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Although I mention Knoppix a lot below, I'm asking a more general question about determining and loading device drivers (I think!) I'm looking to find a fast and reliable way ...
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  1. #1
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    Live Linux discs and new hardware - make one recognise the other


    Although I mention Knoppix a lot below, I'm asking a more general question about determining and loading device drivers (I think!)

    I'm looking to find a fast and reliable way of taking a live Linux disc, using it to boot a very new PC and then allowing it to use new hardware (specifically DVD drives).

    I use live Linux CDs and DVDs a lot to boot large numbers of PCs, usually so that they can be re-imaged (using dd and netcat). However, it's often the case that when I encounter a very new PC there are hardware compatibility problems. The quick answer is often to use a later version of the live disc or to try another distribution. But I'd really like to understand how to load the appropriate driver and fix these problems without spending fruitless hours messing around.

    Here's a recent example - we just bought dozens of new Dell Vostro 260 PCs. Our custom Knoppix discs, which work with loads of systems, naturally fail . They start to boot but ultimately don't load fully because (I believe) they don't have drivers for the DVD drive's controller. Using a Debian rescue disc also fails, although it does seem to be able to access the DVD drive to some extent. The latest version of Knoppix DVD fails in the exactly the same way as our older version.

    I'd really like to know how to detect which drivers work (is there a way to tell this by interrogating the running live Debian system?) and then load these manually to begin with. Ultimately I'd roll those drivers into a custom live build.

    I hope someone here knows the answer because this issue has been plaguing me for years

  2. #2
    Administrator jayd512's Avatar
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    Hello and Welcome!

    I've never needed to run through this, personally, so I can't give a lot of detail. But maybe I can help you get a starting point.
    One way that you could do this is to find which drivers are running on your machines. Do lspci -vnn and lsmod.
    Roll the appropriate drivers into your new LiveCD, and see if that works.
    Jay

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  3. #3
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    I have found a rather unsatisfactory solution, which is far from ideal because it involves opening PC cases and also because I'm not entirely sure why it works! However, in case anyone else reads this here we are:

    We disconnected the SATA CD/DVD-ROM drive and re-connected it to another SATA port on the motherboard. Knoppix and other live Linux systems then booted.

    This worked on all 20 identical PCs upon which we tried it.

  4. #4
    Linux Guru Rubberman's Avatar
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    So, this sounds like a hardware problem, not a software one, or possibly a BIOS configuration issue. These days, I use live USB drives to do what you use the live CD/DVD for. As long as the system can boot from a USB device (they all can these days), it is more reliable (generally) than using a CD/DVD, especially if they are Sata devices.
    Sometimes, real fast is almost as good as real time.
    Just remember, Semper Gumbi - always be flexible!

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    It is a combination of hardware and software problems, I think. I've run into this problem many times over the years with different computers. I believe it is to do with CD-ROM drivers and possibly certain live distributions defaulting to a specific drive, which may or may not be there.

    I've seen this problem all over the place, but I've never seen what I consider to be a satisfactory answer. Swapping SATA leads may work (in this case) but there must surely be a way to instruct the live distro to use the originally-connected SATA port? A good answer would be something like, "Load module x, change something.conf" and so on. Otherwise it's all a bit random - for example, *why* does changing the leads to another SATA port work? Finding an alternative solution, such as using another boot medium, doesn't help figure out the real issue here.

    That said, we tried the USB approach out of desperation and it also failed. ISTR that it was the same issue, where the live distro was unable to access its own file system. The BIOSes in the inexpensive Dell PCs that we use are very limited in terms of configuration. For example, one possible solution I've seen was to change the SATA mode from IDE to AHCI but there is no such option on the Vostros that we are using.

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    Just Joined! dethklok02895's Avatar
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    Ok this will sound a bit silly however it is a true statement.

    I had a DVD Drive that was working fine until I installed Debian. Then the thing completely stopped functioning. Apparently with certain motherboards Linux systems see the motherboards slots as specific slots. Sometimes what one OS might automatically consider 0 linux might actually consider 1.

    Then again Rubberman is correct USB is the best install solution.

    My dvd drive I had to switch the jumper to slave or plug it into another slot. It was strange. Because normally with that solution you can get to a point where you can download any drivers you maybe missing or need updating.

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