As re-spin of the LMDE 201012 32-bit ISO was made available under the name “201101″.
The new ISO comes with an up-to-date live kernel which addresses the following issues:
- “Black screen of death”, live session hanging with a black screen.
- Installer hanging while configuring Grub.
Explanation of the problem:
A liveCD contains two systems: One that is decompressed, copied during the installation and eventually used post-install, and another one (smaller and with minimal functionality) which is used to boot the liveCD itself, decompress the filesystem and get an operational live session running on top of it. As such, the liveCD comes with two kernels, one of which is used for the live session and the other which is actually installed on your system. In theory, these two kernels should be identical to avoid mismatches since the live session uses the live kernel but relies on the kernel files present in the compressed system. In practice this was never an issue (until now) for the following reasons:
- On a frozen base (Ubuntu for instance), kernel changes and updates are minimal and the difference between two kernels could be insignificant in the scope of the liveCD.
- Linux Mint is extremely conservative when it comes to changing base elements such as the kernel and as a consequence, Linux Mint ISO releases based on Ubuntu always use the exact same kernel as their Ubuntu base.
The Debian live CD we’re basing LMDE on is built by us from scratch. Unlike Ubuntu-based releases, LMDE doesn’t rebase itself with each release, it continues to use the same base which is simply updated using the repositories. LMDE 64-bit is relatively new and so the difference between its two kernels is insignificant. LMDE 32-bit was built in August 2010 and the difference between its old live kernel and its modern embedded one were quite dramatic and affected modesetting with the “nouveau” driver. On some hardware, it also affected the configuration of Grub.
The problem was hard to spot but easy to fix. The live kernel was updated in the ISO and after a lot of testing we were happy to see the 201101 successfully boot and install on a large variety of hardware.
We failed to detect the issue prior to releasing for the following reasons:
- Significant infrastructure problems around Christmas: Our testing server in London was taken offline by the host and this created a lot of problems. Additional stress was put on various team members around Christmas (car accident, water/electricity shortages, financial problems, DSL upload speed maxed at 128kbps) which made it extremely hard for many of us, including myself and Ikey, to be available and to work efficiently.
- New challenges specific to the rolling nature of the Debian base: Mintconstructor wasn’t designed to update the kernel and this was an entirely new challenge for us. It’s something we simply did not see coming.
- Lack of RC releases: Unlike other releases, LMDE didn’t benefit from any public testing.
201012 was leaked and tested by a few people within the team and the community (I’d like to thank especially Justin, ArcherSeven and Gazza for their help with testing 201012 and actively supporting the resolution of the problem in 201101). I personally tested 201012 remotely in a virtualized environment. It passed QA with all test cases successful and it behaved perfectly on the hardware it was tested on.
Long term solutions:
- QA: We go through a lot of testing but most of it is functional and regression testing. We’ll be adding hardware specific test cases to our QA process to ensure our releases always successfully boot and install on Intel, ATI and nVidia chipsets.
- Test server: Without going into the details. The availability of a test server is extremely important in our process. Though it didn’t cause the issue, the lack of a test server affected our communication, our speed and our responsiveness to tackle the problem. At the moment it’s holding the testing on the KDE edition. We’ll be getting a new testing server this month.
- MintConstructor: Our construction tool will be modified to detect mismatches between the live and embedded kernels and to allow maintainers to perform an update if necessary.
- RC releases: We’ll be considering introducing RC releases for LMDE or involving the community and getting more people to test the ISO before it gets approved for a release.
Workaround for LMDE 201012 32-bit users:
If you downloaded LMDE 201012 32-bit and all you’re getting is a black screen, you might just be a kernel argument away from a successful boot. The solution is to download 201101, but you can save 1GB of download and a new DVD by using the following arguments:
- For ATI chipsets: radeon.modeset=0
- For nVidia chipsets: xforcevesa or nomodeset
- For GeForce and Generic: nouveau.modeset=0
- For Intel: i915.modeset=0
This should give you a live session in low resolution. Since the embedded kernel is already up-to-date, you don’t need to configure anything post-installation and your system should then boot in high resolution.
Md5 sum: daeabb182b016cd62bfced5483441b5a
- South Africa Internet Solutions
- India Honesty Net Solutions
- Japan JAIST
- Taiwan Yuan-Ze University
- Austria Goodie Domain Service
- Belarus ByFly
- Cyprus Cytanet
- Denmark klid.dk
- Germany Copahost
- Germany GWDG
- Germany NetCologne GmbH
- Greece University of Crete
- Ireland HEAnet
- Latvia University of Latvia
- Lithuania Atviras kodas Lietuvai
- Poland Polish Telecom
- Portugal CeSIUM – Universidade do Minho
- Sweden DF – Computer Society at Lund University
- Switzerland SWITCH
- Turkey Linux Kullanicilari Dernegi
- United Kingdom Netrino
- Canada University of Waterloo Computer Science Club
- USA DoctorServer.by
- USA INSync Systems
- USA Linux Freedom
- USA Secution, LLC.
- USA Yellow Fiber Networks
- Australia ‘Yes’ Optus Mirror
- Australia Western Australian Internet Association
- Brazil Universidade Federal do Panara
To all the people who got disappointed by the incident affecting our 32-bit Christmas release, I’d like to apologize. This has been a really stressful experience for the development team and I understand your frustration. This is a new base, and the first time we come across this particular challenge. We already started addressing our infrastructure problems and we’re coming out of this incident with a better QA process and a better technological expertise. As you can see, we’re starting the new year in style. We’re probably as proud of LMDE as we are sorry for this incident. Many people enjoyed this desktop in 64-bit already, some managed to run the 32-bit ISO in low resolution or find a workaround, and this re-spin will allow those who were left out since Christmas to finally enjoy LMDE in the New Year.
Many thanks to all the people who contributed feedback or helped solving this situation. Happy New Year to everyone!