While most Ubuntu users experience greater overall stability than in OSes like Windows, occasionally programs may fail to work as they once had. Sometimes this is due to updates, with either an updated version of an app causing problems, or perhaps an updated library or other system file interfering with the existing program. The beauty with Ubuntu is that quite often a subsequent update will fix the problem before you can even start complaining about it, but this isn’t always the case.
While bugs/problems can vary, the annoyance that causes the most grief of course is programs crashing upon execution. So here are a few tips you can try if a program you’ve already had working no longer loads, or even if you installed a program and it never actually loaded successfully. Try the first 2 tips before moving onto more drastic measures if needed.
Exit the Program if it Loads Briefly
This will be of no use to those who see the program appear then vanish, or die with an error message (or not appear at all), but could be a fix for those who have the app crash after a certain task. For example, it could be opening or saving a file, or performing a certain editing feature like paste, so see if you can exit the program the proper way before it dies. You might find that it was in a loop of crashing due to not being properly exited previously, or whatever reason, and now works fine.
I had this happen recently with KAlarm, though it crashed immediately upon opening. Read the next tip on how I got it to appear, enabling me to then exit it cleanly, thus fixing the problem.
Try Again in the Terminal
If you try and run the program via the terminal, you might see some text come up that might explain what is going wrong (which is invaluable when trying to get some help in the forums or report a bug), but it generally still won’t load the app, since clicking a launcher to a command or entering it into a terminal are the same thing. I’ve seen a few exceptions, so definitely give it a try, but don’t expect too much. But if you follow the command with an ampersand (&), which is what you would do if wanting it to run in the background, you might get a pleasant surprise.
For example, after some KDE system updates, KAlarm began crashing on opening, but after entering kalarm & in the command-line it opened fine, and after making sure I exited the program properly (ie: not just closed the terminal), it now loads without issue!
Try Reinstalling the Program
Synaptic Package Manager makes installing and uninstalling software a simple task – just find the package, right-click it, and choose to either reinstall it, remove it, or remove it completely. So if you are having problems getting a program to load, the next step might be to reinstall it. You shouldn’t need to worry about settings being lost, even if you choose to remove it. In fact, I’ve seen programs leave settings folders behind on complete removals, so even if you have to resort to that, you might still get your old settings back.
Reinstalling it might not do much, as it just reinstalls the same version, but a couple of times it was enough to do the trick for me. If that fails, the next step is to mark it for removal, and once it has been uninstalled, select it for installation again. If the problem still persists, then go back and mark it for complete removal, and then install it again. Sometimes it is a setting or corrupted config file or whatever, and only in a complete removal will it be replaced by a safe default or uncorrupted file.
Report a Bug or Search for Existing Solutions
If nothing you’ve tried works, then it might mean that at least for now, there’s nothing you can do. It could be some issue like a conflict with an updated version of a library file, and could be such a widespread bug that it soon gets fixed in an update. Or it might get fixed in the next version of Ubuntu. Or if it’s some little app that not everyone uses, then it may never get fixed, because no-one knows there is any issue with it.
If you really want that app to work and want it fast, then don’t just complain about it, make the effort to report a bug. Finding the program maker’s site is easy enough with Google, and if there is no site, then ask for help in the Ubuntu forums. I have had bugs fixed within a week, and even cool features I proposed added almost immediately, so it is definitely worth the time. Some programs have such a large user base they have forums and bug report centres, while smaller apps might have a homepage and email link direct to the author.
You might email a developer of a small but useful app and next thing he is emailing back saying he fixed the problem, so go download the new version. With some more well-known programs, you might be surprised to find no bug report area, or to get no replies to emails sent, and that’s if they even have a web page. In cases like that, it’s time to hit the Ubuntu forums, where you might actually find a fix some clever person has figured out.
Just remember that whether you’re reporting a bug or asking for help on a solution, always supply as much information as possible. “KAlarm doesn’t work” generally isn’t considered descriptive enough to be of use to those who wish to help. Post info like your version of Ubuntu, and definitely the version number of the app (which you should be able to get by searching for it in Synaptic and looking through the details supplied). And adding a whole bunch of text you copied when trying to run it in a terminal would certainly give those assisting something to work with. Also, be prepared to send in any log files they may need to see what is going on.
And in this day and age, I doubt I have to remind you of search engines like Google. Someone could have already found a fix, and stuck it up on his blog or website, so make sure you’ve ruled this out first. Once again, the more info you bother to give, the more results you are likely to get. “KAlarm doesn’t work” is certainly going to get you a lot less useful info than “KAlarm crashes on loading in Ubuntu“. One last tip is that while more relevant words in the search generally produce better results, sometimes they can interfere, so try cutting words out. Sometimes a simple “KAlarm crashes” can get you what you need with little searching through the results.
Did this information make your day? Did it rescue you from hours of headache? Then please consider making a donation via PayPal, to buy me a donut, beer, or some fish’n’chips for my time and effort! Many thanks!