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The sad demise of an etch.



I run a dual-boot Debian system -- one partition is sarge; the other is 
etch.  The idea was that users would have a stable platform available if 
they wished, for mission-critical work, but have access to (relatively) 
recent software for the proce of a reboot.

This etch had been ailing for quite a long while now.  The xfree -> 
xorg upgrade went flawlessly, but a few weeks after that, after a 
routine general upgrade (which upgraded xorg) X ceased to function 
properly.  It would crash when switching virtual consoles, 
unpredictably.  Everything fine as long as no one switched virtual 
consoles, of course.  Switching to a text console would work (before the 
crash) but switching between X consoles or from text to an X console was 
fraught with peril.  There was a suspicion that the problem was set 
up by logging out from X and switching to another console before the 
original one had manages to present a new login screen -- then switching 
back to the original X later would present you with a dead machine.  
This suspicion, however, was nevre tested consistently.

The system was still somewhat usable.  I occasionally upgraded it in 
case this was a bug that would be fixed.  IN any case, we still had 
sarge as a fall-back in case of real trouble.

sometime later, etch could no longer start X successfully -- it ould 
fail, unable to access the AGP device.  The X log made it look as if 
it was the actual AGP interface on the motherboard that was 
inaccessible, not the ATI card I had plugged into it.

Upgradein udev seemed to cure this problem, but now X would 
crash during startup.

Last Friday I performed another upgrade.  Now etch won't boot at 
all:

RAMDISK: Conplressed image found at block 0
input: AT Translated Set 2 keyboard as /calss/input/input0
invalid argument format (err=1)
VFS: Cannot open root device "304" or unknown-block(3, 4)
Pleas append a correct "root=" boot option
Kernel panic - not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on 
unknown-block(3, 4)


I am tempted to pronounce this etch installation dead and reinstall from 
scratch.  I'm also reluctant to do this, becase of Debian's reputation 
as being the system that never needs to be reinstalled.  Sarge, of 
course, continues to soldier on without any problems at all (except for 
application obsolescence -- but that's spec)

Or should I do something radical to get current software, such as 
installing gentoo on the former etch partition?

-- hendrik



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