The Mrs recently told me she wanted to throw her computer out the window. She does most of her day to day computer stuff on an iPad, but uses a trusty (and a little crusty) Dell Laptop with Ubuntu for her word processing needs. The laptop was still chugging along nicely, but the Unity interface in Ubuntu was giving her fits.
I’m not a super big fan of Unity myself. But, it generally doesn’t get in my way, since I use a keyboard launcher and have a button on my mouse wired to fire the scale compiz plugin (similar to Expose and/or Mission Control on OSX.)
The Mrs (who is pretty tech savvy) found it down right unusable. Doing stuff that requires a lot of switching between different windows (especially different windows for the same application) is painful. I think that its not a problem for me because I generally don’t run apps full screen, and just click to go back and forth between windows.
So, to remedy the situation, I was gonna switch her lap to Mint Linux. It has the more traditional Gnome based desktop instead of the Unity craziness. I didn’t look forward to packing up all her files and the related chores to install a different operating system.
Scanning my G+ feed, I saw someone had an article on how to run the Cinnamon desktop (what Mint uses) on top of Ubuntu. Hmm, that sounds better. If I can pull that off, I won’t need to migrate all the Mrs’ files. So, I gave it shot on my Ubuntu rig at work and other than one strange problem with start up items blowing on restart, it went off without a hitch.
So, the other night, I backed up the Mrs files (slightly painful do some weird file name problems nearing full drive) and started working on the her machine. Hmm, its a few versions back, lets get that caught up. Kicked off the update manager. It downloaded the files lickity split (yep, fios rocks!) but took an eternity to get things installed. It also paused for user intervention 5 times.
A day or so later, it finished, but complained about some broken packages. I clicked the update button again, to jump to the latest Ubuntu. Again, it took about 1 minute to download the updates and another eternity to apply the changes. Eventually, the installer crashed.
The machine was completely non-responsive, had to kill it with the power switch. On reboot things looked promising. Ran the update manager again, and it knew that it still had pending changes to install, and picked up where it left off. Well, for a few packages, then it hung. Killed it and tried again, and it got a little further. Then it got to package that had some dependency errors. It gave a command line help that’s supposed to clear that up and it blew up as well. Tried to uninstall the package that it was complaining about, but it just found something else to complain about. So, I was stuck. With the installer unable to finish, I can’t get it to install the Cinnamon desktop which is the whole reason for this mess.
While working out the above, I noticed the harddrive was starting to sound a bit crunchy. Hmm, its about 5 years old, probably better to replace it before doing anything else. Looked around for a cheap 60Gb SSD, but couldn’t source one locally. Wanted to get this project buttoned up, so I settled on 250Gb spinner from the BestBuy down the street.
So, I invested about 4 hours of fiddling in the failed update process. Driving to pick up the drive, installing it, installing Ubuntu from scratch (including downloading and burning it), and installing Cinnamon only took 1 hour. Grumble.
Oh well, the laptop feels a little faster with the fresh install and new harddrive, so its a net win, I guess. But, I wish I could get those 3 hours lost back.