Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

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Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:46 pm

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Kernel/LTSEnablementStack

Didn't realize they were doing this. If you're on the LTS release, you can opt-in to install a back-ported kernel and Xorg stack (but leave everything else pinned to the LTS release you installed originally) when new Ubuntu releases come out.

I've got mixed feelings on whether to do this or not. I can almost hear Dirty Harry asking me whether I feel lucky... :lol:
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:11 pm

I just wish they'd fix whatever changes the motd to occasionally insist I have packages to update when they're just the stupid backports ones.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:55 pm

Oh, yeah that. I've known about it, and if I ran Ubuntu in depth, I probably would try it. At least, the kernel anyway.

Red Hat rolling backports and updates into their stable kernel updates seems more elegant, though.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:09 pm

Heh... I never claimed it was elegant. In fact I agree it looks like a bit of a mess. But it does appear to be the path of least resistance if you want to run a stable Ubuntu LTS release, but don't want to fall several years behind the curve on hardware support in your kernel or Xorg stack. At least there's a way to do it through the officially supported repositories.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Tue Apr 01, 2014 11:04 pm

I just mention it since it's an alternate way to do the same thing. :)

It is better then relying on a PPA.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:12 am

Those running virtual or cloud images should not need these newer enablement stacks and are thus recommended to remain on the original Precise stack.


So a fresh install of 14.04 Server in a VM is a bust? Now I've got to start with a 12.04.0 or 12.04.1 point release and update to preserve the precise kernel and X stack? Holy crap!

If anyone has a more detailed link on this topic please post it in this thread.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 4:20 am

End User wrote:
Those running virtual or cloud images should not need these newer enablement stacks and are thus recommended to remain on the original Precise stack.

So a fresh install of 14.04 Server in a VM is a bust? Now I've got to start with a 12.04.0 or 12.04.1 point release and update to preserve the precise kernel and X stack? Holy crap!

If you want to continue using the older kernel and X stack that originally shipped with 12.04, it would appear so. I confirmed that this is the case yesterday by installing a fresh VM from a 12.04.4 ISO; it came up on the new kernel and X stack.

The roadmap at the bottom of the linked page seems to imply that there will be a 12.04.5 (with the 14.04 kernel/X) released in August. For a mission critical server my inclination would be to stick with 12.04.1 for new installations until then, since that will keep you on one of their LTS kernels. At that point you can either move up to 12.04.5 for new installs, or start using 14.04.

For non-mission-critical stuff I doubt it matters much. They seem to be waiting a few months before rolling the new kernel/X into a 12.04 point release (e.g. 12.04.4, with the 13.10 kernel/X, wasn't released until Feb of 2014); so there should be time for issues to be identified and fixed.

Yes, installing new systems from an older ISO may be somewhat painful since there will be a lot of updates to apply. In my case the pain is mitigated by the fact that I maintain a local mirror of the entire 12.04 repository; so getting caught up on updates is very quick. :wink:

I imagine it should be possible to install from the 12.04.4 ISO, then specifically revert the kernel and X packages? Haven't tried this.

FWIW I pulled the new kernel and X stack into three 12.04 LTS desktops yesterday. Two of them went smoothly, one did not. The problematic one is using the proprietary ATI graphics driver; X would not come up after the upgrade and attempting to reinstall the latest official proprietary driver failed with a compile error. I had to download and install the latest beta driver to get X working smoothly again. I suspect that forcing a full removal of all traces of the proprietary driver might have also worked, as the newer X stack should have native support for this GPU; this will be an experiment for another day. (I would like to get off the proprietary driver regardless since even minor kernel updates tend to bork it, though when that happens it normally re-installs more smoothly than it did in this case.)
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 5:04 am

End User wrote:So a fresh install of 14.04 Server in a VM is a bust? Now I've got to start with a 12.04.0 or 12.04.1 point release and update to preserve the precise kernel and X stack? Holy crap!

If anyone has a more detailed link on this topic please post it in this thread.


I'm not sure I'm following. If you do a *fresh* install of 14.04 you're going to get everything. Features from the newer kernel, system libraries, new userland, etc... You won't just get the new/updated drivers (i.e. hardware enablement) like with the ubuntu LTS backports.

What they are saying is that there isn't any point to getting these backports if you are running 12.04 in a VM. That's because all these backports have to offer is newer/updated drivers, and the VM is offering a virtualized set of hardware that 1) doesn't change and 2) is likely very old and very standard anyway. So using them would accomplish nothing besides the remote chance of a regression.

The reason that 12.04.4 disk image comes with these backports pre-installed (as opposed to the original 12.04.0 image) is because someone who is installing it for the first time today on a physical machine is likely installing it on newer hardware that the 3.2 linux kernel of the 12.04.0 era might not support or support very well. It's the same issue with the X stack.

What they are saying is that if it is important to be using the original 3.2 kernel and X stack as opposed to the 3.5 or 3.8 or whatever kernels/X stacks that are used now solely for the hardware enablement they provide, then, yes, you must install from an original 12.04.0 or 12.04.1 image and then upgrade from there.

