Xubuntu Zesty Aardvark upgrade

Updated: April 6, 2018

Zealous Zoltan (Zoltan!) was one of the better Ubuntu releases in the past years. No matter what desktop environment you chose, it delivered well. Then, Aardvark was among the less successful ones, be it Gnome, Plasma or Xfce. Still, the clock inevitably ticks forward, and with only nine months of support, one must either abandon or upgrade.

I already showed you what I did with my fabulous Kubuntu Zesty, going to Aardvark. It was a somewhat lukewarm experience, but over time, with patches trickling in and some extra work on my end, I was able to fine-tune the Plasma desktop in the 17.10 release into one closely matching the 17.04 edition. My next endeavor was with Xubuntu. Only the Zapus release was now officially EOL. Let me tell you a story.

Teaser

Upgrade process

I tried the usual update + upgrade thingie, and it did not work, as Zesty repos are now kaput. I also tried using the Software Center, and again, this did not lead me to any nirvana. The answer is, manually edit the resources, but I refused to do that. If a distro does not have a robust enough mechanism to handle an upgrade process a mere month after the EOL date (the time this article was written), then it deserves no use. But it does have.

Cannot check updates

Upgrade failed

E: The repository 'http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu zesty-security Release' does no longer have a Release file.
N: Updating from such a repository can't be done securely, and is therefore disabled by default.

I ran the command-line do-release-upgrade tool, and this one handled everything.

sudo do-release-upgrade
Checking for a new Ubuntu release
Your Ubuntu release is not supported anymore.
For upgrade information, please visit:
http://www.ubuntu.com/releaseendoflife

Get:1 Upgrade tool signature [819 B]
Get:2 Upgrade tool [1,246 kB]
Fetched 1,247 kB in 0s (0 B/s)
authenticate 'artful.tar.gz' against 'artful.tar.gz.gpg'
extracting 'artful.tar.gz'

This is equivalent to the GUI tool I've shown you in the Kubuntu article, except it asks questions on the command line. It duly informed me that it was going to upgrade a lot of stuff, disable several third-party repos, and remove a few obsolete packages. Let's do it then.

Reading cache

Calculating the changes

Do you want to start the upgrade?

30 installed packages are no longer supported by Canonical. You can
still get support from the community.

13 packages are going to be removed. 221 new packages are going to be
installed. 1448 packages are going to be upgraded.

You have to download a total of 1,201 M. This download should take
about 5 minutes with your connection.

Installing the upgrade can take several hours. Once the download has
finished, the process cannot be cancelled.

Continue [yN]  Details [d]

Another element that compounds the issue is UKUU. I used this tool to install a custom kernel to resolve the read-only NVRAM issue on my G50 laptop. I installed kernel 4.14-10, and there was also a 4.15 update available. But then, Artful Aardvark ships only with 4.13. However, the fix for the BIOS/UEFI bricking was backported into the 4.13 line, in the .25 revision, and here, I had .32 offered, so things should be okay. Also, let's not forget the Meltdown and Spectre patches, including the microcode. Well.

UKUU prompt

As promised, the upgrade did take several hours, mostly because  GRUB configuration file updates were frequent and long. But in the end, the system finished eating bytes and replacing old packages with new stuff, and I had the option to reboot.

Will it Zorba?

The system did boot just fine, excluding a few ugly Intel firmware errors, and then, blam, an error! This is the typical nonsense, and we saw this in the Kubuntu process too. I didn't even bother checking what the actual offending piece of code it was really. I pimped the system to look nice and cool, and began checking stability and performance, because that's what matters really.

First login error

After a while, I calmed down as the freshly upgraded Xubuntu 17.10 decided to behave, offering snappy performance and no additional errors. This is with Intel's microcode in use, so if there's anything in the whole Meltdown thingie here, I couldn't see it. Another confirmation that things are cushty.

Microcode in use

Furthermore, hardware support is in perfect order - suspend & resume, Fn buttons, web camera. Printing works, sharing works, Wireless, Bluetooth, the three major smartphone operating systems, and all that. All my applications ran fine. Compare this with the actual Aardvark test, please, just a few months apart. QA, nonexistent, major distro releases, too frequent for their own good. In the end, I only needed to re-enable the Skype and Chrome repos.

Nice 1

Nice 2

System works fine

Conclusion

The Xubuntu upgrade process worked rather well. First, I was able to work around the Zesty EOL quirks, and that's an important one, but I expect Ubuntu (and friends) to offer a seamless GUI mechanism. Users should not have to wonder how to get an upgrade underway. Then, the actual upgrade was successful, especially considering I had an UKUU kernel, lots of third-party repos, and that all of this runs in a complex eight-boot UEFI configuration.

Post boot, we had a single error, but nothing after that. Smooth sailing. Good performance, Meltdown and microcode stuff notwithstanding, good hardware support, lots of nice programs and sweet looks all over the place. Fewer niggles than with Kubuntu 17.10, meaning the dev teams had time to polish all those beta-quality rough edges that were unleashed onto unsuspecting users. This leaves my Xubuntu instance ready and waiting for the LTS in April. That will be an interesting experience, I'm sure. But if you're wondering, you can safely attempt to update, and by now, Aardvark has reached a usable state, so you will have none of those tribulations like I did when I tested early on. Oh me, the sacrificial goat lover of the Linux world. Commence, brave people!

Cheers.

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