Reinstalling Ubuntu

I finally got around to re-installing my desktop/home server the other day.  I upgraded it to Ubuntu 20.04.  It had been running Ubuntu for several years, and in the course of several upgrades, it somehow got...extremely messed up.

Of course, it doesn't help that the hardware is really old.  But it had accumulated a lot of cruft, to the point that it wouldn't upgrade to 20.04 without serious manual intervention - which, frankly I didn't feel like taking the time to figure out.  And something had gone wrong in the attempted upgrades, because several programs (including Firefox) had just stopped loading.  As in, I would fire them up, get a gray window for a second, and then they's segfault.  So it was time to repave.

Sadly, the process was...not great.  Some of it was my fault, some of it was Ubuntu's fault, and some of the fault lands on third parties.  But regardless, what should have been a couple of hours turned into a multi-day ordeal.

Let's start with a list of the things I needed to install and configure.  Most of these I knew going in, though a few I would have expected to be installed by default.  Note that I started with a "normal" install from the standard x64 Ubuntu Desktop DVD.  I completely reformatted my root drive, but left my data drive intact.  I had to install:

  • Vim.  I'm not sure why this isn't the standard VI in Ubuntu
  • OpenSSH server.  I sort of get why this isn't included by default in the desktop version, but it kinda feels like it should be the default for everything except maybe laptops.
  • Trinity Desktop, because I really liked KDE 3, damn it!
  • The Vivaldi browser, because I really liked old-school Opera, damn it!
  • Cloudberry Backup, for local and off-site backups.
  • libdvdcss, because I've been ripping backups of all my old DVDs before they go bad (which some already are).
  • OwnCloud, which I use to facilitate sharing various types of media files between my devices.
  • The LAMP stack, for my own apps as well as for ownCloud.
  • Cloudberry Backup.  Turns out that was super-easy - just restored the files to /opt and installed an upgrade (was on 2.x, installed .deb for 3.0), worked like a charm.

The up side is that Cloudberry was super-easy to reinstall.  I created a backup of the file in /opt before reformatting, then just restored those and installed a .deb for the latest release over top of them.  Worked like a charm!  Since it's a proprietary package with license validation, I'd been expecting to have to have to contact support and get them to release and refresh the license, but it turns out that wasn't necessary.

On the down side, a lot of other things didn't go well.  Here's a brief summary of some of the issues I came up against, for posterity.

  1. The video was corrupted.  This happened in both the installer and the main GNOME desktop.  It wasn't so bad as to be completely unusable, so I was able to get in and work around it.  But it was almost completely unusable.  Fortunately, the issue went away when I switched to Trinity Desktop.
  2. The sound didn't work.  It seems that the system picked up the wrong sound card.  I'm not sure why.  I was able to find and fix that by installing PulseAudio Volume Control.
  3. The scroll buttons on my Logitech Marble Mouse trackball don't work.  I still haven't figured this out.  Of course, there's no graphical utility to re-map mouse buttons that I've found, so it's all editing config files.  I found several possible configs online, but they don't seem to work.  I might just have to live with this, because I'm not sure I care enough to devote the time it would take dig into it.
  4. I forgot to take a dump of my MySQL databases before reinstalling.  Of course, this was completely my fault.  But the down side is that, from what I read, you can't just "put back" the old database files for InnodDB databases.  Apparently it just doesn't work that way.  Luckily I didn't have anything important in those databases (it was all just dev testing stuff), but it was still annoying.
  5. Re-installing ownCloud did not go as smoothly as anticipated.  In addition to the MySQL issue, it seems that Ubuntu 20.04 ships with PHP 7.4 out of the box, which is great.  However, ownCloud apparently doesn't support 7.4 yet, so it refused to run.  A quick search suggested that the "not working" parts were mostly in some tests, so I was able to comment out the version checks and get it to work.  I wasn't running anything but the standard apps on this instance, so it might not work in the general case, but it seems to be OK for what I need.
  6. Plex was annoying.  When I installed it, I got a brand new server that I had to claim for my account, which is fine, but the old instance was still present in my account.  Which is understandable, but annoying.  I had to re-add my libraries to my managed user accounts and was able to remove the dead instance from my authorized devices without much trouble.  It just took a bit to figure out what was going on.  Probably didn't help that both servers had the same name.  I also had to re-do all the metadata changes I'd manually made to some of my media files.  Next time I'll need to figure out how to backup the Plex database.
  7. I probably should have thought of this, but I didn't move my user and group files in /etc over to the new install.  Not a big deal, since I don't have that many, but it meant that several of the groups I created weren't present and were recreated with different GIDs than on the old install.  This was mainly an annoyance because it meant that some of the group ownerships on my data drive ended up wrong.
  8. I had some trouble getting Linga back up and running.  After setting up a new virtualenv, I kept getting errors from the Pillow image manipulation library that there was "no module named builtins".  This was really puzzling, because, as the name suggests, "builtins" is built into Python 3.  I initially assumed this was just my Python-fu being weak and that I had an error in my code somewhere.  But no - it was my environment.  After some Googling (well, actually Duck Duck Go-ing), I realized that this was a common problem with Python 2 to 3 compatibility and was reminded of this post that I wrote six months ago.  The short version is that Apache was running the Python 2 WSGI module.  That seems weird, given that the system only ever had Python 3, but apparently that's how the Apache module works.  Anyway, I installed libapache2-mod-wsgi-py3 and everything was fine.

All in all, this experience reminds me why I don't do this sort of thing very often.  All this tinkering and debugging might have been kind of fun and interesting when I was 25 and had nothing better to do with my time, but these days it's just tedious.  Now I'd much rather things "just work", and if I have to forgo some customization or flexibility, I'm kinda fine with that.

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