Edubuntu Install Problems (200802)

Despite the title of this page, this is more about debugging Linux hardware problems than the Edubuntu distribution. The problem seemed to apply to all Debian-based distros. We were trying to install Edubuntu on a bunch of donated custom built boxes with the following specifications:

1200 MHz Celeron
512 Mb RAM (one stick)
20G HD
Asus mobo TUSI-M (SiS chipset)
integrated sound: C-Media Electronics Inc CM8738 (rev 10)
integrated NIC and VGA by SiS

Attempts to boot *buntu discs fail going to an EasyBox (initramfs) prompt, and then immediately to errors like this:

[  150.255590] ata2.00: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x0 action 0x2 frozen
[  150.255650] ata2.00: cmd c8/00:08:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/e0 tag 0 cdb 0x0 da
ta 4096 in
[  180.420476] ata2.00: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x0 action 0x2 frozen
[  180.420527] ata2.00: cmd c8/00:08:00:00:00/00:00:00:00:00/e0 tag 0 cdb 0x0 da
ta 4096 in

Rinse and repeat. Another one every thirty seconds or so. But occasionally, if you left it for a while, you'd get:

[  230.804572] Buffer I/O error on device sda, logical block 0

Paul got on the problem and through a vague memory of issues with transfer speeds over different types of IDE cables and a great deal of persistent experimentation, he managed to determine that all of the boxes that were coughing errors were wired with 80-wire Ultra ATA cables (theoretically capable of 66.6 Mb/s transfers) between the motherboard and the hard drive, and that by switching to the older and slower 40-wire cables (capable of 33.3 Mb/s) we were able to install without problems. This solution made very little sense to any of us, but it was easily replicated and entirely consistent. Both types of cables have 40 connectors, but if you have cables of both types it's easy to see that the wiring is much coarser in the 40-wire.

We're fairly sure the machines will run fine with the 80-wire to the HD after installation, although this hasn't been tested thoroughly. It should be faster that way.

Useful links - these are about the cabling, not the install problem:


http://gilesorr.org/code/edubuntu.html (2.9Kb)
Last modified 20100314 by giles