Friday, November 24, 2006

fedora core 6

This weekend, I decided to upgrade to Fedora Core 6 since M sent it to me on DVD. This would be the first time I've "upgraded" to a new version rather then start with a clean install and I was curious as to how clean it would be. As we all know, Windows can be a nightmare to upgrade and it's often easier to just do a clean install and re-install all the data and application.

My system was a Shuttle SN95GV3 with a Athlon 3500+ (64bit) CPU with Fedora Core 5. I haven't customized it very much and beyond my original spec that I detailed previously with the exception that I added another 1Gig of memory for a total of 2 Gigs. I've installed most software through yum and kept up with the latest packages.

Before I started, I ran yum update just to make sure I got the latest packages on FC5 in case the upgrade had some dependencies (don't think this actually mattered). I popped in the FC6 DVD and rebooted. I selected "upgrade" from the menu (as opposed to clean install) and from there it was pretty automatic. I had to verify a couple of settings in the menu (language, keyboard, etc.) by clicking "Next" and then it started the upgrade.
It took about 1.5 hours before everything was installed and ready for a reboot. The system came up fine until it tried to load up X which it failed because of nvidia video driver (I was using Nvidia's from livna rather then the stock nv driver). I didn't worry too much about this and just ran yum update since I figured it didn't have the latest version for the kernel that fc6 uses. Yum identified nearly 700megs of files that needed to be downloaded and updated so I said ok and let it run. I ran into one problem with the yum update because of a dependency problem with OpenOffice. This was resolved by me telling it to not update OpenOffice. Everything else got updated and following a reboot, I was back into X where I uninstalled the existing Open Office and then had it install the latest version.

My previous settings were all preserved and everything seemed to be working and then I noticed something... In the GUI boot up message, I noticed the following error message:


FATAL: Error inserting ...acpi_cpu_freq.ko .... No such device

Now, this is wierd... I never seen this in FC5 and FC6 still worked even though it had this error. After some research, I discovered that the error came from the cpuspeed daemon which I don't remember using before so I suspect it was activated through the FC6 upgrade. This daemon is what will switch the speed of the CPU depending on load to save energy and battery life. I decided to turn this service off even though it should be working since the Athlon has the Cool 'n' Quiet feature.

Two things bothered me, though, and I spent quite a bit of time researching even though they weren't critical to the workings of the server. First, the error message I saw only was in the GUI boot message display. Nothing was written to the log and somehow the boot.log file in FC isn't updated. I'm not sure why that is, but seems to happen in Fedora.

Second, why was cpufreq failing even if I didn't want to use it? In the logs that was written to, I noticed this:

powernow-k8: BIOS error - no PSB or ACPI _PSS objects

Research on the web seems to point that the kernel was having problems with Cool 'n' Quiet. Since this fails, it's no wonder cpuspeed failed later. I couldn't find any solution other then to try to upgrade the BIOS. This caused me two dilemmas. First, I never put in a bootable floppy drive in the Shuttle. Second, Shuttle makes it so hard to 1) find the bios version and 2) enable/disable Cool 'n' Quiet. For (2), people said Shuttle makes it always available if the OS supports it so there is no BIOS setting (stupid). For (1), I realize that Shuttle always show their XPC logo rather then the useful bootup messages (i.e. the BIOS version) but the way around it is to hit or unplug your keyboard so it'll stop the boot on error and display the boot messages (this work 'cause the default behaviour for the Shuttle is to stop on all errors).

I found out that my BIOS is a bit old but without a boot floppy drive I'm not sure how to upgrade the bios (might go buy a USB floppy). Whether this will fix the kernel error, I'm not certain but it's worth a shot someday.

Overall, I feel the install went extremely well and the upgrade was for the most part very smooth. It made me aware of a few problems that wasn't related to the upgrade so the bulk of my time wasn't trying to upgrade but to figure out some long standing problems.

Update: Instead of buying a USB floppy drive, I made a bootable CDROM with the latest BIOS update from Shuttle, but even after flashing the BIOS with the most recent version, I still see the same error message so it didn't seem to help.

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