Re: installation problems
From: Allan Adler (ara_at_nestle.csail.mit.edu)
Date: 02 Aug 2005 00:47:47 -0400
In an earlier message, I explained that attempting to upgrade from RH 7 to
RH 9 had trashed my Linux partition and rendered my PC unbootable. At the
moment, I'm trying to restore RH 7.
In a helpful message, Lenard <Lenard@127.0.0.1> suggested:
>Red hat Linux 7 CD has a bootable floppy installation disk image that
>you can create the floppy from and can be created on a differnet
>system, the directions on how to do this are in the directory location
>on the CD as the floppy boot image. You can also read the directions
>and create the installation floppy disk by visiting and reading;
>Step 5 - Can You Install Using the Red Hat Linux CD-ROM?
> Alternative Boot Methods
> Making Installation Diskettes
I copied boot.img from the CDROM to /tmp on another computer (also running
RH 7) and then made a boot floppy with the command:
dd if=boot.img of=/dev/fd0 bs=1440k
I inserted the resulting floppy in the floppy drive of the disabled PC
and started it. I selected rescue mode and eventually wound up in single
user mode. I executed but could only run it on /dev/hda. That made it
possible to mount the old partitions, but of these only the DOS partition
survived with its files intact. It's not bootable, though. The boot floppy
had no knowledge of the CD ROM drive.
The BIOS is a little strange. It isn't possible to have it boot in the
sequence A,CDROM,C or A,C,CDROM. The only way to get it to boot A before C
was to tell it to boot SCSI,A,CDROM, since there is no SCSI drive. I don't
know if that has anything to do with it.
I also tried booting the floppy and selecting installation in text mode.
It couldn't detect the CD ROM drive. The PC detects the CD ROM drive in
the first stages of booting up, so I don't know what the problem is.
Anyway, with this experience behind me, it occurs to me that I can
try replacing the vmlinuz of the boot floppy with the vlminuz of the
other PC running RH 7 and modifying some of the scripts on the boot
floppy. That might eliminate the distracting efforts it is making to
install from the CD ROM. Once I can simply boot from the floppy,
I might be able to put other stuff on the machine, either in what is
left of the linux partition or in the DOS partition, and get it eventually
to boot from the hard drive. I once succeeded in installing RH 5.2 on
a tiny laptop with only a 250 MB HD and only about 16 MB RAM by just
such a bootstrapping process via sneaker net. It took a lot of work,
but for a long time that old $100 used laptop was the only machine I
had to travel with and the only one I could afford. It did the job I
needed it to do, no matter what the current versions of hardware and
operating systems were, and that is all that mattered. Moreover, it
taught me that even though certain hardware is recommended for a given
distribution, one can sometimes manage without it.
Question 1: What do I need to put on the floppy to get it to detect the
CD ROM drive, just in case it is a software problem and not a flaky
Question 2: Since the disabled PC will nominally boot from a SCSI drive,
and since flash drives seem to be listed in /proc as scsi devices, is
there some way to put what I need on a "boot" flash drive and boot from it?
Having a few hundred MB to work with seems better than trying to operate
from a boot floppy with 1.4 MB.
Question 3: During the aborted installation of RH 9 on the disabled PC,
it asked me whether it should install LILO or GRUB and I said LILO,
and it asked me whether it should write to the MBR or to the Linux
partitition, and I said the MBR, thinking it didn't matter one way or
the other. Maybe it did? It was right after that that it said it couldn't
install on my hardware and gave up.
Lenard also asked what seemed like a natural question:
>Why are you upgrading from an old *unsupported* version to another that
>is in *legacy* support??? (Something to think about)
Answers: (1) I don't want to buy more hardware and anyway can't afford it,
and therefore a current upgrade is out of the question; (2) I had the RH 9
CD's and Fedora 2 CD's in hand for free, and didn't want to buy a
distribution; (3) Given that one doesn't want to upgrade the hardware, it
still makes sense to use a more recent version of RH, if it is compatible
with the hardware.
I like to think that the concept of free software also entails the concept
that I don't have to keep buying more computers in order to keep using the
free software. Maybe that means I'll have to learn to read the source code
for the Linux kernels eventually. There are worse fates. I downloaded a
free copy of the book Linux Device Drivers from O'Reilly and have been
going through it infinitely slowly. And I have a Coriolis publication entitled
Core Linux Kernel (1999), probably dating back to kernel 2.4 or earlier.
Then there are the old books on operating systems and the old copy of
Harbison and Steele on the Draft Ansi C I've been hoping will serve as
suitable reference materials, along with various online books I've also
downloaded and whose titles I don't remember. I've already put a certain
amount of effort into acquiring this background, along with other books
on programming (e.g. Knuth's Art of Computer Programming), but I don't
really want to spend all my time reading computer books. I'm a mathematician
and I like to spend my time on pure mathematics and I would rather give up
on computers completely than compromise that commitment. I'm not asking for
Linux and my PC just to be appliances, the way Windows does. All I ask is
that if I pop the CD ROM in the drive to see if it will install, it will
simply tell me it doesn't support the hardware and eject the CD instead
of destroying my files and making the PC unbootable.
One reason I had that expectation is that I have another PC, much older
than the others, that is also running RH 7. I call it The Cadaver and I
use it the way medical students practice on cadavers: I try things out on
it that I'm not sure about and I don't have to worry about the consequences
since there is nothing on the machine I care about. I popped the RH 9 CD
into The Cadaver's CDROM drive and it started trying to install, then told
me it couldn't, and when I rebooted the PC, everything was just the way I
had left it. So, I had the expectation that RH 9 would behave the same way
on the machine I really did want to upgrade, particularly since Fedora 2
had already done so on that same machine.
Anyway, now I know I can't rely on experiments carried out on The Cadaver.
And, anyway, for as long as I have been using Linux, all the way back to
kernel 0.97, I've known that stuff can go wrong and that one has to back
everything up just in case. This is the first time that has happened, but
everything is backed up, so it is just a matter of making the machine
-- Ignorantly, Allan Adler <email@example.com> * Disclaimer: I am a guest and *not* a member of the MIT CSAIL. My actions and * comments do not reflect in any way on MIT. Also, I am nowhere near Boston.