#1 Complaint about Ubuntu: Updates break things

Cody A.W. Somerville cody-somerville at ubuntu.com
Fri Dec 19 20:09:01 GMT 2008

On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 2:57 PM, Bryce Harrington <bryce at canonical.com>wrote:

> On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 10:20:26AM -0800, Steve Langasek wrote:
> > On Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 12:46:28PM -0500, Cody A.W. Somerville wrote:
> >
> > >  After getting yet another phone call from one of the many average,
> everyday
> > > users I know using Ubuntu about how after downloading and installing
> yet
> > > another mammoth load of updates on her Ubuntu machine, running a
> stable,
> > > supported release, her computer crashed with the following scary
> message,
> > > I've decided to write this e-mail.
> >
> > > Aborted because of invalid compressed format (err=2)
> > > >
> > > Kernel Panic: SYNCING VFS, unable to mount root fs on unknown-block.
> > > >
> >
> > Please note the procedure documented in
> > <https://wiki.ubuntu.com/StableReleaseUpdates#Procedure> for handling
> > SRU regressions that reach -updates.  Regressions *are* a serious
> business,
> > and will be handled seriously by the SRU team, but we have to be told
> about
> > them in order to act.
> >
> > The error message listed above sounds like an initramfs loading error at
> > boot time.  I'm not sure how that could come to pass as a consequence of
> an
> > SRU; do you have any more information about this?
> I think the update mechanism gets blamed far more than it deserves.
> It's easy to understand why.  Consider some scenario like this:

> Anyway, not to say that every SRU is perfect, and I don't know the
> particulars of this VFS case, but based on the number of times I've seen
> bugs incorrectly blamed on updates, I'd withhold judgements about the
> updates system until you've definitively proved that an update caused
> it.  It could easily just be coincidental.
> Bryce

Sure, I can buy that. I'm not saying that this error is caused by an update
(although I can guarantee you she wasn't running anything in the commandline
let alone under in the commandline under sudo). However, there has been
enough times where it has been connected to an update that I feel we do need
to discuss this.

For example, I remember one time an update to the nvidia binary blob drivers
caused the xserver to fail to start in certain cases. It didn't affect the
*right* people or *enough* people for it to get the attention it deserved. I
asked someone about it because I did happen to hear about it from one of my
friends who I converted to Ubuntu and was told that by whoever uploaded it
that they had heard about cases where that was occurring but there were no
plans for remedial action.

Pushing updates to -updates is so much riskier than people realize due to
the massively different amount of QA resources invested in -updates compared
to testing the development release. Often times, breakages only affect a
subset of people using Ubuntu or it causes a problem and a lot of folks are
savy enough to work around it or know someone who is. However, people get
fed up and tired of having to fix things after updates and turn away from
Ubuntu; an undesirable conclusion to say the least.


Cody A.W. Somerville
Software Systems Release Engineer
Custom Engineering Solutions Group
Canonical OEM Services
Cell: 506-449-5899
Email: cody.somerville at canonical.com
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