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(?) Please help I am at wits end

From Spicer

Answered By Dan Wilder, Ben Okopnik, Heather Stern

I have Redhat 7 on my computer.

(!) [Dan] First mistake. Try Red Hat 6.2. If you must use Red Hat.
Though by all accounts 7 usually installs OK. Your real troubles begin after that.
(!) [Ben] I'm not as strongly spring-loaded as Dan against RH7, but if I was having problems with installing it and could borrow 6.2 anywhere, I'd probably try that, just to see if there's any difference. Getting the same error with a different distro would cause me to strongly suspect hardware.

(?) I am relatively new to this so please bare with me. I first tried to insert disk and install, that didn't work I got the error below. So by suggestions of friends I first made a boot disk and fdisked the machine. Now that was ok I got into Bios and made it run from CD-Rom and it booted up the disk like it should but as soon as the machine tried to start formatting Swap Partition the error below once again popped up. So thinking this an error on my part I tried to fdisk it again.

(!) [Ben] Well... I don't know exactly what you're using, but 'fdisk' can be relatively confusing, and (in my opinion) is more of an expert tool. For someone new to Linux, I'd recommend sticking with DiskDruid, 'cfdisk', or even - heaven forfend! :) - DOS's 'fdisk' (the failure mode there is not to do anything, and this is a Good Thing when you're not sure of what you're doing.) The nice thing with that last is that you can boot DOS in seconds, run 'fdisk', and be done quickly. I never could find a use for either the security features or the multitasking capabilities of Linux while fdisking a machine... :)

(?) Since I have no OS at the moment I

(!) [Dan] You don't have any idea why it is trying to make swap on /dev/hda12, do you? That'll be the eleventh (or something like that) usable partition on the disk. Unless you've got a huge hard drive and you're booting a half-dozen different OSs, that's probably not where you want to be.
(!) [Heather] She may not have a choice (RH 6.2's anaconda likes swap to go last) but I agree, it sounds like too many partitions. I had a system with 14 but it was a triple boot with a strange partition layout.

(?) decided to use fdisk Linux style. But when I do fdisk from CD rom and type in 'linux rescue' all seems well until I get:

/usr/bin/anaconda-runrescue: line 10: 37 Bus Error ln -s /mnt/runtime/etc/$i

Well, it does give me a prompt so I go ahead and type fdisk /dev/hda and get Unable to open /dev/hda and I get that with any variable of fdisk I try.

(!) [Dan] That doesn't sound good. When I see something like that I begin to suspect hardware.
(!) [Ben] Ooops. I'm in agreement with Dan, here: bus errors generally indicate hardware problems, or at the very least improperly configured BIOS settings. Not a good sign.
What that "unable to open /dev/hda" says is that Linux can't even see the 'hda' device - this is about as low in the chain as you can go. Sounds more and more like hardware, to me.
Try this: since, by your description, you're starting with a "bare" machine (no partitions, no info stored anywhere), go into the BIOS settings and restore them to the default ones - most BIOSes these days have such an option. If yours doesn't, you might have to call Dell and have their tech support people give you a couple of hints - I've found them to be helpful and knowledgeable in the past, unlike a number of other tech support departments.
What we're trying for here is elimination of any ugly possibilities; starting from scratch, so to speak. Write down the HD specifics - heads, cylinders, sectors - then, delete the info and have the BIOS redetect the drive. Now, try installing again. If you get the same error... it might be time to talk to Dell about replacing some hardware.

(?) So when I try to boot it with disk I get Fdisk error( machine needs to be fdisked I assume) and I can't fdisk it.

(!) [Ben] Actually, it's probably saying "I can't find anything to run 'fdisk' on!"

(?) So I made a boot disk of Windows 98 and tried to fdisk it that way by booting up that boot disk and all was going well until I was told I couldn't fdisk primary logical drive with an ext dos, so obviously I went to try and fdisk ext dos but then it told me it couldn't fdisk with a primary logical drive. Which by the way there is no logical drives found when I look. I have discovered through the web looking for info my problem was that someone told me to when making the partitions to put everything left in / which I know now is not a good idea. 1024 I believe is the maximum. I have also tried EXDrive and various other efforts in my attempt to fix this.

(!) [Dan] With current LILO, there's no longer a maximum number of cylinders for the boot drive, and the maximum for the root drive is 'way bigger than that.
I'm conservative and still arrange drives with three partitions: boot (usually 16M), swap (generally 64M), and root (all the rest).
You may run afoul of some limit I'm unaware of with an 80G drive. The biggest I've done that way is 20G.
(!) [Ben] Hmm. Given some of the error messages below (like the fact that 'anaconda' is trying to make swap on hda12 (???)), I would be inclined to try 'flushing' the MBR (master boot record) on the drive, just in case something ugly - a virus, maybe? - has placed some weird partition info in there. Mind you, the above errors all point to hardware, but it would be interesting to find out - I've seen, in the past, virus-created stuff in the MBR that made it look as though the drive had failed (a combo of the oddities of the Compaq BIOS and a modified 'Stoned' virus gave a "Track 0" error. <shudder> ;). Boot DOS, type
lock c:
agree to the the horrific "You might destroy the world!!!" message, type
fdisk /mbr
That should clear the MBR; I actually prefer to go in there with Norton's Disk Editor and overwrite everything with zeroes (at least the partition table), but that requires a bit of special tooling. :)

(?) So I can't by my knowledge fdisk it that way. I have run out of options as I sit here looking at a bright blue screen that keeps telling me "you may safely reboot your system". I would like any advise or directions to web sites on how I can get my computer running again and why that dang error is happening. I have included below my system stats and the error report.

Thank you, Stephanie

System stats:

DELL  Dimension 4100.
256MB SDRAM at 133MHz.
80GB  ultra ATA hard drive ( 5400 RPM )
Pentium III processor at 800 MHz.


Exception Occured

Traceback (innermost last):
 File "/usr/bin/anaconda.real",
line 225, in ?
intf.run(todo, test == =
line 1000, in run
rc == apply (step[1](), =
line 572, in __call__
 if todo.doInstall ():
line 688, in makeFilesystems
 raise RuntimeError, "error making =
swap on "=

+ device
RuntimeError: error making swap on hda12

Thank you so much, Stephanie

(!) [Ben] That one really makes me wonder. On the one hand, it says that it can't see "/dev/hda", on the other, it says that there are 12 partitions on it... it's time for those low-level tools that I've described above; all the graphical stuff and specialized routines ('anaconda', etc.) are just getting in the way of seeing what's really going on.
A guy I used to work for, Mark Minasi, came up with an excellent way to gurantee that you blast out your MBR; I just did a web search, and - lo and behold! - Mark had messed around with a multi-OS install (including Linux) and got his MBR terminally confused. So, he went ahead and documented the method - thanks, Mark! - which only used to be available as a part of the course that we taught, a rather expensive affair. Here is the link:
Seems a bit strange, linking to "winntmag.com" from an LG article - but good info is good info, regardless of source...
Note that you'll probably still want to use 'lock', as above; Windows has nasty habits in regard to letting things write directly to cylinder 0.

(?) I thank you so much for your help! It was excellent. I was able to fix the Linux and it is working now better than before because now I know more because of looking up this error in the first place. I really just wanted to say thanks.

(!) [Ben] Hi, Stephanie -
I'm very glad to have been able to help... but can you give us some feedback on what actually worked for you? I believe that this information could be very useful to anyone struggling with an identical problem.

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