::post upgrade, mostly clean.

26 10 2006

So yesterday I followed my own instructions and upgraded to Edgy RC1 from the repositories.  I did it just as my blog describes, and for the most part, it went fairly smooth.  There were a few oddities that I’ll get into here, but most people (I think) will not run into the problems quirks that I had.

First off, there were a lotof packages to download–over a 1 gig.  I figured out that this is because I’m fickle and I’ve got multiple desktop environments installed on my system–Kubuntu (my default), Ubuntu (Gnome), and Xubuntu (Xfce).  This made for a lot more than the standard fair to download.  Now, I’m not alone in trying many environments, and there might be a lot of people who shared my experience.  Downloading wasn’t completed by the time I left for work, so I just let it go.

Upon my return home, downloads had completed but I had a few questions to answer about package configuration.  These had to do with configuration files being replaced, and the system was asking me if I wanted to keep my already modified config files or replace them with what was in the new package.  For the most part, I kept my config files in place, although there were a couple that I decided to overwrite.  It took a good 90 minutes for the system to configure and install all of the packages.  When it was done, I rebooted and crossed my fingers.

The first thing I noticed was that following the Grub menu, the screen went dark until I was presented with the login screen.  The Kubuntu splash screen, and all of the boot status messages didn’t appear.  This made me nervous, but once the login screen came up I felt like I was okay.

Upon login, I was presented with a KDE config menu.  This is a first time wizard that tells K how you want to handle window focus, opening programs, stuff like that.  It was the first time I’d seen it.  Once I got passed that, K loaded incredibly quickly–faster than any X window session I’ve ever had.  I poked around a little, looked at the new menus and such, and was for the most part pleased but underwhelmed.  Then I noticed that the Adept Update manager was flashing.  I got busy and opted to ignore it for the moment. 

I had time to check it out this morning, and there were 17 packages that it said needed an update.  This struck me as odd.  I figured that after upgrading to the RC yesterday, I would have a small number of updates to do that would bring up to 6.10 final, but 17 seemed excessive.

I closed the update manager and opened up Konsole (lightning fast, I tell you) and did a sudo aptitude upgradeto get a closer look at the packages.  Again, I just like to do it this way…I’ve found that the easiest way for me to get comfortable with the command line is to use it instead of the GUI whenever I have the option.  One package that stood out for me that was listed as needing an upgrade was Xorg, but when I opted to proceed with the upgrade, it wasn’t included in the upgrade, along with three other packages that I can’t remember right off hand.

I also noticed that my power management was still being handled by kLaptop, the default utility in 6.06.  One of the things I’d been looking forward to the most with 6.10 was a better power management utility called Guidance.  I looked for it on my system but didn’t see it.  Had everything not installed?

Then I remembered something from Arsgeek that I read yesterday in his upgrade instructions.  He recommended that prior to upgrading, it was a good idea to to make sure your desktop environment was up to date with all packages by doing sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop or whichever desktop environment you’re using.  Better late than never, I say, so I opted to do that and see what happened.

Sure enough, there was a slew of packages listed as part of kubuntu-desktop that weren’t installed yet.  I installed those, all went well.  Rebooted and poked around.  All of my packages were up to date and kLaptop had been replaced by Guidance (though the pop-up doesn’t call it that–calls it something else.  Since I’m not at my machine right now, I can’t tell you what it is. ) 

I strongly suspect that sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop will save most people from having most of the issues I’ve described here today.

I still don’t have a slash screen, which I don’t like.  I like to be able to watch the boot process and make sure things aren’t going wrong, so I need to work that out.  I also want to learn more about the power management utility, because the impression I’ve gotten from the release notes is that it is very robust. 

My laptop hot keys work now, which I think is very cool, albeit not really consequential.  Overall, the machine is much more responsive.   I’m trying to decide as I write this if I should try to figure out the splash screen problem, or just download a kubuntu iso and see what the machine is like with a truly fresh Kubuntu installation.   Which, I still need to give some instructions on how to do, don’t I?

To sum up…installing from the repositories was a pretty painless (but time consuming) experience.  Most of the quirks I ran into won’t be experienced by most people.  While there are few things left to work out, my system is working and functioning very well–performing better than before, for the most part. 




