What Happened to my Laptop

For the people who wanted to know the chain of events causing the laptop problems in the last post:

  1. Safe search won’t disable, and login for regular Google services is broken.  I decide it’s a cookie conflict between Google services and file a bug report with Google.
  2. Google says “can’t reproduce”.  I discover that clearing private data doesn’t actually work right, and after some testing, go to file a bug with Firefox.  They ask for my version number.
  3. I notice my Firefox is out-of-date, and decide that it might be a quirk of this version of Firefox+Ubuntu.  I go to upgrade Firefox in Synaptic before filing the bug.  I don’t have the notifier running and haven’t updated in a while.
  4. I upgrade a package in Synaptic, but it turns out I just upgraded the meta package and not the actual package (or something.)  A more seasoned Synaptic user says “why not just run regular upgrades like a normal person?  It’ll fold Firefox into it.”  On any other day, this would have been good advice.
  5. I start the upgrade.  It’s churning along nicely, and I locate my cookies file and start examining it.
  6. My battery monitor disappears.  This is normal enough, actually.  I try to start it back up and get a notice about a broken configuration file.  Uh-oh.
  7. My nm-applet disappears.  That’s a little stranger, but neither applet is very reliable in my ion3 setup.
  8. At this point I find that my cookies file is malformed in some way, and that if I move it manually (rather than using the in-browser ‘delete cookies’) the original bug disappears.  Don’t know how that happened, but it’s solved, so I cancel the bug report with Mozilla.
  9. I go to edit the cookies file in emacs, and get a message that emacs can’t start.  Uh-oh.
  10. The upgrade fails with a bunch of package incompatibility messages.
  11. I start to feel alarmed.  I link an apt-guru friend a screenshot of a relevant part of my Synaptic window.  He says, “one of those version numbers looks wrong.  You’re running Hardy, right?”  I am.
  12. I open my sources.list (using nano, since emacs is broken.)  After a bunch of spaces at the bottom, I see something bad: A Debian repository.  I’m running Ubuntu.
  13. I don’t know how I added it.  Maybe I was on the wrong system and didn’t notice the prompt.  Maybe I was trying to install one specific package from Debian (via apt, for some reason) and forgot to take it out.  I honestly don’t remember.  But since I hadn’t updated in a while, it hadn’t come up.  But now I’m in trouble.
  14. I remove it, update my lists, and do a grep to see how many of my packages have upgraded to Debian versions.  750-1000 or so.  I paste the results back to some friends.  One of them looks, shakes her head, and says my system is like that guy in Star Trek after the transporter accident.
  15. Over the next few days, we try pinning packages back to the Hardy version and downgrading.  There are conflicts all over and lots of ninjinuity is required.  Sometimes the system won’t boot properly, claiming kernel module problems, which turns out to be because somewhere in this process my initramfs got misconfigured.  But eventually, everything is put back in working order (except, for some strange reason, gnuplot, which refuses to install the main binary file.  I compile it from source.)
  16. Watching the system boot successfully, I go to pour some milk and cereal in celebration.  I shake up the milk jug a little.  The lid is loose.  It spills all over the keyboard.  The system stops booting and the cycle of horror starts again.  (And yes, if I’d gotten a Lenovo when you all suggested it, I’d have a spill-proof keyboard with drains.  That’s my plan for the next time something horrible happens to my laptop, which should be any day now.)

151 thoughts on “What Happened to my Laptop

  1. I just need to train a bit more, and then you’re on the Gallon Challenge, Randall!

    Now I just need to figure out a way to get there all the way from Denmark…

  2. Hahaha sounds a lot like me. In fact I wonder if you can help me out… Lately a pop up came up saying that the memory of my com is full and that i need to delete some stuff. So i checked all the little boxes… Something about getting rid of temporary files, compressing old files etc. and afterwards my computer has died… Well not really. My screen has converted to 4bit from 32bit and is 640×480…
    It says that my currently selected graphic driver cannot be used. :(

    Also I’m having trouble going on some sites that requires flash…
    I’ve learned from past experience that I am better off leaving my computer alone instead of trying to fix it.

