Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker
andrewducker

Upgrading Linux, a study in pain

I've got a small PC sitting on a shelf. It's my Plex server, and it runs Ubuntu 16.

Or, at least, it used to. About two weeks ago it offered me an upgrade to Ubuntu 18. Which seemed to happily churn away. And everything worked fine.

No, of course it didn't work fine. The Plex server refused to show any of the files from the network hard drive (NAS). And when I tried to connect to it with VNC that didn't work either.

Which meant that I had to physically connect a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to it. Something I hadn't done in a couple of years, since I originally set it up. (And that box only has a VGA connector, so I had to go buy a new VGA cable, as I'd thrown out 20 years of cables last year.)

When I could finally see the screen I discovered that the built in VNC client didn't work. And every time you tried to open the Control Panel's "Remote Desktop" panel it crashed instantly. I eventually found a bug report from January this year. Which doesn't fill me with confidence that it will ever be fixed.

Which means that every time I want to update the box I'll need to drag a mouse, keyboard, and monitor through. Great.

Next up - why is Plex not connecting to my mounted drives? Step 1 - look at the "fstab" file, which contains all of the magical incantations for hooking up a network drive to the PC*. Oh, no, the method I'd been using for that in the past (gksu) has been deprecated. So I can't run an editor as root to view a system file. Googling for a few minutes finds an answer to that. Yay.

I finally look at the fstab file, thinking it might have been overwritten by the upgrade. But no, everything looks exactly the same as it always did. So I run "mount -a", which should attach to all of the drives mentioned in the file. Everything works.

Great, I think, must have been a temporary glitch. I'll do a reboot to check. It doesn't work. So I go looking through log files. Eventually find an entry hidden in the boot logs which tells me to run a command-line which tells me it can't find the NAS. Which is odd - it can't find it at boot, but it can find it if I run the same process later on?

Turns out that connecting to my NAS by name, which has been working fine for the past two years, is now not working. Could be that it's loading the server name resolution software after it attempts to mount the drives. Wouldn't surprise me that it does something so stupid. Not after the way I've just wasted a couple of hours**.

As it happens, I'm assigning a static IP to the NAS anyway, so I update the fstab to point to it via IP address rather than server name. Everything works. I'm not sure I care why it works. I am ever more sure that Linux is not ready for the average user***.

*No, there's no nice UI to walk you through the process. Why do you ask?
**It has just occurred to me that this might have been reset by the upgrade. But the mouse, keyboard, and monitor are all back in the other room. So I'm not touching that until VNC is working again.
*** If your answer to "How do you add a link to your networked files, using the most networked file-sharing protocol in the world", is this then, no, you're not ready.



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