Ubuntu 12.04 has a hidden dialogue that stops installation

Problem

Ubuntu is [arguably] one of the most popular Linux-based operating systems. Ease of use and the “human touch” is what is claimed to make it so popular.

Yesterday a couple of colleagues were laughing out loud while calling me to go and watch something “funny” on their computer. Apparently one of them was upgrading his old Ubuntu to version 12.04 while he was working on his other computer. He was checking the screen every now and then to see when the installation finishes and this was what he saw:

Ubuntu 12.04 installation wizard stuck in this step

But it didn’t change after a very long time, so he got suspicious. There was no indication of why this installation process is taking so long. So he clicked on the “Terminal” link to see if there is more information and there it was:

Ubuntu installation dialogue expanded

So he lost a lot of time to learn that even though Ubuntu Installation wizard shows the status as “Installing the upgrades”, it might have been stopped for the user to interact with some invisible dialogue.

Solution

This is a visibility issue because the status of the system is not visible to the user. As I always say: the best error is an error that is automatically fixed correctly. So ideally the installation wizard should not show an error or wait for some interaction from the user. But in this case, it seems inevitable because of the architecture of Linux or the installation process. So the least Ubuntu installation could do was to automatically open the terminal view and let the user know that something has happened. If the programmers for the terminal-based part of the installation don’t have access to opening the parent window, the installation wizard itself can solve it this way: poll the terminal on an experimentally chosen interval. If the terminal is waiting for keyboard input, open the window and let the user interact with it. Of course it is just a workaround but better than leaving the user wondering what happened to the installation and then rebooting their machine because they were not “smart enough” to click on the terminal link to see what’s going on.

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