Upgrading from Kubuntu 9.04 to 9.10

Friday I upgraded from Kubuntu 9.04 “Jaunty Jackalope” to Kubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala”. Here are my notes on the upgrade.

Jaunty has been my Windows Vista. I wish I had never upgraded, and waited instead for Karmic. For anyone using Intel video (I use a Dell Vostro 1500 with an onboard Intel GM965/GL960), Jaunty and KDE4 was a terrible experience. Compared to Hardy and KDE3, video performance was dramatically worse. When playing videos frames would drop, 3D acceleration was slower, everything showed more tearing effects, and most KDE4 apps showed graphics corruption in various rarely-updated areas such as the icon toolbar in Kontact.

I had already discovered the video issues when I wrote my last upgrade post, but hadn’t yet realised the extend of the wireless issues. I have two cards in my laptop:

tyler@baal:~$ lspci | grep -i network
0c:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG [Golan] Network Connection (rev 02)
0d:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR5001 Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01)

Under Jaunty, the Intel card caused kernel panics on shutdown. So I blacklisted the driver and used the Atheros card, only to discover problems with both the ath_pci and ath5k drivers. The former doesn’t work with network manager, and with the latter the card would sometimes fail in a state requiring full hardware reset, meaning powering the laptop off and on again. This would happen on bootup too, causing me to sometimes reboot several times to make wireless work. It is not good to begin the workday filled with frustration and rage.

I did my best to mitigate the issues under Jaunty, including using the latest KDE backports from the Kubuntu PPA. But the only real solution to my video problems was to upgrade to the latest kernel, X, and intel video drivers. I use Ubuntu because I want reasonably recent packages but without the headache of running true alpha / bleeding-edge releases. Replacing all the critical parts of the distro seemed like the wrong way to go. So I suffered and waited for the day Karmic came out.

The 9.10 release notes cover a number of known issues. What strikes me about the known issues is how few of them affect me. Many are related to the netbook remix, or specific to recent netbooks with proprietary hardware. Support for the general case of mostly Intel hardware released 1-2 years ago is all there.

Upgrading from Jaunty to Karmic was just a matter of doing what the GUI prompted me to do. This wasn’t like jumping from KDE 3 to 4, so I didn’t remove any dotfiles or reformat. I just made my usual backup and then did the upgrade. I had a problem and had to stop the upgrade during the post-download, configuration part, so I ran dpkg --configure -a in a terminal and everything finished just fine.

What went wrong:

Synaptics touchpad tap suppression (syndaemon) stopped working. This is an artifact of upgrading from Jaunty, where to use syndaemon you have to enable SHMConfig in xorg.conf and then run syndaemon as syndaemon -S -d -t -i 1. On upgrading to karmic, set SHMConfig to false, restart X, and call syndaemon without -S (the switch doesn’t exist anymore anyway). I just removed my xorg.conf altogether, since X doesn’t seem to need it.

ath_pci, the madwifi Atheros wireless driver, is gone. I use this for aircrack and kismet. It is likely that I can either compile it or use the ath or ath5k drivers for the same thing, but I haven’t had time to test this.

openvpn with knetworkmanager still doesn’t work, at least with certificates that don’t have a passphrase. So far, openvpn doesn’t even start. From syslog:

Nov  1 13:51:32 baal NetworkManager:   nm_vpn_connection_connect_cb(): VPN connection 'company vpn' failed to connect: 'No VPN secrets!'.

Even if it did work, the dialog doesn’t even have a tab for manually setting up routes. Since when is the equivalent Gnome app more configurable than its KDE counterpart?

Ozone, the default KDE window theme, doesn’t use colour to denote the active window. Instead it uses stripes to the right of the text in the title bar. Some people say that compositing window managers and transparency are supposed to make this a non-issue, but they are wrong. I expect my active window to have a blue window border, and the others to be grey. To fix this, open the Control Centre. Go to “Appearance”, then the “Windows” side bar. Under the “Window Decoration” tab, choose “Ozone”. Under the “Decoration Options” area, uncheck “Blend title bar colours with window contents”.