I think they would have even made it an option to choose which kernel/stack on the 12.04.4 image if they had the space.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:10 am

Glorious wrote:
End User wrote:So a fresh install of 14.04 Server in a VM is a bust? Now I've got to start with a 12.04.0 or 12.04.1 point release and update to preserve the precise kernel and X stack? Holy crap!

If anyone has a more detailed link on this topic please post it in this thread.

I'm not sure I'm following. If you do a *fresh* install of 14.04 you're going to get everything. Features from the newer kernel, system libraries, new userland, etc... You won't just get the new/updated drivers (i.e. hardware enablement) like with the ubuntu LTS backports.

Ehh... when I read his post, for some reason I read it as "fresh install of 12.04" (as in from the latest ISOs Canonical posted).

Now I'm not sure what he meant either. If he really meant what I originally thought he meant, then my previous post stands. If he meant 14.04 then I have no idea.

Glorious wrote:What they are saying is that there isn't any point to getting these backports if you are running 12.04 in a VM. That's because all these backports have to offer is newer/updated drivers, and the VM is offering a virtualized set of hardware that 1) doesn't change and 2) is likely very old and very standard anyway. So using them would accomplish nothing besides the remote chance of a regression.

As an aside, that's not necessarily true either though. Newer kernels don't just incorporate new drivers; they often add or improve on other features as well. A lot happens in kernel-land in 2 years! So this really depeds on whether Canonical is back-porting just the new and updated drivers, or the entire kernel space. I *think* it is the latter (because selectively picking and choosing which changes to merge would be a *lot* of work), but I guess they don't explicitly state that.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:35 am

JBI wrote:As an aside, that's not necessarily true either though. Newer kernels don't just incorporate new drivers; they often add or improve on other features as well. A lot happens in kernel-land in 2 years!


This is true, but since the rest of the system isn't being updated to match there likely isn't really much available that uses them. I suppose what I was saying was a bit of simplification, but if you are planning on using the new features of a more recent kernel I really begin to wonder why you're using a LTS release to begin with.

If the goal is to maintain the stability of the environment above all else, the fact that the backports unavoidably come with new functionality as well as updated drivers is more of a bug than a feature ;P

For instance, I try not to get to carried away, but the userland of the newest unix officially available to me at work is still stale in my opinion because it's RHEL 5. Users like me think it's all fun and games to build all sorts of stuff locally to get and take advantage of features not natively available in the environment but I imagine administrators frown on those sort of shenanigans (and I never do it for actual production stuff). Heck, I'd like to find the guy who decided to statically link a local copy of libgd fricking everywhere for reasons known only to god.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:23 am

Glorious wrote:This is true, but since the rest of the system isn't being updated to match there likely isn't really much available that uses them. I suppose what I was saying was a bit of simplification, but if you are planning on using the new features of a more recent kernel I really begin to wonder why you're using a LTS release to begin with.

True. And Canonical made much the same simplification in their own explanation. However, new kernel releases also sometimes contain tweaks to improve things like I/O performance, filesystem reliability, etc... so it's definitely not *just* about support for new devices, though I'll agree that is going to be the primary motivation in most cases.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 10:51 am

End User wrote:So a fresh install of 14.04 Server in a VM is a bust? Now I've got to start with a 12.04.0 or 12.04.1 point release and update to preserve the precise kernel and X stack?


14.04 is the latest Ubuntu beta, and it's using a totally different software set then 12.04. If you want the 12.04 software stack, you'll need to install 12.04. If you want a specific kernel and X server combination, you'll want to install the revision with that particular kernel and X server and not do a dist-upgrade.

just brew it! wrote:Yes, installing new systems from an older ISO may be somewhat painful since there will be a lot of updates to apply. In my case the pain is mitigated by the fact that I maintain a local mirror of the entire 12.04 repository; so getting caught up on updates is very quick.


I've switched to netinstalls via HTTP. Red Hat distros have an ISO called netinstall, and it's just a stub installer which will launch the regular installer after it's pointed to an accessible network location. I just have to dump the ISOs when a new version comes out, and I'm up to date. I'm not sure what the process is for Ubuntu.

My next step is to create a local repo. I don't see this paying off at home, but it would be nice at work.

Glorious wrote:What they are saying is that there isn't any point to getting these backports if you are running 12.04 in a VM. That's because all these backports have to offer is newer/updated drivers, and the VM is offering a virtualized set of hardware that 1) doesn't change and 2) is likely very old and very standard anyway. So using them would accomplish nothing besides the remote chance of a regression.


The Ubuntu VM or cloud kernels are special kernels. They have a lot of stuff stripped out of them, and most of the big VM players have support for their hypervisior mainlined. Generally, VMs are doing server like things rather then desktop/laptop like things, and server like things aren't going to benefit from a newer X stack. Hypervisors are software too which means it's better to lag a little bit while they catch up. (I should say while admins catch up on patches, updates, and upgrades for the hypervisor.)

