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Life on the Bleeding Edge: Installer Fails in Fedora and Ubuntu

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Another week, another round of tinkering and messing around with Linux doodads. The Ubuntu Koala text installer has a years-old bug, and Fedora 11 LiveCD has a showstopping installer bug. Never a dull moment in computer-land!

Antique Ignored Ubuntu Bug

I downloaded the latest Ubuntu Studio, 9.10, in hopes that I would have a better experience than the last time I tested it. Which was the first or second release, I don't remember; it was still a baby then and needing some work. I used the alternate install DVD, about 1.5GB of multimedia goodness. The alternate installer is a text installer, which for some reason sends certain pundits and tech journalists screaming away in terror, but it is perfectly functional and not difficult at all. It is not mouse-enabled, but requires knowledge of specific elements of the keyboard: tab key, spacebar, arrow keys. I suppose these are completely unknown even to some experienced typists and computer users, so I try not to judge them too harshly.

But I digress. The .iso passed the checksum test, and the DVD passed the disk check. The first speedbump in the installation was setting up networking. Still no wi-fi configuration in the installer, even though I always use natively-supported wireless interfaces. No wi-fi. Really. Is this not 2009 of the 21st century, the glorious new millennium, the land awash in wi-fi?

But it's not a showstopper since I have the fat DVD with everything on it, so I can configure networking later. The installation progresses uneventfully to the next speedbump-- it stops dead with a big scary red screen partway through the "Select & Install Software" stage with a helpful "OMG the installation failed!" message, or something like that. But wait-- the installer is forgiving and allows skipping this step. So I skip to the next step, which is installing the bootloader. It fails here too. I skip this step and the installation completes. But without all the packages I selected and without a bootloader. Hrm.

It's on a multiboot system so I don't need a bootloader on Ubuntu Studio anyway. Boot into the Linux with the bootloader, make a menu entry for GRUB, and done.

Next step, do a bit of Web-searching. I find plenty, here are a few examples of other people reporting the same problem:

alternate installer: installation step failed

Judgement Day: Studio Dave Tests Ubuntu Studio 9.04

Installation woes

And several more, you get the idea. The bug report is from 2008, is unassigned, and links to a duplicate bug report also from 2008 and unassigned.

The release notes for Karmic Koala say to file bug reports in the debian-installer section of Launchpad.

Um, OK. I visit debian-installer and think oh what the heck, file a bug report just for kicks. So when I click on the new bug report button I am greeted with this message:

"debian-installer (Unspecified) does not use Launchpad as its bug tracker.

Are you sure this bug is in upstream debian-installer?

"If you are using a package installed by your Linux distribution, the bug should be reported in that distribution, instead. Launchpad knows that debian-installer is present in the following distribution packages:

"* Ubuntu debian-installer

"You can report bugs by visiting the package's page.

"Bugs in upstream debian-installer should be reported in its official bug tracker, Debian Bug tracker"

Crom! What the heck, Ubuntu people? Do you take lessons in sowing confusion? But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I boldly visit the Launchpad debian-installer page. And there I find several more bug reports on this issue, 478754, 415812, 261025, 85942. Should I file yet another? It seems pointless, but perhaps I shall give it a go just for fun.

Ubuntu Audio Production Happiness

At any rate I have a running system with two very important features for audio production: a low-latency kernel, and the FFADO drivers for Firewire recording devices. I have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 26; Focusrite is a good supporter of the FFADO project and they make excellent audio equipment. You need FFADO drivers and FFADO harmony with JACK for this to work. Ordinarily this would require manually building FFADO and JACK from sources to make sure they had the right options and versions, but I am pleased to report that in Ubuntu Studio 9.10 they work out of the box. Well done.

Fedora 11 LiveCD, Oopsie

I downloaded the Fedora 11 LiveCD because it's been awhile since I gave Planet CCRMA a whirl. Planet CCRMA is a set of packages for Fedora, Red Hat, and CentOS for high-end audio production. They are high-quality and a pleasure to use. Well I got no joy from the Fedora 11 LiveCD because I couldn't even install it. It failed at the partitioning step with some odd errors: "Bootable partitions cannot be on an Ext4 filesystem", and it refused to write an Ext3 filesystem. Dead, showstopper, no go.

The Fedora Wiki tells the tale:

"Does Fedora still offer the choice of Ext3?

Yes. The regular CD/DVD install or network boot images still lets you choose either Ext4, Ext3 or XFS. The Live CD/DVD images however use Ext4 (except for /boot formatted as Ext3) and essentially transfer the entire image into the hard disk as part of the installation process and does not offer the ability to format the hard disk with any other filesystem. If you must choose a different filesystem, the regular DVD install or network boot images are the recommended alternatives.

"Can I install onto ext3 from the LiveCD?

No. If you install from the live image, you have to have an ext4 root filesystem because the installer just copies over the (ext4) filesystem image from the live image. To install onto ext3, you need to run the full installer. "

Why? Because GRUB with Ext4 support was not ready in time. So you see there is a fun little Catch-22 with the live installer. A separate boot partition in Ext3, which I don't have on the Fedora PC, takes care of this. So I'll try some other tips and tricks and get me a Fedora 11 system, you see if I don't.

Oh well, that's life on the bleeding edge!

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