Ubuntu upgrade hell

So I decided to upgrade my work ubuntu laptop. I had been putting it off for ages because of the hell I went through upgrading it from 6.06 to 8.10, but being stuck on old versions of pretty much everything (but especially openoffice) was becoming impossible. Strangely though, it was when I tried to install monkeysphere that I finally snapped. Time to do a dist-upgrade to 10.04 I thought.

I started using the desktop package manager – it had been prompting me with “a new version of Ubuntu is available” for quite some time, so I pushed the button and let it do its thing. After an initial false start (out of disk space) it downloaded the upgrades and went to work. About half an hour in, it decided to restart kdm, which is where the fun started.

Now I’m at a command login and the upgrade is in a bad state. A few apt-get -f installs later I find that there’s a file missing in the latex hyphenation config and one of the postinst scripts keeps failing. The postrm script fails too, so I can’t even remove the offending package. After sleeping on the problem, grep -r comes to my rescue and I find the reference to the missing file. Commenting that out just bumped me to the next missing file, so I rmed the lot. I know I now have a badly broken latex system but dammit, I just want this upgrade to finish.

A few more apt-get -f installs and apt-get dist-upgrades later, and the system is ready to reboot. But grub can’t find the root partition, and it drops me to an initramfs which can’t see any hardware. So I had to fire up a 10.04 install cd that I fortunately had to hand, and use it to chroot into the root partition and rebuild the initrd.

Finally, it boots. But I can’t login graphically because gnome-session can’t be found. Back into the command line and apt-get install ubuntu-desktop, which takes another half an hour because it’s all missing, the lot of it. At this point, I notice something odd – I can use my thinkpad fingerprint reader to log in on the command line, but not graphically – scanning the finger when in X gives nothing, not even an error.

Anyway, my xorg.conf file is apparently no longer valid, as it doesn’t recognise the dual screen setup. I rename it and let it run on auto-detect and the screen comes back, but the EmulateWheel on my trackball now doesn’t work. So I run X :2 -configure to get a skeleton xorg.conf file, save that in /etc/X11/xorg.conf and cut&paste my old mouse settings into it. This doesn’t work.

At this point, having used sudo several times, I accidentally discover how to make the fingerprint sensor work while inside X. When prompted, scan your finger. Wait two seconds, hit Ctrl-C and then enter. Don’t ask me why.

It turns out that in recent versions of xorg, you need to set the option “AllowEmptyInput off” in the ServerFlags section or else it ignores any mouse or keyboard configuration sections. Sure enough, this allows EmulateWheel to work again, but the mouse pointer also moves while the emulated scroll wheel is turning. I’m now running very late and this sorry saga will have to continue in the new year.

Merry Christmas, software developers.

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