Virtually Pure

A little background for non-ubuntu users:

Ubuntu, my favorite linux distribution (log before Sheldon Cooper announced that it is his), issues new releases every 6 months, in April and October. The releases are known by two names–year and month of release (12.04 for April of 2012) and a code name (Precise Pangolin for 12.04). The code names are alphabetical (oneiric ocelot was 11.10), and are often abbreviated to the adjective (“precise”). Every two years, the April release is designated LTS for long term support. The LTS versions are pretty stable and will be supported for 3 years (desktop version) or 5 years (server version). See

I have the desktop version. I started with hardy heron (08.04) and upgraded to lucid lynx (10.04). There are supposedly a bunch of advances in precise, and I like to be somewhat current. The advice is to wait until the .1 release comes out, as that will roll in updates and bug fixes in the initial release. 12.04.1 came out last week, so I was ready.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Backed up my system
    Upgrades can cause problems, so it is critical to have a backup. I have a spare 500GB hard drive, so every once in a while and on occasions like this I clone the existing system so I have a complete copy. I use clonezilla (
    I only had one problem with this and it was my fault. I don’t use clonezilla all the time and it’s user interface is not intuitive to me. The key is that it asks if you want to do a device-image or device-device cloning. I wanted the latter, but chose the first. It wound up copying my backup to an image on my main drive, and filling that up. So, no clone. Worse, I could not boot my machine. I got a cryptic message about installation failure and gnome unable to start. I figured that it had to be a space problem, so I researched a little. The answer: get into recovery by using crl+alt+F1, navigating to the file system and finding the directory I said to create the image in (2012-08-25-15-img) and deleting the files. On reboot everything was fine.

    Then, I went back to the clonezilla web site, downloaded the latest version to an iso, used brassero to burn that image to a cd, and booted from the cd. When I chose the second, option (device-device) everything was intuitive–choose source and target drives, and clone. One other difference was that I used a drive enclosure the first time, but opened the case and connected the spare drive directly the second time.

    After cloning (about 2 hours), I booted from both the existing drive and the cloned drive to be sure everything was working. It was, so now I was ready to upgrade.

  2. Prepare for upgrade
    When I upgraded from hardy to lucid, the upgrade failed. I think the reason was that I forgot to run update manager first. You can do this from terminal bu entering:
    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
    It may ask you to reboot, and you should do that. In my case I had recently updated and there were no new updates to apply.

  3. Do the upgrade
    Once the .1 release comes out, update manager will tell you that there is a new distribution release available. I assume you can just press upgrade and go. I was following instructions from the interwebs that told me to do alt+F@ (run application) and enter update-manager-d in the dialog box. That takes you to update manager which asks you to press the “upgrade” button to do the distribution release.
    Another said sudo do-release-upgrade in terminal (although there were some other steps to update config filed before doing that, and that seemed silly). Lots of ways to do the same thing.
    So, I did the update-manager-d thing, and about 1.5-2hrs later it was done. I did have to respond to some prompts–2 asking for the mysql password and mysql root user name (assume you wont get those unless you have mysql), and two others that has unreadable characters. There was something that looked like an “OK” button in the lower right of the dialog box (although it was garbage in the box), so I pressed it and the process continued both times. The security of having a cloned system to fall back to makes you brave.
    At the end of the process it reboots and you have precise pangolin.
  4. Clean up
    1. Once I got to precise, I had a problem. It would not log in to my main user id. I logged in as guest, and was able to create a new user with admin privileges, using my existing password, but could not log in. More research.
      The answer: fix unity. I went to the recovery mode (ctrl+alt+F1) logged in as me, and got to an XTerm screen. I entered unity –reset. After that finished I entered reboot. I was able to login from the login screen, but it took me to XTerm. I entered “unity” and I got to the unity interface. Problem was the xterm window did not go away, and when I closed it it closed my session. That fix was easy once I realized what I had done wrong: I left the login option to recovery. Once I changed that to “unity”, I was able to login and went right to where I wanted to be.
    2. Next, I fired up virtualbox. It worked fine, but a new version had just come out, so I decided to go to that. I went to the virtualbox site, downloaded 4.1.20, and installed as I have done numerous times before. This time it failed. With I little help from google, I found this:, which explains how to add vbox to the ubuntu repositories and upgrade from there. I worked.
    3. Finally, I’m not sold on unity. I had a virtual machine with one of the interim releases (maverick meerkat and natty narwol were unusable in my estimation, oneiric ocelot was Ok), but unity didn’t impress me so I reverted to the gnome interface: sudo apt-get install gnome-panel, logout, and select gnome classic on the login screen. If I get sick of unity I’ll do that. It’s a change, and it always surprises me how some techies are resistant to change. Of course, not all changes are good, and I’m withholding judgement on this one.

    So, that’s it. Several hours and some irritating events later, I have an upgraded system–and a full backup of they way it was in case of disaster.


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