Linux support, upgrades and headaches

Some of you may remember that last year , after a regretful decision to ‘upgrade’ from Windows 7 to Windows 8 I decided to jump ship and switch over to Linux.  Ubuntu 13.04 to be precise.  I blogged about the install process here, and my first thoughts after a week here, with the intention of regular posts whenever something goes really good or really bad.

So, it’s 14 months later, and basically things have gone pretty good.  Sure, there’s some things that aren’t just how I like them with Windows, but other bits that just seem to work really well.  In defence of my lax blogging, I’d just say that I got on and used the computer as I expected I would.  I got tripped up a couple of times, but Google and always seem to put me back on the right track.

I have expanded my Linux network too.  I was donated an old netbook last year that now runs Ubuntu 13.04 for an hourly Twitter job.  The plan had been to test it on the netbook then set up a Raspberry Pi to run it, but the netbook is surplus, capable, cheap to run and it works – so why change.  I have also bought myself a little HP server which I put Ubuntu Server 13.10 on, along with OwnCloud.  This works like DropBox, and synchronises files between my main PC, phone, tablet, work computer and is available to me (albeit slowly) anywhere on the internet.

All in all, things have been ticking over quite nicely.  Life has been happy in Linux land… until recently!

I’ve been off work this week recovering from an operation.  This has given me more spare time than I normally have, although it also limits how long I’ve been able to concentrate on things.  I know that’s probably a bad combination, but, hey, lets go with what I’ve got!

So, a few days ago I thought it would be cool to “upgrade” to a retro looking terminal like this nice Swordfish90 one.  Seems fairly straight forward, but I quickly came in to troubles when some of the required packages were unavailable or were untrusted.  Lots of 404 errors.  Oh well, just one of those things that looks easy on the internet but is actually more involved.  Never mind, it would have been nice, but isn’t really required.

Later, I SSH’d on to the netbook and noticed that it said there were security updates to be applied and a new distro was available.  I didn’t really want to upgrade the whole distro, but would feel happier knowing the security stuff has been applied.  Sadly, I was unable to install the security patches as the same 404 errors were occurring.  Ok, maybe it’s time to upgrade the distro then.  This actually went very smoothly. “do-release-upgrade” quite happily took me from Ubuntu 13.04 to 13.10, and after a reboot, it tells me there is another new distro – 14.04 – that I can upgrade to.  Yeah, well, in for a penny, in for a pound.  I run that and all seems good.

Well, it seemed good.  The hourly task was still running.  For a while.  A reboot got it going again.  The following day I woke up to find that my broadband was down, so it had missed a few more of these tasks.  Can’t blame the upgrade for that though.  A restart got it back online, and in the last couple of days it has only missed a couple or so tasks – compared to missing none for the previous 4 months.  Seems like too much of a coincidence, but I suspect there’s something in the upgrade that didn’t go too smoothly.

I guess the OwnCloud server should really be running the latest release of Ubuntu too, so last night I did a “do-release-upgrade” on that machine.  This was already running 13.10 so only 1 upgrade was needed and this went really well.  The only problem was that afterwards OwnCloud wasn’t running.  Seeing how this is the whole raison d’etre for this machine this was a bit of an issue.  It seems like the upgrade overwrote the Apache config files that tell it where the OwnCloud web pages are served from.  Random poking about and looking at files made me appreciate just how little I understand about what makes this box tick.  My data was still there though, so eventually I decided to download and install the latest release of OwnCloud.  Something clever in it realised an older version was already installed, so it asked if I wanted to upgrade, I said yes, and suddenly everything works just as it did before! Hurrah!

So, this just leaves my desktop PC running Ubuntu 13.04.  When I installed this last year it was the latest release and all was good.  I could have installed an older version, 12.04, at the time which had come out a year earlier, but had Long Term Support (LTS).  I didn’t appreciate the difference at the time between a LTS release and a non-LTS release, but this has been hammered home to me in the last couple of days.  My version, 13.04, was released in April 2013 (see how the version numbers work now?), and had 9 months support.  In October, another non-LTS release, 13.10 came out, which I should have upgraded to between October and January.  Then, after the LTS release 14.04 came out, I would have had 2 months to upgrade to that.  This page shows the Ubuntu releases quite nicely

But I didn’t.  I have missed 2 upgrade cycles, and upgrading isn’t looking like a viable option for me right now.  I certainly can’t run the upgrade online as all of the repositories are unavailable.  I could download and burn myself a 13.10 DVD which I think will give me the upgrade option, and then do the same for 14.04 – However, with my experiences so far on the other 2 machines (which only have 1 task each), I worry about breaking 14 months worth of getting this computer to just the way I like it.

Probably the sensible option is to back up all my stuff and do a clean install to 14.04.  Copy back all my data and reinstall all the programs I’ve got used to.  But I know that adjusting to a “new” computer can be a slow and painful experience, and I doubt I’ll be able to find half the stuff again.

If I’m doing a complete reinstall, there’s a strong temptation to go back to Windows 7.  Life seemed simple then, and I knew what I was doing.

Alternatively, I procrastinate, put off the inevitable, and carry on with 13.04.  It works, and pretty much does what I want.  Ok, I would like to add a pdf printer and a cool retro looking terminal program, but without the repositories being available that isn’t something I can do.  Over time this is going to become more and more of a problem.

Hmmm… to be continued