Updating a system while on vacation

.. is just asking for trouble, isn’t it?

For maybe the third or fourth time ever, Archlinux has left me with an unbootable system. Which isn’t even true, since it was booting and I just didn’t understand what was going on.

A few days ago I saw a cautionary statement in the Archlinux RSS feed. Make sure to reinstall grub’s bootloader if the package is updated. Got it, no biggie.

Then I left town to cat-sit for my sister over the weekend. And I forgot to handle my usually-on-the-weekend weekly system update before leaving. Whoops.

Still unconcerned, I ran the system upgrade, followed the grub instructions and rebooted. Into a blank screen. Uhoh. After more than an hour of using a live-USB that I keep for troubleshooting to re- and re-re- install grub and regenerate the config and regenerate the initcpio payloads.. I finally discovered that the issue wasn’t Grub at all, it was GDM crashing. The system was booting just fine, and Gnome was leaving me high and dry with no display output. Switching to another tty got me a shell and journalctl:

Journalctl output showing X11 keeling over.

And so I got to troubleshoot that for a while until it became not-fun and somewhat-frustrating, after which I just removed the xorg.conf I’d been using for years and suddenly X11 and GDM was OK again.. Weird.

So what do you do after all of that?

Upgrade the BIOS, of course.

Luckily the BIOS update went smoothly.