Some distros are mean

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Some distros are mean

Postby Husse on Fri May 18, 2007 6:44 am

Yesterday I installed PClinuxOS whic is said to newbie friendly. It could fall into that category, I believe :)
But - it did not give a damn for my other four installed Linux distros and put itself as the only OS in grub.
That is not newbie friendly!
You may say that a newbie don't have other distros, but I think there are quite a few people that installs more than one distro to test.....
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Postby kanishka on Fri May 18, 2007 8:25 am

Yeah, I found that irritating. Linux recognizes Windows, but not other Linuxes :roll:

Though, I installed UbuntuStudio (based on Feisty) and it produced a GRUB with all my correct OSes. :lol:
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Postby Husse on Fri May 18, 2007 9:53 am

OK I have Bianca KDE, Feisty, Debian and Cassandra on that hard drive. They did the right thing - but after LinuxPCOS I had to edit menu.lst from a live CD as LinuxPCOS did not find my other partitions and it is a bit hard to know by hart what to write ....
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Postby scorp123 on Fri May 18, 2007 3:36 pm

Husse wrote: it is a bit hard to know by hart what to write ....
You can copy & paste the relevant sections from the other distros' "menu.list" file :wink:
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Postby Husse on Fri May 18, 2007 4:04 pm

You can copy & paste the relevant sections from the other distros' "menu.list" file

My friend you did not read carefully :)
I did not see the other partitions from within PCliuxOS so I had to start a live cd to do just that - at least cassandra opens the partitions when you open gparted :)
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Postby scorp123 on Fri May 18, 2007 5:48 pm

Husse wrote: I did not see the other partitions from within PCliuxOS
Code: Select all
man fdisk
man mount
You should correct your statement I guess? What you wanted to say is "I did not see any icons on my desktop but if I had used the shell and mounted my stuff manually I would have been able to access my partitions ..." :wink: (Just kidding here, OK?)

Husse wrote: so I had to start a live cd to do just that
Or you could have opened a terminal, then as root used commands such as fdisk -l /dev/hdxx (or /dev/sdxx ... e.g. if you have SATA or SCSI disks) to list all your partitions (this usually helps to figure out the correct partitions) and then mounted the partitions manually (as root), e.g. mount -t ext3 /dev/hda3 /mnt/hda3 ...

You don't really need a Live CD for this :wink: ... A nice root shell will do :wink: Because: Unless something really scary and strange happened to your partitions they should still be there and therefore be accessible to root, even under PCLinuxOS and even if the partitions don't show up anywhere on the desktop. If the installer or any other process didn't wipe them out a simple fdisk -l /dev/hdxx (insert correct harddisk device name) should list them. :wink:

So yes, I did read correctly :wink:

So once you got your "missing" other Linux partitions mounted, it's very easy: Just find their "menu.lst" files and copy and paste their relevant sections into the "menu.lst" of PCLinuxOS. Voila, problem solved. This has happened to me to long time ago when I gave PCLinuxOS a try ... :wink:
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Postby Husse on Fri May 18, 2007 7:20 pm

Won't argue with you, you are much more of a Linux guru than me :)
Don't remember exactly what I did but the partitions were not visible in the file manager as they are in Mint and I simply decided not to investigate further - I have a bunch of live CDs I could use to do the job
And in the process I got my menu.lst nicely edited
Will soon boot into that distro again and see what happens
//edit//
Did not look the same today - I could see all the other partitions but unmounted. I'm pretty sure that was not the case before...
but I might just have looked in the wrong place :)
(and now piece of cake to mount ....)
Last edited by Husse on Sat May 19, 2007 6:35 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby scorp123 on Sat May 19, 2007 6:05 am

Husse wrote: I have a bunch of live CDs I could use to do the job
Live CD's are excellent in case something really goes wrong. I had that too. e.g. some stupid installer corrupting my master boot record ... Live CD's are really great in that regard.
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Postby zephyrus54 on Sat May 19, 2007 12:45 pm

I believe PCLOS doesn't automount your other partitions. You have to go into the fstab and change noauto to auto if you want the partitions mounted with each startup...I found that annoying, as I believe the majority of users would want to have access to their other partitions by default.
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Postby Wintergreen on Sun May 20, 2007 1:34 am

It may not always be those "stupid installers." It might also be the combination of an installer which wants to do something it's own way by default (write to the MBR in this case I suspect)...coupled with someone running who's a borderline gambler. Or maybe just stupid himself.

