Installation of 11.3 on IBMx3400 Crash and Partitioning Question.

I had 11.2 86_64 installed and running well on this x3400 server (my new high spec treasure,) but put the machine into “storage” for a year while building work was in progress. Brought it back into service today and it was running just fine. But, I thought, rather than working with what was now quite an old OS I would upgrade to 11.3 before doing any more work. Big mistake!

During this process in which I formatted my root partition to do a new installation rather than an upgrade, one of the drives went critical (RAID 1 array) and either through my error or some fluke the new installation proceeded while the RAID array was being restored with the result that the whole system was garbled. :shame:

I rebuilt the RAID array from scratch and tried a new installation of 11.3 but although it seemed to install OK it would not boot.

After much faffing around I decided to reinstall 11.2 and this is now up and running but the partitioning is not how I intended.

The RAID array is seen as sda.

I wanted sda1 20G for root,
sda2 20G for future OS, sda 3 for swap and the rest of the storage as sda4 for /home. I believe this is what I had before although I cannot be sure of swap position.

What I now have is sda1 = /home 423G
sda2 swap
sda3 root 20G

At present I am booting from MBR.

Before I go any further is this OK. What I had hoped to do was keep 11.2 and install 11.3 on the spare 20G which is there but does not show. If I do this should I leave booting as now or move Grub somewhere else?

Gratetful for some guidance please before I go further.

So I am sure you will get all sorts of opinions here and so here is mine for what it worth. As to the issue of using openSUSE 11.2 as opposed to using version 11.3: I have no problem sticking with version openSUSE 11.2. It is supported still, it is solid and will due in any event until openSUSE 11.4 comes out in a few months. openSUSE 11.3, due to no fault of its own (that was the best out at the time), had several kernel issues with 2.6.34 which caused problems, including one with USB 3 drives. I have no way of knowing if this was the problem you had, but I would not do anything else I don’t think until openSUSE version 11.4 comes out.

Now to your partitioning, well, 20 GB is pretty weak for the main / openSUSE partition. If you stick with one Desktop you can be OK, but this is not where you are going to want to load up a bunch of stuff you don’t even know if you need it or not. A quick look at my two openSUSE PC’s finds one at 11.9 GB and the other at 29.6 GB with the latter holding all of the Desktops we offer in the DVD install. My first openSUSE disk partition with version 10.0 was only 20 GB total including /home, but software continues to get larger, even with Linux. On both machines I mention, my /home area is separate. So, I am thinking you are going to want to put 60 GB on that main / openSUSE partition, but that is just my opinion right now.

While the order is not that important I normally partition the drive as follows:

  1. Load Generic Boot code into the MBR
  2. Create a 2-4 GB Primary SWAP partition, depends on your memory or lack thereof
  3. Create a 20-60 GB Primary / openSUSE Partition, marked bootable and loaded with the Grub bootloader.
  4. Create a 60 or Larger GB Primary /home partition.
  5. I only create a Logical Partition when I dual boot with Windows.

OK, so here is opinion #1 and good luck with your Computer and Welcome to the openSUSE forum, if I had not said that before to you.

Thank You,

As jdmcdaniel3 said, you’ll get many different opinions and experiences here.

For myself, in a dozen installs, home and work, the / partition never used up more than 11 GB, and that with the older home install where there’s stuff I don’t even remember why I installed :).

What may fill it up is typically in server use where you have databases or sites in the /var directory that can get very large, or leftover files (downloads perhaps) that stay in /tmp. If that’s not your case (and you take a look at /tmp size once in a while), I’d say that 20 GB is good enough. At least it is for me here.

Hi James,
Thanks for that and for immediate reply.
Please could you elaborate about dual boot option. What I use most of the time is OS/2 Warp 4.52. (Yes it still works well and has now been reborn as eCS 2.0.) I may wish to put this on as an option at boot time. I am familiar (after a fashion) with primary and logical partitions when installing OS/2 and usually use the included Boot Manager. The setup is usually Boot Manager (Primary) OS/2 (Primary) and subsequent OSs and data on Logical partitions. There is a restriction on number of primaries to 4 and I assume that applies still. Is that correct?

