Operating systems

Windows XP SP3 vs. Ubuntu upgrade to 8.04


So a few friends of mine have all suffered from the Windows XP SP3 update plague that has rendered some machines in need of a complete re-install and some just acting as if they have been infected by some form of PC-West-Nile. So instead of making fun of them for once again getting pimp-slapped by Microsoft, I thought I would try to suffer their same pain by updating my primary machine (currently running Ubuntu 7.10) to Hardy Herron 8.04.

I have done plenty of googling to see what kinds of issues that I would come across (since this is a major update) and really didn't find much that would scare me from making the jump. And even if I did suffer some pain I knew I had a back up of my machine via a LiveCD. So if all went kaput, I could just toss in the LiveCD and reinstall my working machine (don't ya love Linux?).

So I followed these steps:

  • Ran sudo update-manager
  • Updated my machine to make sure I had all the latest 7.10 software
  • Clicked on the Upgrade button
  • Went to do something productive

Well, at first look, the ugrade went very well. The machine booted up to X, I logged in, got on-line, and did most everything I always do. Very quickly, however, I hit a snag. I always set up my personal machines with two drives: An OS drive and a data drive. The data drive, as you can assume, holds all my data. I have data from years ago on said drive. But once I tried to access that drive I found it not accessible. It didn't take me long (after running the "dmesg" command) to find out that drives were now labeled differently in 8.04. Instead of /dev/hda or /dev/hdb, I was seeing /dev/sda and /dev/sdb. So I figured it was just a matter of remounting the drive with the new mapping. No such luck. No matter what I tried, the drive wouldn't mount. So I figured up gparted only to find out that, according to the upgraded Ubuntu, the partition table on the drive was corrupted.

It turns out not to be the truth. The partition table on the drive is fine. But for some odd reason the upgrade process fubar'd the udev system. Udev? What is udev you ask? The udev system allows a dynamic /dev directory, and it provides the ability to have persistent device names. It's a complex system that is supposed to create a simplistic user experience with devices. In normal circumstances, this system works like a charm. For instance, on my laptop, anytime I insert a disk I will see a new directory appear in /media. Most times the disk will be labeled /media/disk. If the disk was created with a name, that name will appear in the /media directory. This system normally works. But when udev itself is broken...well...you see where that leads.

I did spend a good amount of time looking up the udev problem. Ubuntu now also labels disks with UUIDs. I even tried getting the UUID of the drive, but to no avail. Ultimately it required a complete re-install. But interestingly enough, the install of Ubuntu 8.04 didn't work. Every time I attempted an install it would install and then, upon reboot, it would stop at Busybox. What is Busybox? Busybox is a small application that contains a bunch of common UNIX utilities. Basically it is a tiny distribution that is aimed at embedded systems. So, why is my installed Ubuntu system booting to this? This was apparently a bug in the 8.04 Alpha 4 stage. The workaround? Go into the BIOS of your computer (F2 at boot), then go in Integrated Peripherals, and then change SATA Mode from IDE to RAID.

And this is supposed to be the Ubuntu to bring all users to Linux? Now certainly I can understand these sorts of bugs in Alpha and even Beta releases. But in a public release? Sorry. And this bug made it to Kubuntu as well. I finally had to drop back to 7.10 to get Ubuntu (actually gOS) installed on my machine. Now, granted my machine was built from scratch and it's 64 bit (although running in 32 bit mode) hardware. But if 7.10 didn't have any problems...dot...dot...dot...

So back to the title of this blog. As you can see I had just as many problems as the XP SP3 users had. Now to be fair to Ubuntu, I wasn't just updating packages, I was upgrading an entire distribution which has always been flaky at best. So I have to wonder, when a distribution upgrade is almost always the WRONG way to go, why is it even an option? I would like to see the distro upgrade banished until such a time when it can be, well, successfully done. Until then, force people to install from scratch. I think most can agree the experience is ALWAYS better.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

35 comments
macoafi
macoafi

Ubuntu has used UUIDs for /etc/fstab since at least Dapper. If you had /dev/hda in there instead, that's because *you* went and broke the future-proofing Ubuntu had built in.

eric.sutherland
eric.sutherland

Recently rebuilt XP and run CC register cleaner once a month, Windows Defender once or twice weekly and Sophos AV always on. Also partioned both hard drives within the last month and before downloading and runnning SP3 and Ubuntu 8.04. Had no install or running problems todate.

