Upgrading Dell C640 from Kubuntu 9.04 to 9.10: How to Recover the Upgrade when it Fails!

Last November I upgraded my trusty C640 to Kubuntu 9.10, only to bottle out post upgrade when I realised the on-board ATI Radeon Mobility M7 video card had a bug causing window display corruption.

With Kubuntu 10.04 due out in a few months and finding the a solution http://tinyurl.com/ydk88cr for last years aborted upgraded, I decided to try again.

Problem 1: Refused to Upgrade to 9.10

Kubuntu refused to recognise a distribution upgrade was available, either graphically or via the command line using sudo apt-get dist-upgrade.

I think this might have been due to a recent bug-fix which corrected the GRUB menu, for some unknown reason was showing Kubuntu 8.10 instead of 9.04.

Using the Alternative CD I instigated the upgrade by entering the following from terminal:

sudo mount -o loop ~/Desktop/ubuntu-9.10-alternate-i386.iso /media/cdrom0

Problem 2: Broken Upgrade

I use a wired Ethernet connection when doing upgrades, I don’t trust wireless as it can be unreliable at times, mainly when you need it. As part of the ISO upgrade, I confirmed that I wanted updates from the internet.

Part way through the upgrade I started getting errors about certain OpenOffice deb packages missing from the Alternate CD. As these were not core to the OS working I continued the upgrade. There were a number of related errors and eventually I got a “Upgrade Failed” message, asking me to reboot to recover.

However, I noticed the restart icon had appeared in the plasmoid notification area, so a pretty good indication that the core OS was sound and any problems would be with secondary packages. So instead of doing a restart, I opened up Terminal and entered:

sudo apt-get update

followed by

sudo apt-get upgrade

and was told that I had broken packages, so ran the following

sudo apt-get -f install

then did an upgrade which installed any missing packages (mainly OpenOffice).

As an insurance policy, I re-ran the upgrade process again to make sure nothing had been missed. The laptop was then rebooted and Kubuntu 9.10 loaded, really quickly!

Problem 3: Broken ATI Graphics

This was a known problem, and I had the fix. The only thing to change was replacing GDM (Gnome Desktop Manager) with KDM (KDE Desktop Manager) to adapt it for Kubuntu rather than Ubuntu.

Window corruption with older ATI graphics cards

With older ATI graphics cards with 32MB or less of video RAM some corruption of direct rendered windows, for example OSD notifier windows, might appear. This may be worked around by disabling ‘RenderAccel’ in the Xorg configuration. (426582)

To do this first exit to the console using the following command:


sudo service gdm stop

Then create an Xorg configuration file with the command below:


sudo Xorg -configure

Then add the ‘RenderAccel’ option to /etc/X11/xorg.conf:


Section “Device”

Driver “radeon”

Option “RenderAccel” “off”


And restart X/GDM.

sudo service gdm start

It worked, one reboot and all was fine.

Problem 4: KNetworkManager

Just when I thought it was all fixed, I then tried my wireless connection. It could see the network, but just could not connect.

Because of previous problems under 8.10 with KNetworkManager not always loading successfully on boot, I had added it to AutoStart. I removed this from Autostart and rebooted. KNetworkManager loaded and asked for my wireless access encryption code. Once entered, it connected without a problem.

KNetworkManager has been totally rewritten since 9.04, so it might work reliably. Stranger things have happened!


Despite the above problems, some of which may be unique to my laptops configuration, I think the upgrade to Kubuntu 9.10 was worth it. The whole laptop seems faster and graphics more responsive.

I eagerly look forward to Kubuntu 10.4, hopefully Pulse Audio may start working for a change.

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