My girlfriend has been using Kubuntu 20.04 on her laptop almost since it was released. Her intent was to become more familiar with Linux and computing in general, which I am more than happy to help with. She was very enthusiastic from the beginning about delving into the innards of a Linux desktop, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her with something as technical as Gentoo just yet. So, because of some friendly recommendations and from my own personal experience I settled on helping her get set up with Kubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa.

It has been almost two years since we initially got her going. She spent a lot of time customizing her KDE desktop just the way she liked, with a set of gaudy icons, wallpapers, and animations that honestly were a bit out of my style. But, nonetheless, she was happy with it and so was I. For the purposes of this post I will forego mentioning how often I needed to remind her to update her system and get to the point.

About a week ago I reminded her to run the regular update mechanism via apt on her machine, only this time I suggested we upgrade the machine to Kubuntu 22.04 which was just freshly released. I had only heard of some minor complaints regarding the release, mostly around the “forced” packaging of Firefox as a snap and so I decided it was a good idea for her to do the upgrade, especially since I was physically present. After running the appropriate apt commands to update the local repo metadata and upgrade the installed packages, we performed the dist-upgrade command and let it run. After about 20 minutes of churning and answering some questions during the upgrade, the machine was ready to reboot. And reboot it did.

Immediately we were presented with a problem: her laptop was hanging at the boot process. Not long after exiting the initramfs, several systemd services would fail to start including some critical ones like systemd-logind. To cut a long story short I spent the next hour or so troubleshooting the machine with a LiveUSB I was carrying around but without success. It was getting late at this point and so I went to bed with the intent of continuing in the morning.

When I woke up, I got right to work with seeing if I could recover the machine. I tried to see what (if any) problematic service was hanging boot, disabling potentially unneeded services, and rebuilding the initramfs and Grub config, all without success. I wasn’t able to spend more than maybe an hour in the morning before leaving for work unfortunately. When I got home I went right back to trying to fix the machine before we decided it was best to just do a clean reinstall. For some reason, however, the installer in Kubuntu would hang too! I was able to navigate through some of the menus up until I was supposed to select the disk partitioning scheme, but the menu would never finish loading. I tried this several times before just giving up.

In the end I decided to just install Gentoo on the laptop. Unfortunately for my girlfriend, she will need to deal with potentially long compile times and a much steeper learning curve than we were hoping. Lucky for me though, installing Gentoo on the machine makes me feel much more comfortable helping her with technical issues and generally just feeling at home on her machine as if it were my own. Plus, this alleviates the need to install it later if she ever decides to take the next step in learning what I feel is a true Linux system.

I don’t have any hard feelings towards Kubuntu or Ubuntu at this point, but I have to admit that this whole ordeal did leave me and my girlfriend quite a bit frustrated. I do get the feeling that we did something wrong during the upgrade, but unfortunately we are beyond the point of finding out what really happened that led to her laptop being in a broken state. Besides, in the long run I think that shooting for the moon and installing Gentoo on the machine means my girlfriend will be able to get a lot closer to the machine and learn the innards a lot sooner than anticipated. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself though, since she will need to get in the habit of doing routine updates first. 😜

’til next time. See ya!