Case in point: Me. Last night.

I think I managed to corrupt my own MBR last night using the Bea installer to set up Bea...with the end result that Windows 2KP would not boot for me thereafter under any circumstances.

Didn't realize it, of course, until I'd logged off MInt, thinking I had Bea working well....

It seemed ok. But when I went back to try and restart windows (which DID show up as a GRUB option)...

...I got nothing but a big, fat BSOD ****STOP error when it tried to load. Every time (it left me with only the Start Button reset as a sole working recovery option)

Windows would start to load, but then I saw this:

----------------

****STOP (followed by some useless gibberish)
Inaccessible_boot_device

(followed by a whole lot more useless gibberish)

---------------

Unfortunately, and perhaps because I wan't much focused on Bea at this point, it didn't occur to me to try to make use of the Live CD.

----------

I hope to try install again tomorrow. Bianca (Gnome) this time, instead of Bea.

But I'll want to solicit some advice first on how to back up my MBR...and on how to ensure GRUB is installed elsewhere this time.

I have the idea Win2000 is rather less forgiving than is XP when the MBR is "adjusted" by a Linux install. Can anyone confirm this, or is it merely my one and only install "failed install" experience that's got me worried.?

Thx


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Postby scorp123 on Sun May 20, 2007 4:30 am

Wintergreen wrote: But I'll want to solicit some advice first on how to back up my MBR...
To be executed as root (either "sudo su - " or place a "sudo" before this command sequence):
Code: Select all
dd if=/dev/sdX of=./sda-mbr.backup bs=512 count=1
Explanation:
dd : reads binary data
if= : short for "input file" (hence "if=")
/dev/sdX : your first harddisk device, e.g. /dev/sda, /dev/hda. Adjust as appropriate. And yes, really /dev/hda ... not /dev/hda1, /dev/hda2 or something like that!
of= : short for "output file" (hence "of=")
./ : means "right here" in UNIX shell speak. The file will be written into your current directory location. Adjust as appropriate, e.g. /data/backup/MBR/ ... ?
sda-mbr.backup : a recognizable filename so you will still be able to recognize what's stored in this file in 6 months or so ...
bs= : block size, here: 512 bytes, the size of the MBR
count=1 : counter, how many times do we wish to read 512 bytes? Only once here, hence "counter=1".

How to restore:
You accept full responsibility for your actions, especially if something goes wrong. Don't execute commands if you don't know precisely what they do! This is to be executed as "root" (use "sudo su -" or "sudo" and then this command):
Code: Select all
dd if=/path/to/MBR-backup.file of=/dev/hdx bs=446 count=1

This time we're only writing 446 bytes! Not the full 512! Reason: The partition table! If you altered it e.g. by installing Linux then restoring the full 512 bytes would be disastrous!

In any case it would be a good idea to read the man page:
Code: Select all
man dd
... the command is very powerful, but if you screw up with its parameters "dd" will ruin your day ... :twisted:

Wintergreen wrote: and on how to ensure GRUB is installed elsewhere this time.
GRUB belongs into the MBR IMHO.

Wintergreen wrote: I have the idea Win2000 is rather less forgiving than is XP when the MBR is "adjusted" by a Linux install.
Shouldn't matter. It's more likely you ruined your Windows installation with something else. Or that secret counter present in every Windows decided it's time for you to reinstall and so it just triggered the BSOD to frustrate you :wink:
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Postby Wintergreen on Tue May 22, 2007 2:45 pm

I suspect the most important advice you've given me here, Scorp is that I shouldn't try this unless I know exactly what I'm doing.

I knew I really didn't even before starting out, and nothing I've learned in the last three days tells me I'm capable of executing this advanced sequence with confidence *but thanks, just the same for the in depth tutorial*. I've bookmarked it for future reference, and might give it a try once I've got my feet solidly on the ground with Linux.