brian.mills
brian.mills

I've performed distribution upgrades with no problems before (Debian Woody to Sarge a few years ago, and Ubuntu Feisty to Gutsy more recently on my fileserver) but when I upgraded my laptop from Gutsy to Hardy, it was bad enough for me to abandon it for the Windows XP partition I still had on the laptop. Sound wasn't working until I asked someone for help on IRC (Thanks #ubuntu on Freenode!). Samba doesn't work right either. I always connect to my samba shares as guest instead of my user, except on my home directory on the fileserver, meaning I have no write permissions for anything. I never traced the problem down because I got too frustrated overall before I got around to it. The system's also been crawling like a snail since the upgrade. It's only 2 years old, so it shouldn't be that slow. I can understand not having all the bells and whistles, but it didn't even want to run with any speed whatsoever running Enlightenment instead of Gnome. I guess one of these days I'll try doing a fresh install, but with no support for the built-in webcam, card reader, or power management, I'll probably just stick with XP until it's time to replace this system.

spikyjt
spikyjt

Hmmm odd, I had no problems at all upgrading from 7.10 to 8.04 on several different machines, with a variety of disk configurations and hardware. Neither have I had problems upgrading from previous versions. In fact this persistency is the main reason I settled on debian/ubuntu after trying every other distro going. RPM based distros certainly don't seem to like upgrading versions.

antilope
antilope

I think the problem isn't related to the upgrade feature per se, but to version 8.04 itself. My PC runs 7.10 with no problem whatsoever. My roomate has a Windows XP PC, which works as fine as a windows pc can ;-) Well... I run samba to interoperate with his machine and that works perfectly too. One day I decided to move on to Hardy Heron (8.04), so to stay on the safe side, I installed the new system from scratch (which I agree is the best way to go regardless). After that I did all the fine tuning necessary, like reconfiguring samba and so on. I was happy.... for 3 minutes! First of all, no more sound. I still don't know why. Second, no more network shares. Samba server didn't work, and the client didn't work either. I tried every possible solution I could think of, but still nothing. Plus, it took me three reboots to make it remember the screen resolution I wanted. As you can well imagine, I was quite disappointed and decided to revert to version 7.10, which I'm still using today. My opinion is that 8.04 isn't ready for the public yet. I'll wait for version 8.10, hoping that things will get better. If not, I'll have to consider abandoning Ubuntu for another distribution. S.

mhenriday
mhenriday

Windows XP and Vista on another on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Dual Core box, I had no difficulty at all upgrading from Gutsy to Hardy. Everything that was to be preserved was preserved in the upgrade. But I'm not running any wireless hardware, which may have eased the transition.... Henri

n
n

A complete reinstall , preserving your home directory , takes all of 10 minutes - plus a few more with a decent internet connection to reinstall some packages . I personally just upgrade as I go along . Try a complete reinstall with windoze and your personal files (which are dumped all over the same partition that your system files are dumped all over ) are lost . I'm yet to break a Linux system and not be able to recover my desktop .

VNCoder
VNCoder

For the past 10 years, every always do the install from scratch if jumping major version. Within the same major version, there are patches for it. So RPM/apt-get/YUM is use. I found this is less painful than upgrade. However, SPs are minor upgrades so shouldn't have any issues at all. It should work as if I were to do update/upgrade using RPM/apt-get/YUM.

jlwallen
jlwallen

just like with the days of ol' red hat. if you went with the .0 releases you probably were in for some "fun". if you waited for the .2 releases all was good and solid. thanks for reminding me of that important factor.

craiglarry
craiglarry

So I downloaded 8.04 beta and have been dinking with it a little. I'm not very experienced but I've gotten a ton of updates from support and it's been working reasonably well for a beta. This is on four year old amd athlon 64x machine. Don't have wireless. In China the wireless is worse than useless, just wastes a lot of time. Have you gone to forums to get help or are you too proud?

canopic@clear
canopic@clear

I always created a separate partition for my personal files and back-ups of downloaded applications, etc. So when I upgraded windows, this partition was left untouched.

hamzka
hamzka

It is no quite fair to compare these two together. XP SP3 updates the OS. Ubuntu 8.04 you are upgrading an OS. A better comparison will be upgradeing win2k to XP SP3. Ubuntu has has automatic update and patches. Upgrades and updates are just not the same.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I hear you; my last upgrade was a joy. I saved ~/ to a backup location, did a complete whipe and install then copied back what config I needed from ~/ along with any saved files. I've also had to reinstall the same version. In that case I whipe all but the home partition and moments later, I'm back in business with all my configs set. As for Windows, just save your files to a second partition. C is for programs, D is for data. I even move "My Documents" too my D drive. Most programs let you set where they save too. It does not do this by default so us smart users have to do it ourselves.

