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Disclaimer: The information value of this posts tends to zero. Take it as an example of girlie chit-chat.

And now repeat after me:

"I will never partition my disk without creating separate /boot partition"

To begin with - for those who don't know it yet, I got myself a new toy and installing openSUSE 11.1 on it and playing with it looked like a cool way to spend Friday night, now didn't it? Foolishly enough, I decided that I want to have dual boot with pre-installed Windows and I don't want to lose ThinkVantage stuff. Thus, before leaving the office for the weekend, I was briefed by our YaST bootloader wizard which options in bootloader configuration to tick and which leave blank - basically, I must not let YaST overwrite master boot record if I ever want to be able to use ThinkVantage. He did not forget to add that if anything went wrong, I should bring the box over to him on Monday and he'll fix it up for me ...

A small intermezzo: though I've been pretending that I'm doing some YaST development for almost 3 years already ;-) I'm not really a technical person. I know a lot about widgets, user interface, usability and all that fancy stuff, but my knowledge of the system configuration ends in /etc/sysconfig or /etc/fstab at most. When it comes to something like system boot, I'm completely lost. At least I admit to it :-) :-D

The installation went on fine - I picked KDE4 as my default desktop environment, had the partitioner shrink Windows partition, created root and /home partition, double-checked whether I got the bootloader installation options right ("Boot from root partition" - check, "Boot from MBR" - uncheck, "Set active flag for boot partition" - check, "Write generic code to MBR" - uncheck) and watched the slideshow. The standard set of 1st stage finish scripts followed and then bang! - "Failed to install the bootloader. Try the configuration again?" (or something along those lines). Hm, if I answer "Yes" now, I'm smart enough to figure out it'll fail again, I thought, unless I change something - but what? Looking at y2log did not make me any less helpless - the last thing I saw was how bootloader uses some cryptic Perl script (/usr/lib/YaST2/bin/tp_mbr, to be exact) to detect ThinkVantage sequence in MBR and preserve it.

Nevermind, I rebooted, picked "Repair installed system" from the installation options and hoped that yast2-repair will help me find out what went wrong. Not surprisingly, it did not. It only showed me already well-known message about failed bootloader installation - quite a cruel joke :) At this point, I gave up. Trying to solve a problem where I don't understand a single bit of its principles is not that much like me. And after all, there are more pleasant ways how to spend Friday night - dancing salsa, for example ... :)

But don't get desperate, my friends - this story has a good ending. I brought my laptop to the wizard :-) I was not looking over his shoulder as he was working, so I don't know what magic spells and potions he used, but I know he did the following:
  1. Created partitioning setup with separate /boot partition and told the bootloader to boot from it (that was maybe the crucial point)
  2. Added a repository with openSUSE 11.1 updates as an add-on during installation
  3. Made extended partition (with swap, /, /home and /boot) 1 cylinder smaller, as ThinkVantage partition at the very end of the disk did not begin exactly at the cylinder boundary
The last two steps were probably superfluous and it could've well worked out without them, but ... now I can't tell. Anyway the installation finished, the system booted and now I have shiny new ThinkPad with openSUSE 11.1. In this post, I'm writing about interesting host naming schemes people use - as for me, all my machines have animal names. So, say hello to Dolphin - he is named after one of my favourite books by Eric Lambert (it is so little known that even Google does not find it ;-) )

In conclusion, I consider myself to be quite lucky that I'm surrounded by many wizards (bootloader wizard, installation wizard, KDE wizard, some wireless stuff wizards, suspend wizard, ... ) ;-) What do normal openSUSE users who can't grab their machine and bring it to a wizard do, if the same (or similar) thing happens to them? "Oh, they go to #suse and cry there. Or they simply give up and go using Ubuntu" says Darix (whom I sometimes chat with when I suffer from insomnia and he stays at work at night). Sad to say that, but it's probably true ... :-(



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 27th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
The bootloader "on Elm Street" ;-)
Do you remember your survey about: How to split disk to partitions or which partitions should be proposed by yast2-storage? ;-) I wrote you please propose separate /boot partition but my request was sent to /dev/null ;-(.

The separate /boot partition is not necessary but you have to also check "Boot from Extended Boot Partition" in this case (if your "/" is on logical partition and you want to use generic boot code from Windows)

I am sorry we didn't talk about your plans with partitionig of disk but I didn't care about it because you know more about it than me.

It seems that to change something in bootloader settings is hell ;-) but... it is only critical operation and you have to know what exactly you want to do. yast2-bootloader tries to propose bootable settings but it is about rewritting content of MBR in your case because Lenovo doesn't support us with our request on update script for handling ThinkVantage button (/usr/lib/YaST2/bin/tp_mbr) :-(.
Apr. 27th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: The bootloader "on Elm Street" ;-)
mea culpa, mea maxima culpa... I forgot that openSUSE 11.1 includes older version of yast2-bootloader where missing fix for the troubles with thinkpads and their magic blue button ThinkVantage. The fix is in yast2-bootloader 2.17.55 and it works with changes described ^^^.

Sorry hedgehogpainter it was my fault :-(
Apr. 28th, 2009 08:05 am (UTC)
Re: The bootloader "on Elm Street" ;-)
> Do you remember your survey about: How to split disk to partitions or which partitions should be proposed by
> yast2-storage? ;-) I wrote you please propose separate /boot partition but my request was sent to /dev/null
> ;-(.

Hm, sent to /dev/null ... certainly not on purpose, but due to lack of time :( If you have any at least partially reliable heuristics when it is advisable to create separate boot such as i) there is at least one Windows partition ii) there is no other Linux partition iii) it is Friday 13th ... :) it should be doable to simply rewrite it to YCP. Even though proposal is one of the scarriest pieces of code in yast2-storage ;-)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )