In The Armchair

Ubuntu 9.04

Posted in Computers by Armchair Guy on May 26, 2009


It’s been almost a month since Ubuntu 9.04 has been released.  I perfer not to install OSs immediately because they’re likely to have all kinds of bugs, but it’s time to upgrade now.

My main reasons for upgrading are a bunch of small but persistent and annoying bugs in my 8.10 install: gnome application window contents get garbled while scrolling and need a refresh (e.g. minimize and maximize again) to work, sound crashes frequently and needs rebooting to be brought back, gnome-terminal’s select-to-copy-to-clipboard wasn’t working, I wanted hibernate to be much more stable, poor sound quality issues with skype, and some quirky window size behaviour (windows would edge onto other workspaces by themselves), synaptic’s broken search (existing packages wouldn’t show up in searches), logout crashing X,  etc.

I’m going to write about my upgrade/reinstall experiences here.  My laptop is a Lenovo T61 with 3 gigs of RAM, an nVidia Quadro NVS 140M and Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 4965 AG network card.

Upgrade This didn’t work at all for me.  I first got a “Not all updates can be installed” message from update-manager, and when I tried to go ahead anyway, I got a peculiar “Could not calculate upgrade” message and the upgrader quit.  It may be because I have some non-standard repositories and packages (like KDE 3.5).

Installation Before installing, I used

dpkg --get-selections > packages.txt

to keep a record of all the packages I had in my previous install. I also copied


to an external drive so I’d remember the sources I got those packages from. During installation, a minor problem with manual partitioning: clicking “Forward” and then “Back” in the Ubuntu installer causes it to forget all partitioner settings.  It’s also very slow to set up mount points.  The next irritant was the message “There were no users or operating systems suitable for importing from”, even though there was an Ubuntu 8.10 which the installer did recognize. Next, I still think Ubuntu should warn about the special status of the first user (who has sudo privileges), so that people can choose an appropriate username.  (I prefer to call this account admin, and avoid using it on a regular basis.) Other than that, it was pretty simple, taking only a short while to install the basics. One very awesome thing about installing from the live CD is you can use the computer during installation.

Reusing home directories I reused my old home partition when installing.  I renamed my old home directories temporarily and created all my usual user accounts (making sure the userids didn’t change from my previous install).  Then I renamed all the accounts back to what they were originally.  Although the accounts weren’t imported during install, I could log into any of the accounts after this and it was as if they had been imported and I could pick up where I left off.  No problems so far.  Every app I tried has simply picked up where it left off on the 8.10 installation.  And that includes all the apps I installed under Wine.

Restoring Packages I tried to restore packages using

dpkg --set-selections <packages.txt

and then

apt-get dselect-upgrade

to get back all the packages I had on 8.10. This didn’t work very well. apt-get wanted to uninstall about 110 packages I wanted in addition to installing the 1400 or so packages I asked it to. Some of those 110 packages were things like compiz, which I definitely wanted. Luckily, it displayed the list of 110 packages and asked whether to proceed. I tried various things and finally kept a record of those 110 packages and proceeded. After that was done I asked it to install those 110 packages again. That worked.

Skype This time around, Skype isn’t part of the repositories.  However, the old package can be downloaded from the Skype website and installed. I haven’t yet tested the sound quality issues.

X Logging out of the current account doesn’t simply blank the screen as it did on 8.10.  You get back to the default login screen.  Update 1: The X system feels a little more stable and responsive than 8.10.

Hibernate This still works out-of-the-box, but it seems the same as in 8.10: garbled screens and loud beeps before the session is restored.  Slow.  But it does work.

Suspend Suspend works beautifully.  I’m not sure how much power is consumed in suspend mode, and I’m still pretty apprehensive about putting a suspended laptop in a backpack for worry that it’ll overheat.  But my laptop suspends and resumes without a hitch in about 5 seconds.

Garbled Apps This one is important to me: 9.10 seems to have none of the scrolling-garbles-screen problems that were rife in 8.10.

Sound So far sound seems better than in 8.10.  It appears to crash less frequently.  But I did experience one sound crash that needed a reboot, so the problems are not gone.  Ah, I yearn for the good old 7.10 days!

I found a fix of sorts for this problem in this thread; it seems to work in my configuration.  The idea is to first close all applications that are using sound (discovered with “lsof | grep pcm”) and then restart sound using “sudo /etc/init.d/alsa-utils restart”.

Overview/Conclusion So far, my 9.04 installation is practically a clone of my previous 8.10 installation.  There’s very little here that feels new.  Even the much-vaunted “polish” just boils down to a glossier login screen background and a bit of mouse movement tweaking.  Everything seems to work as expected.  Whether the annoyances I had are now fixed, I’m not sure: those bugs weren’t always easy to reproduce. A few days in now; 9.04 does feel somewhat more stable and polished than 8.10.


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