Angry enough to spit

Here’s the situation. After about three or four months with the Pavilion, I decided it wasn’t really filling the role I had originally intended, and while it’s a fine computer in most respects, I don’t use it enough to warrant keeping something with its current value. Add to that the fact that it has some quirks I don’t enjoy — like a resistant feel to the keyboard, or a low resolution for the screen size, or a poorly positioned touchpad (it falls under my right palm, which makes the cursor skitter quite often) — and I’ve decided it’s time to part ways.

I found a buyer in a neighbor and coworker who was looking for something to surf the Internet and watch DVDs, nothing much more than that. Buying price is same as what I paid for it, in a different currency though. The exchange works out to be the same, so it’s a null-profit, null-loss deal. I’m okay with that.

The buyer would prefer a dual boot however, since the machine has a valid copy of XP Home, and Ubuntu works beautifully on it. I can agree to that, with the caveat that I don’t install much more of XP than what it takes to get it working at a basic level. In other words, the buyer will install virus scanners, firewalls and whatnot. I only deliver as it would have been delivered, when HP sent it to the original buyer a few years ago.

I spent about three hours last night waiting for XP to install, do its obligatory updates and install the proprietary drivers that actually make the system work. Then I spent another hour waiting for Ubuntu 8.04 to install. This morning I did the last of the updates and tweaks to Ubuntu, to make it “usable” for a casual computer user.

Now as a bonus, I wanted to install GAG on the machine, because for one thing, it eliminates all those pesky kernel lines that come with each kernel update, and since this will be a long-term release, the list is going to get quite long. And it’s a little more congenial than the standard Grub bootloader — even with the colored menu enabled. ;)

The only problem was that I had already told Grub to install to the MBR — in fact, that was the way I had done it years ago under Edgy, when I first used GAG and rescue mode on an installation disc allowed you to rewrite Grub to a different partition.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case now. You can reinstall Grub to the drive, but the 8.04 rescue mode doesn’t give you the option to pick a different partition as the destination for Grub. So I picked the partition I wanted as the target to be the root drive under rescue mode. Ubuntu then told me the partition wasn’t correct when I tried to reinstall Grub, and I was kicked back to the expert installation sequence menu.

Let’s pause for a moment. Why is it that rescue mode for Ubuntu requires you to work your way through 90 percent of the installation sequence before you can get to an option for a shell prompt? I’ve always wondered that; you even have to declare a network name and a root partition before you can even go about the business of fixing your computer.

So I’m in the installation sequence now. I pick the option to install Grub and I get dropped into the partitioning sequence. Thinking that I just have to mount the partition, I declare the standing partition array as the one I want, and step through, making sure not to format anything in the process.

Next thing I know, Ubuntu is installing itself again.

Waitaminute! How did we get from Rescue Mode to the installation process? And how do I stop this thing from overwriting the system that’s already in place installed and updated?! I broke out of the installer, praying that it hadn’t destroyed four hours of work, and a nearly-ready-for-delivery computer.

It had.

Grub popped up on reboot with an error 15. I tried the Arch disc, I tried a Crux disc and nothing could find that partition as active. The partitions were there, but there was nothing in them. I know I didn’t reformat them, but through some sort of skullduggery they were empty. So much for salvaging the system(s). I don’t know where Windows went, but the partitions were dataless, the system was systemless and I was left with steam coming out of my ears.

I do take some of the blame for this. I realize now I should have built the system with Grub on the Ubuntu partition and installed GAG from that point. But I resent that I was bounced back into the installation sequence — the installation sequence! — which I don’t think should be accessible from rescue mode … unless there’s some sort of system rescue that would require that, and I just don’t know about it yet.

Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Get out the DBAN disk and start over. If I’m lucky, I’ll make it to Monday morning with some of my hair left on my head, and this computer out of the house. :evil:

P.S.: Hi. I seem to be getting a lot of backlinks from sites that are trying to use this anecdote as ammunition to suggest Hardy is somehow deficient or faulty. I did write this when I was a little “impassioned,” so I feel obligated to underscore a few points:

  1. I have installed Hardy on this machine about 10 times, upgraded from Gutsy about five times and from Dapper once. This is the first time I did a dual boot. Hardy has never given me problems in a clean installation and everything works great. In fact, as I have mentioned elsewhere on this site, Hardy is the best Ubuntu I’ve yet used, bar none.
  2. The error was caused by me, not paying better attention to the fact that the system was preparing to install. If I had been a little more careful, I might have realized that everything was pointing toward a destroyed system, I was the one pressing the buttons.
  3. As far as I’m concerned, what ultimately caused this problem was me following my own outdated instructions, in an effort to use third-party software to somehow embellish the system. In other words, I deviated from the norm, and as a result I created an empty hard drive. Again, I was the one pressing the buttons. The system was ruined because I ruined it.

So please don’t take this as some sort of proof that Hardy stinks, or it’s faulty, or Ubuntu is a failure. If I had taken the time to do a better job, I’m 99 percent sure this would not have happened. Thanks.

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8 Responses to “Angry enough to spit”


  1. 1 Dr Small 2008/05/19 at 2:31 AM

    Oh my gosh. You really need to take a break!

  2. 3 FACORAT Fabrice 2008/05/19 at 4:35 AM

    :)
    That’s why Mandriva designed a tool, named drakboot, that allow to switch between lilo and grub, and also to specify the partition where you want to install it. Available during installation, in rescue mode ( no need to start install ), and after the installation.
    http://club.mandriva.com/xwiki/documentation/2008-spring/Mastering-Manual-EN.html/Mastering-Manual.html/drakboot.html

  3. 4 K.Mandla 2008/05/19 at 6:48 AM

    Dr Small: Maybe yes. I know I probably should have waited to write about that; never blog angry. :)

    Caraibes and Fabrice: Yes, either one of those probably would have been a better solution than using rescue mode — something that’s painfully obvious now, after twice rebuilding a dual boot, once because of Ubuntu’s misbehavior.

    If it’s any consolation, I got it done in record time last night, and the machine is boxed and ready to go right now. ;)

  4. 5 Wolf Vorkian 2008/05/19 at 2:51 PM

    A couple of uphill half-marathons and the world will be right again Mandla.


  1. 1 A new home for a new(er) computer « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/05/19 at 11:27 PM
  2. 2 Tightwad Technica » More Ubuntu Heron Problems Trackback on 2008/05/20 at 12:37 PM
  3. 3 Howto: Build a better dual boot « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2008/05/21 at 8:00 PM

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