Pervasive issue about PATA and SATA device IDs

Alan E. Davis lngndvs at
Sat May 31 06:23:28 UTC 2008

Several issues recently have pervasively affected my computer.  I don't know
that they are caused by Ubuntu, but Ubuntu is losing it with respect to the
/dev/hdX /dev/sdX issues.  It is insuperable that these have not been dealt
with at the higher levels by developers.  I fear I will be forced to move
back to Gentoo, but I find at least that Ubuntu is much more convenient for
me as a user.  Stablity is of utmost importance, however, and I want to
report what has happened to me.

I have an IDE drive (PATA) and a SATA drive.

1.  /etc/fstab

    I am afraid to edit /etc/fstab.  Doing so led to massive confusion about
which devices of /sda1 or /sda2.  Inconsistency with long term GNU/Linux
policy has left me bereft.   Fstab does not agree with "df".  I had to admit
that my own error led to certain problems in wrongly naming a partition
using UUIDs.   But should I have to proofread UUIDs?

2.  Grub

    I installed Hardy five or more times two days ago, each time, the MBR
seemed to get more confused.  Finally, I figured out that nothing I could do
would fix the problem.  Again and again, I edited /boot/grub/menu.lst, and
ran "grub-install" with various parameters suggested by different experts on
the Ubuntu forum or on line.  Grub would not install.  Different error
messages were encountered.

    I eventually installed Gentoo, and was therefore able to get the MBR
back to a consistent state.

    I elected to reinstall Ubuntu hardy (amd64) and what do you know?  It
didn't boot.  Grub stalled at boot.  I remembered one of the various
conflicting docs or suggestions on the net, and changed the boot device in
the grub interactive way from (hd1,0) to (hd0,0).  I have to do that every
time.  Ubuntu installs grub in the MBR of one disk, and boots from the
other.  I finally edited /boot/grub/menu.lst, and Ubuntu boots.

Is this not a bug?  The trouble is, which one is the bug?  I've seen many,
many messages on the Internet about these issues.  If I could I'd jump in
and help.

   I wish to make a comment that I hope is not taken as too harsh.  Gentoo
documentation is much more highly polished, and manages to be up to date.
Three years or so ago, I was pleased to discover this, after dwelling for
several years on Debian mailing lists, and watching the "RTFM" flames
consume user after user.

Having come back to Ubuntu after a couple of years, even though I have
played with it several times, I am highly impressed by the polish and high
degree of integration of parts that has been achieved.  Nothing short of
phenomenal.  I just lost a partition either to personal error or a lack of
understanding of the nature of partitions.  Actually I have lost two---one
my Ubuntu installation's / root directory, after having spent months working
on it and installing software.  The other one was a 60 GB data partition,
lost after an attempt at repartitioning.  I cannot blame anyone but myself.
I don't remember which OS I was trying to install at the time.  I think that
in both cases, deleting a virtual logical partition resulted in renumbering,
leading to confusion on my part.  It hurts, but I cannot make up for the
blunder.  Another lesson learned?  I hope so.

One thing I have to add is that because I had saved my system's state with
dpkg, I was able within 24 hours to have an ubuntu system up and running
with virtually the same configuration!  It is a tribute to the development
community of GNU/Linux, Debian, and Ubuntu that after installing the basic
system, and running "synaptic --set-selections < file" the complete system
was brought up to snuff with only two pauses for brief manual intervention.

Bottom line:

 Ubuntu is a convenient system, easy to install, and well maintained.
However, there are a few show stopper bugs that must be ironed out, and the
documentation can use some work.  I am more productive because I have to
spend less time fiddling around.

All that being said, compared to two years ago, I have found Ubuntu much
more stable.  Even the more complicated packages that had been the bane of
Debian installations and Ubuntu earlier on----I will refer specifically to
avidemux and some other complex multimedia software---are working out of the
box now.  I haven't run any tests for speed.

However, the documentatoni needs work. If I can hold onto this installation,
I will try to contribute to the documentation side.  Somehow.

Should I report this as a bug?  I am confused what the underlying cause
might be.

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