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Old 06-17-2013, 10:32 AM   #1
Zelbinian
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Registered: Jun 2013
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How can I best investigate the cause of my Mint/Ubuntu stability issues?


In the interest of clarity, I'm going to give you more info than you probably want.

This weekend, shortly after a Windows Update, my Windows 7-based, custom built desktop became unresponsive. It didn't freeze exactly, but it sat there for an hour not loading Chrome and not responding to any input. I did the only thing I could do: a hard reset. The next thing I saw was Windows loading it's Startup Recovery tool. Turns out the Registry corrupted itself somehow and the Startup Recovery tool wasn't able to help out at all - it wasn't able to load a backup from my Windows Home Server or load a recovery point. (Don't worry, I backup; all my data is safe.)

I was thinking about a transition to Linux anyway, so I went to my local library and burned a Mint 15 and an Ubuntu 13.04 CD. The long story short is that neither installation went very well at all. Because most of the errors happened during a loading terminal the scrolled by very fast, I don't have a lot of details, but if you can direct me to log files or something I'll give you what I can.

The live sessions functioned fine, but after the first restart both installations collapsed and never even got so far as loading the OS. With Mint, at first Cinnamon crashed repeatedly. Thereafter it would only load to a strange terminal prompt regardless of whether I chose to load standard Mint or recovery mode. Afterwards I installed Ubuntu over the top of it (erasing the drive). One of the first things I attempted to do was set up my dual monitors; the Display settings crashed and Ubuntu told me to fix my packages. Then the package manager crashed, saying it couldn't load the packages list. I found a command line fix for it and then it seemed to load OK. Then I tried to install XChat and VLC and both of those yielded similar errors about properly reading the package list or something (apologies, this was late last night and I don't remember). So, in true Windows User fashion, I tried rebooting. I kept getting long terminal windows full of errors that just kept repeating; the only thing I caught was a CPU soft error.

I'm not sure where to begin investigating/troubleshooting. I'm thinking that the root cause for all of these troubles is a hardware issue. I'll probably run memtest today to see if that yields anything useful, but short of that I'm not sure how else to proceed.
 
Old 06-17-2013, 11:28 AM   #2
professor
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It is difficult to say what your issue is from a distance. The first thing I would do is obtain a Puppy Linux live cd. With the live cd, next I would use the Gparted application to totally reformat the hard drive to ext3. Merely erasing the drive with an over installation is not the cleanest way to do it. Once the drive is reformatted then attempt to perform the actual Mint or Ubuntu operating system install and see if it takes correctly. The Puppy prompts are pretty simple but be alert to them as in closing it will ask about creating a save file which is written to the hd and would not be needed. As a side note, if the live cds are functioning without errors and then the installations are failing then that would indicate some sort of hardware problem or possibly corrupted cds. Personally, I've tried many linux systems including a long time with Xubuntu and other xfce's but OS4 is my favorite as it comes loaded with everything.
 
Old 06-17-2013, 11:43 AM   #3
DavidMcCann
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As far as I recall, Mint and Ubuntu should have Gparted on the live disk and they would reformat a partition before using it anyway.

It does sound as if the installation disks may be bad. The initial menu for Mint offers the chance to verify that the disk has been burned correctly, so it's a good idea to do that. It also has an option to check the computer's memory, and that too might be worth doing. I've never used Windows, but surely it doesn't often corrupt itself that badly? You could also check your hard drive partitions, using fsck from the Mint live disk.

The log files are in /var/log. Mint probably has a special log-file reader in the System tools menu.
 
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Old 06-17-2013, 01:22 PM   #4
Zelbinian
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Distribution: Mint 15
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Quote:
I've never used Windows, but surely it doesn't often corrupt itself that badly?
No, that's pretty rare. The combination of all this stuff imploding makes me pretty sure that there's a hardware issue somewhere. I'd prefer to find tools to narrow it down rather than dragging it into a shop, so thanks for the suggestions. (The last few times I've sent it to a shop, the recommendations have been non-sensical or I'd buy the new part they suggested and the problem would persist.) Besides, I'll learn more this way.

I'll report back after verifying the Mint install CD and running memtest.
 
Old 06-17-2013, 01:47 PM   #5
smallpond
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If memory test passes, the next likely culprit is your hard drive. Simplest test to do from a live CD is to just try to read all the sectors as root with:

Code:
dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/null bs=1M iflag=direct
This should run at about 100 MB/sec and stop if it hits an unreadable sector. If it passes it doesn't guarantee that the disk is good, but it is a quick indication of a bad drive.

Note: when booted from a DVD or USB drive, your hard drive might not be sda. Check /proc/partitions.

Last edited by smallpond; 06-17-2013 at 01:50 PM.
 
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:36 PM   #6
Zelbinian
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Registered: Jun 2013
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Distribution: Mint 15
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From what I can tell, fsck doesn't work on an ext3/ext4 file system without additional utilities, which do not seem to exist on the Ubuntu live CD (but tell me I'm wrong!).

Here's what I ran:
Code:
ubuntu@ubuntu:~$ sudo fsck -n /dev/sda
fsck from util-linux 2.20.1
e2fsck 1.42.5 (29-Jul-2012)
Warning!  /dev/sda is in use.
ext2fs_open2: Bad magic number in super-block
fsck.ext2: Superblock invalid, trying backup blocks...
fsck.ext2: Bad magic number in super-block while trying to open /dev/sda

The superblock could not be read or does not describe a correct ext2
filesystem.  If the device is valid and it really contains an ext2
filesystem (and not swap or ufs or something else), then the superblock
is corrupt, and you might try running e2fsck with an alternate superblock:
    e2fsck -b 8193 <device>
I'm going to try that nifty dd trick next.
 
Old 06-17-2013, 09:40 PM   #7
Zelbinian
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Registered: Jun 2013
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Distribution: Mint 15
Posts: 11

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Just ran smallpond's code, here's what I got:

Code:
ubuntu@ubuntu:~$ sudo dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/null bs=1M iflag=direct
dd: reading ‘/dev/sda’: Input/output error
290+0 records in
290+0 records out
304087040 bytes (304 MB) copied, 7.33613 s, 41.5 MB/s
That's bad, right?
 
Old 06-17-2013, 11:55 PM   #8
Zelbinian
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Registered: Jun 2013
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Distribution: Mint 15
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On a hunch that my primary HDD was dying, I've installed Mint onto my secondary drive and it's so far working like a charm. Thanks everyone for pitching in.
 
  


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