::ready for Edgy–upgrading from the repos

25 10 2006

As I mentioned initially, upgrading from the repos can theoretically be a fairly painless process. Leftover memories of the Bad Old Days with Windows make me weary of this type of upgrade, as well as my own painful experience with repositories timing out the only time I tried it.

Taking a look at the Ubuntu forums, there are many issues reported following this upgrade method, but not necessarily any more than be installing from the CD. All things being equal, this is just as good form of upgrade as any.

So, you’ve backed up your data and you’re ready to rock and roll, eh? Upgrading this way can be done with Adept, Synaptic, or the command line. I prefer to do this type of thing with the command line, so that’s what I’ll outline here.

Drum roll, please

Open up a Konsole window (or gnome-terminal, if you swing that way). If you’ve don’t a lot of customization on your repositories, you might want to consider changing back to your original (you did back it up, right?)

cd /etc/apt


and simply copy the file with a new name. I always use long names that are very descriptive.

sudo cp sources.list sources.list.before.upgrade.to.edgy

or something.

(If you haven’t got a copy of your original sources.list, you can get one here.)

Now that you’ve got that taken care of, open it up in a text editor.

kdesu kwrite /etc/apt/sources.list

and replace all instances of dapper with edgy.

now the fun part

go back to your konsole, and

sudo apt-get update


sudo aptitude dist-upgrade

and get yourself some coffee.

Cross yer fingers…I decided to follow all my own advice and use this method to upgrade my own system using the release candidate.
And that, boys and girls, is why we love backups so much.

I’ll check in later and let you know how it goes. Because I know there are thousands of readers on the edge of their seats now.



::getting ready for edgy, part duex–backups

21 10 2006

In this exciting episode, we’ll talk about the incredibly mundane and unsexy topic of backing up your key files and folders prior to making the move to Edgy. If backups are a normal part of your life, you can skip this. If not, they should be. I’ll do an entry at some point in the future talking about how to do regular backups. For this entry, though, I’m making a few assumptions:

  1. You don’t do regular backups of any kind.
  2. You have important files that you want to retain.
  3. You don’t have a second computer with linux installed, or it doesn’t have adequate space for your purposes.
  4. You have space enough to back up your data without having to wrestle for space.


Planning what you want to back up and how you want to do it is very important in terms of time taken to do your back up, the ease in getting it back, and storing it for the long term, if you want to. It is not necessary to back up your entire system, but you could do that if you wanted to and had the resources. My emphasis here will be in backing up your /home directory, as that is where most people store their personal files that they would want to keep.

Not everyone does this, though, and it is important that you take an inventory of your system before your upgrade to make sure you’re not missing anything. Be sure you look for directories on other paths to make sure you’re not missing anything. Where do you keep your writing? Your web site? Your mp3s? Your photos? Here’s how I plan out my backups:

What to Back Up?

  • Make a list of the types of files you want to save. Not necessarily the file types, but the category they would fall into. For example; music, photos, writing, ebooks, movies, and so on as you see fit. Don’t forget your email address book and your browser bookmarks.
  • Go through your /home directory and document where each file type is stored. If there are multiple users on your system, it would be a good idea to do this for each one.
  • Go through the rest of your hard drive and make sure you don’t have those files elsewhere, as well.
  • Write down all of directories that have files you want to keep. If your organization is spotty, you might want to take this opportunity to put your files into some logical order. If you move things, be sure to update your list.
  • Make a list, check it twice. You don’t want to do a back up only to discover you forgot that one really important set of files.
  • Get a rough estimate on how much space all of this is going to take up.

Where to Put it?

Now you need to plan out where you’re going to put all of this stuff you want to save. In a perfect world, you’ve got a spare disk (maybe external?), with enough space for everything you want to save. If this is the case, it makes life a lot easier. If not, hope is not lost.

Most likely, you’re going to end up putting your data on a spare disk or on some static media like a DVD or CD. A spare disk is probably the easiest way to go, but if you don’t have one, DVDs or CDs are still viable options. Depending on the total amount of data you’re retaining, you might end up using a lot of DVDs\CDs.

How to Back Up

There are a slew of ways you can back up your data. Some are easier than others, some are more complicated than others. For this example, I’m going to use rsync. Rsync is a simple and robust tool that you can use now and with your regular backups.