tgerhard
tgerhard

Likewise, I upgrade as I go. However, when I saw the chance to upgrade, I did. Granted, I'm not pushing the limits of the OS (it is simply on the family utility PC), the only issue I had was with internet connectivity. Why they bundled the Firefox 3 beta 5 is beyond me. After fiddling with Network Manager, deleting FF3b5, and installing FF2.0.0.14, all was better. All in all, not a bad upgrade.

notsofast
notsofast

there's no difference between linux and windows. I've never done an upgrade install of windows, and the moral here is that you should do the same with major linux releases. I can't remember if the problems with apples last release were limited to upgrades or across the board, but if the former, then that would also support always doing a fresh install. To me, it just makes good sense. Every OS is complex and most of them have a near infinite number of configurations. I assume the developers have anticipated most fresh install scenarios, but when it comes to upgrades, it's just not possible to catch them all. Besides, a new install is a good chance to do some spring cleaning :D

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

I have Ubuntu 7.x on physical hardware (a triple boot along side of XP and Vista) and Ubuntu 8.x on a virtual machine. The physical 7.x is hosed. I tried installing Beryl and it toasted just about everything. Now I'm afraid to reinstall for fear it will screw up my XP and Vista partitions (I'm a Linux newbie). But the virtual (as always) is running great.

carlo.a
carlo.a

Huh, why should I reinstall my Linux system? I'm running the same installation of Debian (it was a Woody with a 2.4 kernel) on my desktop; I have changed the whole PC firts, and then the HD, and finally the mobo + cpu + hd but I have still the same base system (ah, the powers of APT ;-) ) Of course, I have faced some issues that a user-friendly distro can hardly address, and the switch to libata can be one of these since the distro cannot treat the crowd of different bioses/system settings on the face of heart.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Thanks too years of doing Windows installs; I can't remember the last time I upgraded between major OS. Updates and services packs, sure, apt-get or Windows Update all you like. For a major move between distribution or Windows versions; clean install, always. I was thinking of trying an upgrade on a VM before it get's formatted and reinstalled clean.

zefficace
zefficace

Because I have upgraded my two ubuntu machines, and it went smooth on both the desktop and laptop. Of course the atheros wifi on the laptop needed some work, but then it wasn't functionnal without work under 7.04/7.10 either. In fact my data partitions on both computers were correctly mounted. Just like in windows, you can get lucky I guess.

m61
m61

...done fresh installs of new versions, always hear bad things about upgrading. and i've never had a problem with doing fresh installs...until 8.04 when it broke my wireless (integrated centrino wireless), other than that no problems my current wireless issues have been resolved, but it was almost a "showstopper" for me to have a commone wireless device not work out of the box (as the last 3 versions of ubuntu have detected and enabled automatically on first boot), oh well

jlwallen
jlwallen

i wanted to do this as an experiment. honestly i was hoping it would go off without a hitch so i could "nya nya" to the Windows nay-sayers. alas, i couldn't.

yschoo1
yschoo1

from Ubuntu 8.04 to 8.10 on both of my machines, one solely on Ubuntu platform and the other wubied Window Vista Home Premium without a hitch and both work just fine.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

c: Documents and Settings Program Files Windows d: My Documents My Archives PalmFiles - program files for Palm the time GameFiles - saves restoring mods, saves and characters Recently, I've started creating a d:\Documents and Settings but it's just an empty tree so I can group MyDocuments and MyArchives by user in the same fashion as the user's actual settings on C: Absolutely all in how you manage your partitions.

canopic@clear
canopic@clear

I can remember [its a long time ago now] upgrading Win98 to WinXP on several machines, without problems, except you don't get a nice clean registry. [I think Win95 to Win98 also went not to bad for me.] The advantage of this was of course avoiding the re-install of lots and lots of Apps. The same incentive [to upgrade rather than to fresh install] applies to linux, if you have a lot of Apps you want to keep, and that are not part of the standard distro, and especially if you have restricted bandwidth or monthly quota. I would not risk a WinXP to Vista upgrade after the problems I have heard, but then I have decided I don't want or need Vista anyway. Regarding SP3, I installed on 5 computers, 4 went smooth, one computer had problems.