I have (after more than ten Windows 2000 Pro reinstalls, and three full Linux reinstalls ) come to the conclusion I simply cannot make a dual-boot configuration work when both Mint and Windows 2000 Pro must reside on the same disk, so for the moment the only working OS I have is Bianca, and I've devoted the entire disk to it. I will devote a new disk to Windows alone (I still do need Windows for my flight sims and sim racing).

------------

I have to do only a little reading in here to see that many people ARE able to successfully dual-boot from a single drive using Bianca/Bea and XP, but I saw only a few comments from Windows 2000 users. To the effect that there were "problems," trying it with 2KP....

I can safely and THOROUGHLY attest to that fact myself by now.

There are various reasons for this, I'm sure, and I won't list them here. Perhaps I'll type up a a separate "post-install autopsy" thread instead once I'm finally done. Suffice it to say it boils down to a catch22 situation...or it did for me. Coupled with having to use a windows installer which is as dumb as a post, and ten times less capable.

Thanks for your help. I AM quite happy with Bianca itself so far (did an automatic install, btw, so GRUB now resides in the new disk's MBR), and mintDisk is proving to be very useful in the interim.


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Postby Husse on Wed May 23, 2007 6:49 am

I see you've installed a few times :)
M$ Windows has the nasty habit of completely overwriting MBR when installed - so you have to install Windows before anything else or do some tricks :)
Just a thought
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Postby Wintergreen on Thu May 24, 2007 8:31 pm

Quite right, Husse--Windows (2000 Pro anyway--not sure about XP) does indeed insist on overwriting the MBR, and I was working on that assumption each time. Intalled it every time in the first partition too...and I installed it first, before attempting to follow up with Mint.

The W2KP installer can only handle the existence of 4 partitions maximum, and it cannot install itself even to the root partition if there are more than 4 on the disk (even if it considers some of them corrupted)--the rest must first be deleted.

Therein lies one of the catch22's: The new disc I have is considerably larger (320GB) than was the old one Windows used to live on (120GB), so I was attempting to use the first two partions (sized to about 130GB each) for Windows, with Mint following that.

Mint wants 3 partitions of it's own though which makes five...so Windows immediately becomes unbootable even if it HAS already been installed successfully before trying to add Mint.

And then you get to start all over again....

Took me a while to figure that out--it was a long, frustrating weekend.

---------

One logical suggestion to cure this might be to install Windows to a bigger directory in the first place...but W2KP SP3 (my install disk) will allow for a maximum partition size of only 137G (this was later cured with SP4, but you must first have SP3 successfully installed to run the SP4 patch). So you cannot install Windows and then Mint unless Windows is allowed only one partion--wastes a lot of the drivespace unless you are willing to devote most of it to Linux.

Moreover, if you later FORGET you had bumped up against this limitation and inadvertantly try installing a second Linux distro (using two or three more partitions)...you will immediately bring the whole Windows house of cards crashing down around you.

Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda I could bore you with more of this, but I won't. :)

Suffice it to say I could not find any combination which would safely let me first install Windows and then Bea or Bianca, so I'll try the two-disk method instead (once I buy another new disk).

And if THAT doesn't work, I'll simply hardwire in a toggle switch to the drive-ground lines and power up only one drive or the other at a time as needed. Might make it impossible to download and transfer gaming files and updates over to Windows via a Linux browser, but it will certainly still work. I'll just lose the functionality and usefullness of NTFS-3g (which is reading and copying files from my original WIndows disk just fine, btw...).


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Postby Husse on Fri May 25, 2007 5:42 am

I've only experimented briefly with W2k, but I've never heard of a maximum of four partitions. Yes, you can't have more than four primary partitions or three primary and one extended, but in the extended partition you can have (almost) any number of logical partitions - at least up to Z in any Windows system. And I don't know of any tool that lets you create more than four primary.....
Your experience seems somewhat creepy if I understand you right
Last edited by Husse on Sat May 26, 2007 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Wintergreen on Fri May 25, 2007 3:08 pm

Well, I said I wouldn't bore you with any more of it, but I suppose I should for clarification, and in case anyone else is battling the same issues (sorry for causing confusion earlier if I did).

