Canonical has halted downloads of Ubuntu Linux 17.10, aka Artful Aardvark, from its website after punters complained installing the open-source OS on laptops knackered the machines.
Specifically, the desktop flavor of Artful Aardvark, released in October, has been temporarily pulled – the server builds and other editions remain available. A corrected version of 17.10 for desktops is due to be released soon.
"The download of Ubuntu 17.10 is currently discouraged due to an issue on certain Lenovo laptops," the Linux distro maker noted this week on its desktop download page. "Once fixed this download will be enabled again."
Installing 17.10 on Lenovo Yoga and IdeaPad laptops corrupts the motherboard BIOS's data, preventing firmware settings from being saved, and stops the machine from booting via USB. The cockup mainly affects Lenovo computers, although other systems may also fall foul: selected Acer, HP, Toshiba and Dell hardware is said to be affected, too.
A fault report on Canonical's bug tracker tells it all – apparently, Artful Aardvark's Linux kernel includes an Intel SPI driver that was not ready for release:
Many users are reporting issues with BIOS corruption with 17.10. This seems to stem from enabling the intel-spi-* drivers in the kernel, which don't appear to be ready for use on end-user machines."
Intel did not respond to our request for comment. The bug report – which includes a list of known vulnerable hardware – continued:
Basically, on Lenovo Y50-70 after installing Ubuntu 17.10, many users reported a corrupted BIOS.
It's not possible to save new settings in BIOS anymore and after rebooting, the system starts with the old settings. Moreover (and most important) USB booting is not possible anymore since USB is not recognized. It's very serious, since our machines do not have a CDROM.
Lenovo forums at the moment are full of topics regarding this issue.
Intel's SPI driver is kernel-level software that allows the operating system to access the firmware's flash storage on the motherboard via a serial communication interface. Seemingly, a problem with this code causes the OS to flip the wrong configuration bit in a hardware register, and write protect the firmware's data, triggering further failures.
We're told Canonical will remove the SPI driver from the kernel, and rerelease Artful Aardvark. If your BIOS is already corrupted by this blunder, you may have to replace the firmware's flash memory chip – or the whole motherboard – if reseting the BIOS or this suggested workaround , or some other remedy, do not resolve the matter.
Essentially, you have to remove the write protection, one way or another, in order to restore control of the BIOS. We'll let you know as soon as we can any confirmed steps to rescue BIOS-locked machines.
"We have been made aware that a few users have experienced this and we are talking to Lenovo about it," a spokesperson for Canonical told The Register on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, folks with knackered systems aren't, as you can imagine, happy.
"I removed the battery and BIOS battery. Then pressed the power button. BIOS settings stay the same and I still cannot change them," one Lenovo laptop owner complained in the manufacturer's support forum.
This wouldn't be the first time a bad Ubuntu update has caused havoc for Linux users.Earlier this year, an upgrade caused the DNS resolver on some machines to go haywire.
Least the Linux fanbois think we're picking on them, it should also be noted that Apple and Microsoft have caused their own headaches for users with bad software releases recently.
A stunning security lapse in High Sierra left many Macsopen to intrusion, while the October edition of Windows' Patch Tuesdaygave some machines recurring Blue Screens of Death. ®