Trusty Tahr – The Hard Way

I waited a while to try Linux Mint 17 Xfce, and it looks like it may be quite a while longer – or never – before I do. After a full day of seeding the torrent (because I try to upload at least double whatever I download, to be nice, y’know), multiple kernel panics prevented me from installing it – and left my old Xubuntu 12.04 unable to boot up! Rawr!

Not a big deal, I did a full backup before trying it anyway, and I still have my tried-and-true Xubu Precise CD, so in it went, a fresh install of my old favorite. Just for lulz, I decided to try the upgrade process to the newest LTS, Xubuntu 14.04. I’m glad I did!

A fresh install from their DVD would have been much easier and faster, but I’ve never even tried the LTS-to-LTS upgrade process before, so I updated Precise and waited for the “a new LTS release is available” banner to appear in the Update Manager, but to my surprise, there was none! It usually appears after the first point-release, usually in July of the year it is released. But this time, nothing. But sly little sidekick that I am, I resorted to Linux’s Great Secret Weapon – the dreaded Terminal (cue the screeching violins)!

sudo update-manager -d

One little command. Bingo! Up pops the Update Manager with the new banner offering an upgrade to the newest Long-Term-Support release. One single click on the Upgrade button and the magic happens – albeit slowly and tediously even on a fast Internet connection. The whole process presented only one little bugaboo: A warning that two applications needed to be disabled in order for their newer counterparts to function in the upgraded OS: Screensaver (which I don’t use anyway), and one I had never heard of called xlockmore. So I clicked to disable the screensaver and used the terminal to kill xlockmore, whatever that is:

pkill xlockmore

and the rest went without a hitch, but took about an hour. I had formatted my /home partition along with everything else, so there were no special settings or preferences to guess which might apply in the new-and-improved Xfce 4.12 desktop, and not much to clean up after the upgrade. Reboot, done. And wow.

It’s a liiiiiiiitle bit slower than Precise so far. Most users with computers newer that 12 or 15 years probably wouldn’t even notice any difference. I applied my usual changes – replacing Abiword and Gnumeric with LibreOffice, but Xubu has most of my favorite applications already installed. Great minds think alike, what can I say? Being a college boy I need the heavy duty office suite now. Then I tossed in my little note-taking app (Xournal), multimedia codecs, and the fancy new Ubuntu icon set. I turned off startup stuff that I don’t use (power manager, screensaver, bluetooth) to speed things up a bit. I hate the Software Center, so away with that bloated monstrosity and in goes Synaptic Package Manager in it’s place. Standard Robin adaptations to a newly installed Xubu. Wanna see? I knoooooooow you can’t wait, so here:

That’s one of the spiffy new wallpapers that ships with Xubuntu 14.04. I got my nifty neato li’l desktop weather applet, a calculator, and a few of my most-often used applications on a sweet-looking bottom panel. The top panel is just the way I like it – nearly identical to the default settings that Xubuntu ships with. I got bragging rights now I guess, since I’ve never upgraded “the hard way” before. Not that this was hard or anything for goodnessakes. What, two terminal commands and a few mouse clicks is hard? Not for this delighted li’l sidekick.

Heartfelt thanks to Canonical and the Xubuntu development team for this wonderful, long-term-support edition of the best desktop Linux distro ever!

Gee That Didn’t Work Out Very Well…

…But it was easy, even for this technophobe.

As you know I always keep “running home” to Xubuntu when things get squirrelly on other distros and the first few attempts to fix it fail. It’s not because I’m lazy and immature, but because I’m practical and busy with other stuff. Now a true Linux distro-hopper is always looking for something “better” (a relative and subjective term – better for me, better on my hardware, etc), but almost every distro-hopper has a default; a “safe-place” to run home to. My safe place is Xubuntu. Because:

  • Xubu has always been almost entirely trouble-free for me since I first discovered it.
  • Xubu still runs awesomely on my aging, modest hardware in spite of the fact that it’s no longer intended for older hardware.
  • Xubu has an awesome support community, arguable the best and most cordial of support forums for any operating system.
  • Xubu is a community-developed distro. Ideas are received, debated, tested, and implemented if they work well.
  • Xubu is good for technophobic users and much less “bloated” than most of the other “user friendly” desktop distros I have tested.

So it’s no wonder I want to help in it’s development, right? Yes, even a technically challenged scardycat like me can help in some small ways to develop his or her favorite Linux distro! Not just by writing enthusiastically about it like I would do anyway here on my blog, but also with testing when I’m feeling brave and have a little time on my hands. So yesterday I was feeling brave again.

Following a complete backup and update, I volunteered to test the upgrade path from one LTS version to the next. The current LTS version is 12.04, “Precise.” I tested the upgrade process to the upcoming 14.04 LTS release, “Trusty.” My interest in this is personal and practical, since my old relic hardware doesn’t have a DVD burner and the new Xubuntu iso images won’t fit on a CD anymore. I ordinarily upgrade with a fresh new installation rather than upgrading an existing system. I still recommend that, and I think most Linux users who don’t run “rolling release” distros do as well.

Running the command

update-manager -d -c

after fully updating my system opened the Update Manager, which now offered the upgrade to 14.04! Upgrading would be as easy as clicking on the Upgrade button, right? That would be awesome.

A new window opened to explain that many packages would be removed and new ones installed, and how much disk space would be required. I clicked “Yeah let’s do this!” (not treally, I think it was just an “OK” button) and off it went, fetching 700+ new packages from the Internet. The entire download took less than 7 minutes on my Cox Internet connection. And then:

After downloading the packages it got stuck on installation, “configuring apt.” I let it go for hours just to see if it would unlock itself and get going, but it was just frozen solid. And on top of that, everything else was frozen too. Rawr. So I tried a “hard reboot” (pressing and holding the Power button to turn off the computer, then restarting). It failed to bring up anything beyond the splash screen. The dreaded “partial upgrade” nightmare scenario. Pft. Heck with that. I simply reinstalled and updated 12.04 with no trouble at all. Then did my usual little tweaks like setting swappiness to 5 (I’ve only got a half-gig of RAM) and enabling cntrl-alt-backspace, uninstalling the Software Center and putting Synaptic Package Manager in it’s place, etc. My unformatted /home partition was fully intact, none the worse for the dreaded “partial upgrade.” All that took about 40 minutes from start to finish.

Still feeling brave, and finding that the weather applet still didn’t work, I installed screenlets (in place of the gdesklets I had used before) from Synaptic. Guess what?! It has a weather applet! It actually offered three different ones! I picked the prettiest one and added a clock, a calendar, and a wicked-cool looking CPU and RAM usage monitor for the desktop. It looks awesome on my green graphic wallpaper. I’m using the High-Contrast icon set in the lower panel:

Ain’t it gorgeous!? Best ever. EVVVERRRRRR. Now I don’t want to change anything! Maybe I’ll just leave this alone until Precise reaches the end of it’s support life (April, 2015!). Unless I get to feeling brave again…