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Ubuntu's Laptop Killing Bug Fixed 271

jeevesbond writes "Back in October of 2007 we discussed a bug that would dramatically shorten the life of laptops using Ubuntu. Ubuntu users will be glad to know that a fix has finally been released for Ubuntu versions 9.04, 8.10 and 8.04 (LTS). However, as this fix is not yet in the update repositories, anyone wishing to test it should follow these instructions for enabling the 'proposed' repository. Report your results on the original bug report. Happy testing!"
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Ubuntu's Laptop Killing Bug Fixed

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  • Flamebait story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by laddiebuck ( 868690 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @08:39PM (#26501799)
    Considering this was a fault of the manufacturers, this story is pure and total flamebait. Just don't bother feeding the trolls; don't reply.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @08:46PM (#26501841)


    • Que the stories of laptop hard drives failing before their time and rebuttals and blame shifting from about 200 people, mingled with "in soviet Russia, hard drive crashes you!" jokes and ordered lists that feature question marks and profit.

      Oh, and probably a hot grits joke or two.
    • by Nursie ( 632944 )

      Strange that no other distro suffered from it though.

      I could hear my laptop clicking away quite horribly before I applied a manual fix, whether it was an ubuntu bug or not, it was a problem for laptop owners running Ubuntu.

      • One of my very old laptop disks ran down to malfunction over years of running Slackware, Gentoo, FreeBSD, NetBSD, whatever you can name, and they all contributed to the problem whenever I did not disable the disk's default power management.

        Debian Lenny and Ubuntu Intrepid both force sane power management out of the box, even on a text-only install. I consider the problem solved.

  • by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @08:52PM (#26501887)

    Well, one can squarely blame the HD manufacturers (look at the Seagate disaster) and say they need to fix their hardware.

    However, when your stuff doesnt work, regardless who's fault it is, it's still broken. And in cases like Ubuntu vs Windows: it'll work in Windows and not work in Ubuntu. Who do you think the user will fault?

    ObUserStory: I bought a T61 Thinkpad. Worked fine in Windows, and not so well in Ubuntu. What didnt work? The right side USB ports. If I was a regular user, I'd remove Ubuntu and put Windows back on. However, Im stubborn... and know that Linux shouldnt go disabling ports at seemingly random. Turns out, it was a ACPI bios bug that did so :( So a BIOS update did the trick and fixed everything.

    So yes, it may be a manufacturers fault, but that's not where the blame gets placed all the time..

    • by friedman101 ( 618627 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:07PM (#26502017)
      I never begrudged Ubuntu (or Linux in general) for having a bug related to a problem that was largely the fault of the hardware manufacturer. What did piss me off, however, was the fact that a bug that affected most new laptops and threatened to shorten their lifetimes dramatically wasn't plastered all over in huge red font. We'd have never given Microsoft this much leeway.
      • by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:34PM (#26502199)

        As per defense of Ubuntu and others, the e1000 module was blacklisted until a proper kernel patch could be applied to all versions.

        Without the blacklist, the e1000 firmware could be overwritten. Intel provided no safeguards to prevent said occurrence, so destruction of hardware was imminent. Far as I can tell, the Windows driver still has this bug.

        And I remember the Mandrake CD-drive killer sequence. Samne damn problem: unguarded firmware update commands. Instead, these commands are legit commands, but were re-used as a firmware update.

        Now, how much of these drive killer and card killer commands are also on Windows, but we suspect them as other occurrences, like ESD, lightning, or power surges?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:01AM (#26503419)

          You would find this out due to returns. There really are only a handful of laptop manufacturers who sell to the OEM brands you know (Dell, HP, etc). If a model has a component failing at a higher rate than normal, the OEM/ODM will begin investigating what is going wrong.
          In the case of Windows, we are also able to correlate crash information to drivers and hardware, and determine problems this way.
          I work for Microsoft as a technical account manager (TAM) - and work with OEM/OEM/IHV communities on issues like this. There are *many* patches to Windows which include workarounds for hardware issues - something that is both good and bad. Good because an end user is less likely to get screwed; bad because vendors who tend to make crap hardware stay in business.

        • by mpe ( 36238 )
          And I remember the Mandrake CD-drive killer sequence. Samne damn problem: unguarded firmware update commands. Instead, these commands are legit commands, but were re-used as a firmware update.

          Wonder if the drive suppliers bothered to document what they were doing in this case...

          Now, how much of these drive killer and card killer commands are also on Windows, but we suspect them as other occurrences, like ESD, lightning, or power surges?