-------

The installer program told me several times it was unable to proceed due to there being too many partitions (there were five the first time I saw this message, as I had just finished installing Bea, which completely broke Windows). The only thing it would let me do at all once I saw this message was to delete some of them...at which point it would sometimes (but not always) be willing to attempt to install W2KP to the disk once again.

I do remember even back with Win98 using many Windows partitions on a single drive. Up to at least L, and I'm pretty sure even back then you could indeed go up to Z (I'm sure this is possible too with Win 2000 Pro)...but the installer program seems considerably less capable of dealing with a large number of partitions than is the OS itself (once installed).

I don't doubt either that if Windows itself had created those extra partitions, the installer would probably be able to proceed. Particularly if I were just attempting a simple Windows reinstall...but it seemed quite incapable of executing a fresh install if I created the NTFS partitions instead using gParted from a Mint Live CD (I think I was still trying Bea at the time). It would recognize them as working NTFS partitions, but it would not work with them for purposes of installing Windows.

The installer won't proceed unless it creates the original partition and formats it itself.

Windows, once installed, did recognize two new NTFS partions I then added with gParted (I created those from the Live CD, prior to attempting another install of Mint), although it insisted on running CHKDSK first before completing the boot process each time I had changed something.

I fiddled around a bit more at this point to see what Windows liked and what it hated.

The installed OS even accepted two resizings of the root NTFS partition it lives in (after running CHKDSK again each time)...but if I crashed the installed OS at any point, I was back to square one again, where I was once again constrained by the more limited abilities of the original installer....

------

The process wasn't all a waste, mind you--there was one point at which I considered trying to reinstall Windows to my original drive instead (it's a single NTFS partition), but the installer wouldn't even try THAT! It recognized the one NTFS partition sure enough (and it should--it created that partition in the first place, and the OS lived happily there for several years), but the installer insisted the partition was corrupted*...and it could only be formatted as FAT16 or FAT32!

At THAT point, I really backed away from the whole thing, since the first drive still has some important stuff I don't want to lose.

That first NTFS drive is working just fine, btw, and right now I'm backing up those important files using MintDisk. Once I've done that, and freed up more empty space on it by tossing the junk, I'll perhaps see if the installer will consider reinstalling Windows to the original drive once again...but I won't be happy if it again insists on a reformat. If it does, I think I'll install it instead to a new drive, and when I do I'll put Windows in a small first partition of it's own (just in case this happens again some day).

[*I do have to wonder, btw, if MintDisk perhaps did something to the first drive (for it's own purposes of mounting and accessing it) that the Windows installer now considers "corruption," but I don't have an answer I'm satisfied with yet--just more guesses].

"Creepy" indeed, just like you said.


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Postby Husse on Sat May 26, 2007 9:21 am

This clarifies the situation quite a bit....
You don't have to worry about mintDisk doing something to your partitions - it doesn't do a thing except automount.
But partitions in any way "handled" by GParted is another thing (be it created, resized or formated)
Then something is written to the disk :)
As I said I have almost no experience with W2k, but in most aspects the experience from XP can be applied.
Obviously not for the installer! When that's said I have to admit I have not tried to install in a "mixed environment"
Once I have installed, I'm done. I have reinstalled XP once when I changed to a new computer, that's all. I have had programs to make drive images and daily backups that way since XP arrived. If something happens - just roll out yesterdays image :)
I've installed Win 95 98 and XP more times that I can remember as the sole OS on computers I have sold or serviced, but that's another story...
I have used GParted to change the size of partitions, including "C" and add partitions on this my main computer. Every time chkdsk starts on the first boot.
I (used to) have a deep understanding of NTFS so I knew that even if GParted did it's job it was unable to "make the partitions clean". The size of the partitions did not match the size in MFT and chkdsk repairs that. NTFS is "closed" and it seems that only M$ can write to MFT
I believe that you don't have to many partitions but to many "unclean" partitions.
You could try a minimal installation of W2k and make a partition for it with NTFS and create the other partitions you need as FAT32. I doubt there would be a problem if you format the FAT32 to ext3 due to the different structure of FAT
BE CAREFUL: The NTFS in W2k and XP is not the same!
To read NTFS 5.1 (XP) you need servicepack 4 for W2k
and I would not try to write from Linux to NTFS 5.0 before checking if ntfs-3g supports NTFS 5.0
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Postby Wintergreen on Sat May 26, 2007 2:14 pm

Good stuff here, thanks Husse. I have made note, for example, of the different flavors of NTFS (which I had not been aware of at all until now).

