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Ubuntu update becomes terminal pain

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Many users of the increasingly popular Ubuntu Linux distribution found themselves on Tuesday thrown back to mid-1990s, when a botched update to the graphical X Window subsystem brought them face-to-face with the command-line terminal.

The update, pushed out to Ubuntu users Monday night, aimed to fix some hardware issues to the X Window software used by almost all Linux systems, but instead caused the graphical user interface (GUI) to fail to initialize, leaving users to deal with issuing text commands through the terminal. By Thursday, more than 700 comments had been posted to the Ubuntu forums by affected users looking for answers, and the Linux project--managed by software and service firm Canonical--issued an apology.

"When we learned of the problem, the patch was immediately withdrawn," the group said in the mea culpa posted to its Web site. "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."

Instructions posted to the Ubuntu Web site allow affected users to roll back the problematic update with a few commands. The project withdrew the faulty patch early Tuesday, after about 17 hours.

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