Three times now I've gotten myself into a situation where I was trying
to install Ubuntu and for some reason couldn't burn a CD. So I
thought hey, maybe I can make a bootable USB image on this handy
thumb drive here. And spent the next three hours unsuccessfully
trying to create one. And finally gave up, got in the car and went to buy
a new CD burner or find someone who could burn the ISO to a CD because
that's really the only way you can install or run Ubuntu.
There are tons of howtos on the web for creating live USB sticks for
Ubuntu. Almost all of them start with "First, download the CD image
and burn it to a CD. Now, boot off the CD and ..."
The few that don't discuss apps like usb-creator-gtk or unetbootin
tha work great if you're burning the current Ubuntu Live CD image
from a reasonably current Ubuntu machine, but which fail miserably
in every other case (wildly pathological cases like burning the
current Ubuntu alternate installer CD from the last long-term-support
version of Ubuntu. I mean, really, should that be so unusual?)
Tonight, I wanted a bootable USB of Fedora 12. I tried the Ubuntu
tools already mentioned, but usb-creator-gtk won't even try with
an image that isn't Ubuntu, and unetbootin wrote something but the
resulting stick didn't boot.
I asked on the Fedora IRC channel, where a helpful person
pointed me to this paragraph on
copying an ISO image with dd.
Holy mackerel! One command:
dd if=Fedora-12-i686-Live.iso of=/dev/sdf bs=8M
and in less than ten minutes it was ready. And it booted just fine!
Really, Ubuntu, you should take a look at Fedora now and then.
For machines that are new enough, USB boot is much faster and easier
than CD burning -- so give people an easy way to get a bootable USB
version of your operating system. Or they might give up and try
a distro that does make it easy.
[ 23:01 Mar 27, 2010
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Noticing that every article I write ends up including a section on
"This doesn't work under Ubuntu; here's a link to the year-old bug
with a patch and several workarounds," I decided to try Fedora 11
and see if it was any better.
I downloaded and burned the latest netinst CD ISO and booted it
on the Atom machine. It greeted me with this prompt:
Select CD-ROM boot type:
I am not getting warm fuzzies about Fedora being the solution to
the Linux distro problem.
What do you think? Should I choose 1. or 2. ?
[ 21:09 Aug 23, 2009
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Fedora Core 3 is finally out, so I tried it this evening.
The install itself went apparently smoothly, looking just like a
normal Redhat graphical install, with a few new options,
such as SElinux (which I turned off).
The first problem came during the first boot of the newly installed
system, when the boot process complained that fsck.ext3 was finding
errors on hda2.
hda2, on this disk, is a SuSE partition: I didn't tell the FC3
installer about it at all, so, correctly, it's not mentioned in
/etc/fstab; and it's reiser, so FC3 has no business running
fsck.ext3 on it!
It dumped me into a single-user shell, in which mount shows / as
mounted "rw,defaults", but any attempt to modify anything on the
root partition complains "Read-only file system".
I got around that with mount -o rw,remount / -- it turns out
that typing "mount" doesn't actually give an accurate picture of
mounted filesystems, and cat /proc/mounts is better.
Now able to edit /etc/fstab, I noticed the "LABEL=/" and
"LABEL=/boot" entries that Redhat is so fond of, and speculated
that this is what was causing the problems. After all, there are
several other OSes installed on this system (a Redhat 7.3 and a SuSE
9.1) and either or both of them might already have claimed the label
"/". So I changed the fstab entries to /dev/hda6 and /dev/hda1.
A reboot, and voila! things worked and I found myself in the
first-time boot configuration process.
(Note: Redhat bug
76467 seems to cover this; I've added a comment describing what
I really wish Redhat would get over this passion for using
disk partition labels, or at least detect when the labels it wants
to use are already taken.
Onward through hardware configuration. It didn't detect my LCD monitor,
but that was easy to correct. It correctly detected and configured
the sound card. It didn't try to configure a printer. At the end
of hardware configuration, it took me to a graphical login screen
(no option for non-graphical login was offered), and I logged in to
a gnome desktop, with a rather pretty background and some nicely
small and professional looking taskbars. The default gnome theme
looks nice, and the font in the terminal app (gnome-terminal)
is very readable on this 1280x1024 monitor.
The default browser is Firefox, one of the 1.0 preview releases,
with nice looking fonts.
The first step was to try and configure a printer. Double-clicking
on the "Computer" desktop icon offered only my two optical drives,
the hard drive, and "Network". The Redhat menu in the panel,
though, offered "System Settings->Printer", which ran printconf-gui,
which revealed that FC3 had in fact autodetected my Epson Photo 700
and configured it. Strangely, printconf-gui's "Test" menu was
greyed out, so I wasn't able to "print a test page" that way.
I tried quitting printconf-gui, restarting it (still grey),
left-clicking on the printer (still grey), right-clicking on the
printer (nothing test-y in the context menu) -- and the Test menu
finally ungreyed! The test page printed beautifully -- centered on
the page, something Debian's CUPS setup has never managed.
Clicking on the red ! in the taskbar took me to up2date;
clicking through the screens ended up updating only the kernel,
apparently because updates aren't auto-selected and I have to
manually "Select all" in order to update anything. Once I figured
this out, up2date, via yum, got started updating the other 75
available packages. But it only got halfway through before it
hung (the window wouldn't repaint). It turned out that kill -1
on the up2date process didn't help, but kill -1 on the
/usr/bin/python -u /usr/sbin/up2date made the window wake up and
start updating again. I had to repeat this several times during the
multi-hour update. Then it died, apparently with no memory of which
systems it had already updated.
A Fedora expert suggested that I should
- Go to /etc/yum.repos.d and add .us.west to the end of the url
in every file that has a mirrorlist entry, then
- Use yum -y update instead of up2date, because up2date doesn't
seem to work right for anyone.
Indeed, that seems to be working much better, and it turns out that
I can move the RPMs already downloaded from /var/spool/up2date to
/var/cache/yum/updates-released/packages so I don't have to
re-download them (whew!)
So overall, FC3 gets a mixed review.
The installer is pretty good. It's a bit light on feedback: for
instance, not telling me that a printer was configured (or giving
me an option to change it), which would have added a warm fuzzy
since it turned out it handled it so well; or not giving me a
non-graphical login option. The desktop look is clean and usable.
OTOH, the boot totally failed due to the LABEL=/ problem, and
up2date totally failed. A novice user, wiping out the disk,
wouldn't see the partitioning problem, but if up2date is as
flaky as it seems (everyone I talked to has had problems with it)
it's hard to understand why they don't just use yum directly,
and offer more mirror options (up2date only gave me a choice
of one server, which was obviously overloaded).
[ 23:58 Nov 17, 2004
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