With the setup I now have which are the primary and which are the logical partitions as System Information does not show?
I have 20G free space. If I create a partition on which to install another OS should it be primary or logical?

I am sure there must be a wiki here and if you point me in the right direction I shall read up on this.

Many thanks again for your reply

The maximum number of primary partitions is just four. One of them can be assigned as a logical partition container. Any partitions in the Logical one will be numbered five and up, even if you do not have four primary ones. You can only load the grub boot loader into partitions 1, 2, 3, 4 when marked as Active for booting or into the MBR (Master Boot Record). You can actually load grub into a logical primary partition, which does not seem intuitive. The grub menu.lst file MUST be located on the same hard drive as the grub boot loader. You can not load grub from one hard drive and its menu, always located in the openSUSE / partition, from a different hard drive. Normally, I suggest loading Windows, if that is your choice, first and into a Primary Partition. Windows 7 seems to create two partitions, one small Primary/Active booting one and a larger Primary Partition for the rest of Windows. I then load openSUSE second after Windows is done. The openSUSE /, SWAP or /home partitions can be loaded into any logical or Primary partition, but note the limitations of the Grub boot loader as mentioned above.

Thank You,

You don’t need any primary partition for Linux. So you’re fine. Create the logical partitions you need. I ususally create them in advanced with PartedMagic, so installing and partitioning remain to distinct operations. Then install openSUSE’s Grub (in any case) in its root partition. OS/2 boot manager can chainload any logical partition. So it should not be a problem to chainload Linux Grub from there, even if it’s installed on a logical partition. I did that several years ago, but we were still using LiLO at this time. Just make sure that your OS/2 boot manager partition remains the active one (pay attention of Grub advanced boot options) in case you don’t install Grub to MBR. Of course, if you have a primary partition available, you can also use it for Linux (preferably / or a separate /boot in this case).

Btw it’s possible to have OS/2 in a logical partition and boot it without OS/2 bootmanager partition by using the xfdisk bootmanager (and maby several others). By doing so you’ll save 2 primary partitions (may be useful in some situations).

Hi and thanks again.
I conclude therefore that neither Linux (nor I am sure OS/2,) need a 1ary partition. So if I forget Boot Manager and use Grub in the MBR I could use Grub to boot to either OS and install these in logical partitions within one primary container. That would have the same result. Am I correct?

I have just checked my newly installed 11.2 and note that although partitions are numbered as reported in my post above, the swap partition starts at sector 0 and root, named sda3 follows. In other words the disposition of the partitions is as I would have put them but the numbering is reversed. Don’t suppose it matters but why is this? Is partition numbering in the order the partitions are created?

Finally is it possible to have two linux OS’s using the same /home directory or is that being too clever by far?


That’s not exactly what I said. In most cases OS/2 needs its boot manager partition unless you use xfdisk. xfdisk emulates OS/2 boot manager in some way but is installed on the first track and therefore doesn’t need a partition. But better forget about it, it’s old. I’m not sure it would still work with modern HDs. Linux can use primaries and logicals for everything and doesn’t require a primary.

I believe you can chainload your OS/2 boot manager partition from Grub. So If it were the first partition on the first HD, you would use such an entry:

###Don't change this comment - YaST2 identifier: Original name: OS/2###
rootnoverify (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

I don’t remember if makeactive is required. First try without! I doubt this entry will be added by the installation. If not, you’ll have to add it manually in /boot/grub/menu.lst. I should add that I never booted OS/2 from Grub. I’m just assuming it would work, as I did it in the past with LiLO.

It depends on the partitioning tools used to write the partition table. It most cases, it is not a problem. You can fix partition order with fdisk under Linux (see Expert command help). But then you’ll most likely have to change the partition in OS/2 boot manager (by pressing a function key that I can’t remember). In any case, if you do that, do it before installing Linux from a Live CD or PartedMagic.

  • It is safe and clever to share a /home partition between different Linux (I do it).
  • It is not possible to share a /home directory.

Which means that before installing any user, you would have to change the default base home directory in something like /home/openSUSE, /home/Fedora, etc … or /home/openSUSE-11.2, /home/openSUSE-11.3.

Hi please_try_again,
Many thanks again for the detailed reply, some of which is coming back to me.

