Fighting Narwhals

To say that the upgrade on my machine from Lucid to Natty wasn't smooth would be a considerable understatement. I believe the better term for the upgrade would be "nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure".

Let me preface this by saying that I've done stupid things with my computer. I had a 1TB drive that I used for music and miscellaneous data files. I mounted this under /var/storage, because I didn't like calling it /mnt/storage or whatever.

That was a HUGE mistake.

After backing up some incidental configuration files onto /var/storage, I proceeded to boot from a USB key loaded with Natty Narwhal. After the USB key booted, I was given the option to upgrade my Lucid instance. "Sure thing", I said. After filling out the rest of the install screens, I watched as the upgrade took place.

"Mounting /var/storage" it said. Huh, I guess it's using the fstab to figure out what is where.

"Deleting /var" it said. Uh, I hope it's not doing what I think it's doing.

Sure enough, it did what I hoped it would not do, which is delete about several months of FLAC rips from my CD collection, all of the music I use for Open Metalcast, and all of the software backups I'd made.

In short, a lot of not easily replaceable data was gone.

"But he surely has backups" I can hear the peanut gallery say. Yes, yes I do have backups, carefully created by rdiff-backup about every 4 hours. Unfortunately, the drive I used for backups was a 500GB external drive that I never got around to upgrading to a more suitable size. /var/storage was too big to be backed up, but I justified not backing it up because I could easily replace all of the data on there.

In short, I added several tasks to my to-do list: Get larger backup drive, start ripping my CDs again, and download the music back from Jamendo.

Easily replaced data, my ass.

Unfortunately, the upgrade was less than working when it finished, which I had hoped wouldn't be the case. Rather than spend the next few hours diagnosing what managed to bork itself, I decided to just wipe everything, and start again.

On the plus side, I have the faster 1TB drive as my boot drive.

I won't say that the upgrade to Natty has been smooth. I've had hardware problems with my Blue Snowball microphone not showing up. My Left-Alt key swap doesn't work under certain applications. My Bluetooth dongle didn't seem to work with Natty anymore. Oh, and Audacity no longer allows me to overdub my recordings (meaning I can't listen while recording). Little cuts.

But overall I'm happy with Unity and the new environment. I've been more active in submitting bug reports because I want to see things get better. And I have high hopes for the Oneric cycle, and the eventual LTS release.

If anything, this upgrade taught me some valuable lessons:

  1. Back up your data. If it's impractical to do so, make it practical.
  2. /mnt is where you should mount drives that are not /var, /usr, or /home.
  3. Never trust an upgrade to work.
  4. When moving to a new desktop environment, create a new home directory, and copy over the big files from that, rather than trust applications to figure things out on their own.
  5. Banshee really can't handle large deletes.
  6. UPDATE: Whatever ships for proprietary video drivers for Natty are junk. They're preventing my computer form being able to shut down.

I'll post more about my upgrade as things occur to me. :)