I finally took the plunge and upgraded to Ubuntu 12.04 from 11.10. It was surprisingly painless, taking about an hour and a half on a Core i5 laptop.
In many years of using various flavors of Linux (Slackware, Red Hat, Debian, now Ubuntu), this is the first time I’ve used an automated upgrade program! In the past, I always made a backup of up my data, did a fresh install, and restored the data. I never trusted upgrades to get everything exactly right. The hassle of a new installation always seemed like less trouble to me than having to figure out any strange system quirks resulting from a slightly imperfect upgrade process.
The only hair-raising moment was when the upgrade program seemed to stall during the “Installing the Upgrades” stage, with the progress bar showing “Configuring debconf.” If you’re not noticing any CPU or disk activity for a while, click on the Terminal toggle to show what dpkg is doing. In my case, it was prompting for input there instead of popping up a graphical window, because gtk was temporarily hosed at that point during the upgrade.
But it seems to have done the job, and everything’s working well. Nice job, Canonical. I’m still undecided about Ubuntu past 12.04 because of the serious data privacy issues I’ve mentioned before. It’s a shame, really–despite the disappointing direction that Ubuntu is taking, it’s done so much right to improve desktop Linux.