  3. I know it’s a bit late for this comment, but if you do something like this again, why not just stay on the debian repos? It’s possible to basically convert from one distro to another just by switching repos, and I find that the debian testing/unstable repos have better releases than Ubuntu’s repos.

  4. I forgot to say in my previous comment, you will not get errors if you go all onto a different repo, like if you added testing and unstable repos and upgraded everything and reinstalled anything that didn’t have a possible upgrade, or if you simply pin one above the other.

  5. It’s not like the reverse couldn’t happen though.

    Be careless with your sources.list and all bets are off, really.

  6. Never doubt the awesome power of lactose. Not only can it kill your computer, but your biology grade too!

  7. Heh, that’s terrible man. One thing though, why did you fix that at all? I mean did you do a lot of source installations that would take awhile or something? Cause quite frankly it’s often relatively cheap to reinstall and just transfer over your old data than to try to figure out what an accident is if it’s not going to necessarily happen again; That’s for me anyhow. It probably would have been quicker to reinstall your applications than to sort through them by hand depending on your computer, assuming you recall where everything is from.

  8. Watch for the Lenovo computers. I have one and comes
    with a bunch of, in my opinion, superfluous programs
    that are actually on the computer. Much of them either slow
    down process of connecting to wireless or prevent certain
    system programs(I have windows) from functioning properly.
    I find they are all just a pain to use.

  9. 17) I buy a new laptop that comes with Vista pre-installed and am burnt. Not in effigy.

  10. @TOGGI3 & JWC
    Maybe Ubuntu is more likely to have this problem since it was a Debian repo that was added. If this was Suse you may not have the issue. But of course the RedHat/CentOS/Fedora triumvirate would be similarly susceptible. Or maybe JWC is saying to use something other than Linux?

    @Annie
    I find this problem with every system out there. The only way around it is to custom build, or run a different OS. Also you could wipe your computer and install Windows Clean. Most people wont do it, which is what the manufacture is counting on.

    @Randall
    You have far more patience than I, my friend! I would have wiped the system and did a clean install. I am impressed that you were able to get everything cleaned up. Sad that all that fine work was foiled by milk! It may do a body good, but it does your laptop bad! perhaps this is a worthy submission for FML?

  11. Dumb question probably, but if Ubuntu is based on Debian, why whould having a Debian repository in your sources.list file be bad?

  12. Ion3 is dead.
    There are a number of tiling window managers that are les… dead.

    I recommend StumpWM. Emacsy, Lispy goodness.

  13. @R Ubuntu enhances the Debian packages and sometimes adds extra patches. Ubuntu is basically Debian + extra goodness to make it all work smoothly. Ubuntu also only syncs up to Debian 1/6mos approximately.

  14. “I notice my Firefox is out-of-date, and decide that it might be a quirk of this version of Firefox+Ubuntu. I go to upgrade Firefox in Synaptic before filing the bug. I don’t have the notifier running and haven’t updated in a while.”

    I would have known where this was going even without the summary in your last post. :P

    (And similar chains of events happen to me too. They are usually exacerbated when I decide to make the best out of the situation and write a script to make it more convenient. I then spend several days learning how to write the script – but at least I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t kill my system doing it.)

  15. Wow…. yet more evidence as to why in every day and every way I keep inadvertently finding more reasons to delay trying linux again.

    Last time I had a windows install do anything even *remotely* retarded as that as concerns updates / drivers / etc (or hell, anything) was waybackwhen using a deeply abused copy of 98SE… can’t it even recognise when an update package is for a different variant?!

    Plus I wouldn’t have had the first idea what to do or who to call when the shit hit the fan, but windows repair faqs are ten a penny, and heck it wouldn’t even be that difficult to just scrape the important files off a FAT or NTFS partition and spend a couple hours re-installing…

    Glad to hear you’re up and running after all that, though! Skill for getting it back together.

  16. “There is no sense in crying over spilt milk. Why bewail what is done and cannot be recalled?”
    -Sophocles

    I’ll bet he was a Mac user.

