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#1 2016-06-23 03:27:57

jamtat
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Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

[SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

I've had an old laptop laying around that I decided I'd install Arch onto. I upgraded the RAM and did the installation 3 or 4 years ago, at which point I had things working acceptably well. Then, on one of my subsequent -Syu upgrades, things went haywire. As I'm recalling, I decided a corrupt initramfs had been produced, resulting in a system that would not boot. I decided I'd need to chroot in and try to straighten things out. But other tasks intervened and that project got pushed to the back burner.

Fast forward to today--some 1-2 years later. I needed to chroot into another system I recently set up and decided, since details about chroot'ing were fairly fresh in memory, that I'd have a go at the old laptop, too.

I've gotten partway there. The main thing was to update pacman, then download a new kernel and generate a new initramfs. I did that, as well as downloading a few other items the system want me to upgrade after I'd done pacman -Sy. I tried rebooting with the updated kernel and initramfs and the system finally booted fully on its own once again. But, as you might guess, things are a little buggered.

For example, I can't seem to connect to either wifi or wired networks. I don't see that as a major obstacle, since I can always go back to chroot'ing and get a network connection that way. But what I really want to ask about in this thread is how I can go about further rescuing this system.

Based on past experience, I'd say that, if I'm going to succeed at this rescue attempt, I'm going to have to gradually upgrade bits and pieces of this system. It's set up as a fairly minimal desktop system, and does have Xorg and a WM (i3). So, can anyone offer tips on which parts of the system I should go about updating first? I could, if it would be helpful, generate a list of what's installed on this laptop. I suppose that might be the most helpful data I could provide to someone wishing to assist; so I'll look into doing that now.

Meantime, any tips on overall strategy in attempting this rescue? Thanks

Last edited by jamtat (2016-06-24 02:12:33)

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#2 2016-06-23 03:47:12

eschwartz
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Registered: 2014-08-08
Posts: 4,097

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

After 2 years of inactivity, you might wish to simply reinstall from scratch. Is there anything you would miss on that computer right now?

Aside: corrupt initramfs? Well, maybe you could learn a lesson from here smile and always keep a second kernel installed just in case. Perhaps the linux-lts kernel...


Managing AUR repos The Right Way -- aurpublish (now a standalone tool)

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#3 2016-06-23 03:59:58

jamtat
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Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

Eschwartz wrote:

After 2 years of inactivity, you might wish to simply reinstall from scratch. Is there anything you would miss on that computer right now?

Not a whole lot of data. But I recall that getting X and networking going on this thing was a bit of a challenge. Based on my experience of installing Arch on several systems and of rescuing one or two others, I'd say it would probably be a horse apiece at this stage. Meaning, reinstalling and rescuing are going to take about the same amount of time and effort. But, of course, I've not gotten too far into the rescue effort: there may be unexpected obstacles awaiting.

Eschwartz wrote:

Aside: corrupt initramfs? Well, maybe you could learn a lesson from here smile and always keep a second kernel installed just in case. Perhaps the linux-lts kernel...

Captital idea. I'll definitely be doing that since I suspected when this happened that I might've acquired some corrupted RAM. Perhaps this problem will crop up again?

Further analysis leads me to believe that an issue with my router may actually be the reason I am unable to connect to the wired network using the partially-rescued laptop. More on that--as well as a list of installed packages (courtesy pacman -Q >installed-pkgs.txt)--soon.

Last edited by jamtat (2016-06-23 19:02:03)

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#4 2016-06-23 19:01:44

jamtat
Member
Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

I was right about getting the wired network going on this thing. So I did manage to get it online that way. I went ahead and started a piecemeal upgrade, choosing stuff that seemed fairly inconsequential while awaiting possible advice on larger-scale upgrading. But I'm already running into serious snags. So it may come down to just reinstalling Arch after all. Or maybe it's time to scrap this old unit. Anyway, I put the installed-packages list up on pastebin, and it can be viewed at http://pastebin.com/LePE5kg1

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#5 2016-06-23 19:27:31

Slithery
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From: Norfolk, UK
Registered: 2013-12-01
Posts: 4,750

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

jamtat wrote:

I went ahead and started a piecemeal upgrade, choosing stuff that seemed fairly inconsequential while awaiting possible advice on larger-scale upgrading.

