Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wubi and grub problem update

It's been one month since the latest grub-pc update in version 10.04.1 Lucid Lynx, started breaking Wubi installs. And that's a good time to reassess the situation.

I'm not sure how I noticed it - maybe I was browsing Wubi bugs that day - but my quick alert to the issues didn't help. Again, I was hoping for a quick response, maybe the update being pulled - I don't know. But apparently launchpad doesn't have a recall mechanism. At the time I thought it would only affect users who didn't install on the same partition as Windows - the usual grub trick that gets users to install the grub bootloader to their drive masterbootrecord MBR caused by a bug in the 'lupin' package (see here, or here).
But quickly it became apparent that it also affected users who installed on the same partition - a problem we already knew about as it was discovered in the Maverick upgrade. But for 10.04.1 the problem is worse, and requires a manual loop mount of the virtual disk and an edit of the grub configuration file from a live CD.

So now we are on the Christmas break, and the developers get a well-needed rest from all the Natty development, but sadly noone has taken the time to patch lupin, for the many existing users on the supported releases. Still, the volunteers on ubuntuforums.org will soldier on, steering Wubi users to the solution... the Wubi megathread. It's interesting to note that since this thread was created 2 weeks ago, it's had over 2600 visits. And that's not including the number of people who had to be helped before it was created.

So... where are we at? There's not much really to be done to warn users unless they happen to post a support request for an unrelated Wubi question. I'm loathe to join the Wubi-bashing crowd  (although it's tempting): there's still a niche market for users that might cause more damage trying to do a proper partitioned Ubuntu installation. In fact, the new Ubiquity installer has it's own issues and has already caught out a few users and overwritten Windows and all other partitions - see bug 659106.
And in any case, despite all the Wubi-bashing, Wubi appears to be growing in popularity, fueled by its new prominent place on the ubuntu.com download page.

So... I guess we just wait it out, and hope that eventually the grub devs will grace us with their attention and provide a fix.

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