I must put aside OS/2 for now. SCSI RAID card support not clear so this is not today’s problem but many thanks for your further comments on this. I do have Grub chain loading OS/2 BM on my laptop and before I updated that machine I had it so I could select openSUSE from OS/2 BM so I only got the grub screen? if I selected openSUSE. Due to my lack of expertise when upgrading it changed to grub starting first and offering OS/2 BM on the grub menu but it all still works fine.

I am sorry I have been careless with my language. I did mean a /home partition.
I now have configuration of RAID1 drive as follows:-

/dev/sda1 423.60 GB Linux native Ext4 /home 5484 60781
/dev/sda2 2.01 GB Linux swap swap 0 261
/dev/sda3 20.00 GB Linux native Ext4 / 262 2872

There is 20.00 GB available for another partition from 2873 to 5483 and what I would like to do is create sda4 and try and install openSUSE 11.3 on that so I can continue to experiment whilst keeping my work from 11.2.

Only three questions remain.
How can I tell whether the above partitions are primary or logical and does it matter?
If I create partition using free space does it matter if I chose logical or primary. I would tend to logical but which of the existing partitions is primary “container” and again does it matter?
Does it matter that the partition numbering is counter intuitive in that the first partition on drive has higher /dev/sda number than the last?

Getting there I think.

It depends on what you want to experiment, but in many cases, installing in a virtual machine is nice and safe. You might also consider this option.

First, you can tell by their number: 1 to 4 are always primary. One of them (often the last one but not necessarily) can be extended (a container for logical partitions). Logical partitions numbering starts at 5.

A partitioning tool like parted will display the type “primary”, “extended” and “logical” while used with the option -l:

parted -l

If you have Grub in MBR, it doesn’t matter. Using primary partitions is safer though (there is only one partition table located in MBR).

No. If you create a primary, it will be named sda4. If you create a logical, il will be named sda5. You can either create a primary or one or more logicals.

None. The primary “container” is called the extended partition. From the partition table point of view, the extended is a primary like the others. Partitioning tools generate the extended partition if it doesn’t already exist when you create the first logical. You don’t have an extended partition (yet).

Most of the time it does not matter. Under circunstances, it could. the “f” command in fdisk (expert mode) can fix partition order.

Once again many thanks for the clear and constructive reply.

Before I messed things up I had begun to experiment with virtual machine and will certainly continue this as soon as I have basics right. This would be without prejudice to decision on whether to put 11.3 on the free space.

I may be making too much of partition order but I shall try fdisk now before I do anything else. If I mess up again I shall know what to do.

Thanks again. I shall report back in due course.

Hi, well that didn’t take long and I am stuck again. I tried to install 11.3 on a new primary partition (sda4) created using the 20GB empty space. Unfortunately the 11.3 installer didn’t want to play ball so I had to force it to put root as sda4 and sda1 as /home using the edit buttons. /sda1 was already home to my installed 11.2 system. I put grub in the MBR and assumed grub would pick up both operating systems and offer a choice during the boot process.

So it does but it only works if I select 11.2 (my original working system,) and then goes via another boot choice screen which only shows 11.3 but runs 11.2.

If you can follow this great but clearly I have messed up and do not understand Grub. I want to be able to select either 11.2 or 11.3 at boot time with the sdame /home partition. What is the correct configuration and can I correct things now without doing a new installation?

I’m not 100% sure but I think if you this is your latest attempt and you have 11.2 on sda1-sda3 and 11.3 on sda4 then it could you post your /boot/grub/menu.lst from 11.2 that boots 11.2.

I think you may only need to point your the boot drives described for 11.3 to the sda4 boot partition of 11.3 in /boot/grub/menu.lst.
Something like

Configure custom boot parameters for updated kernels in /etc/sysconfig/bootloader

default 0
timeout 8
##YaST - generic_mbr
gfxmenu (hd0,2)/boot/message
##YaST - activate

###Don’t change this comment - YaST2 identifier: Original name: linux###
title openSUSE 11.3
root (hd0,3)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz- root=/dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SServeRA_1st_X3400_**RAID_3E5548A2-part4 repair=1 resume=/dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SServeRA_1st_X3400_RAID_3E5548A2-part2 splash=silent quiet showopts vga=0x317
** initrd /boot/initrd-

Where the red would be the vmlinuz for 11.3, (HD0,3) and part4 are the 11.3 boot partition.

