New releases of Linux distributions tend to occur more rapidly than new releases of Windows or Mac OS X. New Linux distro releases have the latest versions of the Linux kernel, as well as the most up-to-date versions of useful open-source software programs. In other words, cool stuff. Nevertheless, upgrading is always fraught with a little danger. My main development computer here at EP Studios, SuperSluggo, was laboring a bit under the burden of a version of OpenSuse that was a little out of date: version 11.2 as opposed to the latest version 11.4. I was starting to get an annoying message whenever I started VirtualBox. Some new version was available, but not for OpenSuse 11.2. I would need 11.3 or 11.4 to upgrade. Well, I could live with the old version, but, looking at the OpenSuse documentation, it appeared it was possible to perform a “distribution update” over the Internet, with minimal risk. My home directory is mounted on a separate partition from the root partition — which I highly recommend — so that an upgrade should not mess up any of my personal data. So, following the instructions, I went ahead and started upgrading from 11.2 to 11.3.
In the process, I changed my non-OpenSuse repositories to their respective 11.3 versions as well. The documentation suggested doing this, though noting there was a certain danger in including non-OpenSuse repositories. Blithely ignoring this, I went ahead with the upgrade. About a half-hour into it, I got an error message, with an old-fashioned “abort-retry-ignore” set of options. The default reponse was “abort.”
Since the days of floppy disks, when this message first appeared, I never really understood what the right response was. In retrospect I should have chosen “ignore,” and I’m sure the upgrade would have skipped over this file and continued. Instead, for unknown reasons I chose the default choice of “abort” which promptly aborted (duh) the upgrade and returned me to the command line.
So I had a partially upgraded system on my hands. Probably the only way to rescue this situation would have been to rerun the upgrade from the beginning. Instead I did the stupidest thing possible (I’m writing this so others don’t follow in my footsteps). I rebooted the computer.
Of course, when it rebooted, it couldn’t find the boot partition, and so I was stuck. By this point I was ready to give up on OpenSuse. Time for a change! I had a Ubuntu 11.04 USB stick which I had used to install Ubuntu on my laptop. I used to it boot into Ubuntu. I checked which partitions were which, then set up a custom installation, preserving my /home folder. Ubuntu installed nicely. I was able to install the set of programs I am used to (e.g. Eclipse, Qt Creator, Emacs, TvTime, Vlc, VirtualBox and others), and with some minor tweaking got everything working. Amazingly, after installing VirtualBox, all the virtual OSes I had previously installed (including WinXP and Win7) worked just fine. I then went ahead and updated 11.04 to 11.10 without any problem. I actually like the new Unity interface. On my laptop, it saves an extra line on the screen, which is important with a 16:9 screen.
So goodbye OpenSuse, the first Linux distribution I ever tried (don’t feel too bad, it’s still running on the kitchen computer, MediumHeadBoy), and hello Ubuntu.