Upgrade from Ubuntu 11.04 to 11.10, and a pleasant user interface greets you. Does the good news end there?

UPDATE (18th Nov, 2011): I carried out a clean installation from a USB drive, and no longer have the purple/blank screen problem while loading the 3.0.0-12-generic kernel. I can conclude that a problematic web upgrade process prevented the newer kernel from loading. Possible fixes are being discussed on various forums, but none of them have worked for me.

I’ve been running Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) for several months and have been satisfied with the experience. In October 2011, the newest stable Ubuntu 11.10 version (Oneiric Ocelot) was announced.

The upgrade to the new distro can be carried out by running the command:

sudo do-release-upgrade

You could also enable automatic updates, like I did, and have Natty Narwhal prompt you to upgrade. Simply go to System -> Administration -> Update Manager, click on the 'Settings...' button, and in the 'Updates' tab, turn on the checkbox for automatic updates. Also ensure that the release upgrade option is set to "Normal releases".

To me, it was a surprise that I didn’t have to go to fetch Ubuntu 11.10 or run a command to get it – it came straight to me!

Welcome to Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot

Fast and easy install? Well, the upgrade certainly did not go on unattended and repeatedly questioned me about replacing some old configuration files.

My machine, incidentally, isn’t so dated – it runs an AMD Athlon X2 2.5 GHz processor with 2 GB RAM and an Nvidia GeForce7050PV graphics card.

After a lengthy download of over 850 MB – the size may vary for you, depending on the number of packages needed – and an install process which wasn’t without hiccups, I had to restart, only to find a blank purple screen and no hard disk activity.

Enough to cause my heart to sink.

Doing a hard reboot took me to a menu with a list of options to choose from:

  1. Ubuntu, with Linux 3.0.0-12-generic
  2. Ubuntu, with Linux 3.0.0-12-generic (recovery mode)
  3. Previous Linux versions
  4. Memory test (memtest86+)
  5. Memory test (memtest86+, serial console 115200)

If I’d choose the first option, I’d be back to square one. Choosing the second option would result in a kernel panic.

I went to “Previous Linux versions” and found these options:

  1. Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.38-8-generic
  2. Ubuntu, with Linux 2.6.38-8-generic (recovery mode)

I chose the first one and was greeted by a glossy LightDM login screen, followed by a beautiful new Ubuntu desktop.

An Exciting New Linux – But not everything's Smooth Sailing

It turned out that Ubuntu 11.10 was failing to load the new Linux 3.0.0-12-generic kernel. I decided to install the startup manager from the synaptic package manager, and set the default operating system to the older Linux 2.6.38-8-generic to allow my system to function.

Startup Manager

A big thank you to the posters discussing this issue on the thread that helped me!

As for the user interface, much of it is revamped. The action of dragging and docking folders is nicely animated. My Atheros chip based Wi-Fi adapter now connects me to the Internet almost instantly, unlike the case with Natty Narwhal, where I had to wait for several tens of seconds before connectivity would be established. The processes of both starting up and shutting down the computer take only slightly longer.

There’s a prominent launcher that appears when hovering the cursor on the left side of the screen, to help you open your favorite application almost instantly.

Clicking the dash on the top-left corner reveals a translucent box to help navigate to various parts of your machine fairly fast. There’s a Mac OSX-style spotlight for instant searches. However, critics are furious that Ubuntu is trying a lame copy of Mac’s stunning user interface and falling short.

Accessing the most frequently used and other installed applications through the dash was never easier, not least due to the Filters feature that is clearly a leap over the basic offerings of Ubuntu 11.04.

Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop

What worries me is that the dash once became unstable and disappeared.

Switching applications is facilitated by pressing either the Alt+Tab or Alt+Grave buttons and choosing a running program from a frosted-glass box. However, this seems to cause my computer to hang after using it for several seconds, calling for a hard reboot.

I haven’t really tried many of the applications that came pre-bundled with Ubuntu 11.04 or were available for download, since I spend most of my time on the Internet. The few I did try from the math, engineering and graphic designing sections failed to impress me, and I won’t be surprised if Ubuntu 11.10 is not very different on this front.

The Conclusion?

Well, there still seem to be issues that Canonical has to address. Ubuntu 11.10 with its default Unity interface surely has an unprecedented, elegant look and feel. But there’s got to be more than skin-deep beauty – Canonical should definitely have done better testing on the upgrade process and its end result.


Just upgraded a x64 desktop and a .386 laptop with no issues at all. I did add in the full gnome desktop as I don't really care that much for unity.

By Les

This is the worst Linux upgrade I have done, and I have been a UNIX/Linux sysadmin last 20 years. I will be reverting back to 11.04, and give Canonical a couple of months to fix it. I put about 10 fixes into it, and I have to agree with Linus about Gnome3; it makes absolutly no sense at all. It's really dumbed down and I have lost a lot of features I had before.

By Spicysomtam

Hi! Thanks for the info. I am just worried about one thing? Do you lose your data when you upgrade from NN to this 11.10? How many MBs are downloaded during an UPGRADE? Thank you.

