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Wakum Mata!
Politcally Incorrect Musings
Laptop issues 
28th-Jun-2007 07:48 am
I did some last minute updating of my laptop on Sunday before I left. There was a conflict in some RPMS and I had to uninstall one so that I could get my updates.

The updates proceeded and I stepped away to do something else. Later, I found my laptop had crashed during the update. I had no more time left so I decided to fix it at the hotel.


It would not boot. Just forget it. It stopped at asking for what runlevel I wanted. No matter what I put in, it came back teling me there were no more processes in that level.

I tried to find a store around here with my Linux distro, but there was no Mandriva to be found. I searched for help on the net using the public terminal in the hotel lobby. It turns out that there is a LUG (Linux Users Group) here in San Diego, called KPLUG. I found it apropos that the "KP" in their name stands for "Kernel Panic".

I sent an email to their club president with my cell number. He gave me a call back and said he'd contact someone in the club to help me.

Gus. That is him on the right.

Gus is a GOD of Linux and is my new personal hero.

Many thanks to KPLUG, and especially Gus, who pulled my fat out of the fire.


So what went wrong? Here is what I think the issue was:

I use URPMI to update my Mandriva 2007.0 install. URPMI can be set up using EasyURPMI. Apparently, I must have chosen either 2007.1 or 2007 Spring when I tried to update my install sources. That created a conflict between resolv and initscripts. I had to uninstall one of them. I couldn't find the package containing resolv so I opted for initscripte. This package contains a file called "inittab". It is what tells the Linux kernel what files to run in order to boot to something human usable.

When I powered up my laptop, I then got a questions bout what runlevel was desired. But since the inittab file was gone, there were no more processes that could be started. That means no command line, no desktop, and no user-level processes available. The system had crashed while I was trying to reinstall it.

Then I contacted KPLUG. The club sent over Gus to give me some help. He popped in a Knoppix live CD and went to work on diagnostics. According to Gus, it is the best diagnostic software tool you can have. He determined the missing files and went to work. We had trouble with the network, of course. But we were eventually able to download the file(s) I needed and after two hours, I was up and running again.

I learned some nifty things, too, like the actual usage and purpose of chroot and how to use rpm from the command line to determine package ownership and other install data. I also learned some interesting things about security and why a BIOS password is a good idea on portable computers.

Note for future:

1) always bring a Knoppix live CD for emergencies
2) remember your first contact should be the local LUG
3) bring *all* your cables (modem, LAN, etc.)

Once more, I wish to give a plug for KPLUG. Without their willing assistance, I would not be online at this very moment.

When in San Diego, California, be sure to drop in or give them a call, even if just to say "hello". Tell them Robomarkov sent ya.
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