The automated distro update feature of Ubuntu used to be very hit or miss. It wasn't unusual to finish with a bricked system and have to start all over. A while back, Canonical seemed to decide that this was too much trouble and removed it from Ubuntu. For the last decade or so I got used to just doing a fresh install, maybe clearing the root file system if it was on a separate partition.
Now this feature is back so I thought I'd give it a try on my Ubuntu MATE 18.04 laptop. I thought this would be a decent challenge. It's a dual boot UEFI laptop with Windows 10. It has a weird feature where as far as I can tell, it is hard-coded in the BIOS to boot /EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi. (I've been copying /EFI/ubuntu/grubx64.efi to /EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi for 7 years. Not making this up. See Ubuntu – How to get the HP laptop to boot into grub from the new efi file).
This worked pretty good for me. There was no trouble with the dual boot configuration.
I needed to reinstall various things that are not part of the Ubuntu distro but that come from a PPA, things like Brave, Docker, Dropbox, Google Chrome, Percona, VirtualBox, but this was expected.
I needed to reinstall Postman using Snap. I'm not exactly sure how I installed Postman in the first place. I find Snap kind of annoying, why do we need two different package managers, apt and snap? Before you know it, Linux will be like the Mac with half a dozen. But anyway, this worked fine. Chromium has also become a snap.
Hibernate (save to and resume from disk) can be tricky to set up, but the distro upgrade left my hibernate configuration alone and it continued to work, afterwards.
In the past I tried a technique to automate the re-installation of packages from the old distro on the new one. Example: What does the “apt-get dselect-upgrade” command do? I didn't get good results from doing it this way because the inventory of packages changes a lot from one distro to the next and it still required some manual steps to get a collection of packages that would work in the new distro. The distro upgrade takes care of all this for you now, keeping all the packages that are still supported, removing the ones that are not.
One thing the distro upgrade didn't catch was the Beats Audio configuration. I don't think I bothered with this when I upgraded from 16 to 18 a couple of years ago, so that tells you something about how much I use audio on this computer. Here is a page that outlines the basic approach: Beats Audio On Linux. Here are the HDA Jack Retask settings that are working for my HP Envy 17t-j000:
Generally, I was pretty happy with this experience. Expecting the distro install to figure out the Beats Audio configuration would be unreasonable since these pinouts are not documented anywhere. Other than that, I probably spent no more than 2 hours on this, mostly updating the non-Ubuntu PPAs (not including downloading time, which was considerable, maybe another 2-3 hours).
I'm also feeling pretty upbeat about the computer itself, which is still soldiering on after over 7 years. This is the longest I've ever had a laptop. I'm not really feeling the obsolescence pressure to upgrade as before, which in the past has mainly come from inadequate memory. The current laptop has 16 GB which is still plenty for the foreseeable future, assuming I don't start needing to work heavily with Kubernetes or something.
My own attitude towards this has changed a lot, too. It used to be like Christmas morning when I installed a new distro. There's still a tiny bit of that, but mostly I just want things to work now, with a minimal investment of time and effort. Part of the reason for that is my career got a lot more challenging after 2011 and I was spending more personal time either learning the new stack at work or cramming for the next interview, so the Linux hobby project had to go on the back burner. Also, the changes these days are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Linux is still my favorite desktop OS, but it's mature now and a lot of the excitement is gone.
nvidia-smi now works out of the box for me, where before I had to manually load CUDA and experiment with a bunch of different nvidia drivers to get this to work:
Maybe I'll take another look at tensorflow...
Here's a few notable changes in Ubuntu 20.04:
- No more 32 bit support. My 'travel' computer is a 32 bit Dell Latitude 630, so I might have to consider other Linux distros if it's still working in 2023...
- Nvidia drivers are included with the distro