  17. I often find that the best thing to do when you fubar a ubuntu system that bad, is
    to tar up your /etc and put it in ~/ (if you’ve made important changes)
    dpkg –get-selections > ~/myselections
    reinstall ubuntu
    unpack your /etc
    apt-get update
    dpkg –set-selections < ~/myselections
    apt-get -u dselect-upgrade

    (I’ve never actually bothered with the /etc stuff and there may be better ways to do it)

    @tahrey
    Your obviously don’t understand enough of his post to get the message, basically he did something stupid (debian is a related distro, but adding it to his list of repositories without properly pinning it, is like randomly deleting files in windows xp and replacing them with vista versions) a while ago and this messed up his system.

    “can’t it even recognise when an update package is for a different variant?!”
    This is an issue with the apt-get package management system (it maintains programs and the system in a way that simply isn’t possible on windows where each program is trusted to provide its own uninstaller (and many misbehave)), not Linux itself.And Why would it? While in this case he did something stupid, stopping users doing this would also prevent users doing something clever.(e.g If properly pinned you can install debian versions of software on hardy)

    “Plus I wouldn’t have had the first idea what to do or who to call when the shit hit the fan, but windows repair faqs are ten a penny,”, I think one of the beauties of my Linux system is that i can google much more specific problems, figuring out what is wrong on a windows system was always (for me at least) trial and error. I’ve never worked in/learnt any computing since GCSE(16) and yet with linux i understand enough of the system that i can pretty quickly figure out what is misbehaving and how i caused it. Randell instantly went to a freind that was an “apt-guru” and then using the fact that almost everything is text he ca configurations/errors straight to forums/irc/pastebin/Im/email. if you’d messed up a windows system this bad, if it was still running, it would be pretty hard to find out which files where broken.

  18. This might be a good time to start keeping incremented backups. I’ve been using backuppc on my Kubuntu machines at home, and it’s great. Wife loves it, too.

  19. Guess someone else already did this, but.. i don’t believe there are 123 comments, and for its sake, neither that the timestamp in the above message ( 12:23 pm) is true..

  20. I really hate to let a little zealotry leak out, but I just have to say it… “I’m damn glad I got rid of linux and now use my Mac (OS X) for daily computing/programming/surfing/etc.” considering “told you so” doesn’t quite fit in this context

  21. I find this problem with every system out there. The only way around it is to custom build, or run a different OS. Also you could wipe your computer and install Windows Clean. Most people wont do it, which is what the manufacture is counting on.

  22. Pingback: What a way to spend Sunday night |  Raccoon and Lobster

  23. Watch for the Lenovo computers. I have one and comes
    with a bunch of, in my opinion, superfluous programs
    that are actually on the computer. Much of them either slow
    down process of connecting to wireless or prevent certain
    system programs(I have windows) from functioning properly.
    I find they are all just a pain to use.

  24. Pingback: links for 2009-04-04

  25. Good info thanks for sharing with us.Nice information, valuable and excellent, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need, thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here…

  26. Sorry to say, but after my ThinkPad Z61m died thoroughly (both the sealed keyboard with drains and the power management) from a water spill, I don’t think you’d have too good odds with a Lenovo under that milk.

  27. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN YOU ALL WERE A BUNCH OF RIP OFFS……HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT WITH OLD PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF THAT HAS PUT THEIR TRUST IN A CROOK LIKE YOU ALL ARE…..NO, I WILL NOT KNOW BETTER THE NEXT TIME….I WILL STILL HOPE WE HAVE SOME HONEST PEOPLE OUT THERE…….GOD FORGIVE YOU…….HDP

  28. Step 1: Next time you reinstall your OS, put /home on its own partition.
    Step 2: Next time you screw up your system horribly, pop in the install CD/USB, reinstall deleting all partitions except for home, telling the installer to use that as your /home.
    Step 3: Install your normal suite of programs from synaptic.
    Step 4: Be happy that your system is fresh and working again in 20 minutes, rather than ‘possibly fixed’ in a week or two. :P

    Seriously though, having /home on a separate partition has allowed me to recover from my own stupidity many, many times without losing any files that are important to me. :)

  29. as for you question, what kills laptop batteries:
    Heat, while the inside of a laptop may seem to be a cosy place (temperature-wise) it is ceratinly not the best environment for a rechargeable LIon battery
    Age
    Charging and discharging, the the number of charge/discharge cycles of LIon batteries are limited, depending on the quality of the battery, usually between 300 and 500.

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