Linux box progress

Back in November, I made a hopelessly failed attempt to upgrade my main Linux workstation from Fedora Core 4 to Fedora Core 6. This is a machine that I built myself – 2GHz AMD64 CPU, dual 160Gb SATA drives with software RAID 1 (mainly to protect my photos), NVIDIA graphics. The problem was that the upgrade process rendered the box unbootable – unable to find a kernel, and once I’d hacked at grub it was unable to load the relevant modules… I had to give up on it through lack of time.

This week I finally had some time to play. I was surprised to find that I hadn’t really missed the machine in 5 months, apart from the lack of access to my address book and quite a large number of photos. I knew that the data was at least safe, I just couldn’t get to it.

On Thursday I managed to get the system booting again. There had been two fundamental issues with the upgrade. The first was that the bootloader was broken. I had to boot into rescue mode, reinstall grub on both SATA drives, and hack the menu.lst file like this:

title RAID partition 1 Fedora Core (2.6.18-1.2798.fc6)
kernel (hd0,0)/vmlinuz-2.6.18-1.2798.fc6 ro root=/dev/md3 rhgb quiet
initrd (hd0,0)/initrd-2.6.18-1.2798.fc6.img

Now, this has the disadvantage that it is targetting a particular RAID drive – I need to look at making it disk-independent as it was before, but at least this is letting me load the kernel.

The second problem was that once it found the kernel image, it failed to load various modules (like via_sata, for example, which was fairly critical to the whole boot process). To fix this, I had to rebuild the initial RAM disk using mkinitrd… in the process discovering that I had obsolete options in modprobe.conf, like stuff telling scsi_mod to scan max_scsi_luns of 127, so I removed those.

Once I got the thing to boot, I had to clean up the networking, and then install months of Fedora updates.

The most important thing (!) about the whole process was that I wanted to get Beryl running for full GL-enhanced desktop goodness. I managed to do that this morning, although I had to reinstall the NVIDIA driver in order to prevent it from complaining about the GLcore module not being found, and then install the glx-utils package to get hold of all the glx programs like glxinfo and glxgears.

The final problem I’m faced with is overheating. It turns out that if the CPU runs at 1.6GHz or 2GHz it immediately heats up to ~75C and the system shuts itself down. This is despite having a fan+heatsink on the processor itself, and several fans in the machine… clearly not good enough. I’m currently running at 800MHz, which at least works. I need to find a better method of getting the machine cooled.

Posted whilst at White Leaf House [

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7 thoughts on “Linux box progress”

  1. The beauty of grub is that if you hit ‘e’ at the menu, you can actually edit the commands it will run, so you can change drives or kernel paths etc without having to load up a rescue cd to edit a file. This is great when you are messing around with disks/raid as you never get the grub options correct first time round!

  2. Andy,

    I’m thinking of installing a Linux distro at home, any reason why go for Fedora Core 6 instead of, say, Ubuntu? Easier for IBM software to run on it, say?

  3. @Anton – indeed – that’s how I managed to sort out the mess of the disk identification and finding the right kernel image in the first place.

    @Dan – I personally have historically gone with RedHat-based distros since many software providers (including IBM) package stuff for RedHat, so it tends to run on Fedora. I know a lot of IBMers swear by Ubuntu, too. I guess if I was starting afresh I might well give Ubuntu a try these days.

  4. I have used Ubuntu-based systems within IBM for a couple years now. Its true that the “official” client is RedHat based, but there are “unofficial” repositories available that provide all the necessary tools for me to do my day job; ie Lotus Notes and Sametime. Combined with the user-focus of Ubuntu, I rarely have a problem. In fact, I would class myself as one of Andy’s IBMers who swear by it 🙂

  5. I run Debian, both at home and IBM. Debian have a good usergroup and plenty of peer support in IBM. The beauty of Debian is the huge number of packages, but you can get all that in Ubuntu too.
    If you have a personal preference, then go with that. If not, try a few out and see what you think. In the end you are running linux, and the differences are what you choose to install on your box!

  6. Thank you Andy, Nick , and Anton for the tips. I’m thinking of learning Linux myself, but can’t make the full-time move because Domino Administrator client only runs on Windows 🙁 At any rate, I’d be happy to run Lotus Domino/Websphere Portal on a linux box to play around with.

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