Build tips

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Hard drives


symptom: The system does not go into grub, but instead chants GRUB GRUB GRUB GRUB ad infinitum.
solution: Go into the BIOS, change the hard drive detection from auto to user, and change LBA to LARGE. Dave says this works 90% of the time, and the remaining 10% might be able to be fixed with a BIOS upgrade but - who's got the time for that? ditch the hdd. we have more. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

Hard drive clicks

symptom: cool noises
solution: recycle that drive!

SMART warning

if the SMART utilities say the drive is gonna die, replace it. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

bad cables

When trying to enter BIOS, and you can't, try swapping out the IDE cables. I think this needs more detail. There are many cases when it is difficult to get into BIOS; i don't think i've seen one where the culprit was the IDE cables. -laurel


not finding sound card

symptoms: message reading "/dev/dsp can't be found"; onboard sound; IRQ 5 has nothing on it; alsaconf doesn't detect a PCI or PNP soundcard. This happened on two Dell Optiplexes.
solution: Google says they use a Crystal ISA sound card, which was an option in alsaconf. You may be able to find information about the sound chip used for your onboard sound. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

won't play audio CDs

symptoms: the audio test in basiccheck plays sound, but you don't get any sound from an audio CD. KsCD ("Audio CD") recognizes the CD and looks like it's playing.
solution: make sure the cable from the sound card to the CDROM is plugged in to both; double check if there are multiple places it can plug into the sound card and look for labels that might give you clues; try a different cable if it still doesn't work. --User:ideath

"device /dev/dsp can't be opened"

symptoms: when KDE starts, an error message pops up saying "Error while initializing the sound driver: device /dev/dsp can't be opened (no such device)". Then sound no work. Wah.
solution: (or at least method) make sure /dev/dsp exists, and that the group has write access:

guest@freekbox:~$ ls -l /dev/dsp
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root 9 May  3 17:37 /dev/dsp -> /dev/dsp0

the lrwxlrwxlrwx bit means everyone in the world has read/write/execute permission on the file, which is a link to /dev/dsp0. If /dev/dsp doesn't exist, you can use ln to create it (as root)

freekbox:~# ln -s /dev/dsp0 /dev/dsp

But you need to make sure /dev/dsp0 exists too:

guest@freekbox:~$ ls -l /dev/dsp
crw-rw-rw-  1 root audio 14, 3 Mar 23 12:28 /dev/dsp0

You can make /dev/dsp0 with MAKEDEV if it doesn't exist.

freekbox:/dev# ./MAKEDEV audio

Finally, make sure the user is in the audio group:

guest@freekbox:~$ groups
guest dialout cdrom floppy audio dip video games users

It's rare that users will be added improperly and not be in the audio group (especially for guest, which isn't ever created, it just exists).

The last set of possibilities are all hardware problems, so if you've gotten this far, try a different sound card. User:Dave says that the AE Vortex PCI sound card is a frequent culprit, so if you've got one of these, offer it to Dave to see if it will help him.

--Ideath 12:46, 5 Aug 2005 (PDT) Jeff 03:09, 6 Aug 2005 (PDT)


X tries to start & fails

symptoms: you get the grey screen as if kdm were starting, but it eventually blinks out and drops you to the text login.keyboard and mouse are PS/2
solution: make sure the mouse is plugged in properly and in the correct port. X won't start if it doesn't think it has a mouse. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

symptoms: you're returned to the console with the message "no screens found" and you're using certain kinds of ATI card (including the Riva128 card)
solution: Change the default color depth to 15, in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 --User:Jeff

X won't start; video driver for onboard chip identified as "unknown"

Video problem with onboard video chip : VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8623 [Apollo CLE266] integrated CastleRock graphics (rev 03).
solution: Change the driver to via in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 Jeff 03:13, 6 Aug 2005 (PDT)
second solution: Change the driver to vesa in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 if via doesn't work. Jeff 03:14, 6 Aug 2005 (PDT)

X overdrives monitor

symptoms: monitor presents high frequency scan lines and displays squished version of x
solution: check for IRQ conflict and set IRQ 3 only to legacy. Magix identified the chip but chose "unknown" driver. X wouldn't start. When we substituted "via" for "unknown" in the XF86Config-4 file, x windows would start but the only resolution we could get was 600x480. A bunch of googling later we tried "vesa" for the driver and kdm worked fine. --Roy Marshall

symptoms: everything's fine until you try to go into X; then the monitor says FREQ OUT OF RANGE. it's the first time this previously-configured system has been used with this particular monitor.
solution: run magix to reconfigure X with the proper frequencies.


Flaky ethernet card

symptom: the computer can't connect to the network after it's been imaged.
solution: Some ethernet cards will work to install the image, but not to connect from the OS. I generally end up swapping out the NIC and it will work fine. -- MW


Not detecting PCI modem (ttyS14)

symptoms: modem isn't found. or, modem shows up on the "serial" step in basiccheck (at ttyS14), but it doesn't respond when tested with the dialer. and anyway, what the heck is ttyS14? or - if the modem isn't found in the serial step (you only have one serial port detected), you can check if this applies using dmesg. try

guest@freekbox:~$ grep dmesg ttyS | less 

(this searches dmesg for lines that contain the string ttyS) and see if you have a line that refers to ttyS14. If you do, this is your issue.
solution: To talk to this modem, you gotta create ttyS14:

guest@freekbox:~$ su
freekbox:/home/guest# cd /dev
freekbox:/dev# MAKEDEV ttyS14
freekbox:/dev# ln -s ttyS14 modem

CD Burners

CD burners are not a standard part of FreekBoxen, but some builders install them in their own computers. See: Installing a CD burner