Miskatonic University Press

Ubuntu 14.04 and grub


Another note to my future self about upgrading Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 14.04 was released yesterday. I have two laptops that run it. I did the unimportant one first, and everything went fine. Then I did the important one, the one where I do all my work, and after restarting it came up with a boot error:

error: symbol 'grub_term_highlight_color' not found

I had two reactions. First, boot errors are solvable. The boot stuff is on one part of my hard drive, and my real stuff is on another part, and it’s fine where it is, I just need to fix the boot stuff. Besides, I have backups. So with a bit of fiddling, I’ll be able to fix it. Second, cripes, what the hell? I’ve been using this laptop for six months or a year or more since a major upgrade, and now it’s telling me there’s some problem with how it boots up? That is a load of shite.

Searching turned up evidence other people had the same problem, and they were being blamed for having an improper boot sector or some such business. For a few minutes I felt like non-geeks feel when presented with problems like this: despair … annoyance … frustration … the first pangs of hate.

But such is life. When upgrading a system we must be prepared for possible problems. We cannot expect it to always go smoothly. Even in the face of such technical problems we must try to remain tranquil.

It’s solvable, I remembered. So I downloaded a Boot-Repair Disk image—this is a very useful tool, and it works even though it’s a year old—and put it on a USB drive with startup disk creator, then booted up, ran sudo boot-repair, used all the default answers, let it do its work, and everything was all right. Phew.

Aside from that, everything about the upgrade went perfectly fine. This time I did it at the command line with sudo do-release-upgrade. It took a while to download all the upgraded packages, but the actual update went quickly and smoothly. My thanks to everyone involved with Debian, Ubuntu, GNU/Linux, and everything else.

(However, I’m glad I had another machine available where I could do the download and set up the boot disk. Without it, I would have been in trouble. I don’t know if a similar problem might have arisen when Windows or MacOS users do an upgrade.)