I won't worry too much about mintDisk corrupting things, although I do know something happened to my first drive which now prevents a simple reinstall of Windows in that existing NTFS partition. I tried again after posting last night, and it still insists it must reformat the whole drive first before it will install.

I did not do anything to the first drive at all using gParted, except perhaps to look at what was there, so I can only speculate as to what might have happened.

In the interim I've thought about it, and I've decided just to keep things as simple as possible--I just copied and pasted the all the contents of original drive into one big file on the new one (keeping the original filestructure for all subfolders). I've copied the more important bits a second time to separate subfolders on the big drive, and once I've burned some of those to CD's or DVD's there is really no reason I can't go ahead and just reformat the first one now I don't think. At which point I reinstall Windows and start over.

I do think I will reformat the smaller drive with two partitions this time (and I'll let Windows do both, just to be safe)--one small partition up front just for the OS and a few utilities (AV, Firewall, etc)...and the second one for games/sims, etc. Perhaps for a few offline apps too which I have not yet found suitable replacements for over on the Linux side.

At that point, I'll see how stable and smooth (or not) things run when doing online gaming. If it's solid, I will resist the temptation to install any email client or browser on the Windows side, and I'll try downloading and copying essential files over using Mint's NTFS capabilities. That'll take longer, sure, and it'll require reboots to get things done, but I think I'll have a better shot at keeping the Windows side clean and functioning properly. If that works, and if it isn't too painful or slow to keep the Windows stuff updated by going thru Mint (there is a fair bit of updating required for the sims I run--new stuff shows up almost every day), I'll stick with that system/method for the longterm.

Further updates (perhaps) as events warrant. :)


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Postby varaonaid on Sat May 26, 2007 5:35 pm

Hi Wintergreen,

First of all, I want to say, welcome to Mint and the world of Linux. Sorry you've had such a rough time with it so far!

I'm basically a total newbie to linux and I have tri-boot laptop with Win2k, Mint and Mepis. It took a little learning to set it up but it really wasn't difficult. I got it all installed literally my first week using linux so anyone can do it.

Here's the trick, it's true that Win2k (and AFAIK other OS's too) can only read 4 partitions. But that's 4 *primary* partitions. I have a total of seven partitions on my hard drive! You achieve this by creating 4 *primary* partitions and then creating extended partitions. In my case, I created partition 1 as an ntfs partition for win2k, partition 2 an ext3 for linux /, partition 3 is my /home partition and partition 4 is a primary partition that holds my extended partitions. So think of partition 4 as a subdivided partition. Then partition 5 is an extended partition (meaning a divided part of partition 4) and holds my linux swap. Partition 6 is a fat32 (or vfat as it's sometimes called) shared partition between my two linux distros and win2k and partition 7 is for my other linux install and is formatted ext3. The best advice I could give you is to download the gparted livecd. Back up all your data and then pop the gparted livecd in your cd-rom and restart your pc. It's wicked easy to use gparted to create your primary and extended partitions.

After you have all your partitions setup, *then* install win2k into your first partition (if it isn't already). After that, you can install mint into your other partition and mount /home and swap in the correct place. Just make sure that when you install mint, that you choose the option to manually choose partitions not auto partitioning. When you do that, you'll go into a screen that shows you all the partitions you set up and you can choose where /, /home and swap are installed to.

I hope that helps get you started. I know I needed folks to help me out when I first got my laptop setup so I'm happy to pass along the knowledge! Let me know if you need any other info. I'm still a newbie myself but I'll help however I can.

Good luck!
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Postby Husse on Sat May 26, 2007 5:58 pm

Thanks varaonaid
It's always comforting to see that other newbies make it
But you describe things a bit wrong, even if you have done it right :)
Then partition 5 is an extended partition (meaning a divided part of partition 4)

Nope - you have made partition 4 into an extended partition in which you have logical partitions (divided parts), your swap being one of them. Just so that Wintergreen and others understand it correctly. And I do definitely not intend to be rude here, I notice it sounds a bit like that :)
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