OK, maybe that title is dramatic. It did ruin the last two work weeks for me, though. Over Memorial Day weekend, I upgraded my work laptop from Kubuntu Hardy Heron to Jaunty Jackalope. That was a maneuver I instantly regretted when I got to work on Tuesday and my second monitor would not work no matter what I tried. As it turned out, this Kubuntu release had some known really bad problems for those poor souls (like me) that have the Intel video cards. My 3 year old Dell Inspiron 9400 has the Intel 945 GM. From Dapper Drake through Hardy Heron, this laptop has been a champ and even being 3 years old I like it just as much as the day I got it and have no particular desire to get a new one. With Jaunty though it sucked so bad it made me wish I had Windows on there.
As the weeks went by, the depth of problems grew worse. The response of everything was sluggish, from changing virtual desktops to changing windows. When Kopete popped up notifications of incoming IMs, they would never go away. Basically, everything about my job got harder and the productivity hit is measurable in my bug fixing velocity. Last Friday was the worst yet and I got so frustrated that given half a chance I’d have thrown this laptop out the window. I made the executive decision that no matter what, I was taking it home for the weekend and I was not bringing Jaunty back to work.
I downgraded to Kubuntu Intrepid, it didn’t appear to be that much better than Jaunty on my video card and I immediately rolled back to Hardy, the version that was on there 2 weeks ago. However, I couldn’t find my install CD so I just downloaded it again and burned a new CD. Because of a misclick, I realized 30 seconds after starting the installer that I had downloaded mainline Hardy, not the Kubuntu version. At this point I said “Screw it, let it ride.” I got up this morning, ran the package update to get the few hundred packages with updates since the ISO version and went to work. I moved my backed up home directory back to /home and logged out and in, and voila! All of my gnome preferences from a year ago when I left Gnome came right back. At this point I’m back in business and delighted to be able to span my external monitor.
Now, here’s the lesson I learned from the whole painful ordeal and how I’m going to go forward with it. This is a mission critical box for me, in that when it has problems the way I make my living has problems. I don’t want downtime on it and I don’t want to spend my weekdays putzing with it. I need rollbacks to be very quick operations. I supposed I could ghost and image and do things like that, but I thought of another way that I’m going to use.
This has an 80 G hard drive, which is plenty for what I use it for. Since most of my work involves logging into remote servers this laptop is really a fancy thin client. The next time I upgrade, I’m going to wipe the drive and repartion with this kind of scheme:
||Size in GB
Now, suppose I had Hardy on Partition #3 and Gutsy on #4 and Feisty on #5 before my recent upgrade. I would have installed Jaunty on Partition #5 and changed all the mount points accordingly. Then, when the upgrade went poorly I would have downgraded by changing all the mount points back to what I have listed above, changed the default kernel to the matching one and gone back on my merry way. I never have to worry about /home or /boot because they are on their own partitions. If my thought experiments hold true, then rolling back in the worst case is an easy couple minute process, not the multi-day ordeal I went through just now. Cool, no?