          Since Windows drivers are often supplied with the hardware the wri
      • As someone else mentioned further up it wasn't true. The claims being made that this bug would shorten your hard drive were made by clueless users in the bug report.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jadedoto ( 1242580 )
      Yea, my ASUS g1sn has a BIOS bug that ASUS won't be fixing in the forseeable future, where it maps memory addresses wrong so if I get all 4GB of RAM in here, I can't install my nVidia drivers in Linux (it works in Windows, but Linux trusts the computer more).

      Really makes you wish hardware manufacturers would step it up.
    • by rsidd ( 6328 )

      Here's the opposite kind of story. I bought a USB-to-serial adapter, which "just worked" in linux, but required a driver for Windows XP, which I installed. Some time later, when I plugged in the device into a different USB port, XP asked me for the driver disk again. I had mislaid the disk, but on a hunch, I unplugged it and plugged it into the port I originally used, and it worked. So XP requires a separate driver installation for each USB port? (All the ports worked with Linux, and the other ports wo

      • Yeah, Windows does that for all USB devices. Linux does something similar. It loads and unloads the driver for the USB port, but uses the driver that's already on the system, so it doesn't have to install every time.

        • by mpe ( 36238 )
          Yeah, Windows does that for all USB devices. Linux does something similar. It loads and unloads the driver for the USB port, but uses the driver that's already on the system, so it doesn't have to install every time.

          The problem with Windows is that sometimes it will realise it already has a driver for the device and "install" it for the "new" USB port. In other cases it will request a driver disk, in which case it is generally possible to manually tell it to look at the drivers which it already has. The o
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by epine ( 68316 )

      Here's another way to phrase that:

      However, when you attribute blame to a faultless party, regardless of whether you have a legitimate beef, you're just an uneducated whinging windbag.

      I've never understood why false blame is regarded as an inalienable force of nature. I recall from my grade three classroom the glee that ensued whenever anybody cut a ripe one at the amazing ease of hanging the blame on any arbitrary person remotely in the upwind quadrant. You just had to be first at putting forward an arbitrary name. "Hey, Marvin, you didn't!" and Marvin would have to be very quick to deflect the hot potato.

      We learn the social rules surrounding this gam

      • Very insightful, but I'm not convinced this blame is a general or unavoidable as you claim.
        I think some of this "upwind blame" behavior comes from dealing with closed source "black-box" companies for decades (or generations) on end. If you pay a lot of money, you have every right to kick blame upwind.

        That being said, there are only so many upwind parties to detect here.
        Suppose I buy a laptop from Dell with Linux/Windows on it and there is something wrong with it, there is only one upwind party: Dell. I ex

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          To put it succinctly. The person who sold you the package is the one that's responsible for it working. If they are using third party hardware/drivers/software they take on the responsibility as far as your package goes. So if something goes wrong you talk to them, and they find a solution. Now, that solution might mean kicking the third party vendors until they cough up a solution, it might mean designing a work around, it might mean dropping that third party vendor, or it might mean attaching a notifi
  • Only Ubuntu? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by markdavis ( 642305 )

    And since Ubuntu = Linux and Linux = Ubuntu, it is Linux's fault, right?

    Or was this issue specific to Ubuntu and not other distros? (Yes, believe it or not, there ARE other distros; although it is hard to tell since so many stories and postings say "Ubuntu" in place of the word "Linux" or "Linux distribution")

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by markdavis ( 642305 )

      Oh, silly me: []

      It is almost deja-vu!

    • Re:Only Ubuntu? (Score:5, Informative)

      by msuarezalvarez ( 667058 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:26PM (#26502153)
      Fedora 9 and 10 click pretty much as much...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      That's GNU/Linux. Or did you mean some other Linux?
    • Re:Only Ubuntu? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Erpo ( 237853 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @10:32PM (#26502515)

      (Yes, believe it or not, there ARE other distros; although it is hard to tell since so many stories and postings say "Ubuntu" in place of the word "Linux" or "Linux distribution")

      Isn't it great? I can't wait until the days of users asking, "So I should try Linux. Which distro should I use?" and getting useless or contradictory answers are long forgotten.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by markdavis ( 642305 )

        Yes, choice, variety, and competition are horrible things aren't they? Certainly we should have all been stuck with only SLS Linux or perhaps only Redhat Linux..... hell, why even have Linux at all; why couldn't the status quo of MS-Windows or MS-DOS sufficed?

