. It’s always a good idea to back up your “precious data” when upgrading ANY operating system. I keep mine on a separate partition. It’s also always a good idea to read release notes and check the HCL prior to upgrades. Again, this applies to any operating system. (to wit: hardware that works just fine for Windows XP or Ubuntu Hardy may not work with Vista or Intrepid).

    Comment by Jerry Gartner — April 24, 2009 @ 15:36 | Reply

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