Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ubuntu Hardy: Hard(y) Work

After last week's upgrade on my notebook, I did the forced upgrade from Ubuntu 7 to Ubuntu 8.10 on my main machine yesterday. Numerous breakages.

Easy Fixes
* Skype disappeared. I still had the deb package and installing it again cured that. All my settings were still around.

* SciTE: It overwrote my old settings. Luckily I keep a backup copy and merged in my differences.

* Evolution was back. So I deleted again all packages it would let me delete (some parts are entwined around the heart of either Ubuntu or Gnome).

* The Permit Cookies firefox plugin didn't like firefox 3. You have to go to developer's own site to get a version that will install.

* SCIM (Japanese input) hot key had stopped working. This fixed itself when I fixed something else (my guess is the xorg.conf change for the Alt-F1/F7 problem - see below).

Hard Fixes
* pcmanfm. This is better than nautilus. Full stop. But after the hardy upgrade trying to launch anything fails - it tries to launch, but after 20s or so gives up. This even includes opening the terminal. I tried reinstalling, and tried getting the latest version, but same problems.
Solution: I gave up. My nautilus problems seem to have gone, and I installed nautilus-terminal package which gives me the "open a terminal in this directory" feature that I'd become addicted to. (Cannot get F4 to open terminal though: the closest I can manage is "Alt-F, t")

* Ctrl-Alt-F1/F7 no longer worked. See my screen blanking blog entry for the xorg.conf fix for this.

* Real Player Plugin. Firefox 3 decided to move the goal posts and keep plugins in a new directory; so you have to move the firefox plugins to the correct place (/usr/lib/firefox-addons/plugins/) yourself.
That still wasn't enough. I've been disabling various other plugins, reinstalling real player, and lots of swearing. I finally have it working, but I cannot tell you exactly which steps were needed.
In the end I used the Real Player's deb, which is highly suspicious as it has dependencies such as "exim" (an email client)?!! Many years ago Real got a bad reputation for malware, and I'm wondering if they are still up to their bad tricks?
But even just that deb didn't work. So, I think that the thing that finally worked was deleting the totem-mozilla package. (I'd already disabled all plugins with the word totem in them however, which was no help, so I'm not entirely sure... the real Real Player plugin calls itself "Helix DNA Plugin", and I think I'd also disabled that... which with hindsight was probably the cause of all my problems?)

Other Fixes

A few months back the red icon to shutdown gnome stopped working. Hardy didn't fix that. But I did find the cause today: Preference | Sessions | Enable Power Manager. A tad confusing - you'd think it was something only needed on notebooks. But, anyway, that was the key.

Things That Did Work Okay:
* Samba (aka windows) shares
* Software RAID
* Encrypted Partitions
* Email/Browser/sound/video card/etc.


Thankfully Ubuntu 8 is a LTS (Long Term Support) release, so I shouldn't need to go through this for another couple of years.
And while I now hate Ubuntu I have been reminded about its most important feature: a huge user base. Which means typing "Ubuntu 8 some problem" into Google will always find someone having the same problem, usually with some kind of solution.

Thanks to all the hundreds of Ubuntu users who answer questions, and blog about their fixes!

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