Saturday, November 26, 2016

Slackware Box Stopped Working - Upgaded It and Now Slackware Won't Run

A few months ago, my Slackware box died.  It would no longer boot up (no error POST beeps, no BIOS bootup screen).  The system fans wouldn't even activate as they normally would.

I thought it was the power supply, so I replaced it.  Afterward, the system would begin the bootup process, I could hear the fans, but still couldn't see the BIOS bootup messages or access the setup screen.  I then replaced the motherboard.

It was previously running a Pentinum D 820 and Intel-based motherboard.  I replaced it with a spare, an Asus M4N98TD EVO running an AMD Phenom II X6 X1100T.

After then swap of the motherboards, I was able to get to the BIOS but the system would no longer boot up it's instance of Slackware (v14.1).  It would attempt to boot up Slackware but would run into a kernel panic condition:

slackware 14.1 kernel panic - not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on unknown block (8,3)

Instead of troubleshooting, I figured that I'd just do an install on that same system's spare hard drive.  I installed onto that drive and ran into the same message.

I then wiped both drives and focused on installing on just one drive.  I did this twice.  I ended up with the same error message both times.

 I then decided to do some research, as this was something I have never experienced in the past.

This page describes what I'm experiencing.  I'll highlight the relevant details:

In case your kernel does not include the driver for your root filesystem, or a driver for your SATA bus, or other stuff that is only built as modules, your kernel will panic if it boots and can not access the necessary disks, partitions and/or files. Typically, this looks like
VFS: Cannot open root device "802" or unknown-block (8,2)
Please append a correct "root=" boot option
Kernel Panic-not syncing: VFS: unable to mount root fs on unknown block(8,2)
and this means you will have to build an initrd or “Initial Ram Disk” containing the required modules. The location of the initrd is then added in the appropriate section of /etc/lilo.conf so that the kernel can find it when it boots, and is able to load the drivers it needs to access your disks.

The problem is, I can't follow the described steps because the system can't mount the drive, so I can't use the necessary tools to build an initrd, and can't edit the /etc/lilo.conf file (it's on the partition that won't mount).  mkinitrd is not on the install/rescue disk (well, it's not accessible as a command).

I'm to the point that I'm about to ask for assistance at, but will try to run Slackware 14.1 in VMware to see if I can build the files and put them on the partition I can access on the physical Slackware machine.  I'd still run into the problem of being able to edit /etc/lilo.conf, though (that file resides on the / partition, which can't be accessed until I'm able to fix the issue.  Or, I can find a Slackware-based live CD that'll have the proper files and drivers that will mount the partitions and allow me to make the needed fixes.

Hopefully I'll be able to fix this issue without too much hoop-jumping.

UPDATE:  It is working now.  It's been up the last few days with no load.  I'm still trying to find out why it wasn't working, but it certainly has to do with the partition layout I opted to use, which is weird because I was using the same partition scheme I've been using for years (a /boot partiton, a swap partition, and a / partition).  I ended up using a swap partition and / partition (no dedicated /boot since it appears that may've been the issue...I may be able to add it after the fact).
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