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Ubuntu Users Stranded After Bungled Update

A patch to the Ubuntu Linux distribution left customers with a command line interface only. A second update fixed the problem.
An update to the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution this week left some users without a way to launch the usual graphical interface and stranded them with just a command line to run their computer.

The flawed update was pushed to Ubuntu users between 10:30 a.m. (PDT) Monday and 3:00 a.m. Tuesday. After it was installed, the operating system would fail to initialize the graphical user interface (GUI). Users were left with a DOS-style command line as the only way to log in or launch applications.

Canonical, the U.K.-based commercial firm that manages the Ubuntu project, issued an apology on the Ubuntu Web site.

"An update to the windowing system in Ubuntu was incorrectly released for Ubuntu 6.06 LTS," the explanation went. "When applied to Ubuntu 6.06, the patch inadvertently breaks the desktop windowing environment on some systems.

"When we learned of the problem, the patch was immediately withdrawn. Mirrors have also been disabled to ensure that the faulty patch isn't available from them. We have launched an investigation and formal quality process review to understand exactly how this happened and what corrective actions to take."

Tuesday, Canonical posted a refreshed, reworked update that fixed the bug in the original patch, and posted instructions on the Ubuntu Web site for users stuck without a GUI. The page walked users through the update-to-an-update process from the command line.

"We are aware this is not the ease of use you came to Ubuntu for, but in this instance it is the best way to resolve the issue," the confession continued.

Ubuntu wasn't the only operating system this week to redress a botched update. Thursday, Microsoft unveiled a second version of the MS06-042 security bulletin to quash a new critical vulnerability that the original Aug. 8 patch introduced in older editions of IE.