How Did You Spend Your Vacation?

Monday was Labor Day, a federal holiday in these United States, making a three-day weekend.

I spent quite a lot of it looking at a computer that kept saying this:

We're sorry; the installer crashed. Please file a new bug report at (do not attach your details to any existing bug) and a developer will attend to the problem as soon as possible. To help the developers understand what went wrong, include the following detail in your bug report, and attach the files /var/log/syslog and /var/log/partman:

Traceback (most recent call last):
File “/usr/lib/ubiquity/bin/ubiquity”, line 210, in
File “/usr/lib/ubiquity/bin/ubiquity”, line 205, in main
File “/usr/lib/ubiquity/bin/ubiquity”, line 58, in install
ret =
File “/usr/lib/ubiquity/ubiquity/frontend/”, line 358, in run
File “/usr/lib/ubiquity/ubiquity/frontend/”, line 989, in process_step
File “/usr/lib/ubiquity/ubiquity/frontend/”, line 743, in progress_loop
RuntimeError: Install failed with exit code 139; see /var/log/syslog

Mind you, I was doing something that may be fairly silly:

  • take a moderately ancient machine with a tiny ISA drive with Windows on it,
  • shove a low-budget SATA card into it, a Rosewill RC-209
  • ignore the fact that the BIOS will see the drive but won't offer to boot from it
  • leave Windows XP on the ISA drive
  • install a massive (half-terrabyte!) drive on the SATA card
  • partition the drive to give Windows a little more room to play
  • install Ubuntu to the bulk of the SATA drive.

It was the last step that kept croaking. Even thought the CD I burned passed all integrity checks.

So I filed a bug report. Currently, I'm downloading the alternate Ubuntu installer, and doing a full scan of the (brand new) disk's integrity in case it has some physical fault. Takes a long time to scan half a terrabyte.

Earlier, a similar install using the same model card and a similar SATA disk alone on a similar computer (without the attempt to dual boot on two drives) went swimmingly.

But this one would croak even if I unplugged the ISA drive with windows on it. So There's Something Funny Going On….

Update: disk checks out fine.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Super Grub Disk I managed to rescue Windows from a non-functioning entry I'd put into the MBR. Three cheers for the Super Grub Disk! I'm now back to where I was 40 hours ago!

(Lest anyone feel too sorry for me, this isn't my main machine, and I actually like solving problems like this, even (especially?) if I caused them.)

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8 Responses to How Did You Spend Your Vacation?

  1. nedu says:

    Were you attempting to install from your NEC DV-5800A?

  2. SEO says:

    Maybe the Mobo/Bois just doesn’t “like” the half Terrabyte and can’t address the space correctly.

    I don’t know by the Traceback, maybe partition the half Terrabyte down to a more modest 50GB or so and try and drop Ubuntu on that and see if it dies.

    If Windows is going on to the smaller partition ok and Ubuntu is crashing on the larger partition, i guess you could try giving Ubuntu the same size as Windows so in effect you would have 3 partitions. Windows/Ubuntu same size and the third empty with whatever GB is left over.

    Clutching at straws here, but it would rule out the Mobo/Bios’s brain getting scattered trying to address to large space assigned to the Ubuntu install.


  3. try killing a goat and doing a funny dance for the computer gods

  4. michael says:

    Thanks perhaps to the goat trick, the alternate version installed just fine.

    I now have two operating systems on two disks. There’s a way to switch between them in the bios. And next weekend I start modifying GRUB by hand….

  5. Wally Car says:

    Alternate version… Alternate version…

    I though the fun was forcing a version that is not meant to work actually work. Bend it till it breaks, or in this case break it till it bends!

  6. James Wimberley says:

    It’s tera- (Greek) not terra- (Latin) -byte.

  7. andrewkk says:

    I’m considering buying a Rosewill RC-209. What do you think are the chances that it was the cause of your disk troubles?

  8. michael says:

    I think the major problems with the Rosewill are (1) lousy documentation — go to their web site and/or the buyer comments for help if you get stuck; (2) an older bios won’t see it as bootable.

    So if you either have a newer bios or don’t plan to boot from it, or if plan to use its RAID capabilities and then boot off the raid disks, then I think you are fine. (I had just one drive to attach to it.) Note that the Ubuntu docs have specific suggestions for how to install on RAID.

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