April just flew by, and that means it’s time to play with the new Ubuntu 13.04. I’ve been using Ubuntu as my main operating system since 8.10, and as with every new version release and the subsequent upgrade process, I hope that the upgrade will be seamless and not require troubleshooting. Of course, something always manages to go awry, and I end up spending a few hours reviving my system after every upgrade. This one was no different.
I upgraded using the dist-upgrade feature of update-manager. It took a while to fetch the packages [*hat tip to BSNL], and installed them. On the next reboot, however, I was greeted by the cold, silent command prompt.
General error mounting filesystems.
A maintenance shell will now be started.
CONTROL-D will terminate this shell and reboot the system
Given that my upgrade attempt was a day after the release, Google hadn’t yet caught up to the barrage of issues and AskUbuntu/UbuntuForums posts that follow every release. It took me a while to dig up the relevant information. What fixed it? Mounting the partition, and attempting to upgrade once again. Apparently, the upgrade process had not completed successfully.
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
That wasn’t too bad. After logging in, I noticed that Unity did seem a lot lighter – The Dash started quickly [The initial delay of the Dash in processing search queries on the first launch was quite a bit in the 11.10 era. I had resorted to using Synapse as my Dash replacement] and the side menu generally stayed out of my way. So far, so good. I opened up Nautilus, and immediately wished I had the forensic “Crime zone. Do not cross” tape – At first glance, Nautilus looks beautiful and shiny, thanks to its new icon set and design, but it takes no more than a minute to realise that its sleekness is at the cost of functionality. What is with the bizarre obsession to dumb down software, to force everything to conform to the “simplistic and elegant, but barely functional” trend? I’m not a designer, nor do I claim to have an intuitive understanding of design, but that principle reminds me of the myth (?) of rib removal in the quest to be pretty. In the habit of hitting the backspace key to go to the previous directory? Too bad. Backspace does not work. The new key combinations are:
Alt + Left = Previous directory
Alt + Up = Parent directory
and there’s no way to change that. Used to hitting F3 to open up another pane within Nautilus to drag-drop files between two different locations? You’ll learn to open up a new window to do the same thing now. Also, the “Open with” menu item has been removed for directories. Forget about being able to add an entire directory to the VLC playlist directly, that’s wrong. File association is messed up, but it’s been the case for a while now.
Sigh. I dare-say Nautilus has jumped the gun, and it’s time to move to Nemo and/or Dolphin.
Talking of VLC, it had issues after the upgrade – it would not show video, instead playing just the audio track. Here’s the fix that resolved it:
VLC –> Tools –> Preferences [or Ctrl + P] –> Video
Uncheck “Accelerated Video Output (Overlay)” in the Display sub-section.
That’s not all – Occasionally, I would have no sound at all, in any app! “Sound settings” would show “Dummy output” as the only output in the input or output devices sections. It’s completely arbitrary – restarting would often fix the issue. I don’t seem to be the only one having this issue.
And that’s a wrap! Notwithstanding these minor hiccups in the transition to a new release, I do like the Ubuntu ecosystem, and don’t intend to move to another distro. This clearly is a maintenance release, with no new “media-bait” features or controversies [Amazon shopping lens, anyone?] and it’s surprising that the end-of-life is Jan 2014. Canonical is branching off into a lot of new ventures, and I believe there are interesting things to come from Ubuntu Phone and Android integration.
P.S: Am I the only one who’s not impressed by the version names? [Yup, some people can complain about ANYTHING]. The next release will be called Saucy Salamander. That is so…mainstream and so unlike the precedent established so far. You disappoint, Canonical!