  • Backing up to a Spare Disk

So, let’s say you’ve want to save your /home directory (about 5GB, let’s say) and your music directory, which is actually off of the root tree in /mp3. You’ve got a 200GB external USB drive with plenty of space.

Sweet. This will be easy.

Once your external drive is plugged into the system, you’ll most likly find a new mountpoint in /media, called something like /usbdrive. The full path would be something like /media/usbdrive. For the sake of organization, I would create separate destinations for each unique path. So in /media/usbdrive, I’ll make a directory called /home_backup and another called /mp3_backup.

cd /media/usbdrive

mkdir home_backup

mkdir mp3_backup

Now we start the back up:

rsync -avrc /home/yourusername/ /media/usbdrive/home_backup

Here’s what we did:

The switches:

  • -a does the transfer in archive mode, so your permissions, symbolic links, etc. are preserved.
  • -v does the transfer in verbose mode, so rsync will tell you what it is doing. This is optional; I like to have it around.
  • -r does the transfer recursively into all subdirectories.
  • -c forces a checksum to make sure there were no errors in the copying process.

The rest:

  • /home/yourusername is the source directory
  • /media/usbdrive/home_backup is the–that’s right, you guessed it–destination directory.

This is going to take a while, most likely, and is incredibly boring to watch. Really. Once it is complete, you’ll do the same thing for the other data you want to back up, changing the source and destination as appropriate.

Backing up to a directory on the same partition

This is just as easy as backing up to an external drive, with a few extra steps and a little more time.

Navigate to the root directory and make a back up directory, then take ownership of it.

cd /

sudo mkdir backups

sudo chown yourusername:yourgroupname backups

Now again, we want to have separate directories for each destination.

cd backups

mkdir /home_backup

mkdir /mp3_backup

And now for the backup itself:

rsync -avrc /home/yourusername/ /backups/home_backup

Repeat for any other directories you want to save.

many hours later….
Your backups are complete, now what?

Verifying Your Backups (either method)

Now that you’ve got your backups completed, you’ll want to double-check them and make sure that your data has been preserved.  The -c switch did this for you, making sure that all of the file sizes matched up okay, but I’m paranoid and always want to check for myself.

Do this by simply browsing the files and checking them at random, maybe 20-30.  If there’s anything that’s really important, you might want to check the whole directory.
Moving Your Backups to Other Media

Now that you’ve got everything backed up and verified, it is time to move everything to your (hopefully) DVDs or (ick) CDs.  I’m sure there are better ways to do this that are far more elegant, but I just select blocks of files and burn them using k3b (or Gnomebaker, if you go that way).

Once you’ve moved your data to your DVDs, be anal and verify them again.  It would lame to go to all this trouble, only to find there was an error and you’ve lost your shit.  That, I think, would make me lose my shit in a big way.

Next time…on to the upgrade!



::getting ready for edgy, part one

20 10 2006

Edgy Eft, the latest addition to the Ubuntu family of releases, is due to come out on October 26th. Release Candidate 1, which is pretty much the final beta, is already out. If you’re like me, that means that the time to upgrade is getting close. 

Over the next few days, and I’m hoping to keep with that schedule, I’m going to give a few suggestions for what I think will make for a successful upgrade.  Your mileage, as always, may vary.

Before any method of upgrading, it is absolutely necessary for most people to do a back up of their system.  I say most people only because there are some folks out there who don’t care about potentially losing the data that is on their computer.  Or think they don’t, anyway.  Experience has taught me to always do a back up of anycomputer I am upgrading.  After you make an irrevocable change to a computer, someone always finds that there was something they missed and want back.  If you do regular backups of your computer, you can probably just go with that.  If you don’t, you should–but that’s a topic for another day.

There are a couple of ways you can go about moving up to edgy. You can do a distribution upgrade, which basically entails changing your repos to edgy and using Synaptic, Apt, or Aptitude to upgrade. You could also do a fresh installation of edgy by downloading the .iso image and installing cleanly. There are other ways–dual booting with Windows, another linux, or even your previous Ubuntu installation, but I won’t really go into those.

I prefer to do clean installations rather than upgrades.  They are a little more work when it comes to preperation and wrap-up, but they generally to a lot smoother than trying to do a distribution upgrade.

