Posts Tagged ‘building’

Back to What I’d Intended After a Long Layoff

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

When I started this blog, I was building a PC to run Ubuntu. Several things interfered with progress on that front, including lack of a monitor and the physical arrangement of my office, which was not conducive to having a second or third PC set up. Recently both of those problems were solved, and I scrounged the oldest CD-ROM drive in our home, installed it with instructions from and I’m installing Ubuntu on the box as I write this post. The CD-ROM drive was simply a matter of connecting the power cable, the ribbon cable and finding the speaker pins on the motherboard to install the four-pin connector for the speaker wire that runs to the CD-ROM (you can skip this if you don’t want to play CD’s through the speakers on your computer).

Yesterday I followed the instructions at for creating a Ubuntu boot disk and after downloading Ubuntu from a Georgia Tech mirror site I found at I downloaded the desktop edition, which should be sufficient for me to prototype the Ruby on Rails app that I intend to develop as a fork from Beast or Eldorado. In order to create the image disk that could be booted to install Ubuntu I had to download Infrarecorder, a free utility that burns the Ubuntu files as an image onto a CD-ROM.

BTW, the keyboard and mouse I chose for this PC were both under $10 each from Big Lots. I’m using products by GearHead.

When the Ubuntu install began, I was asked what language I wanted to use, and then numerous files loaded and a second screen asked me again. The language choices were seemingly endless, including Esperanto. I chose English of course, being an American whose Arabic, French and Spanish are rusty perhaps beyond repair. That was step one of seven. Step two was to select a time zone, and New York was the default. Since I’m on the Wwst Coast of Florida in the same time zone, that worked just fine. The third option was to choose a keyboard layout. Even for the USA, there were perhaps a dozen, including numerous Dvorak variations. I chose the plain-vanilla option. The next choice was disk partitioning, and I chose to use all of an old 15gb Maxtor I installed. I also have a Fujitsu disk in there, but it doesn’t seem to be working and I’ll need to see what (if anything) I can do about that. The next step required me to enter some information about myself and a username and password. The last step was simply to review and accept all the settings. I received a final warning that the existing data on the hard drive would be destroyed, and installation began.

The ubuntu installation routines formatted the disk and proceeded to install the system files, about 45 minutes after which I was invited to reboot. The PC detected the install disk in the tray and prompted me to remove it. Then the system booted ubuntu. Unfortunately, it booted with numerous errors and immediately dropped to a shell (the equivalent of the C:/> prompt on a PC. A steady parade of errors scrolled up the screen, all of them variations on “DRDY ERR” “ICRC ABORT” “SRST FAILED” and “exception eMask” and various things being frozen and timed out. I pressed the small button on the front of the PC for a soft reboot.

The key problems seem to be “Gave up waiting for the root device” and “Alert! /dev/diskby/uuid/66b494d8-0861-4955-8e0b-8a25b2c2a1d6 does not exist.” I can enter “help” for a list of built-in commands. The commands are hardly less cryptic than the error messages.

I checked for a fix, and found a post that seemed helpful, but I couldn’t get the editor working, nor could I change anything. Being the type who is prepared to deviate from the obvious track to something he suspects may be a problem, I removed and examined the hard drives, since I had noticed that in the BIOS boot routine for the motherboard only one drive was being auto-detected, and it was the old 4gb Fujitsu (contrary to what I had thought previously, even though the OS had installed onto the Maxtor drive), and it was being detected as a slave. On removing the Maxtor I discovered that its label declared Jumper 50 should be “on” to make it the master. So I closely examined the board on the bottom side of the drive and spotted a small “50” by one set of pins. When I jumpered those pins and reinstalled the drive, Voila! the machine booted to a desktop that looked like a coffee-stained leather blotter, and I was able to access the Ubuntu GUI.

The next step will be to get this thing working on my LAN, and that will require digging out an old Linksys wired router and setting it up in sequence with the newer ATIVA WiFi router I have … we’ve run out of ports around here.