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Old 01-06-2010, 03:12 PM   #1
hvmork
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computer crashed after updates - multiple flavors of linux installed?


Totally unfamiliar with Linux. Trying to help brother whose computer quit working after he downloaded updates. Don't know Linux lingo but it looks to me like he has multiple flavors of Linux running: Gnome, ubuntu, xbuntu, kbuntu - probably more I've forgotten.

He knew nothing about computers at all and inherited a build-it-yourself computer kit that someone was throwing away. It came with a CD of Linux software. By trial and error he made it run and has managed to do some amazing things with photos and graphic design. But he downloads and launches EVERYTHING that suggests itself to him. Sometimes a thousand files at a time.

Now his machine boots but won't run any apps. It keeps giving him a message that he needs to "manually run" some "dpkg-something" but he doesn't know how to get to any sort of root or command prompt where he can enter a manual command. All he knows how to do is click icons. He's clicked them all. Now his computer is continually running screen after screen of programming language.

Is there any hope? Can we reinstall an OS without losing all of his files of graphics work?

Which OS should he use on a fairly old and slow machine if his main (only?) use is graphic design?

Thanks, hvmork
 
Old 01-06-2010, 04:03 PM   #2
Tinkster
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Hi, welcome to LQ!

Commonly one can get to a full-screen console by pressing
Alt+Ctrl+F[1-6] (Any function key while Ctral & Alt a pressed).

From there he should be able to login as himself, and then
become root via "sudo -i" ... from there just run the command
the error output was suggesting.


Cheers,
Tink
 
Old 01-06-2010, 04:37 PM   #3
sonichedgehog
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You might also need to stop something if you are seeing scrolling lines of code!
from the console you have opened:
Code:
ps -u (your bro's username)
It will show you a list, each process has a number. ignore the last 2, ps & bash. Get the latest one and stop it:
Code:
kill ___
whatever the process number is
Toggle back to your main session with ctrl alt f7- has it worked? If yes, ctrl alt f2 (assuming that's what you used?) then
Code:
exit
otherwise from ctrl alt f2 session,kill another process. Sooner or later the scrolling will stop. The command you were asked to do may have been
Code:
dpkg --configure -a
which can sometimes rescue a session in trouble. It basically finishes a half-baked package change. Won't always work, depends what was wrong.
What flavour? For old boxes I found Debian was the best.
Once you are up & running, stop changing stuff, use the system, get to know it. From a normal session, main menu (or f1) >accessories >terminal gets you to a console/terminal. Build your terminal use in gradually, you get the security/stability benefits of Linux anyway but being able to take full control needs terminal.

Yes you can reinstall without losing stuff, I do it often, but you would need to have manually installed so that you have a separate home partition, & reinstall with manual partitioning (not automatic partitioning which will probably mash your data.) Check that out, If stuck, LQ users will help you through. Just back up to a usb stick for now before you reinstall. Regards

Last edited by sonichedgehog; 01-06-2010 at 04:44 PM. Reason: correction
 
Old 01-06-2010, 11:17 PM   #4
hvmork
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinkster View Post
Hi, welcome to LQ!

Commonly one can get to a full-screen console by pressing
Alt+Ctrl+F[1-6] (Any function key while Ctral & Alt a pressed).

From there he should be able to login as himself, and then
become root via "sudo -i" ... from there just run the command
the error output was suggesting.


Cheers,
Tink
Thanks! You answered our next question too - he didn't know how to get root access.
 
Old 01-06-2010, 11:24 PM   #5
hvmork
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Thanks all! I think he can get root access now, and get all those processes stopped. I've downloaded and burned a CD for him with a fresh ubuntu distro (9.10) in case he needs to start from scratch. But I wonder what he will need to do to clean up the mess on his hard drive. Is it so bad he should reformat and start with a blank slate? How would he know?
 
Old 01-06-2010, 11:47 PM   #6
Tinkster
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The most important question will be whether there's a separate partition
for /home or not. If there is - just re-install, and you can keep the
data. If there isn't - back his users home up to an external device or
something, and then blow the old install away.
 
