Ubuntu 12.04, Amahi, and Linux Not Detecting Hard Disks


It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had this much trouble with Linux detecting a hard drive.  It brought me back to Ye Olde Linux days when 14 floppy disks housed your distribution and more times than not you didn’t have compatible hardware and had to find out via BBS what modem worked with what kernel…sometimes, it was a major pain…and that was the fun in it :)

In today’s installation of Linux…I thought I’d left those days behind.  I was wrong, unfortunately.

I downloaded Ubuntu 12.04 to install so that I could put Amahi on my video/picture/file/tv/movie share Linux machine.  Amahi is pretty much the best program on the face of the planet to use for this purpose…I’d put it up against any ‘samba-like’ distribution of Linux out there and I think it would come out on top.  Anyway, I went to install Ubuntu 12.04 and I immediately hit a problem:  it wasn’t detecting my hard drive.  I got out my notes for when I last installed an operating system on this server and it happened to be the last release of Amahi on Fedora…which was Fedora 14.  In that instance, I had to pass the nodmraid option in order for my hard drive to detect.

Easy enough.  I went into the Ubuntu options for booting.  Chose F6 and then selected nodmraid.  It booted fine and I went to a desktop.  Once there, I clicked the install icon.  Things were looking good until I went to the part of the installer where you choose a hard disk…which didn’t give me any hard disks.  I tried this process again and again…often times putting in other options such as noapic, nolapic and other awesome boot parameters using the F6 portion of the boot prompt.  No joy on any of these tries.  What could it be?

After a few minutes of brainstorming, I realized that Ubuntu wasn’t actually honoring the boot parameter for nodmraid.  Since this was the case, the hard drive wasn’t detecting.  In order to get the hard drive detecting, I should remove the dmraid information from my hard drive and see if this made a difference.  So, here’s how I fixed this problem:

  1. Instead of booting to install Ubuntu, select the option to Try it first
  2. Once there, hit up the dashboard, click on all applications, and search through all 78 until you find Terminal
  3. Once the terminal is up, type sudo su and hit enter.  You’re now root.
  4. type fdisk -l and take note of the letter designation of your hard drive that is having problems detecting (sda in my case).
  5. type dmraid -E -r /dev/sdX where ‘X’ is the letter designation of your hard drive.
  6. Answer yes to the question it asks of if you wish to remove the dmraid information on the drive.
  7. Reboot and Install Ubuntu.  It should now detect.

Not a hard thing to figure out…but it might be for some new users…and I’m almost certain Amahi users will run across this…because many of them are converts from Windows Home Server.  In this case, they’d probably be pretty freaked out having to drop down to a command line and issue commands.  Hopefully, this article will be a handy tool for them to use in order to get Ubuntu and subsequently, Amahi installed on their computer.  Thanks for reading!

Interesting Statistics

Very interesting statistics that I’ve noticed since moving the site to a Linode VPS.

If you take a look at the graphic below, the spike in the middle will probably stick out quite a bit.  Oddly enough, the spike I noticed in CPU percentage used (which is regulated for VPS at Linode) also spiked up disk usage…mainly because I began to swap when cpu/ram use skyrocketed.  All of this happened with Ubuntu 10.04 installed.  CentOS was the first distro I tried but I quickly switched to Ubuntu when I spotted a really nice how-to in the Linode document library.  Oh, and please excuse my horrible gimp skills on the image below…it was a quick and dirty editing of the image:

cpu usage

After switching to Ubuntu, I began receiving alarms for my account due to the high usage of CPU and disk.  I attempted to tweak settings and configuration files for about a week and realized it just wasn’t going to work for me.  I switched to Debian Lenny and the move was a positive as is reflected in these pictures.

disk usage

I was hoping Ubuntu 10.04 would fit for me since it is a long term support (LTS) release.  CentOS is my normal server distribution of choice and I really wanted to branch out and go with something different.  I used a Linode Stackscript for WordPress for CentOS but elected for vanilla installs of Ubuntu and Debian aftwards (I didn’t like NOT knowing what was installed when I first logged in…call me a control freak).

