[clug] Rescue cd in Cairns

Robert Edwards bob at cs.anu.edu.au
Wed Jul 27 09:47:23 MDT 2011

On 26/07/11 22:48, Brett Worth wrote:
> Fellow travelers,
> I'm happy to report that I am now back on-line. Given that I'm really
> just lazing around I'll give a recap as to what happened. Please delete
> now if if you're not interested since this is a bit off topic.
> It all started last night. I'd been tethering to a mobile broadband
> account via my phone and suspended the machine. Later, when I tried to
> unsuspend it, there was just nothing on the screen. Normally when coming
> out of suspend there is no Dell BIOS splash screen, just a prompt for a
> password after a second or two but this time it was dead. You could see
> the back-light come on but no display. A control alt delete would make
> the screen go dark and back to black with back-light. I could get
> nowhere and suspected that the system was in a mode where it thought it
> was supposed to be unsuspending but corrupt.
> My next try was to run the battery flat so that it would be powering up
> with no suspend state in ram. This took a while but once it was flat it
> would still give no display on power-on. This was never really totally
> flat because it just turns itself off when the battery is very low.
> This brought us to this morning when I thought it worth a try to get it
> to boot from a Linux CD to see if loading a fresh kernel might clear it.
> It was still not clear at this time whether the Kubuntu I was running
> might have put it into this weird state.
> After my call for help this morning to the clug list I got a great
> response. If I'd followed up all the offers I think I'd have about 4
> bootable Linux CDs by now. Thanks to all. I collected a rescue CD from a
> local sysadmin and when I got back tried to boot from it but the problem
> persisted. In fact it started exhibiting a new problem in that the
> screen started displaying garbage occasionally.
> I finally gave up and rang Dell. The Dell tech support person was very
> easy to deal with. After describing the symptoms he said we should try
> running some diagnostics. I was a bit worried that he was going to want
> the existence of the Dell Utility partition which had actually suffered
> the same fate as Windows. He asked me to hold down the "Fn" key while
> powering it on which as it turns out invokes a detailed built-in
> diagnostic suite. When I ran this (blindly) the symptoms didn't change
> but, after a few minutes and while I was discussing the details of
> getting someone out with some parts, the screen started displaying solid
> colours in a sequence. Once this was complete it went back to the
> original symptom. I was still on the phone and giving my address details
> when I thought I'd power it off and back on. It was totally fixed.
> So what happened. My guess is that perhaps this might not have happened
> if it was running Windows. That said I think the BIOS has some bug in it
> where it's failing to initialise something that it should be
> initialising. Running the diagnostics did the job for it. This computer
> (Dell 15z) cannot have it's battery removed without using tools. Perhaps
> I should have brought some jewelers screwdrivers on holidays. A good ol'
> battery removal/reinstall probably would have fixed it too.
> So now I have a work-around and have learned how to run the builtin
> diags. I'll also eagerly await BIOS updates. Do I actually have a
> hardware problem? I hope not.
> Once again thanks to all who were able to offer assistance. After all,
> what sort of a holiday would it be if I couldn't do what I already do
> for a living? Wait...
> Brett

Hi Brett,

Glad to hear your h/w problems are sorted (I hope).

As for a bootable CD, does your Dell boot from a USB device?

I usually carry at least two bootable USB memory devices with me: one
with Debian Squeeze and the other with Ubuntu. I also have one with
Chris Smart's excellent Kororaa next-gen based on Fedora, but not
always in my pocket.

A bit of hindsight for next time...

Of course, you can always buy a 4GB stick for next to nought from just
about anywhere, then go to a convenient Internet Cafe and download a
bootable image, as well as a swarth of viruses but they usually won't
worry you once you have Linux back on its feet...


Bob Edwards.

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