        There were distros just as good (or better in different ways) before Ubuntu existed. There are distros just as good (or better in different ways) than Ubuntu now. There will probably be other distros later- maybe of which will be just as good or bet

        • by db32 ( 862117 )
          This is getting dangerously close to that whole Linux vs GNU/Linux rant. The reality is Ubuntu has thrust Linux onto the mainstream desktop and Linux is just the kernel. The truth is "Ubuntu" "Red Hat" "Linux" "GNU" and so on have been horribly abused from the getgo in terms of prefered terminology. The (rather unnerving) truth is that your toaster CAN run Linux along with a WIDE variety of other mundane devices that has fucking squat to do with the use of the Linux kernel on a PC. The issue you are com
        • by Erpo ( 237853 )

          Yes, choice, variety, and competition are horrible things aren't they?

          They have real disadvantages. []

        • by Yfrwlf ( 998822 )
          Distros need to be seen as software bundles and nothing more, that's the way I explain it to unfamiliar users. What does this software bundle contain, what does that one contain...eventually the terms Gnome and KDE should become fairly common since "which desktop do you have?" would become common to ask unless one of the two radically overtakes the other.
        • From what I have read this bug effects Windows, OSX and Linux generally, However it's been largely explored and discussed in Ubuntu.

          The practice of substituting Ubuntu for Linux , is justified to some extent. If I was to discover a bug on this laptop i'm using it would initially be an Ubuntu bug (hardy) since that's the Os I am using.

          I can't call it a Linux bug since i'm using a subset of Linux, actually a subset of Ubuntu on a particular subset of hardware and I haven't tested for it with any other distro.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )
      That's GNUbuntu to you!
  • by Nicopa ( 87617 ) <nico.lichtmaier@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:11PM (#26502055)

    The fix is already included in the accepted updates:

    acpi-support (0.114-0intrepid1) intrepid-proposed; urgency=low

        * {ac,battery,resume,start}.d/ don't just check whether
            laptop-mode is configured to control the drives, also check whether
            laptop-mode itself is *enabled*. Finally closes LP: #59695.

      -- Steve Langasek Mon, 05 Jan 2009 10:50:10 +0000

    Just run apt-get update && apt-get install acpi-support.

  • misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bytor4232 ( 304582 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:15PM (#26502089) Homepage Journal

    The title and article summary is misleading. It shortens the life of the hard drive, not the laptop itself. Hard drives are cheap, and on most laptops as easy to swap out as the battery with screwdriver in hand.

    Its not like Ubuntu is killing the motherboard or screen, its the Hard Drive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by exi1ed0ne ( 647852 ) *

      Hard drives are cheap

      While that may be true, my time isn't. Getting the lappy set up and restored from backup > 0.

      • by rhizome ( 115711 )

        While that may be true, my time isn't. Getting the lappy set up and restored from backup > 0.

        What, you don't store all your data in THE CLOUD? n00b

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      It shortens the life of the hard drive, not the laptop itself. Hard drives are cheap,..

      Thats OK if you have a standard 2.5" drive and regular backups. Where could I get a 1.8" IDE (non-ZIF) for my X40 Thinkpad? Best option is probably a CF-IDE adaptor for a small SSD.

    • ...but the data stored on them can often be priceless.


      Many users can't just pick up a screwdriver and replace the failed hard drive.
      Many users are not allowed to.
      Many users will void warranty if doing so.
      For many users it involves a trip to a service center and a waiting period to get their laptops to work again. WITHOUT all their lost data.

  • hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:20PM (#26502117)
    Does it bother anyone that Ubuntu, the community's duly annointed challenger to Microsoft hegemony, had an outstanding bug for fourteen months whose effect was to damage hardware? That's pretty terrible.
    • Re:hmm. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:42PM (#26502243)

      yeah, that's pretty bad. You have to give points to M$ here because they typically don't let things like this happen.

    • Re:hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:49PM (#26502291) Homepage Journal

      When Ubuntu is competing against an OS which has been a vector for millions of computers to be compromised over the last 10+ years and has caused untold billions of dollars of damage and wasted billions of hours of people's time, I think it's not a bad track record.

      • I think this is starting to change. Just this week I found all of my debian boxes have been turned into zombies in the Linux.RST.b botnet []. While my network's security may have been lax enough to cause it...I would venture it's probably more secure than your avg ubuntu user. Which means those hundreds of thousands of new ubuntu users are probably just waiting targets for the linux viruses of 2009, imho. Keep your systems patched, and your passwords secure, folks.
      • Ah the good old 'but at least we're less evil than Saddam' defense.

        Ubuntu's track record is a lot better than Microsoft's, but that does not mean a 14 month delay is acceptable. Especially since comments from 2006 already mention the -B parameter to hdparm as a possible fix.

    • Sounds like someone's been reading too much Chomsky.