I just found it interesting that Ubuntu 10.04 did so horribly in this instance.  After investigating, I found a couple of likely suspects:

  1. Default Apache install in Ubuntu leaves a lot to be desired..even after tweaking both it and PHP for days I couldn’t get them to lay off the resources.  Even switching to mpm_worker and FastCGI did little to settle things down.
  2. Ubuntu swappiness is bad…it is set at 60 (I use 10 normally) and it swapped every chance it could get…it’s set by default to swap more than it should.
  3. mod_php on Ubuntu is hungry for all your cpu and ram and disk; be warned!

Debian, as the parent distribution of Ubuntu, would most likely suffer from the same problems…except it doesn’t.  Things are working great with it and I’d recommend it for any of your server needs!  Has anyone else seen this oddity with Ubuntu 10.04?  If so, please drop me a comment below.

Ubuntu Names Their Desktop After Us?

I was quite surprised this morning whilst reading my RSS feeds to discover that Ubuntu has named their most recent ‘lite desktop‘ Unity.  Surprised because we have our project, Unity Linux.  Strange that both our ‘lightweight distribution and desktop’ and Ubuntu’s ‘lite desktop’ should share a name together.

While I’m not really sure why no one threw up a stop to this in the Canonical brainstorming session that produced ‘Ubuntu Unity’ one can only have a laugh about this and hope we don’t get our pants sued off even though we named our distro first.

If things do get hairy, I’m sure we can change our name to ‘Unity Ubuntu’ or something similar to properly confuse everyone.

So, on behalf of all the Unity Linux developers, I’d like to thank the Academy and give a special shout out to Ubuntu for making our name known!  Thanks Mark!  Oh and good luck with that Unity thing! 😛

* devnet removes tongue from cheek

A Little About Ubuntu

I’m not a hater of Ubuntu by any means.  I think it’s done a ton of good for Linux.  It’s opened many doors and perceptions of users everywhere.  It’s available to more people than any other distribution in history.  However, I do have a problem with some of rather “excitable” users in the Ubuntu community.

Let’s take a look a look at why I’m not all over Ubuntu as a Linux Blog.

Perception is as Perception Does

When I say I don’t blog about Ubuntu…it’s not to say that it was always that way.  I did blog about Ubuntu a bit when it was the 5.04 version.  I put it into the rotation for an experiment I was doing.  See, back then, my wife and I had only been married a short while.  She didn’t know Linux from any other operating system…but the important part is she was willing to give it a try.  So we picked out a bunch of desktop driven distributions like Mandrake (now Mandriva), MEPIS, Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS and Fedora Core (now Fedora) and had her test drive each and every one…AND give valuable feedback on what she felt didn’t make the cut for each distro.  I had a set of criteria that I created and I didn’t tell her how to find things on the web…I didn’t hold her hand after installation.  We installed it and turned her loose.  She found Ubuntu to be a very bad experience.  The community, instead of saying “hey, there is a new Linux convert now!  We all win!” thrashed her for all sorts of things.  They didn’t pull any punches…they actually posted so many hateful things, I had to respond to the comments.  The Ubuntu supporters that commented on that post made me ASHAMED of using Linux because of their horrible and hateful words.  The community should be above that…other distributions that I and my wife reviewed were above that.  The Ubuntu community was not.

During that experiment, I was a die hard MEPIS fan.  I think if I hadn’t been using MEPIS before Ubuntu, I would have probably liked it quite a bit. At the time, MEPIS was new and exciting and did TONS for desktop users out of the gate. Handy tools, great installer, debian base. I saw what desktop linux should be in MEPIS and found Ubuntu to be lacking at that time…so I didn’t change what I was using.

