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Ubuntu alpha hits a snag

The Ubuntu team has reported the following bug in the 8.10 alpha:

"In some circumstances it appears possible for the 2.6.27-rc kernels to corrupt the NVRAM used by some Intel network parts to store data such as MAC addresses. This is limited to the new e1000e driver, and reports have only appeared from users of "82566 and 82567 based LAN parts (ich8 and ich9)" (to quote Intel). The reports seem to be isolated to laptops, but it is not clear if this is because desktop/server parts are not vulnerable, or if use cases simply increase the chances of laptop users being hit."

In other words, if your laptop (though it is unclear if desktops are also affected), uses the Intel 82566 or 82567 (ich8 and ich9) chipset for your on-board LAN, DO NOT INSTALL UBUNTU 8.10 ALPHA UNTIL THIS ISSUE IS RESOLVED. Check your system documentation to see what chipset you are using.

The new e1000e driver in the new kernel release candidate can potentially corupt the NVRAM in these chipsets, potentially irrevocably killing the hardware. There are reports that recovery is possible via a BIOS update, but it looks like right now hardware replacement is the most likely scenario.

I'm not one to say, "steer clear of the alpha" -- but if there is any question in your mind that you may be running one of those two Intel chipsets, stay away until this mess is cleared up.

In the bug forum, some users are asking why Ubuntu continues to keep this release up at all, or at least keep the driver in question available. The answer, it seems is, "if we take it down, we won't reach the projected release date."

You know, I get that running alpha software has potential risks, but in 99.99% of cases, those risks are to software systems and data, not to hardware -- especially not to hardware is integrated into a laptop motherboard (making it that much more expensive to replace, if you don't want to get an external adapter.

Seriously, pull the download, pull the driver, or whip up a program that can identify if the user has one of the two chipsets in question (and based on this list, that's a lot of potential gigabit ethernet cards) so that they can check before downloading. A notice in the ISO and a CYA response in the forums really doesn't help Open Source's cause for public acceptance and adoption.

[via Engadget]

Tags: osupdates, ubuntu, ubuntu-8.10-alpha