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Early adopters bloodied by Ubuntu's Karmic Koala

Smooth Windows upgrade it ain't

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Ubuntu 9.10 is causing outrage and frustration, with early adopters wishing they'd stuck with previous versions of the Linux distro.

Blank and flickering screens, failure to recognize hard drives, defaulting to the old 2.6.28 Linux kernel, and failure to get encryption running are taking their toll, as early adopters turn to the web for answers and log fresh bug reports in Ubuntu forums.

Reg reader motoh delivered a warning on moving to Ubuntu 9.10 from version 9.04 - Jaunty Jackalope - in comments on our review of the new OS here. "If you upgrade from Jaunty beware. You may have a rough ride. I made my mistake by trying too soon. Wait the usual month," motoh wrote. Angus77 at Ubuntuforums.org agreed: "This is so frustrating! Jaunty was a snap to install."

They're in good company, as more than a fifth of people upgrading to Ubuntu 9.10 have reported issues they can't fix, according to an Ubuntuforums.org poll here. Only around 10 per cent of those upgrading or installing reported a completely flawless experience.

Overall, those installing Ubuntu 9.10 on a clean machine are having a slightly easier time than those making the upgrade. Users installing Ubuntu 9.10 were able to solve more of the niggling problems than those trying to upgrade from an older version.

Canonical and Ubuntu should be worried. Typically, it's the more technical users overall who install Ubuntu - and early adopters tend to be the most technical of the technical.

If these people are experiencing problems they cannot solve, then the outlook for Ubuntu among a broader, less technical consumer base - especially on prized netbooks against Windows 7 - is not great.

And that's a sentiment already being voiced in the Ubuntu forums. Ubuntu 9.10 upgrader graydo64 posted: "Wish I'd done a clean install. Appreciate that as an existing and generally content Ubuntu user I'm not Joe Public but if I were I'd have dropped Ubuntu at about 9.30 last night and toddled off to find a copy of Windows 7."

The problems causing the biggest headaches are in graphics, with reports of flickering or dead screens. Adopters have re-downloaded and re-installed Ubuntu 9.10, and people have scoured the web for answers only to hit the same issues.

A bug has now being filed in Ubuntu forums on how Ubuntu 9.10 breaks graphics drivers and X, preventing log in or startx.

Motoh wrote in our comments section: "A wealth of X server issues have cropped up, causing black screens with hard to trace causes. Proprietary driver activation has become buggy, and program crashes are routine instead of rare."

Motoh called Ubuntu 9.10 "a huge disappointment", writing "All in all, a very underwhelming release. You can do better, Canonical."

A conflict with graphics cards from Nvidia and ATI seems to be the issue, but there's no answer "why" or obvious fix.

Other problems: Ubuntu 9.10 is installing the old Linux kernel - 2.6.28 - not the new, 2.6.31 kernel released in September, with Ubuntu 9.10 also failing to see hard drives on certain machines.

Encryption proved a hurdle for Ubuntu forum member w00ly, who decried the lack of automation on encrypting his home partition.

"I had chosen to encrypt the home partition when installing 9.04 and then wasn't able to get the passphrase command to complete the encryption process to work properly," w00ly wrote.

Finally, after a late night and getting some advice online, w00ly wrote: "I certainly wish the encryption mounting process was more automated like everything else is!!"

The best you can say of this situation is that the problems aren't universal. Ubuntu and Reg readers together report installing Ubuntu 9.10 on Acer Aspire A150s, Hewlett Packard 2133, IBM T60, ThinkPad T42, and EEE PC netbooks, and laptops either flawlessly or with minor issues. Still, that proves that Ubuntu has a long road to haul before installing even this popular Linux distro is the no-brainer that helps makes Windows the success it is among regular PC users.

Canonical was unable to comment on the problems at press time. ®

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