  • Just in the last two days I've tried to install three versions of Ubuntu on a Toshiba Satellite laptop, and every attempt failed with a blank screen of death in the middle of the process. I tried 7.1, 8.04, and the latest nightly build (first two Desktop versions, the latter Alternate of course). This is an old laptop from 2001, a model 1805-S203, so there's no cutting-edge hardware that should be causing a problem, yet the installs failed spectacularly.

    By contrast, BOTH Windows 2000 and MEPIS Linux versi

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Xifeng ( 1425793 )
      Why don't you try 8.10, the newest stable release?
    • "I have to tell you, this has shaken my confidence in open source operating systems quite a bit."

      Mepis worked. It is an underrated distro and there is probably no reason not to keep it.

      Distro churning to find out what suits your needs is easy (yay for live CDs!) and was normal up until very recently.

    • I've tried numerous versions of Windows on my PPC Mac, all of which have failed miserably. It's shaken my faith in installing an OS onto hardware it was not developed for.

      Like Windows and every other OS, you've got no guarantee that Linux will work if you've got no guarantee it'll work. Try buying specific hardware that is advertised to work with Linux. Companies out there - even as mainstream as Dell - sell Linux-based computers. Those boxen don't have such problems.
      • by macraig ( 621737 )

        I might just do that, if I could afford a new laptop. I only have this one because it was a hand-me-down.

        OTOH, I have a decades-old hatred of brand-name computer systems, because I've seen ALL the proprietary lock-in stunts the manufacturers pull. I respect the "value added" when they mass-produce a cookie-cutter box for which they only have to do the configuration work once and then replicate that stable configuration ad infinitum; if they could add that value and stop there, that would be awesome... but

        • If you want a not-so-mainstream computer that'll be guaranteed to work with Ubuntu, take a look at system 76 []

          I can't personally vouch for them, but the few things I've heard have all been good.
    • by upuv ( 1201447 )

      OK, let me get this straight. You are complaining that some odd case of laptop hardware configuration has stopped a couple of variants of an operating system to install! And this shakes your your confidence in it?

      Does any recall VISTA when it first came out. I basically had a 50/50 chance of installing on anything. Due to driver support. That would have shaked me more. ( It did btw )

      How many other OS variations have had issues with installation over the recent few years. Well in short all of them. M

      • by macraig ( 621737 )

        You've put numerous words in my mouth that I never uttered. I never said that newer versions of Windows failed to install on this system. I don't have newer versions of Windows to even install. I also tried both older and the newest versions of Ubuntu; none of them worked.

        I would also like to point out that older laptops often have very very poor support for newer OS variations.

        You have this utterly backwards. It's exactly the opposite. The simple passage of time (and sufficient demand) ensures more co

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by upuv ( 1201447 )

          I'll rephrase. Would you expect that XP or Vista be installable on your laptop? AKA the newest versions.

          You actually reaffirmed my statement on laptop support! But you continue to rebuff the my statement? Curious.

          Ubuntu is != Linux. Ubuntu is simply a distro. And no they have not been around that long. Release 4.10 was the first release of it. That's stands for Oct 2004. Also they don't actually support people for free. The community does. As you said given sufficient demand that laptop in questio

  • laptop != hard drive (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @11:03PM (#26502719)

    Oh wait, it's kdawson.

    It shortens the life of your HD, not the laptop itself, you chimp.

  • Dumb newbie question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aendeuryu ( 844048 )

    I downloaded the image for a Live CD a few days ago but hadn't installed it -- lucky me -- and I was wondering, are the new Live CD downloads updated yet? Or do I have to apt-get something straight away?

  • by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @01:37AM (#26503613) Homepage

    I followed the instructions on Ubuntu's forums (what a pain to locate the actual instructions) (I transcribed what I did and will post them).

    The actual problem was that manufactures have messed with their drives and altered the head parking timeout into a "detect if windows went to sleep" method. Basically Windows writes to the disk *all the time* until it sleeps, so the best way to minimize disk use is to park the head almost instantly after any inactivity, as that will park it asap when it sleeps. Furthermore at least 2 manufactures used the timeout control as <= 195 == "on" and >195 == "off".

    Ubuntu/Linux wrote a lot less often, but plenty anyway, like every 15 seconds (doing stupid stuff like writing log files). So the head unparked every 15 seconds.

    The fact that Windows "worked" led a lot of people to think Windows was doing secret messing with the drives to turn on extra modes that were not in the documentation, and that Ubuntu could not be fixed until this secret was found. However I think somebody could have figured out that it was not doing anything, there were programs (ported from Ubuntu, apparently!) for reading the disk settings under Windows.