You should never do this, partial upgrades are unsupported and liable to break your system.

If I had to update a system that hadn't been updated for so long, the best method would be to use the Arch Linux Archive to upgrade in time-based stages, upgrading it a couple of months at a time.
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Ar … cific_date


No, it didn't "fix" anything. It just shifted the brokeness one space to the right. - jasonwryan
Closing -- for deletion; Banning -- for muppetry. - jasonwryan

aur - dotfiles

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#6 2016-06-23 19:40:02

jamtat
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Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

Yes slithery, I know partial upgrades are unsupported and I avoid them pretty assiduously on my other Arch systems. But on this seriously-outdated system, I assumed I would have no other alternative. I see from the link you provide that there are alternate and more sensible approaches--thanks for pointing that out. I wish I'd run across that yesterday. It may now be too late for me to take that gradual approach, but knowing about it might come in handy in the future.

Last edited by jamtat (2016-06-23 19:40:44)

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#7 2016-06-24 01:15:19

jamtat
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Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

slithery's suggestion is defintely the way to do this sort of thing. After creating the appropriate pacman.conf (see wiki for an example--though note that the URL's included in the sample will need to be edited to reflect the archive's new location) I had to do a bit of manual intervention and downgrading. But the first pacman -Syyuu went fine. When, after again modifying pacman.conf so that I was using a slightly newer (by 2 months, as suggested) repo, I got to the second pacman -Syyuu, I started getting segmentation faults, though. I think that is owing to a hardware issue that preciptated my initial problems with this Arch install.

In summary, it looks to me that, on a laptop with properly-functioning hardware, this approach would work fine for bringing a unit like this back up to date (looks like the last update was done on this one sometime around the turn from 2014 to 2015--so, about 18 months ago). So I'll mark this thread "solved" so as to reflect that: I've seen enough to convince me that this approach is perfectly feasible for resolving an issue like mine. Not sure whether I'll spend further time, energy, and possibly money, on diagnosing my hardware issue. If so, I'll post here again about further developments.

Last edited by jamtat (2016-06-24 16:55:26)

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#8 2016-06-24 15:38:05

jamtat
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Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

Just a bit more on my task and on what seems to me (as suggested by slithery) the best way to go about dealing with a situation where an Arch install has fallen seriously out of date (meaning, it has not been updated for 3 months or more).

So I ran memtest on this laptop overnight and, after 8 passes, it reports no errors. So it seems the RAM I put in this unit is not what's causing my problems. More likely it is the hard drive--which has always behaved a bit strangely and which I expected might give out some time ago.

Now, more on what seems the best procedure for bringing an outdated system up to date. As slithery indicated, there is an Arch archive available where snapshots of repos dating back to September of 2013 can be found. The URL of the archive, as indicated in the wiki article for which slithery provided a link, is http://ala.seblu.net.

Once a rough date has been determined for the most recent system update--which I did by looking through my system's package list and finding packages that had dates in their names--a starting point for the update can be established. The last update can also be found by looking through pacman -Qi output or, more conveniently, by consulting /var/log/pacman.log

Having determined that rough date for my system and using the sample pacman.conf provided at the wiki as a template, the pacman.conf I created for my outdated system looked something like the following:

# Obviously, i686 in the lines below could need to be changed to x64, depending on your system's architecture
[core]
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server=http://ala.seblu.net/repos/2014/12/28/core/os/i686

[extra]
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server=http://ala.seblu.net/repos/2014/12/28/extra/os/i686

[community]
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server=http://ala.seblu.net/repos/2014/12/28/community/os/i686

Once that file is in place, the command pacman -Syyuu is run. When that update completes, pacman.conf can be revised a couple months subsequent to that update by changing 2014/12/28/ in each of the above URL's to 2015/02/28/, after whick pacman -Syyuu can be run again. When that update completes pacman.conf's URL's can be once again revised ahead a couple of months to 2015/04/28/, pacman -Syyuu run again, and so on. I suppose a few reboots between upgrades might be needed or advisable--I'm not sure about that. But, jumping ahead at 2-month intervals like this should allow a system that is out of date to as far back as, say, June of 2013, to be gradually updated to current status.

