Well it happened. I finally wiped my Ubuntu installation after three full years of work. Let's take it back to the end of March for a minute. Beta of Ubuntu 9.4 was just released and what do I do, upgrade my Ubuntu 8.10. I've had problems before with my upgrades of Beta Ubuntu but never like this. What happened this time is that when everything completed successfully, I tried to boot into Ubuntu and at logon screen I realized that my mouse and keyboard were not working. I could see a cursor but I could not move it. I rebooted into recovery mode and tried to fix it with my limited Linux command knowledge. It didn't work. Then from that time and on until yesterday I would boot into root shell with networking and run "sudo apt-get update" and "sudo apt-get dist-upgrade", hoping it will fix my broken system. It didn't work. That's why for the past month and a half I had to use XP exclusively :(. I really missed Ubuntu. So yesterday I spent the whole day backing up my existing setup. By the way let me mention that I use XP only for iTunes and I use iTunes only for my iPhone. I really wish there was another solution that I could use on Ubuntu for everything iTunes does with iPhone.
So the first thing I did was I installed Macrium and made an image of my whole hard drive. Then I installed Cobian Backup and backed up all my files on XP. Then I backed up my iTunes collection to DVD media. Then I made an iso of all Windows updates with "Offline Update" application and burnt it to DVD. Lastly, I found driver backup with yahoo search and backed up all of my laptop drivers. Then on the Ubuntu side I used Grsync to backup files from the Ubuntu partition. Now let me reiterate, I could not login to a working X session with my broken Ubuntu. What I did was, download a new Ubuntu 9.4 Release Candidate iso with Bittorrent (highly recommend this for much better speed (1.5mb/s for me) and of course you're helping others out). Made sure it was not an alternate installer because it lacks Live Media. My machine is fairly new and it supports live media so I was fine there. I burned this iso to CD and booted into it. Installed Grsync and backed up my home directory to an external hard drive. Of course there's an easier way to do it with Bash shell in the original installation but since I am a noob I needed a bit of GUI magic. Then I used the same Ubuntu 9.4 RC CD to install a new system wiping both old XP and Ubuntu. So after three years with a stable Ubuntu installation it finally did me in. I guess I didn't learn my lesson upgrading to a Beta level software since the last time it broke my system. Well at least last time I was able to fix it.
Of course there's a point to this whole story and it is that I learned so much with this whole tedious process. When I installed a new Ubuntu and restored from Grsync backup, all of my old settings and files came back, including a Windows 7 Virtualbox image. Grsync also backed up my Firefox tab sessions, AMAZING! It worked perfectly! Of course some of the crap from the old system also came back. I always heard that fresh install is better than upgrade but was always hesitant to do it. Now that I didn't have a choice, I learned something new. Fresh install and then restore from backup takes much less time than doing an upgrade, especially the week of a new Ubuntu Release, which happens to be tomorrow, WOOT! I am planning to burn a new iso of Ubuntu in a few days once it goes gold, again downloading with bittorrent (next two weeks regular downloads are going to be slooooow) and burn to CD. In my home directory set an option to view hidden folders (any files with a period in the front i.e. ./VirtualBox), remove all of the folders I don't need, take a backup of that and then fresh install again. This will leave my box stable and clean.