Friday, March 14, 2008

Alpha testing, Day 5: Like a monkey with a hand grenade

Well, the grand experiment with Ubuntu 8.04 alpha 6 has come to an ignominious end. That last batch of 10 updates included an update to libc6, which, once I finally got it installed, completely hosed the system. Like the monkey with a hand grenade who figures out how to pull the pin but doesn't know what to do next, the whole thing just blew up in my face. I couldn't log in (it gave multiple malloc errors before crashing back to the prompt in safe mode) and if you tried a normal boot it hung at the point where it was trying to start logging. I tried various 'recovery' methods, but in the end I:
  • booted into Ubuntu 7.10 live (the DVD), mounted root, opened up a shell, and backed up my home directory
  • re-installed Ubuntu 7.10
  • restored my home directory
  • got on with life.
This is the first time in years (and I'm talking back before 2000 now) that I've so throughly hosed a Linux installation that I had to just back up and re-install. And it took a lot of work to get there, let me tell you. Not with an update, but some seriously inspired 3-in-the-morning-with-far-too-little-sleep hacking. Not that it took that long to re-install and re-configure, mind you.

In the process of re-installing I discovered that updating an existing Ubuntu installation may not be such a good idea. For example, the amount of 'material' on the root device after a clean re-install was cut by over 60% when compared to what I had after the update from 7.04 to 7.10. What's more, the performance on rhea is even snappier than it was before. Of course, I learned long ago never to trust SuSE updates, and every time I upgraded it was always as a clean install. And then, of course, there's Windows. No, the reason I felt comfortable upgrading Ubuntu is because it appeared to be the most successful; that is it rebooted and continued to operate but with the newer bits running. Now that I've been provided the opportunity to compare a fresh install vs. an upgrade, looks like I'll be doing fresh installs from now on.

When I compare what I've experienced so far with Ubuntu 8.04 alpha with 7.04 and 7.10 alpha testing, I'm surprised that the earlier runs went as well as they did. And that frankly concerns me a bit. I would have thought that 8.04 testing would have gone a bit better because this release is intended to be Canonical's Long Term Support, or LTS, release. But this testing sequence has been the roughest, with one little niggling issue after another leading up to the update marathon that led, in turn, to the libc6 debacle and complete collapse. But I'm going to wait at least for the betas before I attempt to load it again, and reserve judgement on 8.04 until then.


Remember folks, I'm describing my experiences installing and running the alpha code. What I described above hasn't happened to me with released production code.


  1. That's why I'm sticking with Linux Mint, they regulate the updates and you don't get as much as you get with Ubuntu, and your system keeps working beautiful.

    I enjoy updates as well, but now my ssytem works all the time and I don't spend time tweaking back and forth.


  2. Erm..its clear that you are exactly the sort of person that should not install an alpha OS.

    Several solutions to this problem were posted on Ubuntu forums just hours after the broked libc6 hit the main servers. A solution was also posted in the bug report and extensively documented on the dev forums the following day.

    As for dtrostis. You enjoy using mint because it uses antiquated updated ubuntu. When it comes to stbaility you get what you pay for.


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