Old 01-07-2010, 02:16 AM   #7
TheIndependentAquarius
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvmork
I've downloaded and burned a CD for him with a fresh ubuntu distro (9.10) in case he needs to start from scratch.
In my opinion U should have downloaded and burned a CD with a fresh ubuntu distro (9.04) instead of ubuntu distro (9.10).

I have heard many users regretting their upgrade from ubuntu 9.04 to ubuntu 9.10.

I have used ubuntu 9.04 on my laptop for past so many months with no regrets !

Last edited by TheIndependentAquarius; 01-07-2010 at 02:29 AM.
 
Old 01-07-2010, 11:43 PM   #8
hvmork
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Thanks to all. This has been very helpful. Download and re-install went great. He's up and running. It was a great learning opportunity. Now having quite frequent freeze-ups when using Gimp though. Maybe time for a hardware upgrade?
 
Old 01-09-2010, 01:50 PM   #9
sonichedgehog
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Quote:
I have heard many users regretting their upgrade from ubuntu 9.04 to ubuntu 9.10.
Feedback is mixed. When evaluating upgrades, information on specific issues is useful? I found better netbook wireless support on 9.10, no disadvantages yet.
Quote:
Now having quite frequent freeze-ups when using Gimp though. Maybe time for a hardware upgrade?
If you import images in gimp, the file size may be very large- I have seen 50mB which can influence/ cripple performance. Play around with the "canvas" size, you may not need this many pixels! But if you do, then larger ram/processor etc will be needed.
 
Old 01-12-2010, 11:34 PM   #10
TheIndependentAquarius
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonichedgehog
Feedback is mixed. When evaluating upgrades, information on specific issues is useful? I found better netbook wireless support on 9.10, no disadvantages yet.
I didn't say anything on my own, I had just gone through the December issue of "Linux For U" magazine !

There was a distro showdown article in which at the end it was mentioned that only 5% users have been successful in installing ubuntu 9.10 according to their needs !
 
Old 01-14-2010, 05:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
I didn't say anything on my own
However your opinion is of course welcome! With dist upgrades the problems are in the detail, so if any of us have specific issues, it's good to share them- Regards
 
Old 01-14-2010, 12:08 PM   #12
hvmork
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[QUOTE] If you import images in gimp, the file size may be very large... Play around with the "canvas" size, you may not need this many pixels! [QUOTE]

This seems to be exactly the problem. Will try adjusting size.

Still having many freeze ups - sometimes even while booting. Sometimes it won't even find grub. Have installed many patches to the 9.10 distro. Trying a fresh download and reinstall now.

If there were not many others having similar problems, I'd be inclined to suspect hardware. Really could be time for new hard drive or controller. But if freeze-ups are a common experience with this distro, we'll play with it a bit longer.
 
Old 01-14-2010, 12:24 PM   #13
tredegar
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Quote:
But if freeze-ups are a common experience with this distro
Linux generally doesn't do this sort of thing. It either works, or it doesn't. Generally, I increasingly find that it "just works"

If you can open a terminal the command top will tell you what, if anything, is hogging resources. Q to Quit top

If you are asking gimp to process a huge file, you'll have to be patient.

Linux likes memory. 512MB is OK, I have 1GB and all is sweet, but the next PC will probably have 2GB. I upgrade hardware very infrequently, but am good with my backup strategy, sort-of.

Re-reading your post I suspect faulty hardware. memtest86 will check your memory. De-dust. Re-seat all connectors. If he has stuff he wants to keep NOW is the time to make backups.
 
Old 01-15-2010, 05:32 PM   #14
sonichedgehog
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Quote:
Linux likes memory.
Definitely; linux has excellent music & video capabilities & with limited memory this is frustrating. But I found my 192mB (yep, it was a diy kit with bits of ram from dismantling other old boxes) OK for graphics.
 
Old 01-15-2010, 06:26 PM   #15
damgar
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If the box can't find grub, there's a good chance the hard drive is giving it's (hopefully) 2 weeks notice. BOL
 
  


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