VM drivers are rather stable. They aren't old; just stable and standardized. VirtIO and the VMware FOSS drivers are active.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Wed Apr 02, 2014 10:57 pm

Glorious wrote:I'm not sure I'm following. If you do a *fresh* install of 14.04 you're going to get everything. Features from the newer kernel, system libraries, new userland, etc...

I'm was referring to this quote from the wiki page highlighted by the OP:
Those running virtual or cloud images should not need these newer enablement stacks and are thus recommended to remain on the original Precise stack.

Why? If I install 12.04.4 LTS in a VM is there a performance hit? A stability hit? A known issue? WTF!

This info is hidden away on the Ubuntu wiki. I don't see anything about this on the main download page nor on the instructions page. It is far too easy to miss this and just download/install 12.04.4 LTS in a VM.

With Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS just two weeks away I'm sure there are a few sys admins that are looking forward to testing the new release in their virtualized environments. Canonical, in a very obscure manner, is telling they should not bother. This lack of detail and visibilty seems odd when one considers how large a portion of Ubuntu Server installs out there are running in virtualized environments.

Perhaps they are more focused on Ubuntu One right now.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:37 am

End User wrote:
Glorious wrote:I'm not sure I'm following. If you do a *fresh* install of 14.04 you're going to get everything. Features from the newer kernel, system libraries, new userland, etc...

I'm was referring to this quote from the wiki page highlighted by the OP:
Those running virtual or cloud images should not need these newer enablement stacks and are thus recommended to remain on the original Precise stack.

Why? If I install 12.04.4 LTS in a VM is there a performance hit? A stability hit? A known issue? WTF!

Note the words "should not" and "recommended". It's a recommendation only -- I interpret as "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

The original 12.04 components have had had the most testing. Furthermore, with the exception of the yet-to-be-released 12.04.5, the support cycles for the interim HWE stacks do not extend all the way to the end of the 12.04 LTS support window.

You also added to our confusion by asking "So a fresh install of 14.04 Server in a VM is a bust?" Based on your subsequent comments you meant to say 12.04, not 14.04.

Edit...

I do wish they would make it clearer elsewhere on their site that by installing from 12.04.2/3/4 media you are "opting in" to a kernel and X server which have a shorter support cycle than the broader 12.04 LTS distribution. They do indicate that there will be update notifications to let you know when support for these components is nearing its end, so the issue is at least partially mitigated; but I agree it should be better publicized.

It sounds like maybe if you install from DVD ISO/media it gives you a choice? I haven't downloaded the DVD ISOs so I can't confirm this easily.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:22 am

just brew it! wrote:You also added to our confusion by asking "So a fresh install of 14.04 Server in a VM is a bust?" Based on your subsequent comments you meant to say 12.04, not 14.04.

Any version does not use the Precise stack (12.04.2 up to 14.04)

just brew it! wrote: but I agree it should be better publicized.

The more I think about this the more irked I get. At this point they should have two clearly marked versions of Ubuntu Server -> Ubuntu Server for x86 hardware and Ubuntu Server for virtualized environments.

How crazy is it for Canonical to release a new LTS (14.04) that is not recommend for virtualized environments!
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:32 am

It's not like it won't work in virtualized environments. They're just trying to play it safe, and are recommending that people who don't need the newer driver support stick with the old kernel and X stack. Virtualized environments would be a prime example of such a use case.

Other than not publicizing it enough (people who are installing the newer point releases really should be informed about it up front), it doesn't seem that horrible to me.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:14 am

End User wrote:The more I think about this the more irked I get. At this point they should have two clearly marked versions of Ubuntu Server -> Ubuntu Server for x86 hardware and Ubuntu Server for virtualized environments.

How crazy is it for Canonical to release a new LTS (14.04) that is not recommend for virtualized environments!


The install for VMs is already included on the server ISO. From the boot menu, F4 --> Install a minimal virtual machine.

They never said that. They said, if you're running 12.04 in a virtual environment, don't bother with the enablement stack because you're not going to get anything out of it.
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:31 am

Postscript - Got my home system disentangled from the proprietary ATI driver now, and things seem to be running smoothly on the Open Source driver that came with the latest HWE stack. The final piece of the puzzle was remembering that many months ago I had added a "nomodeset" option to the kernel boot options, because without it the ATI proprietary driver doesn't work right (Ctrl-Alt-Fx virtual consoles completely broken). Well, it turns out that "nomodeset" completely breaks the Open Source driver. D'oh! :roll:
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Re: Ubuntu kernel/Xorg back-ports

Postposted on Fri Apr 04, 2014 11:07 am

Post-postscript -

If you use your 12.04 LTS box as a VirtualBox *host*, beware! Attempting to install (or re-install) VirtualBox after applying the 13.10 HWE packages may result in some serious breakage. In a nutshell, the console goes dead (no display) after the next reboot.

I was able to recover by starting a CLI session over the network and re-applying the HWE packages. So make sure you've got SSH logins enabled, and have another system you can use to log in over the network before you attempt to install/update VirtualBox on a system with HWE packages applied.
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