3 Dec 2010

Spiral which cannot be untwisted, and Diving into GRUB

I have tried different distributives so far. Some of them are purposely built as desktop versions, some as pocket system. But all the modern Linux distributives have roots in very few distributives created on the dawn of Linix era. They are: Red Hat, Slackware, OpenSuSE and Debian. Anybody can name more? Please use comments for this!
Red Hat became a commercial product, and Fedora is its sandbox-playground. I already tried it as Fedora 13. New post about Fedora 14 is in the plan.
Slackware does not have any Live version. Or I could not find one on their site. SLAX is not an option, as it is (was?) developed independently from mainstream.
OpenSuSE already was in my hands.
And then comes Debian. It is basis for Knoppix, Ubuntu (including Kubuntu), DSL, and many-many more.
Should I try it? Of course!

Debian has its own Live version. Debian Live project has more than enough to choose from. You can choose different versions (releases) - stable, testing or daily. Then it comes to the selection of medium: CD or USB. My choice was stable version 5.0.6 on USB. The last choice was between window managers: KDE, GNOME, LXDE, XFCE. As long as I now more or less know what to expect from KDE and GNOME, my choice was for LXDE version. It was successfully downloaded and dd'ed to my usb stick.
Reboot. USB-load. Yes, I am in Debian. Actually, I have already seen LXDE. That is default windows manager in Knoppix. That is fine. But let's do some more research and connect my laptop to the Internet. Is it possible? I could not find anything which allows to choose network connection. Nothing on taskbar. Nothing in menu. No configuration at all! Maybe there is configuration, but not as obvious as desired by unexperienced user.
Is it problem of LXDE version? Maybe. Let's try XFCE. Here I understand that I definitely have not seen XFCE before. And probably will not see it in the future. Interface is too complicated to understand. I can get used to interface, if system works. But still... no traces of network configuration!
OK. Enough for experiments. Let's try old well known GNOME. Download image. DD it to the flash drive.
Reboot. USB-load. Ooooops. System is not loaded. Something is missing. Is image corrupted? Let's try again. Download image. DD it to the flash drive.
Reboot. USB-load. Ooooops. System is not loaded. No, that is not file corruption. That is error in image itself. OK. Let's try old friend pendrivelinux.com. Their tool allows to put tons of different distributives on USB stick. The latest tool has Debian 5.0.5 with GNOME. Not the freshest, but still good enough for "test drive". Download image. Run the tool. Oooooops! There is an error in the file again. Something is broken there, and image cannot be processed.
Definitely, Debian's spiral is too hard to untwist!
That is fine. Bad experience is still an experience. But surprise waited for me just around the corner, after next boot.
I don't know what was the reason for this: my games with Debian images and USB stick, next update of Ubuntu kernel, or some strange behavior of pendrivelinux.com's tool. But I faced very ugly screen right after next boot:
error: unknown filesystem
grub rescue >

Oooops! Grub2 decided to go nuts. Welcome to the new experience, dear DarkDuck!
It took me about a couple of dozens reboots, different Internet searches to finally boot my Ubuntu, and then Kubuntu. Very detailed "how-to" is actually in GRUB2 wiki page. But that page did not show how to put things back to normal. I faced same grub-rescue after each boot. The answer was finally found. Linux-related forums are full of friendly and experienced colleagues who can help you with almost any problem! The answer was in grub-install run.
And now I am back to "business as usual".

I will not offer Debian on CD, as I do for many other distributives. But if you are interested in getting CD with Linux, there is more to choose from. Visit Buy Linux CDs page.

Useful links: 
http://kubuntuforums.net/forums - forum for Kubuntu lovers. But actually many Ubuntu-related issues can be discussed here too.
pendrivelinux.com - tool which puts different Linux distributives on your USB stick.
live.debian.net - Live Debian project
www.debian.org - Debian main page


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