Old hardware and new distros.


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Thread: Old hardware and new distros.

  1. #1
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    Old hardware and new distros.

    I have two older computers, both P3s, and lately I've been having problems with both of them not reading IDE hard drives, but reading flash hard drives fine.

    First one machine, than the other. It would seem to come and go, and for a long time I was completely stumped, but I'm starting to notice a tendancy for the hard drives to work with Distros that you'd expect to be the ones with older kernels: I think it breaks down like this, among what I've tried. In general, my hard drives seem to :

    work with

    Slackware
    Debian Stable
    Vector Linux
    knoppix
    kanotix



    Doesn't work with:

    Sidux
    Debian Testing or Unstable
    Ubuntu, etc.

    and it may vary a little from drive to drive.

    So I think this is a driver issue, and I've never had any driver issues before other than the nvidia driver, so I haven't the first idea how to approach it. Can anybody help me get started?
    Last edited by blackbelt_jones; 09-10-2008 at 03:38 PM.

  2. #2
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    I have a couple of ideas. All the non-working distros you mentioned have a Live CD. Pick one and boot the computer up. Run:
    Code:
    lspci
    and make sure your IDE interface is being detected properly. Next, open up two terminals. In one, run:
    Code:
    watch 'dmesg | tail'
    In the other, try to mount you hard drive and create, delete, and move files around. See if this pops up any error messages in dmesg. You could also try:
    Code:
    dmesg | less
    and scroll through looking for error mesages related to the hard drive. This ought to be enough to get you started.
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  3. #3
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    I suspect it is the IDE controller rather then the actual drives.
    Are the newer distributions using libata?

    What are the hardware specs?

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the start. I've never even heard of libdata. At this moment, I'm installing Etch on the other machine, and I'm not going to upgrade it, because that appears to be suicide. Right now, it appears that etch may be the only Debian-based distro I can run reliably on both these machines, other than as a live cd /flash drive combo. I don't know what happens to etch when Lenny becomes stable any day now, so I'm going to make sure I've got a full set of etch disks and multimedia .deb files before I do anything else.

    So give me a little time to look into these questions, and thanks again.

  5. #5
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    In a nutshell libata i.e. SATA module now handles IDE drives. If the distributions you are trying use it then you IDE devices will now have a /dev/sdx ID. It is possible that the module might have some issues with older hardware. Just throwing out ideas.

  6. #6
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    Thanks! Ideas are pretty scarce at this end. I'll take anything you got.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackbelt_jones
    Thanks! Ideas are pretty scarce at this end. I'll take anything you got.
    I've always found when using older hardware the problem can lay with the loose nut on the end! (all I got at the moment)
    "I was pulled over for speeding today. The officer said, "Don't you know
    the speed limit is 55 miles an hour?" And I said, "Yes, but I wasn't going
    to be out that long."

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by michaelk
    In a nutshell libata i.e. SATA module now handles IDE drives.
    Well, "can handle" is more accurate. It's an option during the kernel configuration -- you don't have to choose the libata drivers for your IDE chipset, and you don't have to disable the older ("legacy") IDE drivers either. But lots of distros seem to do exactly that...

    (And libata used to be the SATA driver layer. It -- obviously -- also does parallel ATA controllers now. )

    If the distributions you are trying use it then you IDE devices will now have a /dev/sdx ID.
    This is really critical. If you're using legacy IDE, then your disks are at /dev/hdX, and partitions are at /dev/hdXY. But if you're using libata, then the disks are /dev/sdX, and partitions are sdXY. If you're testing whether it "reads the hard drive" by seeing whether a /dev/hdX file exists, then that won't work with libata; you need to check which /dev/[hs]d[a-z]* files exist to catch everything.

    (Or simply use udev's /dev/disk/by-id/* symlinks. But that's a bit off topic...)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnT
    I've always found when using older hardware the problem can lay with the loose nut on the end! (all I got at the moment)
    Well, you understand that I'm having the same problem with two different computer, to a somewhat varying degree, and different results with different distros.

    But I did manage to install open SUSE11 on this computer, so at least I'm not using something that is about to expire at any moment.

    It's funny how jarring and aggravating it is to go from an older release to a brand new release. In the world of Etch, everything runs beautifully and modestly, and KDE 4 is a dream that is not yet dreamed. Opensuse is flashy and noisy and now officially part of the People's Republic of KDE4

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