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Old 03-07-2009, 07:46 PM   #1
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Boot Damn Small Linux from PCMCIA

I'm trying to get an old laptop to boot off of the compact flash card I've installed in the PCMCIA slot. I've got the BIOS settings properly configured to allow that to happen.

I've been able to sucessfully install DSL (Damn Small Linux) onto the card and have the BIOS boot it using both GRUB and LILO, but the problem remains the same. It compains with a kernel panic and says it cannot find the root partition.

When booting off of the DSL live-cd, the pcmci a card appears and hde and so I install it to a blank ext2 partition (hde1).

I've guessed that the drive configurations are changing from when I instsall the GRUB / LILO settings to the MBR off of the livecd to when the laptop boot directy off of the flash card.

Researching has led me to try and modify the grub and lilo configurations (such as the grub and lilo.conf disk=/dev/hde bios=0x80) but none of them seem to work properlly.

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions for how I could get this working, I would appreciate it very much.
Old 03-08-2009, 07:50 AM   #2
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since you can install grub and know how to do it again.

redo grub into mbr of cf card.

and since you claim bios can boot it....I assume it shows where? as a optical drive or hard drive?

2) leaping ahead...when it starts....bios boot order should be cf card first so the grub kernel line should be changed to

kernel /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1 etc
or kerenl /vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1 etc if you made a separate /boot partition

3) if that fails reboot and go into grub command mode by pressing c for commands at the grub menu stage pls....and read my troubleshooter and howto to look at use of tab key and find function.

once you get the gist...try issue commands like

root ( tab key to find what grub find...lets assumde its hd0
root (hd0,0) ....possible sda1
kernel /boot/ tab key etc
Old 03-08-2009, 12:01 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I've tried a couple of things including your suggestions and here are the outcomes:

I reinstalled GRUB on the MBR and used the tab completion to see what options the BIOS was presenting to GRUB.

There was only one option to select:
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/linux24

I attempted to boot this and it found the kernel and began to start but then failed on the same line the happened when I was using LILO:
VFS: Cannot open root device "" or 03:02
Please append a correct "root=" boot option
Kernel panic: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on 03:02

I've learned that the root devie 03:02 refers to the /dev/hda1 that comes from the root=/dev/hda1. So, I modified the line to read root=/dev/hde1 since that is what is used when I boot DSL from the livecd, but this results in the same problem but listing
VFS: Cannot open root device "hde1" or 21:02.

I'm pretty sure it needs to be "hde1" because as the kernel begins to run is shows that hda, hdb, hdc, and hdd are all being used by the ide bus devices (normal hd, cdrom).

Based off of these results, I thinking maybe the kernel isn't loading "cardmgr" before trying to access hde1 or maybe isn't loading "cardmgr" at all.

What would be the next step to try and resolve this?
Old 03-08-2009, 06:28 PM   #4
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well I did ask a question so will repeat in a diff way so you know what I am trying to find out

1) what is current exact bios boot order
2) where exactly is your cf card showing in terms of hardware in the bios
that is...which section did you alter to show it?
3) Since you have mentioned you have other hardware pls list them as you see them in the kernel boot up

eg hda=optical drive 1 etc

4) pls post the output of your /boot/grub/menu.lst and /boot/grub/

leaping ahead of ourselves...we could redo grub with a device map...either as a normal redo or with a force.
Old 03-09-2009, 12:55 AM   #5
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To answer your questions:

1. BIOS boot order is HDD,CD,LAN,FDD
Then there is an option called HDD priority which is selected as "PC Card, Built-in

2. See question #1. I modified the section called "Boot Priority"

3. When I boot from the PC-card and the kernel begins to run, the other hardware is
listed as:
ide0: BM-DMA at 0xbfa0-0xbfaf, BIOS settings: hdaio, hdbio
ide1: BM-DMA at 0xbfa8-0xbfaf, BIOS settings: hdcMA, hddio

(There is additional information such as IRQs and whatnot, but you get the picture.)

(hd0, /dev/hde)

default 0
timeout 15

title DSL
kernel /boot/linux24 root=/dev/hde1 vga=normal noacpi noapm nodma noscsi frugal

I'm still thinking that this has to do with the kernel not including the right
module for "cardmgr" since GRUB is able to locate the kernel itself (/boot/linux24)
but does not know how to access hde1 since the it says it can't even "open root device".
Old 03-09-2009, 07:16 PM   #6
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well your device map file looks suss

2) smilies are affecting my read of your bios boot order so I think its
(hd0) /dev/hda
(hd1) /dev/hdb
(hd2) /dev/hdc
(hd3) /dev/hdd
(hd4) /dev/ card

3) does dsl not use an initial ram disk image?

4) I have tried to make it easier for you to copy and paste (2) and use it as new with cfcard removed

try redoing grub after booting live cd with

grub-install --recheck /dev/hde

Last edited by aus9; 03-09-2009 at 07:25 PM.
Old 03-10-2009, 11:06 PM   #7
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After modifying the like you asked, I restarted the machine and now I get a the following line immidiately after the BIOS completes all of its tests:

"GRUB Hard Disk Error"
Old 03-11-2009, 07:12 PM   #8
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it suggests wrong disk..pls press c for commands at grub menu stage and follow the notes from my troubleshooter



root (hd....and press TAB key

also use the find command to look for a file on each reported hd.

You could alsa use a live mount and plant unique filenames on each drive......

hd1ide2...or anything else.

and then reboot to grub/mbr menu stage and relook.

2) bios order may be wrong...can you move cf card to top?

then without a device file the kernel line may read root=/dev/hda?

personally I think you might want to move to a 2.6 kernel?

3) and to make it really may want to change from a /etc/fstab that uses 2.4 naming of /dev/


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