Ubunutu 11.10 Installation Issues

After over a year with Fedora 13, I updated my home desktop system to Ubuntu 11.10

Some 10+ years ago I hoped installing Linux would get easier over the years and one day I would be able to recommend it to non-tech family members. No such luck - getting ubuntu 11.10 up and running took too much time, and required too many difficult fixes.

My home machine runs a web browser. It is used for some minor video processing, GIMP image editing, digikam photo management, and is a host for a KVM/QEMU virtual machine that runs a web server for some specific tasks.

When installing a new operating system, I keep existing partitions so /home, etc is left unchanged. / is on its own, so can be completely cleaned and used by the new installer.
Most partitions are in a volume group, so LVM is necessary for booting.

  1. First hurdle was downloading the installer, the Live CD. Pick the recommend 32-bit even though I (and all new computers in past 2+ years too) have 64-bit machines? Pick standard installer or dig into deeper links for the "alternate" installer? After a bunch of wrong downloads, and a lot of web searching - since Ubuntu site itself is not very helpful - determined that 64-bit install is just fine, and since I need to keep my existing partitions, the alternate installer is what I need and standard would not work (maybe!). Or at least that this combination would definitely do what I needed, and it was not clear if the standard install is good enough. So went with 64-bit alternate installer.
  2. To run the alternate installer, I needed this information: info from old fstab and df to assign partitions. During the install, I formatted / but left /home and /data alone. These were all LVM volume groups. /boot was a physical partition. Also needed IP address info - the fixed IP address and gateway IP. For hostname, used name.localdomain (i.e. localdomain single word after hostname).
    Noted old nvidia graphics drivers too, though that information was not necessary, since Ubuntu installer figured all that correctly.
  3. The installer is pretty poor quality - requires too many pauses and user input during a long running process. So every 15 minutes I had to look in to see where it was stuck, and enter required information on a modal dialog. Only then would install proceed. This happened more times than it should have, so Linux install is still a painful process.
  4. grub2 install seemed to move along fine, and then had a fatal error. I was installing from a USB flash stick /dev/sda, and the hard disk was /dev/sdb. But the Ubuntu 11.10 installer could not figure that out, and instead of using sdb for grub, it used sda and ended up failing. So after 2 hours of babying this install process along, it now fails at the final stage of getting boot setup correctly!
  5. So went back into installer and chose Lilo. Everything seemed to have worked out. But system would not boot! Lilo could not handle the LVM, as far as I could tell. So now I have a system that does not boot. In the past, I have installed Microsoft Windows many times, and their installer even 10 years ago was much better than the Linux installers of today! Non-tech people could use Microsoft installers successfully, more often!
  6. I needed Linux up and running - so had to go back to Google searches for grub failures. And read up regarding changes with the new Grub 2 vs the old grub that I knew. Booting up the Ubuntu 11.10 Rescue Mode was also a poor experience - it seems even though it stored a full CD's worth of data on the stick, it still needed to go to the network to download software needed to boot up! Wouldn't it have been nicer like the old days when a rescue disk was all contained and could boot up fast?!
  7. With guides on the web, redid the Ubuntu config for grub using grub-mkconfig, and this time manually installed it using grub-install /dev/sdb.
  8. On a reboot, the grub menu screen was all messed up - garbled. The screen resolution was no good. Turned out that on my large LCD monitor, the default 640x480 screen did not work. Changed /etc/default/grub line to say GRUB_GFXMODE=1024x768 and things looked much better.
  9. Finally, 5 hours after I had started, I had a bootable system! Something that should have taken 45 minutes ended up taking far too much time.

    Now everything is working well. Very easy to install Adobe flash plugins in Ubuntu, got digikam installed, used KDE (kubuntu) Desktop.

    Tried the lightdm login manager instead of kdm (or gdm), but found it to be buggy. On the login screen, the top-right corner shows two buttons that when clicked show additional commands such as reboot, etc. Well, after clicking a few times, lightdm lost track of my mouse, and would not accept any clicks! I could navigate the login prompt using keyboard (tab key) and login that way, but mouse would no longer work.
    So I switched back to kdm, and at least for now, it is working much better than lightdm.

    Also tried the new Ubuntu Unity desktop for a while. It seems just fine for the way I use the system, and I was going to keep it. Then I started konsole - the terminal emulator, since I do a lot of work in terminals. And the konsole came with without the top row with the file menu commands! Argh! So they again want me to do Google searches for how to get back the menu back in Konsole under Unity! It was far easier to just switch to KDE, and the konsole there works as expected.

    Life is somewhat good again. KDE with Ububtu 11.10 now works well on my system. KVM and virt-manager setup easily - I had a server.xml definition file to setup my virtual machine (servers) and they are now up too. That went smoothly.

    But - rebooting the system throws up a scary message. "The disk drive for / is not ready yet or not present.
    Continue to wait or press S to skip mounting or M for manual recovery.

    Doing nothing and waiting seems to work fine - it throws up additional messages about other mount points, but does boot up eventually. Probably a timing issue - since / is a logical volume group, it may not have mounted fast enough. Still, this is a very disconcerting message - is this going to degenerate into a serious problem down the round? Time will tell.


Babysitting install?


I have recently installed 11.10. I used the standard Desktop installer, and other than the hack involved to get LVM support using the Desktop installer, no babysitting was required at all. It even prompts you to set up the user account while it is downloading packages.

I assume the awkward installation process you experienced (the babysitting part, at least) was a feature of the Alternate Install. Presumably you would not recommend the Alternate Install to your non-tech family members :-)

The Desktop+LVM hack I mentioned is something I've been using pretty much ever since I started w/ Ubuntu in '08, maybe even '07. It is detailed here: http://www.debuntu.org/how-to-install-ubuntu-over-lvm-filesystem. I recommend you try it next time, and you will get a better idea of what an Ubuntu installation will be like for the mainstream user.

I agree with you about having to choose 32-bit or 64-bit. I've been using 64-bit since 10.04 with no problems whatsoever. I don't know why they are recommending 32-bit.


Just happened to be reading a few other blog entries here and noticed this one. Just upgraded a 2+ year old Ubuntu install, which was on an old PC I mainly keep to copy over Tivo drives at reasonable speeds (USB is just too darn slow). Anyway, I think it took three full rounds of the Ubuntu Update Manager and some babysitting. Started early last night and just finished about noon today. Of course, some of that time was spent (with me) sleeping and some with the install stuck waiting to answer a conflict dialog (why not just replace the file and keep the old one in case it's wanted?). However, in the end, I seem to have an updated system. Thankfully, installing printer drivers was wonderfully easy.