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k4zau 10-12-2006 11:06 PM

Need to force debian to reconfigure everything on boot
For the past two years I used a PC I built myself. A couple of weeks ago, the motherboard unexpectedly crapped out and rather than assembling a new machine from parts, I bought a refurb Dell OptiPlex 210L, which arrived yesterday. The Dell came with a 80G SATA HD with XP Pro, which I plan to leave untouched. My desire was to keep using Linux for most tasks, though, so I installed the 40G IDE drive from the old machine (containing all my data and a recent Debian install) into the new machine. I set the BIOS to boot to the Debian drive.

I didn't expect it to work flawlessly right off the bat, and sure enough, I ran into problems on the first boot (ALSA was looking for my old soundcard and hung--I temporarily solved this by disabling the onboard sound system in BIOS). The subsequent boot continued all the way until it brought up the USB devices, at which point it told me "new USB device 00.1d.1-2, assigned address (N)" and then complained "USB device not accepting new address=(N) error=-110". This is a serious issue because the machine lacks PS/2 mouse and keyboard connections -- I thus have to have USB in order to use the machine at all.

My intended solution was to unplug the USB devices and login to the machine via SSH. I could not get a response from the machine in this manner. I rebooted the machine (i.e., hard reset) and on reboot it stated that it found the onboard NIC; I didn't see any error messages. However, Exim took an unusually long time to load, and in my prior experiences, this generally means the machine cannot access the network for one reason or another.

So.......since the audio, USB, network, and undoubtedly video support is all messed up in the new machine, I want to try a reconfiguration from the bottom up. I know that dpkg-reconfigure has an --all option, and I have considered trying to put that command in an init script so that it loads on boot, although I still wouldn't have USB support, so no keyboard or mouse. What I want to do is essentially the same thing as the "sys-unconfig" command under Solaris does.

I should say that I have booted the machine successfully using an Xubuntu Live CD, with everything seemingly working correctly. (It booted fine with the sound system enabled, I was able to access the Internet, mount the IDE HD, use XWindows, and most notably, use the mouse and keyboard.)

In the end, if I can't get anything to work, I suppose I will reformat the 80G HD with a new Linux install, transfer my data to that drive, and reformat the 40G drive with Windows. I really do not want to do that.

hob 10-13-2006 07:46 AM

Is this Debian stable (i.e. Sarge)? This uses a 2.4 series kernel, and the fact that XUbuntu (2.6 kernel with Xorg) works OK suggests that this hardware should work automatically if the software is happy.

FWIW, I've run test upgrades of Sarge > Etch and it's fairly pain-free - an upgrade would give you a mainline Debian system with a 2.6 kernel and Xorg, which may be all that's required.

k4zau 10-13-2006 03:14 PM

I agree, I think that an upgrade would be good. The install was, in fact, a "hybrid" between Sarge and Etch, using one of the recent 2.4 kernels--I last upgraded in January. I say "hybrid" because it was a botched upgrade of a couple of software packages that ended up forcing me to upgrade all the packages on the system, resulting in a pseudo-Etch configuration, although it still identifies itself as "unstable" on startup.

I am going to try a Debian rescue disk of some sort to see if it will at least start up USB correctly, because as I said, the machine is useless without support for a keyboard. If that doesn't work, I may go with a whole new install.

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