Error Messages Explained

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Distro installation

Every Linux distribution has a different installation routine, and each creates problems. Ubuntu might work for one machine and not for another. A machine with a working Ubuntu installation may not work with Fedora, or OpenSUSE, or Linux Mint, or Mandriva...

ERROR: Can’t boot from CD/DVD

If you’re new to Linux, this is often your first experience of the operating system: you insert your new disc into the drive and restart the machine, only to be greeted by the same operating system you were using before. The problem is that your hard drive has a higher boot priority than your optical drive. Many modern BIOSes include a boot menu from where you can change the priority of your devices on the fly – try pressing the ‘Escape’ key or F12 when you first see something on the screen. From there, you can simply choose to boot from the optical drive.

Older machines might not have the same facility. You will then need to press either the F2 or ‘Del’ key at boot time to enter the system BIOS, and change the boot order from there. You can usually find the option under the ‘Boot’ menu, and you will need to save these changes to be able to boot from the optical drive. This is the same procedure you would use if you needed to boot from an external drive or USB stick, which can be just as useful if you find yourself in an internet cafe or in front of a corporate machine.

ERROR: PCI: cannot allocate

There are many errors like this, and they mostly occur at boot time. They all share the same cause – badly behaved power management. The culprit is something called ACPI, the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface. Despite being a standard for power management, it has been causing problems for over ten years. The trouble is that hardware drivers have a habit of not fully implementing the specification. Whenever your machine’s power management spins into action, such as when you turn on your machine, or resume from sleep, certain devices cause problems. Live CD installations make this problem worse, because they don’t have the luxury of probing for exact hardware matches when they boot, or including every possible driver for every device, which is why this problem often occurs when installing off a Live CD.

There’s only one thing you can do – turn off ACPI. You can sometimes do this from your system BIOS, but if not, you’ll need to disable ACPI at boot time. Press Escape when booting to enter the Grub menu and select the option you normally use. Go down to the line that starts with kernel and press E to edit the line. At the end of this line add acpi=off noapic, press return and B to start the boot process. You should find that your machine boots without problems, and if you go on to install Linux, your distro should make a better job of choosing the correct drivers for the installation.