Distribution Upgrade — Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS

My ageing laptop (2007 Dell Inspiron 1520) has been around the world, literally. It served me well in Kathmandu and Bamako, London and Paris, and even here in Waterloo. A couple of years ago I replaced the keypad. But otherwise it has been rock solid. In the past six months, however, it has developed numerous ailments that probably signal its end time. For example, there is now a constant high pitched whine coming from the hard drive, which I’m sure can only be heard by canines, Superman, and me. More significant, however, is the emergent power conflict such that I can no longer run the laptop plugged into the mains. Doing so automatically leads the screen to very shortly black out. ┬áSo I am forced to use the machine solely on battery power. And even the battery is now a bit long in the tooth and drops its power rapidly and inconsistently.

Still, it’s been a good machine and I’ve learned a lot with it. But one thing I’d never done was an Ubuntu distribution upgrade. In the past, whenever I wanted to move up to a never version of Ubuntu, I would burn a disc and install the distribution from the disc, entirely wiping out what had previously been on the hard drive. On a whim today I thought I would attempt a direct distribution upgrade. Could my machine manage it with its dodgy battery, high pitched whine, and travel stickers from Nepal?

Yes, it can!

It was touch and go. I started up the machine and went quickly to the software updater. I already knew that Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS was available for upgrade, so I immediately clicked on the button for distribution upgrade. Then I ignored all the warnings about how long it might take (it said it might take hours) and that I should definitely not attempt it without being plugged into the mains (but hey, what could I do? It’s not risk taking when it is your only option.) I then stepped back and crossed my fingers.

Sure, crossing your fingers is probably not best practice for techies, but then it’s long been clear that I’m no techie. Initially the laptop claimed to have almost 2 hours of battery life left, and the upgrade was estimating that it would take over 3 hours to download and install everything. But what are numbers, eh? Soon enough the download speed picked up (I had plugged directly in to my router to optimize my throughput). Of course the battery time took a dive as well. After about 30 minutes the laptop was claiming to have just over an hour’s worth of battery left, but the upgrade was by then estimating that it needed only slightly less than an hour more.

I should have filmed the sequence because over the next hour the battery jumped down and then up and likewise the estimated upgrade time went up and down. It was like a high (or slow) speed action thriller. In the end, the upgrade completed with less than five minutes to spare on the battery.

Of course the battery life vs upgrade time drama is not really all that significant. Much more important is the fact that the upgrade appears to have gone through perfectly. Even my crappy wireless card continued to work post upgrade. Well done, Ubuntu!

I don’t know how many more months this laptop has in it. But till the end of its days it will happily stay an Ubuntu machine.

Posted in foss.