Fast forward to the present. Ubuntu is now synonymous with the word Linux.  Articles like “Install 100 fonts on Ubuntu” and “10 Media Players for Ubuntu” are posted to digg.com every hour.  People adore it. The community loves it. Analysts love it. Journalists can’t stop talking about it. Zealots bite your head off about it.  The problem is that if you substitute the word “Linux” for the word Ubuntu in each of those blog posts and articles…it wouldn’t matter.  Ubuntu has become THE Linux and with all other distribtuions being held up to a certain expectation, it can cause confusion.

Refugee Expectations

When a previous Ubuntu user jumps into say…using Slackware Linux…some of the first questions they’ll ask are “Why doesn’t sudo work?” or “I can’t apt-get anything!”.  These things present in Ubuntu are assumed to be present in all of Linux.  Ubuntu has become the face of Linux and with that, holds all other Linux distros up to refugee expectations.  In some instances, this causes those distros to rise above and implement changes for the better (example, Linux Mint).  But in other cases, it just plain confuses both end users and developers.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve found there are more things than just software, packaging systems, and authentication methods being confused and mismatched…

Some People who Blog about Ubuntu Confuse and Muddle Linux as a Whole

Take for example, this article.  It’s a DVD player for Ubuntu. So a new user surfs in and sees that this DVD player is for Ubuntu. Since they are new to the Linux world…they see each distribution as separate.  So they think “Oh hey, that’s only available for Ubuntu”.  Call them properly confused.  A couple of new users I converted to Mandriva didn’t install Banshee because they thought it was for Ubuntu only (after reading a blog post on it).  They also didn’t install fonts from a blog post because they thought it was “for Ubuntu”.

It is my opinion that these authors aren’t thinking much about what they’re posting.  They’re just posting things with exclusivity because they think “if I throw Ubuntu on the name, it’s going to be a wildly popular post and get me more clicks and/or attention/comments“.  I’ve blogged about this before, It’s a foolproof way to garner more clicks and that’s evident by how many Ubuntu articles hit the front page of digg each week.  It’s also misleading.

Now some of you are going to say “well if those users can’t figure this simple thing out…that things are installable on more than just Ubuntu, we don’t need them because they’re stupid” or something similar.  I’d have to disagree with you there because Linux is not exclusionary.  It does not say you must have this much IQ to use.  Open source software means that no matter who you are…you have the opportunity to look at the source and use it how you see fit.  If anyone can look at it and use it how they see fit, should not anyone be allowed to use it no matter their IQ or computer savvy abilities?  I’m of the opinion that no matter where you come from, how much education you have, or who you know…you should have choice to use open source and Linux or not to use it.

Ubuntu uses Gnome. Most of the “cool things” about Ubuntu is just Gnome.

I used Foresight Linux at my last job.  It’s absolute cutting edge for Gnome.  It is where the Gnome developers kit is made…that means SVN builds daily of the best of what Gnome has to offer.  I found it quite usable.  Gnome has great integration and lots of little nice things that work for it.

Don’t get me wrong, Ubuntu does a lot of good stuff for desktops…its detection is right up there with all other distros (you zealots would say it is superior…but that’s hardly true.  All distros are pretty close to equal nowadays…thanks Linus and team kernel!).  I just don’t find it “the best” distribution for new Windows converts.  It just doesn’t fit the bill.  Gnome is too far away from the way Windows looks and feels.  I know some of you will be saying “Bullcrap.  It totally fits the bill.  When I transferred from Windows, I was fine”.  I’m sure  you were.  But a majority of the people that I know that have no idea what Linux is or does are immediately attracted to KDE because of its familiarity and they shy away from Gnome.  These people are ones that don’t delve into customizing and tweaking their operating system.  These are the people that just use a computer to read webmail and hit facebook or myspace up from time to time.  What they’re looking for is a no frills experience with any computing they do.  That means familiarity and things ‘just working’.  I’ve found a good implementation of KDE (like Mandriva or OpenSuse) to fit the bill for most new Linux users.

