It Installs, But...

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It Installs, But...

Postby MagicSpeller on Fri Apr 03, 2009 3:20 am

it boots to a "white screen of death."

Hi, everyone. I apologize if this has been discussed before. I tried to search, but wasn't quite sure just what to search for....

A couple of months ago, I had Linux Mint installed and working perfectly, dual booting with Vista on an HP Pavilion dv6675us laptop. I was impressed with how well Linux works now compared to the last time I tried it several years ago. All my hardware, including my wireless network, was recognized and working fine. I then decided to give openSUSE a try, because Novell is local and because I wanted to use MonoDevelop and thought it might be integrated a little more tightly. openSUSE also worked very well for me.

Well, as usual, I couldn't leave well enough alone. (My wife says I keep moving the gas pedal on the PCs. :P ) I decided I wanted to try plain vanilla Ubuntu and see how it compared to Mint. I downloaded and installed the standard version of 8.10. All went well until I rebooted after the install. After logging in successfully, I saw the usual Ubuntu colored background. It then turned white, the spinning ball spun briefly, and I ended with nothing but a blank white screen--and was stuck.

I then tried installing 8.04 LTS (from a book DVD). It worked fine and booted successfully, but refused to find my wireless network. OK, I thought, maybe only the latest version has the appropriate drivers. So I inserted a magazine DVD (as opposed to the download I used previously) and ran an upgrade. Again, seemingly successful upgrade, reboot, login--and a white screen.

Finally, I thought, "I know that Linux Mint works, so let's try it." I installed Mint (using the same downloaded CD I used a couple of months ago). Believe it or not, I got the same result--a white screen!

I have three Linux partitions on my drive: / and /home (part 9 and 10) formatted as ext3, and a swap partition (part 8). On each of these installs, I told the partition manager to use the existing partitions and to format part 9 only so I could retain my data in /home (the Mint install also formatted the swap partition).

I'm at a total loss. I'm thinking the problem might have something to do with the existing /home partition and that if I format it, the install might be successful. I have to figure out how to back it up first, though. It just occurred that I could do that with a live CD, but would I have to create a Linux partition on the backup drive to be able to do that?

Any ideas? Thanks very much for anything you can do to help!
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby emorrp1 on Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:24 am

yes, my first thought is that you've been sharing /home among multiple distros, which has to be done very carefully. Basically, different distros use different versions of software which may use conflicting configurations in /home, one way to get around it is to use a different username per distro e.g. emorrp1-felicia, emorrp1-suse etc. The best way I've found is to have a separate "data" partition with the folders like Documents, Videos, Pictures etc. in it. You can create "symlinks" in linux so that you can make these folders appear under your /home as if you had all the files locally. That way the /home partition only has config files (currently c. 500MB in my install) which you can then keep separate per distribution, while still having fully functioning access to all your data (you can even forego the stage of a separate /home partition then, since you wouldn't mind so much if you lost it all).

As to how exactly you went about doing this, it depends on your exact hard drive setup (which partitions are where, how full they are etc.) and ultimately do you have enough empty space for a new partition with a complete copy of your data files. If you don't, you can get around the issue by transferring incrementally, then almagamating afterwards. If you need a more complete guide, let me know your hard drive config. After you've separated data from configuration files, you can safely reformat /home (or, as I pointed out earlier, include it in /)
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby MagicSpeller on Fri Apr 03, 2009 11:17 pm

Thank you very much! That was certainly it. Fortunately, I had set up a root user during the install, and had not done so in previous installs. I tried logging in as root and everything is working perfectly. I added another user that I assume will also allow me to log in, but haven't tested it yet.

I had never considered the possibility that different distros might be confused by an existing /home directory. I just assumed that it would be an advantage to be able to keep my settings throughout different installs (no system registry mess). Brilliant solution you have for the problem, however. Unfortunately, I'm stuck again....

I used the partition manager to resize my existing partitions and create a new one for data. I previously had sda9 (/), sda10 (/home), and sda8 (swap). Parted created a new sda11 between the sda10 and sda8 partitions. However, now I can't figure out how to get Mint to find it. A filesystem listing doesn't show it, so I assumed that it needed to be mounted. However, it isn't in fstab, although an "ls" does show it in /dev. But if I try entering "mount /dev/sda11", it tells me, "Can't find /dev/sda11 in /etc/fstab or /etc/mtab". I've tried using Parted to format it as both ext3 and reiserfs, but it doesn't matter; I can't access it.

Can you tell me how to accomplish this?

