Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 - Problem with new Releases

I couldn't upgrade my Ubuntu 9.04 installation - the upgrade script wasn't on the desktop-iso I had downloaded. It wasn't critical as I had a free partition and installed Ubuntu 9.10 on that. A lucky move.

My initial reaction was very good. The 1280x1024 resolution of the monitor was not found; however, the desktop was significantly snappier on the 512 MB system. I had been expecting and looking forward to it because of the improvements in 2.6.31.

Then, I noticed that X-server would freeze occasionally. I learnt the Alt-SysRq-k combination instead of the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace. I needed to use it often. After killing the X, the screen would usually be black and I could do nothing. I had to learn the Alt-SysRq-b combination as well!

I tried to find the cause for the X locking up but could not. It may not be just the Intel driver on an old 845 graphics chipset as Google search reports problems on Nvidia and ATI chipsets as well.

By the end of the day, I had gone back to 9.04. Then I decided to copy the 2.6.31 kernel and the modules on to the 9.04 partition. I booted 9.04 with the 2.6.31 kernel from 9.10 and the system was stable for the next half hour till the end of day.

Tomorrow, I will explore that environment further and am hoping that the problem is with X. If so, I will work with the snappier 9.04 unofficial upgrade.

This confirms my view that the current mechanism for distributions is now inappropriate. It is too disruptive and, potentially, very painful.

I will find time to explore a rolling distribution Arch linux or Gentoo. My hesitation so far has been that their repositories may not be as comprehensive as Fedora or Ubuntu. Now the benefits of a rolling distribution outweigh the drawbacks.

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