Having already previewed the Ubuntu 10.10 beta with good results on more than one system, I felt safe upgrading my primary desktop system from v10.04 to v10.10 once the new version went gold. To my astonishment, neither my keyboard, mouse, nor display were functioning following the upgrade.
Obviously, I’d become too accustomed to Ubuntu updates and upgrades going without a hitch. Since the transition from 10.04 to 10.10 wasn’t positioned as a major one, I opted for performing an upgrade rather than complete, fresh install.
Upgrading Ubuntu to 10.10
- Start System > Administration > Update Manager
- Click the Check button to check for new updates
- If there are any updates to install, use the Install Updates button to install them, and press Check again after that is complete.
- A message will appear informing you of the availability of the new release
- Click Upgrade.
- Follow the on-screen instructions
The Update Manager’s upgrade wizard was a snap to use. The process, which involved an extensive download of thousands of packages, appeared to progress flawlessly. Finally, it announced that Ubuntu 10.10 was installed and prompted me to reboot the system.
So as usual after an upgrade, I took a deep breath, clicked Reset, and hoped for the best.
Uh-oh, where’s the video?
The first thing I noticed following the reboot, was that after a few startup messages the monitor went completely dark and was left flashing its blue standby light. That’s how it looks when the system is in suspend mode, but in this case the cooling fan was whirring as though the system was running. Something had gone badly wrong!
I soon became aware that the blank display wasn’t the only problem. The LED on the underside of the mouse wasn’t lit, and the indicator lights on the keyboard weren’t turning on and off when I pressed the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys repeatedly.
Things were looking grim, and I caught myself starting to think about reinstalling 10.04. But I wasn’t about to give up without a fight.
Divide and conquer
I rebooted the system again and selected “recovery mode” at Grub’s startup menu, so I could watch the kernel’s numerous initialization messages scrolled by. There, I found a clue regarding the keyboard/mouse problems: a string of error messages seemed to indicate that the kernel was having trouble attaching some sort of USB device.
Since my keyboard and mouse were both connected through a USB 2.0 hub to the system, I tried simplifying the setup by eliminating the hub and connecting them directly. Despite not having a working display at that point, I could immediately tell that the keyboard and mouse had started working — the red led on the underside of the mouse lit up, and the keyboard now responded to its Caps Lock and Num Lock keys.
So much for the keyboard/mouse problem. Now to light up the display.
Since the display worked fine during startup messages but seemed to go out as soon as the graphical desktop environment began loading, it seemed likely that the display problem had something to do with with the system’s graphics driver.
The best way to troubleshoot problems with graphics functions is to reboot, select the “recovery mode” option when the Grub menu is displayed, and then choose the “Run in failsafe graphic mode” at the next set of choices. So, that’s what I did. This time the desktop loaded up ok, although it did so in low resolution (640×480) mode. But at least it was working.
It dawned on me that the proprietary Nvidia driver, which Ubuntu 10.04 had previously installed on the system, might be the culprit. Perhaps it was incompatible with Ubuntu 10.10′s kernel in some way, and the upgrade had failed to upgrade it or, at the very least, disable it.
To remedy this problem I opened up the “Additional drivers” utility (Menu > System > Administration > Additional drivers), selected the Nvidia accelerated graphics driver (which was still there from before, and still enabled), and clicked the “Remove” button.
Then, I rebooted the system (without selecting recovery mode) and waited to see the result.
It booted up just fine. Except my system no longer had an accelerated graphics driver, which meant I couldn’t take advantage of the Gnome Desktop’s “visual effects” capabilities.
Close, but no cigar
I used the system without accelerated graphics for about a week.
Although none of the software I typically run requires accelerated graphics, it bugged me that I’d had to disable accelerated graphics in order to use Ubuntu 10.10.
Had the Ubuntu team released v10.10 too hastily, perhaps due to the artificially imposed goal of releasing it on 10/10/10?
Eventually, this nagging annoyance compelled me to turn to the googacle for assistance. (I know, I should have done that immediately!) I can’t recall which search result gave me the clue, but someone somewhere had reported that after upgrading from Ubuntu 10.04 to the final 10.10 release, the wrong video display was being selected.
And come to think of it, my system’s Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics card did provide two outputs for monitor connection: VGA and DVI. Maybe instead of sending video out the VGA port, as it had before the upgrade, it was now sending video out the DVI port?
Fortunately, my Samsung SyncMaster920BM LCD monitor could connect either way, and luckily I had an available DVI cable. So I hooked up the DVI cable and verified that system could successfully display video to the monitor via DVI in its current state, without the proprietary accelerated graphics driver activated.
Now to re-enable accelerated graphics.
I opened up the system’s “Additional drivers” utility again, reinstalled and activated the Nvidia accelerated graphics driver, and rebooted the system.
This time, despite the presence of the accelerated graphics driver, the system rebooted and loaded up the desktop environment without any apparent problems. Once the desktop loaded, I right-clicked on the desktop, and used the “Change Desktop Background” option to configure my preferred level of “Visual Effects.”
It’s certainly a relief to have the Black Tower running Ubuntu 10.10 the way I like it.
On the other hand, its disappointing that a relatively minor Ubuntu upgrade required me to make two hardware changes: eliminating the previously working USB 2.0 hub, and switching the monitor interface from a VGA to a DVI connection.
The good news, though is I’m very pleased with Ubuntu 10.10 in every other respect!
Well, it wasn’t long before I ran into additional problems following the upgrade described above. As noted in some of the comments below, I’ve now been painfully reminded of the prevailing wisdom that it’s generally better to do fresh installs, rather than upgrades, of Ubuntu (and probably other Linux distros, as well).
Read on, for an account of what came next…
Take two: the fresh install
As I began using the system on a daily basis, I started noticing intermittent instability in the Gnome desktop environment. For example, portions of Gnome application window widgets started disappearing from time to time.
I reasoned that, just as Ubuntu 10.10′s failure to disable the Nvidia accelerated graphics driver produced unintended consequences (no display), other software bits remaining from the Ubuntu 10.04 installation must have been wreaking havoc on the upgraded system.
Wishing I had done it right the first time, I downloaded the Ubuntu 10.10 ISO image, burned a CD, and performed a “fresh install.” The benefit of a fresh install, of course, is that you start out with a “known working” configuration of the OS. Then, once it’s up and running, you can configure and tune it in an orderly manner to suit your needs.
Screenshots from the fresh install
(click thumbnails to enlarge)
Surprisingly, the fresh install of Ubuntu 10.10 still had problems. For example, the system still froze at the point where the Gnome desktop loads, requiring me to boot into “failsafe graphic mode” via Grub’s “Recovery mode” option in order to install the Nvidia accelerated graphics driver. Also, it still won’t work with my USB 2.0 hub between the computer and my mouse and keyboard peripherals. And then there was the error shown in the first screenshot above.
In any case, I now have Ubuntu 10.10 running smoothly on the BlackTower, and can get back to the joys of blogging!
However, based on my bad experience with the attempted upgrade, described above, I’ve resolved to never do a “distribution upgrade” of Ubuntu again. Instead, I’ll always perform “fresh installs” for major version steps. In Ubuntu’s case, this would be when the update has a new codename — e.g. “Lucid” (10.04) or “Maverick” (10.10) — which typically occurs at six-month intervals.
I should have known better, but I’d become so complacent with the quality and reliability of Ubuntu that I lapsed into carelessness. Live and learn.
Unfortunately, this experience leads me to conclude that the Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick) was release is not ready for prime time. However, I’ll bet the next minor release — 10.14, or whatever — will be rock solid!