yschoo1
yschoo1

Why don't you try Wubi and install 8.04 right into Windows provided your machine has fast enough CPU and video card. I did it on a Dell Quad-core Inspiron 530 with Vista on it and on a HP 1.35 GHz machine and they work just fine. I have also had my 8 years old Dell Dimension L800r updated from 7.04 to 8.04 and works in slower pace but it works just fine. It is faster to get the job done with fresh install though.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I can't remember the last time I built a machine with only one OS on the physical hardware. You should have no issues putting a reinstall of Ubuntu on the hardware; maybe an upgrade to 8? ;) For me, the key is watching the partitions. Your drives are in letter order (hda = 1st drive, hdb = 2nd) and your partitions numeric order (hda1 = 1st primary, hda2 = 2nd primary). The hickup being the secondary partition wrapper which I think get's hda4 (partition 4) since hda5 is my first non-primary partition space. Numeric orders are left to write in the MS disk manager. You may also try a Mandriva One liveCD at least as far as the disk manager (custom option) which will give you a good view of your partitions. From there, you can install Mandriva or note your paritions in an easily viewable manner then boot whatever you prefer to isntall. Provided you don't forget which partitions bellong to Windows and format them, there should be no issue. Bootloader is the other bit. If your setup to install your lilo/grub on a /dev/fd0 (floppy) then you can use that same setup and leave your hard drive FAT and Windows boot sectors untouched. If you have to install lilo/grub on the hard drive you may need to use your trusty Windows install CD and do an FDISK /MBR but be sure you've adjusted your lilo/grub first or plan to learn "loadlin".

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I have had almost zero problems with the update mechanism but then I don't use wireless and my drives were already set to sd(x) anyway. That evaded the problem you had.

megamanx
megamanx

shhhh, nya nya nya Windows users nya nya nya

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Don't do an upgrade. If you must, try to find someone else (Jack, perhaps?) who has already tried it.

yschoo1
yschoo1

updated with SP3 and has seen no problem so far.

$$$$$$$$$$
$$$$$$$$$$

When asked the first time about a bootloader, just say "no." I actually don't recall that dialog at all in Ubuntu, but in Debian, Mandriva & Fedora, you'd be asked whether you want to install a bootloader. Say "no," then put a blank floppy in and at the next step type '/dev/fd0' Put Linux on your MBR when you're used to it, comfortable with it, and don't rely on Windows.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I do it so absent mindedly these days that I've forgotten the specific terms. I only remember the extended seperation because my first logical partition comes up as hda6 instead of the next in numeric order. I would also have explained it all in less technical detail but Rickk is pretty competent on the Windows side so I stuck to the more detailed ramble.

canopic@clear
canopic@clear

I have several machines that multi-boot between 6 and 12 OSs each, and perhaps with 15 partitions on a hard drive. If you begin with windows and give it 2 or more partitions, it will typically [ie by default] set itself up as C-drive=hda1 and then extended partition [what you call the wrapper] as hda2. [Additional logical partitions are created inside this extended partition - for windows or linux, and always start numbering from hda5.] Windows doesn't partition more than one primary partition. But you can add primary partitions for linux with a partitioner such as Paragon under windows, or gparted under linux and they will become hda3 and hda4. If you create free space after the extended partition hda2 then hda3 and hda4 will be created here in this free space and the numbering of the primary partitions 1,2,3,4 will be in the same order as their physical placement on the disk. But if you create free space ahead of c-drive [hda1] by shrinking it so that it still adjoins to hda2, the the next primary partition you create: hda3 will physically come before hda1 on the drive. Certainly with some partitioners. Other partitioners may try to renumber partitions to preserve physical order, but this can create problems for installed systems so you don't normally want this. With some BIOSs [I just last month found a brand new Abit motherboard that still has this limitation in its bios] - they can only address/read the first 1 or 2 GB of the hard disk. This means for linux you must place your boot partition at the start of the hard drive, ahead of the hda1 windows partition. So in my experience it is quite common in this situation to have the first primary partition on your hard drive numbered hda3 or sometimes hda4. The extended partition does not have to be hda2 either, it can be any number between 1 and 4 depending on how it was created. Regarding Installing Ubu 8.04 [Beta]: I have done fresh installs on two machines, and it messed up on both. On one machine my boot partition and my home partition were identical sizes and it created the same UUID for both drives, then because it uses the UUID in fstab to mount the drive, and because the boot drive came before the home drive, it mounted the boot drive as /home! As a consequence it was impossible to log in as it couldn't find the user directory in home. [It said it didn't exist!] On the other machine I had a / partition and a /usr partition and it mounted the /usr partition as /home ! I hope these issues have been or are being fixed for the official release.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I just tend towards being over-wordy and detailed these days. Ghosting is definately a good idea. You might also consider a seporate "play" drive since you can't be mucking with your work partitions. VMs will keep you happy to though.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

See, all that is why I haven't even touched it yet. This triple boot PC is my work PC. I can't have downtime period. I can't even remember what I did the first time. Just followed some instructions I found on-line. Something to the effect of Linux first, Vista next and XP last...can't remember. Anyways, starting to think I'll just ghost everything just in case. But, I would like to put the newest version of Ubuntu on there.

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