Think of upgrading via the repositories as more or less equal to using a Windows CD to upgrade from the previous version of the OS. It is theoretically easier, and you (again, theoretically) don’t have to reinstall all of your applications and data.  In the Windows world, I have never seen this go smoothly–either through my own experiences or that of others.  In the Windows world, applications break, you run into file conflicts, and end up with a generally unstable system. 

I’ve only tried this once on Ubuntu, and the fact that it didn’t go well was probably my own mistake–I decided to go from Hoary to Breezy on either the day of or shortly after the release–the repositories timed out and I ended up with a half-complete installation.  Of course, I was still able to boot into the current and stable version, and probably could have finished the job that way, but I decided to save myself the trouble and download an .iso, going with the second method that I’m about to go over.  Based on my experience, though, I don’t recommend this method of upgrading. 

The other method of upgrading is a more or less clean installation–download an edgy CD and do a fresh installation from there.  If you keep your /home directory on it’s own partition, you can have everything up and running with the Edgy Eft in under 45 minutes, all your files and settings and loveliness intact as it was with the lovely and talented Dapper Drake.  If /home isn’t in the same partition, that’s where your backup will come in very handy, though it will probably take a few more hours to restore your data. 

The next installment in our upgrade saga will be backing up your your important files.  Then we’ll briefly go over an upgrade via the repos; and finally, the old fashioned-way.




3 10 2006

Amarok is a great linux music player that ships with Kde.  It has a very cool interface, organizes your music in a very intuitive way, and has look ups for album covers and lyrics.  I really like the album cover feature, as I really haven’t set foot in a record store for more than 10 minutes since my son Liam was born. 

It will also talk to a variety of mp3 players, allowing you to add and remove tracks, and organize the contents.  Now, I bought myself a 30 GB Creative Nomad Zen Xtra about 3 years ago when I decided I was too cheap for an iPod.  All Creative players ship with this massive piece of bloatware that is supposed to organize and sync your player.  It is a memory hog, is slow, and is not stable.  And it only runs in Windows. 

Since switching to Linux, finding a good application to manage my mp3 player from Linux has been a massive pain in my ass.  Creative uses a proprietary file system and gives absolutely no help to the open source community in developing apps for use in Linux.  What’s out there has historically been at least a little unstable and bloated.  And god forbid you upgrade a library for whatever reason–there goes whatever application you spent hours and hours managing to get to work. 

Which brings me to the topic of this post, sort of. 

Up until about a month ago, I’d been using a program called Gnomad2 with my Zen.  It’s a good application, but I’ve never been a huge fan.  It is pretty slow, really doesn’t like directories with lots of files, and doesn’t transfer files recursively if there’s anything other than a music file in the directory (like say, an m3u playlist file).  Then one day, it broke.  I hadn’t changed anything, hadn’t updated anything, hadn’t done shit.  It just up and flipped me the bird.  I tried to fix it and failed.

Time to move on, I decided. 

Development of apps for Creative’s mp3 players has been pretty stilted, and a while there are quite a few out there, most of them haven’t done anything in quite a while. 

There is:

And maybe some others.

 With the introduction of Amarok 1.4, Nomad support was supposed to be built in.  I tried it a few times without ever making any effort, and couldn’t see how to connect it.  Then last week I read in the Ubuntu forums that the stock Dapper packages didn’t ship with Creative support. 

As a rule, whenever there’s a package available for an application, I’ll install the package instead of compiling from source.  It is easy and I’m lazy, and I have this illusion that there is probably better stability and support for a .deb package that is in an official repository.  Someone(s) smarter than me has built and tested whatever application it is, and it is most likely known to work.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be a package, right?

Fuck that.

I purged Amarok using Synaptic, downloaded the latest Amarok (1.4.3) and it’s dependancies.  I spent an hour configuring and making the files, and installed it without an issue, and got a neat little message saying that the package was being built with Creative Nomad support. 

 After trying to connect it for about an hour over two days, I finally figured out that my damn mp3 player had locked up.  I reset it, connected to my computer, launched Amarok, and…

It works.

Without fits or latency or being too bloated, it just.fucking.works.

I’ll write a howto in the next couple of days, because there was a little more to it than what I just described. 

But Amarok talks to my Zen with grace and style, and transfers files very quickly.

Try it, you’ll like it.