Thursday, December 16, 2010

Canonical has a strange sense of priorities

So it's nearly a month since the latest Grub update in the current Long Term Release, Lucid Lynx 10.04, put the boots to Wubi installs. In addition to the usual alarming, but generally harmless, grub rescue> prompt problem,  which has been around since Lucid was first released in April, the newer failure to boot issue has been totally ignored by Canonical.
This boot failure problem started cropping up in July with grub errors about 'loadfont', but didn't seem to affect everyone. With the November 20 release it now appears to be much more widespread - a fresh install of 10.04.1 with the updates applied does not boot. (*Ubuntu must be installed to the same partition as Windows for this problem to occur).

The reason that it only affects Wubi installs on the same partition as Windows is that it is the grub-install command that is corrupting the /boot/grub directory, and when you update package grub-pc it runs grub-install to try to update the wubildr (Wubi bootloader) - believed by the grub devs to be a required action; BUT, Wubi installs on a different partition slip through the net as the buggy code fails to identify them as Wubi installs. This means that grub-install aborts and the wubildr is not updated - but ironically these still boot.
So the whole idea of updating wubildr and breaking Wubi installs in the process is pointless - why don't they just bypass the update altogether.

So... why haven't the devs rushed to fix this? Even the Ubuntu Release Manager Steve Langasek was notified of the 'critical' issue... but no response at all. The devs appear to be hard at work preparing for the next Ubuntu release (11.04 Natty Narwhal) - in the meantime, unsuspecting users who decide to try out Ubuntu are left to discover what a grub rescue prompt is, or why their new OS fails to boot.

So, in summary, Canonical doesn't seem to give a hoot about the current users who are breaking their computers trying out the 'user friendly' Wubi option. Are they just blindly churning out (buggy) release after (buggy) release as though this is a strategy for long-term success? Hard to say, but let's just say - I'm confused. If they don't want to support Wubi, why don't they just pull it from their main download site to protect the computers of unsuspecting users?

And thanks to everyone on who are working hard to help the affected users. It's great to have such strong community support, but if Canonical is relying on this for current release support it's pretty pathetic.

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