P.S. My Windows data partition is currently named "Data". I'd like to change it to something like WinData to distinguish it from my Linux data partition, which I'd like to call "data". I know that case will distinguish them now, but I'd like it to be clearer. However, I'm not allowed to change the name of "Data". Can you tell me how?

Thanks again!
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby emorrp1 on Sat Apr 04, 2009 9:43 am

ok, so what you probably want is the following initially:
Code: Select all
sudo mount /dev/sda11 /media/data

This will let you mount the disk as a one off, to make it permanent you have to add a line to the end of one of the files it's looking for: /etc/fstab (using root)
Code: Select all
/dev/sda11 /media/data ext3 relatime,exec 0 2

The syntax is drive mountpoint filesystem options backup fsck-order.

Drive should ideally be a UUID (as the rest of the mounts in that file are) to always correctly detect it, as the drives are supposedly not guaranteed to always be the same /dev, but I've never had any problems with using drive letters, and I can't remember how to get the UUID. The other related problem you might come across is that UUID changes on a change of formatting or size of partition, so the existing lines in /etc/fstab **may** not correctly detect any of the partitions you altered. If this happens, you'll need to subsitute the UUID part with the /dev part above it, bearing in mind you might be booted into a recovery text-only mode if something goes wrong, so for peace of mind I'd do this before you reboot, just to be sure. The backup (0) you might think you want to change, but in reality this portion is all but obsolete, very few backup managers use it.

In terms of labelling, there's not much point as your mount point will define the difference, but there is a tool "e2label" used to label ext3 partitions (not installed by default). I'd recommend relabelling the Windows data partition from within windows, though I'm sure there would be a way to do it in linux if you looked hard enough.
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby MagicSpeller on Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:50 pm

emorrp1 wrote:You can create "symlinks" in linux so that you can make these folders appear under your /home as if you had all the files locally. That way the /home partition only has config files (currently c. 500MB in my install) which you can then keep separate per distribution, while still having fully functioning access to all your data (you can even forego the stage of a separate /home partition then, since you wouldn't mind so much if you lost it all).
...If you need a more complete guide, let me know your hard drive config. After you've separated data from configuration files, you can safely reformat /home (or, as I pointed out earlier, include it in /)


Yes, I do need help creating the symbolic links. I added one additional partition that contains my home directory, copied over from /home. (I also have / and /swap.) I have it working, copying the files back over as needed, but links would be much easier. Unfortunately, I can't get it to work. How would I, for example, create a link from the Documents folder on the new partition to the one in /home?

Thanks!
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby emorrp1 on Thu Apr 09, 2009 6:58 pm

Ok, hope this helps, let me know if it doesn't work:

1) delete the Documents folder in the home partition
2) navigate to the directory containing the real Documents folder in the data partition
3) right click on Documents, select "Make Link"
4) holding down shift, drag and drop the new "Link to Documents" to your home directory
5) rename to "Documents" and enjoy

the equivalent commands in the terminal:
Code: Select all
rm -rf ~/Documents
ln -s /path/to/real/Documents ~
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby MagicSpeller on Thu Apr 09, 2009 10:47 pm

Thanks.

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble mounting the partition again. I never got around to adding the line to fstab, but the other day I was able to mount it manually and access my files.

Just now, I did the following:

mkdir /media/data
mount /dev/sda11 /media/data

I can now cd to /media/data and list the contents, but all that I am seeing is one file: lost+found, which is empty!

I ran GParted, and it gives me the following:
Partition: /dev/sda11
Filesystem: ext
Mountpoint: /media/data
Size: 5.12 GB
Used: 220.76 MiB

What's in the 220.76 MiB?

Did I do something wrong? When I change to /media/data, am I somehow going to the wrong place (I hope)?

I can't think of anything that would have accessed the data partition to delete the files....
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby emorrp1 on Fri Apr 10, 2009 6:02 am

nope, don't worry, nothings wrong. I believe the ext3 filesystem reserves a certain percentage of disk-space for root usage, which I'm pretty sure is what's showing up as the 200MB. Just treat the partition as empty, and you'll be fine.
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby MagicSpeller on Fri Apr 10, 2009 8:44 pm

It wasn't empty, though. I had copied my home directory there before installing Mint, and had only copied a few files back.

Granted, there wasn't anything really important there, since I'm still just in testing mode, but it concerns me that all that data just disappeared. :cry:
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Re: It Installs, But...

Postby emorrp1 on Sat Apr 11, 2009 9:19 am

hmm, if you formatted the partition after transfering the files, that could overwrite them. Other than that, I'm stumped, sorry.
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