I wrote about our Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop in this earlier post. We bought it with 32-bit Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04 on it, and it has been working like a champ. But now Jaunty is getting dated and Lucid 10.04 has been released as an LTS, so it looked like a good opportunity to update the Dell this weekend. My only concerns were the Dell wireless and the touchpad. I waited until the Ubuntu forums had confirmation that both would work in Lucid. I found several posts on the topic, all successful, so I backed up the data from the laptop, plugged it directly into the home network because I knew the wireless connection would probably not initially survive the upgrade, and dove in.
Jaunty to Karmic
Since Ubuntu will only update from Karmic to Lucid, the laptop had to first be updated from Jaunty to Karmic, then from Karmic to Lucid. That should have been enough to push me into doing a fresh install, but my optimism and/or stupidity know no bounds. I used the GUI Update Manager and clicked on the version upgrade button. Everything proceeded well. It called out something like over 2400 files to download, which seemed like a lot.
The upgrade from Ubuntu Jaunty to Karmic took about an hour and six minutes, which seemed like a long time. In watching the terminal as the installation scrolled by, I could see why. Dell apparently preinstalled every language pack known to Linux. We don’t write much in Friulian, Urdu, or Xhosa, so after the upgrade I spent a couple of hours going through language packages and purging them. Yes, there are way more than you think. A lot more. I’m thoroughly impressed with the number of people groups supported by Ubuntu. Synaptic’s search filtering made it bearable, but it was a pain.
After I thought that I took care of all the language, translation files, and associated font stuff, I proceeded directly to upgrade to Lucid using the GUI Upgrade Manager. I did not stop to ensure that the Karmic setup was totally functional, other than that the wireless and touchpad worked. That may have been a mistake. It’s hard to say at this point.
Karmic to Lucid
The upgrade from Karmic to Lucid only required 1681 files. That should give you an idea of how much language stuff was initially preinstalled. This update only took 45 minutes. But then the real fun began.
Device & Apparmor dead end
On the reboot after the upgrade finished, I received two text errors during the startup (but not together at the same time):
mount: mounting none on /dev failed: No such device
chroot: cannot execute /etc/apparmor/initramfs: No such file or directory
The system finished booting to the Lucid desktop, wireless worked, but nothing else did – including the keyboard, touchpad, or USB mouse. I had to power off to get out of the situation.
I searched the Net for several hours and tried a variety of solutions using the recovery/single user boot menu item. Repairing packages from the menu didn’t do anything since Lucid didn’t seem to think that any were broken. In the terminal mode, I tried purging apparmor:
sudo service apparmor stop
sudo aptitude purge apparmor apparmor-utils
and regenerating the kernel image:
sudo update-initramfs -u
After a reboot, that didn’t work, so then I reinstalled apparmor and again regenerating the kernel image. I reinstalled ureadahead. I checked /etc/fstab, /etc/X11/xorg.conf, and /boot/grub/menu.lst (system was still using Grub 1), but all looked fine. According to what I found on the web, no one successfully solved this issue without reinstalling the system. It seems to be a system timing issue between ureadahead and the disk mountings. Ouch.
Clean Lucid install
So, I sucked it up and put in the Lucid 10.04 LTS x86_64 Live CD and booted it up. I ran everything fine and even offered the wireless driver for installation. So, I told it to install Lucid, overwriting the existing Lucid installation on the disk. I didn’t time this one but it was about 30 minutes or so. Upon completion, everything worked perfectly except the wireless. I expected that, since it was unlikely that the driver would be loaded by default.
When I went to System -> Administration -> Hardware Drivers, Lucid indicated that the Broadcom STA Wireless Driver was already installed and active. Cool! When I right clicked on the network icon, the Enable Wireless item was grayed out. Hmmm. I decided to update Lucid to the latest packages first using the wired connection, then restarted. That didn’t solve the issue.
So, I found this thread and followed their advice to reinstall all the key packages (all one line in the terminal):
sudo aptitude reinstall bcmwl-kernel-source b43-fwcutter bcmwl-modaliases broadcom-sta-common
Interestingly, aptitude said that b43-fwcutter and broadcom-sta-common were not installed, so it couldn’t reinstall them. The latter supports the STA driver. So, I proceeded to install them:
sudo aptitude install b43-fwcutter broadcom-sta-common
This worked fine. Since they rebuilt the kernel, I restarted the system. The Enable wireless was still grayed out. Time to sit back and think more deeply about this.
The Inspiron 1545 has an Fn + F2 key combination that toggles the wireless power. I tried that a few times, but nothing changed. Looking back, I wonder if I waited long enough after each toggle attempt. I tried other things, including enabling the Proposed and Backports respositories and updating the system from them, but still nothing improved.
Then I remembered that the wireless could be enabled/disabled in the BIOS as well. In thinking about that, I also realized that I had “restarted” the system after each change, but I never turned the laptop off after the installing from the Live CD. So, I powered completely down, then on power up I checked the BIOS settings, which were all correct, then booted through to the desktop. The wireless tried to connect almost immediately!
I wish that I could say what really got the wireless working again. Was it the reinstallation of the wireless support packages? Was it something that updated from the Proposed or Backports repositories? Did I finally get the Fn + F2 key combination to power up the wireless? Did checking the BIOS settings somehow reenable it? Did powering down the system reset the wireless state? I cannot honestly say.
The Dell 1545 Inspiron works perfectly under Lucid. The native Broadcom STA Wireless Driver connects faster and seems more reliable under Lucid than Jaunty. It boots up and shuts down faster, although I don’t have the boot splash screen. I may mess with that later, but the laptop is rarely shut down.
I restored all the data files, including Firefox’s and Thunderbird’s profiles. Firefox asked then imported the profile to 3.6.3 without issue, although I had to update a few extensions. Thunderbird 3 picked up the TBird 2 profile and imported all the mail flawlessly. I reenabled print sharing, and the printers came right up. We are largely mission capable, with only the Samba profile to recreate. I simply ran out of time.
On laptops especially, I believe that a clean install avoids substantial issues. Yesterday, it would have saved me many hours of frustration. I will continue to upgrade on the desktop, although the last one didn’t go so well.
I know that I have friends who will read this and say, “Well, it doesn’t look like Linux is ready for prime time.” I’ll answer by observing that I’ve been through this process many times in Windows with much more pain. I can honestly say that at least Linux gives you a number of ways to fix things. It’s Recovery/Single User Mode boot option gives you complete root access to all file systems and settings files. With Windows, registry problems or issues outside the /Windows directory are virtually unsolvable (short of reinstalling over the existing installation) from the Windows installation CD if the system won’t boot correctly. Or, you need a good Linux utility disk like System Rescue CD. That’s largely how Geek Squad and others can milk your Windows problems for big bucks, eh?
Could Ubuntu have provided a better upgrade experience on both my home-built desktop and Dell laptop? Yep, and they need to spend more time on that as opposed to what to put in the upper right corner of window title bars IMO. Nobody cares how cute the desktop is if they can’t type in it or use their mouse.
In the end, I think that Ubuntu Lucid 10.04 LTS provides an excellent user experience and a powerful, reliable, and secure system once installed. You should take it for a spin if you haven’t already.