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Old 11-30-2008, 09:18 PM   #1
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Fedora 9, grub boot: Error 23 -- unable to parse number

Very frustrated at this point. Definitely need some help with a solution to this strange problem.

I have two disk drives; the second one (250 Gb) has Vista 64 Business on it. The first one (160 Gb) was wiped clean with GWScan by completely writing it with zeros. A GWscan quick test was done, and no problems were found. First one is IDE; second one is SATA. Linux sees them both as sd (sda, sdb). I am trying to see up a dual boot, with one OS on one drive and the other OS on the other.

The hardware on the machine includes a quad processor, x86_64, with 8 Gb of memory.

Installed Fedora 9, x64_64, from a CD created from an iso download about three weeks ago; the media check was good. The grub boot was placed on the MBR of the 160 Gb disk. The presence of the Vista system was noted during the Fedora install, and made part of the grub boot loader. Everything during the custom install was perfectly clean. The /swap partition is a primary partition, size 12 Gb. There are three more primary partitions, all ext3, for /boot (1Gb), /var (5Gv), and /(the rest of the disk).

The boot sequence in the BIOS was altered so that the 160 Gb drive came first.

We try to boot from the hard drive, and selecting Vista in the grub boot loader (second choice, not the default), we boot up just fine.

We try to boot with the default Linux, and we get "error 23: unable to parse number" (or something close to that...I don't recall the exact words).

The grub record has root (hd0,0), which is just what it ought to be.

Now, to make the story even weirder, the reason for the above install is that the previous install was working until yesterday, when suddenly the number parse error appeared after trying to customize SELinux. More than one attempt was made to reinstall, the last one being what is described above.

I even rewrote the boot record on the 250 Gb drive (whose boot sector isn't even being used) just to be sure that it wasn't causing any difficulties.

Now, even more peculiar, I downloaded and installed Ext2FS in the Windows OS, which enables it to access Linux partitions. When it tries to access the various partitions, it says that they need to be formatted, which makes it sound as though the Fedora install was just pretending to write things onto the disk. However, on one of the previous attempts to get the install to work, Ext2FS did find stuff on the /boot partition. But not this time.

I would love to get Linux working again. I welcome any ideas on what might do the trick.
Old 11-30-2008, 09:26 PM   #2
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23 : Error while parsing number
This error is returned if GRUB was expecting to read a number and encountered bad data.
Can you post you menu.lst?

I recall Fedora changed their blocksize which may cause ext2fs some issues, so it probably is there.
Old 11-30-2008, 09:33 PM   #3
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At the grub menu, can you press c for command line? It's in the menu screen instructions, here. Do

find /grub/stage1

from the grub> prompt, if you can get to that. Since you have a separate /boot partition, it complicates, in my mind, the grub paths in menu.lst and that might be something to look at. The find command will show you the partition. Esc to return to the menu screen, select the linux entry, press e to edit the entry and make note of the paths in that entry. Maybe report back.
Old 12-01-2008, 02:50 AM   #4
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First one is IDE; second one is SATA.
this and the bios change most likely messed up the installer ( it got confused) .Mixing ide and sata will do that
have you tried setting grub to (hd1,0) seeing as the over route windows MBR was there .
and edited one from my grub.conf
title Fedora (
	root (hd1,0)
	kernel /vmlinuz- ro root=UUID=?????????????????? rhgb quiet
	initrd /initrd-
Old 12-01-2008, 01:47 PM   #5
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If it where I, I would boot the Linux install CD or recovery CD (SuperGrub, DSL, Fedora, Ubuntu, etc.) and run some tests.
  • First run fdisk to map your drives.
  • Then if the drives check out OK run fsck for each partition.
  • Post all output from above along with your grub.conf or menu.list
  • If you have a laptop or other PC, use Grub's serial console and Minicom to 'log' the boot output.
I have a small tutorial that may help at:
If you still have problems, you can Email me directly, if you wish.

Grub is a great tool once you understand it.
Old 12-03-2008, 10:12 PM   #6
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All of your comments were helpful, and I learned something from each. However, as it turns out, one of the people I was talking to yesterday, when I told him my problem, said: "You have a partition wall problem. You need to delete all the partition walls before you do the Fedora install. It doesn't matter how you do it; you can do it with the Windows disk management console." Since I was working with a dual boot machine, that was easy to do, and when I reinstalled Fedora 10 yesterday evening, there was no problem at all.

The problem is caused by the fact that the install process puts info into the MBR which may not be consistent with the partitions on the disk, IF YOU HAVE NOT DELETED ALL THE PARTITIONS PRIOR TO THE INSTALL. You would think that, when you define partitions using disk druid during the installation, that DD would remove any previous partitions, but guess what....I am living proof that it does not.

So, the solution to my problem, and probably to many other people's similar problems, is:

(1) Delete ALL the partitions on the drive prior to doing the install. Make sure there is nothing but free space.

(2) Do the install, and define new partitions the way you want, and all will work the way it is supposed to work.

I was mistakenly assuming that any old partition walls would be removed during the installation. It just isn't so.
Old 12-03-2008, 10:21 PM   #7
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First I've heard of that one. What's a partition wall btw?
Old 12-04-2008, 12:30 PM   #8
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Removing the partitions is A solution.
But for me this is "a work around".
This is not THE solution.

I am afraid you did not pin-pointed the real problem.

Anyway : you have a working system again. That is what counts.

Enjoy yourself with it.
Old 12-05-2008, 02:36 PM   #9
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Workaround not Solution?

Dropping a tantalizing hint is cruel. If there is a better solution, what is it?


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