Down the Docks

January 24, 2006

Building a Home Fileserver pt II: OS Install

Filed under: Technology — ealing @ 9:17 am

There things are never easy, are they?

After I finished assembling the machine, I put a Sarge netinstall CD in the drive and booted it. Got the Debian splash screen, then picked a language and keyboard layout. Next, the installer tried to mount the CDROM drive properly. No dice.

Taking a belt-and-braces approach to installation, I went out and bought a 256 MB USB stick, a floppy drive and some diskettes. I asked for 100 MB ZIP media, but no-one seems to stock that anymore.

So I tried a USB stick install first. There were four USB media options in the boot menu in the BIOS, but I figured that the difference between them would be the file system, so I selected USB-HDD. I found a Windows version of SYSLINUX and zapped the USB drive to make it bootable. The system booted, but the same ting happened as before – the installer complained that it could not mount the CDROM drive, alhough it could find the CD image on the stick.

Next, I installed the floppy drive, wrote the raw images to disks, and booted again. Things were happening, and then I found myself confronted with a familiar menu. Then I realised that the machine was booting from the hard drive. I removed everything except the floppy drive from the boot menu, and tried again. The system still booted from the hard drive. I swapped in another floppy drive, data cable and power cable – same result. I checked the floppy disks and drive in another machine, and they booted fine. I was coming to the conclusion that this was a problem with the motherboard.

I went back to the USB stick, and picked up the 2.6 kernel version of vmlinuz and initrd.gz. This seemed to do the trick, and the install continued beyond the previous stopping point. When it came time to do some partitioning, I noticed that only three of my four new drives were detected; I didn’t think much about this at the time, since I had previously just left out a data or power cable. I partitioned my system drive, selected packages, and left them to install.

When that had finished, I looked into the hard drive issue. All were present and cabled up. I restarted the machine and noticed that one had disappeared from the POST. I discovered which one it was by a process of elimination, then removed it and installed it in another machine. The drive worked fine, so I became more suspicious of the motherboard.

After turning on the machine again, I was disturbed to see the CPU fan stop a few seconds after booting. I did a soft-off, and the fan briefly spun up again as the power went off. I plugged a case fan in to the same power pins and turned the machine on again, and that fan also stopped after a few seconds. I was about to see about returning the motherboard, when I found out that this motherboard spins the CPU fan down when not needed.

To sum up, I think there may be motherboard problems with hard drive detection and floppy drives. The CPU fan is probably working correctly. Sarge is installed, but I can’t get the RAID array running until all the disks are recognised. So my next step is to isolate the fault that’s stopping the hard drives from being detected properly.

Update: The suspect drive was broken, and hadn’t worked in the other machine – I was just trying to read the information when it was going past too quickly. Going into the BIOS showed that the drive was never detected.


1 Comment »

  1. […] So I left you after discovering that one of the hard drives doesn’t work. Things have moved on, but not as much as I would have liked. […]

    Pingback by High Above Ealing » Blog Archive » Building a Home Fileserver parts I(b) & II(b): Making Sure Things Work — February 1, 2006 @ 1:21 am

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