My Debian Black-out – the price of bleeding edge

Ok, I admit it. I run Debian Unstable so I know I deserve to get hit really bad at times when things turn really ugly. It is called unstable for a reason.

The other day I decided it was about time I did a dist-upgrade. When I did that, I got a remark that I better restart my gnome session as otherwise apps would crash. So I logged out and… I couldn’t login again. In fact, neither my keyboard nor mouse (both on USB) worked anymore! I sighed, and rebooted (for the first time in many months) only to find out that 1) it didn’t fix the problem, both input devices were still non-functional and perhaps even more important 2) the wifi network didn’t work either so I couldn’t login to it from one of my other computers either!

Related to this story is the fact that I’ve been running an older kernel, 2.6.26, since that was the last version that built my madwifi drivers correctly and kernels after that I was supposed to use ath5k for my Atheros card, but I’ve not been very successful with ath5k and thus remained using the latest kernel I had a fine madwifi for.

I rebooted again and tried a more recent kernel (2.6.30). Yeah, then the keyboard and mouse worked again, but the ath5k didn’t get the wifi up properly. I think I basically was just lacking the proper tools to check the wifi network and set the desired ssid etc, but without network that’s a bit of a pain. Also, when I logged in on my normal gnome setup, it mentioned a panel something being broken and logged me out again! ๐Ÿ™

Grrr. Of course I could switch to my backup – my laptop – but it was still highly annoying to end up being locked out from your computer.

Today I bought myself 20 meter cat5e cable and made my desktop wired so I can reach the network with the existing setup, I dist-upgraded again (now at kernel 2.6.31) and when I tried to login it just worked. Phew. Back in business. I think I’ll leave myself with the cable connected now that I’ve done the job on that already.

The lesson? Eeeh… when things break, fix them!

6 thoughts on “My Debian Black-out – the price of bleeding edge”

  1. Out of curiosity,

    am I right to assume that yours is a default install?

    I had the same “problem” with my desktop when using experimental + unstable (yep, I asked for it ๐Ÿ˜€ )

    how can I login to the desktop with my perfectly working laptop?

  2. I have a pretty much “default” unstable install, yes. Well, with some tweaks of course but…

    In my case my wifi stopped working so I had to get my ethernet going and then I could login with ssh if I wanted, but I could use the console to login all the time (ctrl+alt F2).

  3. I had a small chuckle over your post as I consider the number of times SID has trashed me. I have used testing, unstable and Ubuntu in a merry-go-round for years. I am doggedly trying to stick with Squeeze and KDE 4.3.2. Dolphin is crashing all the time but otherwise it is stable – I use Konqueror for file management as it is rock solid. I know I can upgrade to SID and fix Dolphin and get KDE 4.3.3 but I also know it would only last a few weeks before something important goes belly up.

    I had SID going a few weeks back and a SAMBA update blocked my access to my NAS box – I could have worked out a fix but it just made me think Squeeze is much more sensible on a working machine. Not quite the bleeding edge but still a thousand years ahead of Stable.

    I guess it comes down to how much time you want to spend fixing updates versus actually using the computer for something useful.

  4. Disregard my previous post. An update today just killed samaba shares, just like it did in SID a few weeks ago.

    Might as well just use SID – or maybe Ubuntu again

    HoHum, fun

  5. Sidux (, based on Debian unstable, is worth a look. It may give you the balance between stability and cutting-edge that you’re looking for, and it offers a live CD to try before installing.

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