even though smart people have warned me against early adoption of anything linux, i have gone ahead with the upgrade to 8.10 (intrepid ibex). while i expected some issues, i figured i'd dig my way out as i've always done. this time, however, i think i've finally been convinced that i should just leave well enough alone.
the major problem was the video driver (surprise!). after the lengthy upgrade process, the machine finally booted to a black screen. i managed to get back in by booting back into recovery mode and 'fixing' the xorg config. seems the resolution i had selected wasn't super supported. perhaps it's because i've selected the 177 driver that i can no longer reach 1280 x 1024. i suppose i'll try 173 while i still have a day left in the weekend to recover.
this OS is truly not for the meek. now i'm looking forward to jocular junebug.