Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hardy Heron Headaches

Update:I've installed an alpha build of Intrepid Ibex, the next Ubuntu version after Hardy Heron, on a separate partition and I haven't had any weird freezes. I haven't given it as rigorous a test as I probably should, but it appears to be okay. This leads me to believe the freezes I was experiencing were caused by the kernel version that shipped with Hardy (2.6.24), which is known to be buggy and unstable on many systems. Intrepid, on the other hand, uses 2.6.27, which seems to be rock-solid. I believe you can manually backport the 2.6.27 kernel to Hardy using Prevu, an automated backporting utility, but my system was so buggy I doubt it would have made it through before it crashed... Instead, I intend to just wait another month or so and install Intrepid when it gets an official release.

I upgraded my HTPC from Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon to the new version, Hardy Heron, a couple of days ago and it's been quite a headache, considering this is an LTS version. As a caveat, I have been using the 64-bit version, which is known to have more issues since it has a smaller user base.

First, I tried upgrading through the update manager, which was a dismal failure. I was sort of expecting that to happen, though, so I wasn't too put off.

Next, I burned an install disk and set to installing. From the start, the install window was grossly oversized for my monitor (an HDTV) so I had to spend a few minutes shrinking it down to a usable size. It wouldn't allow me to make it small enough to fit the screen, though, so I had to do a lot of scrolling during the install. After that admittedly minor hang-up, the install process went fine.

Upon reboot, I ran into my next problem: GRUB tossed up an error 22 when I tried to boot my system. However, I found that I could get it to work by going through a goofy song-and-dance of first selecting my Windows partition (which also failed to boot) then going back and selecting the Hardy partition again after Windows failed. Not the best solution, but whatever.

Once I booted up, I replaced my user folder with my backed-up user folder from Gutsy, which worked swimmingly. However, my storage drives (SATA, formatted to FAT32) were not automounted like they were in Gutsy, which was a bit disappointing. After some mucking around in /etc/fstab, however, I was able to get them going properly.

All was well for a few hours until I started getting random freezes. These weren't regular ol' crashed X-server freezes, either. They were hard freezes that killed the mouse/keyboard and wouldn't resolve without a hard reboot. I tried looking in my kernel log and didn't see any panics or anything like that, and they started getting closer and closer together, so I made the decision to wipe and reinstall.

This time around, I made myself a separate /home partition in case I ran into any more catastrophic issues. Again, the window was sized wrongly, but everything with the install was fine other than that.

This time around, I guess GRUB got its act together because Hardy booted on the first try without needing any coercion. I haven't checked my Windows partition yet, though, so it may still be borked.

The reinstall seems to have fixed my random freeze issue, but I ran into a really bizarre issue about 3 hours after finishing installing: my colors were all wrong (yellows were blue, etc.) during video playback but not on the desktop.

After some searching, it appears this is an old issue that may be related to proprietary binary drivers and may have something to do with gstreamer doing some sort of hue correction that is redundant with what the driver is doing with newer cards (I have a GeForce 8600GT). The solution for me for the most part was to open Totem and go to the preferences and set the Hue slider all the way to the left. However, I actually use VLC for my videos, so I also had to fix that program separately.

For it, I had to go into the Preferences>Video>Output modules and switch the Video output module from 'Default' to 'X11 video output'.

Not to knock the Ubuntu devs, though, because they have done a wonderful job adding new features and making a highly polished OS. In fact, I've had as many or more problems with my recent upgrade to MacOS X 10.5 Leopard. In my next post, I'll go over some of the fun I've had integrating the two systems in my home network.

Update: I believe I've tracked down the source of my random freezes, which have returned since my reinstall. I used my Leopard machine to ssh into my Hardy machine and just left top running as I went about my normal activities so whatever was displayed when the next freeze came along might tip me off to the issue. Apparently, smbd (the Samba file-sharing daemon) was spawning processes left and right, causing the system to become unusable and eventually freeze. I uninstalled Samba and it seemed to fix things up. Unfortunately, my server is pretty useless without being able to share files, so I set about installing Netatalk, the Apple filesharing protocol. Interestingly, *it* (in the form of afpd) began spawning processes like crazy and shortly froze up the system as well. It looks like I'm share-less until I can figure this out. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments.

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