But please post the output from /boot/grub/menu.lst before you change.

I sure there’s a KDE and KDE4 folder created in the /home folder for the 2 different versions. Hopefully, that should take care of the most of the new versus older settings when switching from 11.2 to 11.3. How that affects other apps I’m not sure.

Before you understand how to change the default users home directory (which is /home but could be set to /home/somedir/) just choose different user names under different Linux versions and you’ll be fine.
useradd --show-defaults will provide some infos.
See what I have:

useradd --show-defaults

Never use the same username with the same home directory on 2 different systems (whatever KDE does with its directory - KDE is just an application like any other). Either use different user names or different home directories.

When multi booting several OS or Linux versions, always choose “expert mode” while installing. Under openSUSE this is the last option “Create partition setup!”. Forget about the two other options! Don’t let the installer think in your place! Select the partition(s) you need, format the ones which should be formated (like /, /usr, /var) if you have them, select but do not format /home. Install Grub in the root partition of the distro you’re installing and (one time) in MBR. It’s possible in openSUSE setup to install Grub stage1 in more than one location.

That is certainly a solution but does it fit the requirements of using the same /home directory? Is it just a matter of granting permissions on /home/someone and /home/someone_else to somebody ditto someone_else or relying on user group permissions? Two copies of .mozilla, .libreoffice, etc.

That’s not what the OP meant:

As you know I am no expert but if that is the option to take and it would give me full control I would be more confident. Thanks for making that clear. In the past I have used Edit Partition Setup and that restricts options. Now I know!

I have now removed all of 11.3 and returned machine to original condition except that I am not sure if there is grub in MBR. Grub is definitely installed in root directory of 11.2 version and I am content to live with chain loading even if inelegant.

I shall come back to trying a new 11.3 installation using “Expert” option but have some work to do first.
Thanks again,

Yep. You don’t need to be an “expert”. It’s not that difficult. Always use “Create partition setup” and not “Edit”. It doesn’t mean that you have to “create” partitions - although you might. But if you create the partitions in advance - as I usually do - you’ll just have to select them, format or not and choose a mount point. It means that you won’t modify the partition table at all during setup - except maybe for changing the boot flag.

You can use findgrub to find Grubs (as the name indicates). The latest version is available here: Looking for Grub and Windows bootloader in all partitions.

Hi please_try_again,

Well, inspired by your post I thought I would try out the Create partition setup option before investing the time in setting up multimedia etc. I also thought I would try out a revised partitioning plan while I have the opportunity.

I booted from the 11.3 network installation CD and selected the Create partition option.

My plan was to set up three partitions for various operating systems, a swap partition and the rest of the disk as /home. My thinking here is to have openSUSE 11.2 as working OS with another partition for trialing 11.3 or 11.4 using a common /home as noted above. The third OS partion would be left unformatted for future use by OS/2 and I would use grub to boot OS/2, once installed so as not to need a BM partition.

I met several problems. First try:- having “deleted” (throughout all of this I did not commit changes by finishing,) all existing partitions I was able to set up first primary 22GB as / and next 2MB primary as swap but then I tried to set up the next two partitions as logical partitions. The second 23GB logical partion was created but when attempting the third 24GB (slightly different sizes for easy recognition in future,) I ran into a size limit which prevented me using more than 22GB although there was 400GB available. There was no extended partition container created that I could see.

I found that if I created an extended partition using the whole of the rest of the disk after the first primary had been created then I could create the remaining logical partitions without any size restriction. By the way must the swap partition be a primary?

I then cleared all this by aborting so I could start fresh using what I had found out but I was then unable to create the swap partition even though no swap existed. In fact swap was not offered as a mount point ever again whatever I did.

I conclude from this that there may be a problem with the tool in the CD, or I am doing something wrong again. So I aborted pending further reading and posting this.

Earlier in the thread it was suggested that partitioning and installation are better as two separate processes using a dedicated partitioner for the former. I assume that would need a live CD or bootable CD with the partitioning tool. Please could you suggest preferred option and comment on my planned partition structure.