Release notes should warn against installing Ubuntu on old machines

Sitsofe Wheeler sitsofe at
Thu Mar 8 08:55:36 UTC 2007

Matt, your reply is the best so far - it has addressed every point.

On Wed, 2007-03-07 at 15:08 -0800, Matt Zimmerman wrote:
> Most GRUB failure modes only provide a numeric error code, and so it's
> difficult to determine the cause of the issue.  You may see many similar
> reports, but it isn't necessarily true that they're all caused by a
> particular BIOS issue.  We know that there are situations where Ubuntu will
> install to the hard drive and then fail to boot, but the range of causes and
> solutions is not very well understood by the development team.
> Your proposed solution, to draw an arbitrary cutoff point and discourage
> users from using Ubuntu on systems over a certain age, would unnecessarily
> exclude a large number of systems capable of running Ubuntu without a
> problem.  I have personally run Ubuntu on several systems older than 2001,
> and of various ages with hard drives with more than 1024 cylinders, and not
> had a problem.

I am slowly becoming aware of the complexity of these "unable to boot"

> Whether the system can boot a default Ubuntu configuration depends on a
> number of factors other than the number of cylinders on the disk, such as
> whether the BIOS supports LBA mode.  Furthermore, the solutions to the
> problem also vary.  Often, changing the BIOS configuration is sufficient.
> Sometimes (such as when another installed operating system is relying on the
> current BIOS configuration), this is not an option.

Indeed. Even creating a /boot partition is not an option in such

> A much better step would be to develop a test which could detect whether the
> system has this problem.  As a first step, this could be used in the
> installer to warn the user of a potential problem before they take any
> destructive steps.  Later, it may be possible to work around the problem
> automatically by using a different partition layout, so that the kernel is
> always near the beginning of the disk, in which case the earlier work to
> detect it would continue to be useful.
> We know that Ubuntu, in various flavours and configurations, *is* suitable
> for older systems, so we should not exclude them out of hand.

I believe that is a fantastic long term solution but I would be amazed
if it could be developed before Feisty is released. I guess the only
suggestion that is currently feasible is a warning within the release
notes (this can serve as a hint to more expert users who wish to live
the problems that creating a /boot may potentially create). I can only
imagine the frustration of sitting through an install only to have the
thing not boot at the end and my guess is that the number instances when
this happens increases the older the BIOS.

(PS: Can you also list the minimum requirements in the release notes

Sitsofe |

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