Were my system in good working order, I could theoretically have had it back up to date after 8 or 9 such separate updates--a process I calculate might have taken a couple of hours. As I've said, I'm not sure it will be worthwhile for me to try and fix the hardware issues this old system is experiencing, so this may be as far as I go toward implementing this resolution at this time. But this solution seems perfectly feasible and is something other Archers may need or want to try on their outdated systems. In conclusion, this does seem to me a less time-consuming process than re-installing the OS.

LATER EDIT:

# Obviously, i686 in the lines below could need to be changed to x64, depending on your system's architecture
[core]
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server=https://archive.archlinux.org/repos/2014/12/28/core/os/i686

[extra]
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server=https://archive.archlinux.org/repos/2014/12/28/extra/os/i686

[community]
SigLevel = PackageRequired
Server=https://archive.archlinux.org/repos/2014/12/28/community/os/i686

looks like a better archive, based on comments posted later in this thread.

Last edited by jamtat (2016-06-24 18:49:09)

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#9 2016-06-24 15:47:36

Slithery
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From: Norfolk, UK
Registered: 2013-12-01
Posts: 4,750

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

jamtat wrote:

I suppose a few reboots between upgrades might be needed or advisable

I'd probably reboot between each upgrade, I realised I'd forgotten to mention this in my OP but was away from my computer at the time smile


No, it didn't "fix" anything. It just shifted the brokeness one space to the right. - jasonwryan
Closing -- for deletion; Banning -- for muppetry. - jasonwryan

aur - dotfiles

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#10 2016-06-24 16:59:23

eschwartz
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Registered: 2014-08-08
Posts: 4,097

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

I've upgraded the better part of a year of missed updates using the ALA, without rebooting, and it worked fine.

Random note: Put the server URL in your mirrorlist, less typing. wink And use the $repo and $arch variables the way the official mirrorlists do.

Server=https://archive.archlinux.org/repos/XXXX/XX/XX/$repo/os/$arch
#                                          ^^^^^^^^^^ fill in the date you need

Managing AUR repos The Right Way -- aurpublish (now a standalone tool)

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#11 2016-06-24 17:41:38

jamtat
Member
Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

Eschwartz wrote:

Random note: Put the server URL in your mirrorlist, less typing. wink And use the $repo and $arch variables the way the official mirrorlists do.

Server=https://archive.archlinux.org/repos/XXXX/XX/XX/$repo/os/$arch
#                                          ^^^^^^^^^^ fill in the date you need

Thanks for your input, Eschwartz. I considered that mirrorlist possibility and, you're right, it's simpler and involves less typing. I guess I went for the other solution since I came across it first and understood it right away. Btw, I'm not able to use archive.archlinux.org because pacman balks at it's SSL certificate not being valid yet (I think because it's dated too far into the future, from the perspective of the outdated OS). What's the resolution for that? Meantime, I decided to use the seblu archive.

LATER EDIT: I've been trying today to continue updating while chroot'ed from an Arch running from a bootable USB drive, and have so far not had any segmentation faults. Sort of a mystery in itself. Anyway, I decided to check the time/date from within the Arch running on the bootable USB and, for whatever reason, it was showing a date about 4 months ago in the current year. So I ran ntpdate to update the system time within the USB bootable enironment, after which I was able to use the archive.archlinux.org repos from within the chroot'ed environment. I don't completely understand what sort of issue this was, but it does seem to have been resolved by having taken these steps.

Last edited by jamtat (2016-06-24 18:53:18)

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#12 2016-06-24 18:27:04

eschwartz
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Registered: 2014-08-08
Posts: 4,097

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

Ah, archlinux.org uses a letsencrypt certificate now.

