Obsolete hardware + Linux = fail?
September 1, 2009 7:56 AM Subscribe
Attention Linux gurus of MeFi: Attempting to set up an old Dell Latitude CS laptop as a Linux system (Xubuntu) for a coworker. Massive installation headaches ensue thanks to missing hardware. Any suggestions?
posted by caution live frogs to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
The laptop is barely capable of doing much but all my friend wants is something she can use to browse the web. Basically a stone-age netbook.
The laptop was picked up used, and has no internal floppy drive, no internal CD drive. External drives are missing. It does have a Xircom 10/100 pcmcia card, but it refuses to netboot using that card even if "Cardbus Ethernet" is selected in BIOS as a boot device. One USB port, but won't boot from that either.
System was running Win2K, so I was able to use a Windows-based bootloader to get the machine to restart and begin installing Xubuntu over the network. All went fine until the end - machine failed to install GRUB. Tried LILO. Fail. Tried LILO on the primary partition instead of MBR. Fail. Tried reformatting the drive (which wiped out the Windows partition) and reinstalling GRUB and LILO. Fail.
I'm currently reinstalling the base system in hopes that the reformatting screwed things up - but not really confident.
So here's where I need help: I now have a machine that is running Linux from the install image, but I am afraid to reboot it as I have no backup method of starting it should it fail.
1 - what might be causing GRUB and LILO to fail? My initial thought was (a) the existing Windows partitions, which is why I repartitioned the drive, or (b) some weirdness with the disk itself (SCSI HDD) that is stopping GRUB from going to the MBR (but why won't LILO install on the / partition itself?)
2 - Any way for me to run the GRUB install manually, rather than using the install menu to do it? I am wondering if the installer is trying to send it to a drive that doesn't exist.
3 - If all else fails and I end up with a brick on my hands, should I be able to pull the drive out and fix the problem by plugging it in to another system using an external drive enclosure? (And if so, how do I do this without screwing up the bootloader on the system on which I do the repair?)
This makes me mad. I agreed to do the job before realizing that the damn computer didn't even have a floppy drive. I did a bare metal to network file server install in under 2 hours last weekend for my neighbors, and up until today was feeling like I knew what I was doing, but this one is reminding me just how weak my Linux skills are.