It is my opinion that the best parts of Ubuntu are Gnome.  And it is also my opinion that Gnome isn’t what I feel is best for new Windows-to-Linux converts.

For Those About to Flame Me

For those of you about ready to flame me after this post, remember one thing:  I believe if one distribution of Linux wins, we all win.  I admire Texstar, the creator of PCLinuxOS, for his take on this;  He was approached in IRC some time ago with some hateful comments of someone who said “I switched to distro X and it kicks PCLinuxOS all over the place” but with explicatives laced inside.  How did Texstar respond?  He said “Congratulations on choosing Linux :)”  It’s attitudes like this one that Linux needs to adopt.  If you choose one distribution to use, you win.  You’re in control of your computing.  Therefore, if you are an Ubuntu user and find my post hateful or here to start a flame war, understand that this post isn’t meant to harm but to show how a few voices from a community can change user perception for a lifetime and to show how misconceptions can alter experience.  My wife still despises Ubuntu because of the comments made on her experiment review of Ubuntu.  They made her an enemy for life.

Activism and Promotion

I’ve spoken on this topic before, and I’d like to sum up this post by speaking about it again.  We need the Linux community to understand that everyone does not have to share your opinion on one topic or another…they don’t have to be all about the philosophy behind FOSS and FLOSS.  If they use Linux, that should be good enough…they shouldn’t be ostracized for not picking your favorite.

Keep in mind that there is confusion out there.  It may be caused by your distribution that you use and it may not.  If it does, have patience with new Linux users or distro refugees.  Take the time to explain the how and why of things.  Remember that perception is as perception does and that a new user will remember their initial experiences for many years to come.

It’s a big Linux world and there is plenty room for everyone to thrive.  Let’s all continue to use Linux for the win :)

PCLinuxOS 2009 Not Diggworthy

It’s really sad when the Alpha release of Ubuntu makes the front page of Digg.com for Linux/Unix… but the release, after two years of development, of PCLinuxOS 2009…a distribution that challenged Ubuntu for the #1 ranking at distrowatch in 2007-8…goes completely without being dug at all.  Well, to be fair, it was dugg by 18 people at the time of this post.  This just goes to show you, all those people that accused PCLinuxOS of “fixing” the distrowatch.com rankings last year may have been a bit paranoid and way off base.  Just the same, viral websites have an observable slant when it comes to things that are seen as cool so I really shouldn’t be suprised.  I just wish that distributions that deserve praise got it when they deserve it…and that more got it more often for what they do.

Is Usability Really Simplicity?

I prefer using KDE or Openbox as my main desktop when using Linux.  I’ve used Gnome quite a bit too when working for rPath last year (Foresight is THE Gnome distro).  Still, I prefer KDE…I really like the direction that 4.x is going also.  Sure, they’re not there yet, but I trust they will be because I haven’t been let down in the past :)  I have a little faith (Plus I’ve run snapshots of 4.2).

The thing that boggles my mind is that everyone says Gnome is better for a Windows convert taking his/her Linux steps for the first time.  I have to disagree based on the experience I’ve had with conversions of new users from Windows.  I think KDE gives the best experience for a new Windows user…it’s familiar or at least feels familiar…things are in similar places to Windows.

I’d say that 80-90% of the users I convert across to using Linux prefer KDE to Gnome.  I always wonder why people think Gnome is so new user friendly.  Since I’ve always wondered, perhaps some Gnome users can tell me, what usability reasons do you have for using Gnome vs. KDE?  I’ve often heard that Gnome has integration and simplicity as the main reason…but could I not argue the same for KDE?  I’m looking for usability issues here and not specific bugs that cause you to drop one on its head.  Bugs can be fixed.  I’m talking about hard features that lack from one environment to the other.  What makes you use it in Ubuntu versus KDE?  Remember, not bugs…features!  Please let me know which desktop you prefer below and don’t forget to let me know the reason in the comments section below.

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