You can of course use the HTTP version instead, it's not like the seblu archive (which will soon be pulled) had HTTPS either. wink


Managing AUR repos The Right Way -- aurpublish (now a standalone tool)

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#13 2016-06-24 22:48:51

jamtat
Member
Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

Ok, this matter has transformed from upgrading an outdated system to a sort of hardware mystery. Today, while chroot'ed into the system, I managed to, using the archives discussed above, do a series of incremental upgrades and thus bring the system totally up to date. So the upgrading problem is resolved. But now I'm left with the question of why I can only successfully do this upgrading using the chroot environment? In other words, why do I get tons of errors, resulting in an unbootable system, when I run pacman -Syu while booted from the internal hard drive while, when chroot'ed into that system from a bootable USB drive, I can run pacman -Syu with no errors, winding up with a bootable and apparently perfectly functioning system afterward?

I did memtest, as I mentioned earlier, and there were no indications of bad RAM. Just now, after finally getting the thing totall up to date, I ran some smartmontools tests on the hard drive, and it seems to have passed. So according to preliminary tests, none of the possible suspects that could be responsible for the chaos that ensues in the system if I try running pacman -Syu from the internal hard drive, appear to be guilty. I'm left scratching my head over this one. And apparently am required from now on to boot this thing from an Arch USB drive in order to update it.

The only other possible explanation I can think of has to do with the amount of RAM: this unit is old enough that it's supposed to be limited to 512MB RAM, yet I've put 1GB of RAM into it. Could this have anything to do with the strange problems I'm seeing? I suppose I could check into BIOS updates. Or maybe limit, via some OS tweak, the amount of RAM the system uses, and try running pacman -Syu under those conditions. Anyway, a puzzle to me thus far.

Thanks for the input in this thread, all.

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#14 2016-06-25 08:36:50

TheChickenMan
Member
From: United States
Registered: 2015-07-25
Posts: 354

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

You could try running mprime to check that the processor is not producing an occasional error under load.


If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet.
Niels Bohr

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#15 2016-06-25 15:57:58

jamtat
Member
Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 205

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

On doing a bit of testing on the newly-updated laptop yesterday evening, I began to incline to believe that my problems with updating may be related to heat build-up. Why this would not effect the system so much while booted from a USB drive but chroot'ed into the system installed on the internal hard drive, as it does while running solely from the internal hard drive, I don't know. And I didn't check the heat build-up after I'd finished chroot'ing, incidentally.

But after running, without any USB key involved, the laptop from its own hard drive for two or three hours, when preparing to shut it off, I noticed it felt quite warm. On turning it over, I discovered that the door covering the RAM chips--which is right on top of the hard drive as well--was so hot I could barely stand to hold the palm of my hand in contact with it. That sort of heat build-up is definitely something abnormal. Whether the heat is coming mostly from the RAM or from the hard drive, or whether it is a combination of the two, I don't know. The cooling fan is running pretty much continually while the laptop is booted, btw.

But system overheating seems to me at this point the most likely suspect in my upgrading issues. Next time I try a pacman -Syu on this system, I will first try while booted from the internal hard drive, but immediately after booting up: that could be informative as to whether heat buiid-up is the main culprit in the update failures I've been seeing on this unit.

LATER ADDENDUM: I just did a brief test and discovered that within about 15 minutes of booting, with just a few things running on the system (X, couple of urxvt terminals, chromium browser, xmms), that part of the unit's bottom is already starting to get quite warm. Not as hot as it felt yesterday after two or three hours of operation, but certainly on its way there.

Last edited by jamtat (2016-06-25 16:26:50)

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#16 2016-06-25 16:49:11

Slithery
Forum Moderator
From: Norfolk, UK
Registered: 2013-12-01
Posts: 4,750

Re: [SOLVED] help rescuing laptop with outdated Arch (by 1.5 years)

Have you tried opening it up and giving it a good vacuum, you could be suffering from a build up of dust.


No, it didn't "fix" anything. It just shifted the brokeness one space to the right. - jasonwryan
Closing -- for deletion; Banning -- for muppetry. - jasonwryan

aur - dotfiles

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