Laptop Drive Imaging

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Imaged and unimaged laptop hard drives are kept in the back closet or in TARDIS. An imaging station with four systems on a KVM is located directly next to the back closet.

Installing from the LAN

Sometimes it will be necessary to image hard drives inside of the systems they came in (for example, SSDs in early netbooks). In order to do this, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure the BIOS has an option for booting from the network. If there's not an explicit option to enable network booting, check to see if network booting is listed under the Boot Order.
  2. Set the laptop on the Testing Shelf and plug it in. There are three ethernet cables located to the right of the Testing Shelf. Plug one of them into the laptop's NIC.
  3. Power on the laptop and hit the Network boot key (typically either F12 or F10).
  4. Shortly, you should see Free Geek's Netboot Menu. Select Install Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx (32 bit) (Freekbox).
  5. It will take a few minutes for the installer to get underway. After it's initialization, it will typically ask you to confirm writing the partition table to disk. Select Yes at this prompt.
  6. A typical installation takes about 30-40 minutes. Once the installation is complete, it will prompt you again to finish the installation. Select Yes and let the system boot from the hard drive to confirm everything is working.

Note that the above instructions cover the basic procedure used at the imaging station (except times four).

Troubleshooting Installs

Installation step failed

If, during an installation, you see a bright red screen, that means some step in the installation process has failed. By default, the Ubuntu and Debian installers log their output to tty4 (Alt+F4); the installer screen is held on tty1 (Alt+F1). The number of potential reasons for this occurring are vast, and usually require some digging around to diagnose. A general workaround if an installation step fails is to fallback to the list of steps and choose a step two or three earlier than where the installer is currently at (e.g., Failure to download a software package, fallback to Configure the package manager).

If the installation step fails again, Debian based installers actually come equipped with a simple Apache server which will serve it's system logs from its IP on the LAN. You can select this option at the bottom of the list of installation steps. In order to access the logs, you just need to point a web browser at the IP address, where you will be presented with a really simple webpage and the pertinent files. This can be especially useful for the Technocrats if the errors prove to be systemic.

Hard drive not found

This error will occur when the installer attempts to write the partition table to disk. Turn off the system, and double check the hard drives connections. Are the power cords fully socketed? Did the ribbon cable come loose? Try rebooting the system and see if the same error comes up.

If it's an IDE drive at the imaging station, the adapter for 2.5" inch drives may be burning out. A stash of fresh new adapters is kept in one of the drawers of the disk next to the rear closet. Don't recycle the old one right way; instead, wrap some tape over its socket with a brief note.

Occasionally the cables might go bad on the imaging stations as well. It can be a pretty big hassle to disassemble the station in order to get at the systems. This is a task better left to slower shifts, or after hours if need be. Often times you can convince an intrepid Desktops Builder to take over :)

Ubuntu boots into a console login

As of November 2011, there has yet to be a true fix for this bug, nor even a diagnosis of its cause. It has occasionally been observed that waiting long enough at the console login will let gdm start up on its own and present the graphical login screen. Additionally, logging into the system from the console and manually starting X or gdm works without issue.

So far, reimaging hard drives exhibiting this behavior has been the only available workaround.