The long dark teatime of Dist-Upgrade

Every six months, it’s that time again … upgrading to the newest Ubuntu release. I don’t know which department is in charge of the release branding, but with the label for release 8.04 (The year 2008, fourth month) they have outdone themselves: Hardy Heron. I really hope Mark Shuttleworth opens an Ubuntu Zoo out there in South Africa. Screw PETA, it would be horribly nice of him. The man’s been into space, is there anything he can’t afford ? A couple of drakes, fawns and herons would do the trick.

Back to the dist-upgrading then. The great thing about Unix is that all of your settings are stored in a central place: the Home folder (trademark). Backing up your system is a simple matter of backing up one directory. Even if it all goes bottoms up, it’s just a matter of an hour (I/O wait time, mostly) to get your system back into the exact state it was.

After the obligatory reboot – yes, the only necessary reboot is when your kernel has changed – all seemed to work, except for a few Gnome panels. I’m 23 days early, the release is still in beta, so I was expecting some trouble either way.

Let’s go quickly over the big changes in this release:

  • Firefox 3 beta: A huge improvement. The overall feel is a lot smoother, pages render blazingly fast, regardless of how many flash elements, poorly structured chunks of HTML or high-resolution pictures the page holds. The interface (and the download dialog) had a necessary cleanup, and the bookmarks system is a lot clearer now.
  • Gnome 2.22: Simple, yet elegant, Gnome remains my favorite desktop manager, although I’m going to check out the spectacular-looking KDE4 too. The most noticable improvement probably is the bundling of file transfer dialogs. When you’re moving a lot of files between disks, the task bar used to get cluttered with “copying files” or “moving files” dialogs. Now, they are all bundled into one convenient dialog. It’s a detail, but it sure makes a difference.
  • CFS (Completely Fair Scheduler): Since kernel 2.6.23, the standard Linux schedular has switched to CFS mode, which is an intelligent way of distributing processor time over several processes. It improves desktop reaction time, and makes the overall experience of working with GUI’s feel smoother. You can read the (nerdy at first glance, extremely interesting at a second look) lengthy discussion Mr. Torvalds had with the other kernel developers here.

I’m very satisfied with the new release overall ! Also, very interesting for windows users: you can try out Ubuntu from within windows now, thanks to the new Wubi installation system !

(warning: next section is extremely boring if you don’t have an Intel Proset Wireless chipset in your laptop, if any :) )

And now, on to the slightly bad news: this update bricked my wireless connectivity, partially. Since the 2.6.24 kernel version, ubuntu has switched from ipw3945 to ilw3945 as kernel module for Intel Proset Wireless interfaces. This new module seems to have several quirks, which hopefully will be ironed out before Hardy goes out of beta. Here’s a couple of things you can do if you’re experiencing troubles with given card:

  • Launchpad #204709: Solution for network interface wlan0 changing to wlan0_rename and useless activation of eth1 after performing an upgrade.
  • This thread offers a solution which is connected to a broken CAPA implementation, but that seems to be resolved in the latest Network-Manager updates.
  • Launchpad: #210005: My bugreport about the issue