What went right:

kernel mode setting is awesome! This currently works only for those of us that use Intel video, which is perhaps a small reward for suffering through Jaunty. Switching between X and virtual terminals is fast and seamless. The console has a gorgeous high-res mode at boot-time. I haven’t seen the screen flicker once since GRUB booted the kernel, from X startup to the KDM greeter to Plasma startup.

Booting is very fast. On my laptop I see KDM within 15 seconds of the kernel loading. I have a usable desktop 15 seconds after that. I’m sure more things are starting in the background, but they don’t seem to slow down my login process.

Xorg just figures everything out. I no longer have an xorg.conf and all my hardware works. Plus xrandr now has a large virtual area by default:

tyler@baal:~$ xrandr
Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1680 x 1050, maximum 8192 x 8192

This should work just fine with multi-monitor setups.

Google Earth and Kwin with compositing work at the same time. So far I’ve had no issue with any 3D apps running together, and they are all about 3 times as fast as they were under Jaunty.

qtcurve, the new KDE/GTK appearance integration engine. This replaced the deprecated gtk-qt engine which had all kinds of drawing errors especially with firefox. Qtcurve uses your “general” font setting from KDE in GTK apps, and generally makes GTK apps look like KDE ones. Unfortunately it is broken out of the box. The solution is to install the “kcm-gtk” package, and then use Control Centre to edit your “general” font setting. Set it to something else and then back again, or put this in ~/.kde/share/config/kdeglobals:

font=DejaVu Sans,8,-1,5,50,0,0,0,0,0

Wireshark never looked so pretty.

Firefox 3.5, which really is as fast as you’ve heard. KDE users, give up and use the default theme. All the “hack it to look like KDE” themes just don’t work as well as the one the developers themselves test against.

Plasma is stable. This isn’t a surprise as I’ve been running 4.3.2 from the PPA under Jaunty. Since Karmic is stable I’m not going to use the PPA for bleeding edge KDE releases anymore (until another juicy feature gets released, no doubt).

fish, the Kioslave for file transfer over SSH, is fast once again. It no longer generates notifications for normal browsing activity, either, which was extremely irritating under Jaunty.

knetworkmanager works once again. It was more than a little annoying to use Gnome’s network manager.

They finally got it right with Amarok 2.2. iPod support seems complete, the GUI is configurable (why does the playlist default to the right pane?), the collection scanner is much faster than Amarok 1.4, and it hasn’t crashed yet.

Karmic has been added to the repository.

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  1. khaije’s avatar

    Great write-up! This was exactly what I was looking for as I wait for update-manager to complete. Cheers!


  2. Nick’s avatar

    I can say that I wish that I would have found your write up before I made the upgrade. I’m a recent Jaunty-Karmic transplant who is for the most happy with 9.10 but OpenVPN has failed me again. I did manage to get it work in 9.04 but now there is another issue with it. I would say that If you don’t need vpn support then go for it. Otherwise skip it.


  3. tyler’s avatar


    If you need OpenVPN support from the GUI (command line works fine), install network-manager-gnome and network-manager-openvpn. Then stop knetworkmanager and run nm-applet (the GNOME network manager). It works fine there.


  4. ricarod’s avatar

    I’ve been dealing with the same for hours and can’t make it work. the network manager icon is just not showing on the GUI although I all my vpn and networks exist I can’t run a client on my box. HELP!!


  5. tyler’s avatar


    Which network manager are you trying to use? knetworkmanager or nm-applet (Gnome network manager)? Try running either command from the command line or Run dialog (Alt-F2).


  6. Matthew Flaschen’s avatar

    Thanks for the details. For me, hearing that Plasma and knetworkmanager are stable pushes me over the upgrade line. I already knew that plasma-widget-networkmanagement-dbg (http://packages.ubuntu.com/search?suite=all&arch=any&searchon=names&keywords=plasma-widget-networkmanagement-dbg) is available starting in Karmic. So even if knetworkmanager still doesn’t work, I’ll be better off, because I can help debug it.



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