    It was also known immediatly that setting the disk timeout to 255 stopped this. Who cares if this was not the "secret Windows setting", it was certainly better than how Ubuntu was working at that time. This was known the same day the bug was first talked about! Ubuntu should have immediatly patched it, but somehow the fact that this was not "ideal" caused them to delay for 14 months! That is really bad, guys! I "fixed" mine as best I could with a program I had to run every time I opened the lid (because some stupid startup thing kept turning the timeout back on, and the only way to run my program last was to manually run it!) I eventually decided to go through the hair of actually fixing it and killing off that other thing that tried to do it.

    There seemed to be a bunch of conflicting programs, all of them trying to set the disk timeout to 128 or 2. You had to get *all* of them (see next posting for what I did). This is what made it Ubuntu-specific. I sure hope this patch straightens it out so exactly ONE service, and exactly ONE file in /etc, controls the disk timeout!

    Yea you can blame Windows all you want, but this was really, really, bad!

    And I sure hope the update (which I just did) did not get screwed up by trying to merge with all the changes I did. Have not really checked yet. What a PITA. If they had put out a patch immediatly then they would not have to patch systems that have a hundred different solutions on them.

    • by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:55AM (#26503955) Homepage

      The laptop_mode command does the right thing, so most of this is to get it called everywhere it needs to be, and to remove calls that mess with the hdparm settings and thus defeat laptop_mode. There are claims that "laptop mode" causes problems, but this does *not* enable it. The program "laptop_mode" does other stuff besides the problem part. That is controlled by a line in /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf, where you can individually set it on/off for battery, ac, and when the lid is closed. Change them all to zero there if you are worried. It works fine on my machine, however, and the battery lasts far longer now.

      1. Edit /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf and change correct line to read: CONTROL_HD_POWERMGMT=1 (this makes laptop_mode call hdparm)

      2. Edit /etc/default/acpi-support and change correct line to read: ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE=true (this makes run)

      3. Edit /etc/acpi/
      Comment out or delete the 4 for...done loops containing $HDPARM commands. (this stops power-on from messing with the disks)
      And change the arguments to $LAPTOP_MODE from start/stop to "auto" in both cases.
      (this makes it run the laptop_mode command correctly rather than forcing the mode on and off)

      4. Create /etc/pm/power.d/laptop-tools and make it read "exit 0" and then "chmod +x" it. (this stops suspend/resume from messing with hdparm settings)

      5. Create /etc/pm/sleep.d/10laptop_mode_restart and make it contain the following:

      case $1 in
              /etc/init.d/laptop-mode stop
              /etc/init.d/laptop-mode stop
              /etc/init.d/laptop-mode start
              /etc/init.d/laptop-mode start
              echo Something is not right.

      Chmod +x this file (this makes suspend/resume run the laptop tools)

      HOW TO TEST:

      This command will tell you how your disk is set:

        sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda | grep "Adv"

      The correct results to stop disk thrashing are 254 or 255. When laptop_mode is *really* on then the correct value is 1. If you see 128 then things are not working, this is the setting the disk resets to on suspend/sleep/power off.

      This command will tell you how bad you have trashed your disk (you may need to install "smartctl"):

        sudo smartctl -a /dev/sda | grep Load_Cycle_Count

      The last number is how many times your disk has parked. Over 10,000 is not good. Mine is 101187 before I finally got this fixed.
      • by hacker ( 14635 )

        Looks like there are no "for() loops containing hdparm" in on my Ubuntu Hardy or Intrepid systems here, so I'm good. Power Management was also set to 254 without enabling LAPTOP_MODE at all.

        But the interesting thing was this...:

        225 Load_Cycle_Count 0x0032 095 095 000 Old_age Always - 58667

        This drive, a 500G laptop drive, is about 2-3 months old. Killed already? Who knows.

      • I also didn't find the 'for' loops with hdparm in I wonder if there is a difference in version of acpi-support in the Intrepid-proposed updates, which I had installed.

        More homework I guess. My "smartctl -a /dev/sda | grep Load_Cycle_Count" output 277503. This system is about a year old. Maybe I will buy a new drive and use it as an image backup just in case, and then if there is a problem, I'll just drop it in as a replacement.

        Thanks for the info.
  • The word "some" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Picklesworth ( 931427 ) on Monday January 19, 2009 @02:10AM (#26513185) Homepage

    The media's coverage of this bug misses one really, really important part: It affects some computers. Not all.

    There is an astounding number of idiots who think they are affected by this bug but really aren't thanks to the FUD that passes as journalism these days.

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.