You don't lose any data saved on your hard drive or the settings in your browsers.

However, some configuration files like the ones related to my apache server were replaced by new ones.

On my machine, a total of around 850 MB was downloaded during the upgrade.

By Naweed Chougle

I tried the - sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade - and says done but nothing gets upgrade. I am still at ubuntu 11.04. What's the next step after running these two commands?

By Pimene

It seems that the correct command to upgrade your distribution is sudo do-release-upgrade. (You may need to ensure that the updates tab under Software Sources has the release upgrade option set to "Normal releases". Software Sources can be run using sudo software-properties-gtk). Thanks for pointing this out - I've updated the article.

By Naweed Chougle

I wish to help with the little that I know. I think it would be better to get an internet connection first and then open your update manager (UM). The internet connection before you open your update manager helps your UM to download the latest info, data etc. At the top of the UM window it tells you that there is a new version of ubuntu and there is a button if you need to upgrade. I don't know if this works for every ubuntu or for my version 11.04 NN. Thanks

I am not an IT expert but it seems better then, doesn't it, to just download the ISO image which I have seen is around 700 MBs instead of upgrading and in the process downloading over 800 MBs. Still, when you upgrade, there is always a problem with some of the features not being compatible or working properly. I don't know, correct me if I'm wrong. Still, Ubuntu1 may help you with the saving of important files although we know it doesn't help much far as big files are concerned. Thanks a lot.


I concur. Looking at the problems people are facing while upgrading, I think it makes sense to take a backup and then do a clean install. Let's hope Canonical has more stable upgrade processes for future releases!

By Abdullah Chougle


I downloaded the iso image (or whatever it's called) for ubuntu 11.10 and when I tried installing it doesn't. It loads until where it shows you how the new ubuntu looks like. On the desktop and the launcher there are “buttons” for installing and whenever I click on any of those nothing happens no matter how long I wait. But whenever I click on anything else it opens, like the “settings” etc. I don't know what the problem could be and I need your help. When I was downloading the image my computer went to sleep and I realised after many minutes that it had stopped downloading and was “asleep”. Could this have affected the image to make it not install? Everything else in the disk seems OK except for the install buttons. Help urgently, please.

I would begin by checking the integrity of the download by checking the file size and the md5 hash. The md5 hashes for the Ubuntu ISOs are available at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/UbuntuHashes.

Btw, the sleep problem you've mentioned could definitely have corrupted the download - the integrity check can confirm that.

By Abdullah Chougle

Thanks a lot, Abdullah. I never knew a thing about that but now I know. I did check and it seems that the sleep issue was the one. It had slept for more than half an hour. Thanks

Hey Naweed Chougle,

Thank You for Your interesting view into Ubuntu Oneiric. I agree, Canonical should extend their quality management for the next releases.

We share the same problem: After upgrading 11.04 to 11.10 the new kernel 3.0.0 does not boot my i386 machine. I have to use the old 2.6.38 kernel to start (that works fine). If I try to use the new kernel the system stops immediately with a blank black screen and blinking cursor in the to left corner. There seems to be a kernel panic / hangup, because the lamps for "num" and caps lock on my keyboard do not work any more.

I tried a lot:

  • I reinstalled grub2 ( apt-get install --reinstall grup-pc (and other packages) && update-grub2 && grub-install /dev/sda) and the new linux-images,
  • I downgraded to grub1.
  • I cleaned my system and removed all services and programs I do not need( for example apparmor).
  • I read a lot of articles an forums and tried their ideas and waited for the first updates for Oneiric
  • I read my system logfiles (boot.log, kern.log, dmesg, ...) but I did not find ANY entries for the time periods I tried to boot kernel 3.0.0. The hangup problem seems to be to early in boot process to find logs for it.

... nothing helped or even changed the problem ... now I am done but by PC is not.

Did anyone solve this problem? I know that many users share it, but I did not find a solution through the web.

I thank You all for Your help!!!

By Paul


I'm sorry to read about the problems you had after the upgrade.

In case you haven't already seen it, you could take a look at this thread, particularly post #17. I tried this fix but it didn't help.

It seems that the trouble happens to users who did a web upgrade from 11.04. I've written an update at the start of this article: the new kernel loads only after a clean install!

By Naweed Chougle

I have had a consistent quirky behaviour with the 7050 PV on my Biostar GF7050-M2 motherboard for years of Ubuntu installs. I usually had to start by passing "nomodeset" kernel option until I could get the Nvidia proprietary drivers installed.


With Oneiric though, I still had to do this, but after installing Nvidia proprietary drivers Unity 3d is very slow. Not sure if it is just me though.

By Peter

I am running 11.04 on my google cr-48 and was wondering how much more room this is going to take up, as I only have 2GB left of my little SSD drive. (120GB drive is on the way) I wanted to find out how much larger the footprint is so I don't overload my little mario.

By Josh Tanberg

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