Saturday, January 28, 2006

Problems booting isolinux

Don't you hate it when you're searching the web for answers to some obscure technical problem and you find lots of pages where people are posting that they have the same problem--but no good answers? Whenever I'm in that situation I figure the dozen people who had that problem went off and found their own solutions, but never bothered to follow up and share said solution with the rest of the world.

Well, to be a good citizen, I'm going to share my problem/solution here..

I have an old Dell Dimension XPS Pro200n computer that I got back from my in-laws after upgrading them with a new machine. I decided I wanted to try out a linux distro on this box. Edubuntu looked interesting (maybe there'd be something in it for the kids). I downloaded a live CD (boot the CD and don't mess with your current configuration) of Ubuntu to give it a try.

Alas, I get errors trying to boot the CD:

isolinux 2.04 isolinux: Loading spec packet failed, trying to wing it
Failed to locate CD-ROM device; boot failed.

I looked around on the web for a while and found myself with only a couple of half way meaningful clues:

  • My CD-ROM wasn't going to work, and I should try a different device. But most of the discussion I saw around this was WRT SCSI vs IDE CD's. Mine was already IDE.
  • My ISO CD didn't burn properly, maybe I should try again at a lower speed. (Did that, didn't help).
  • My BIOS was out of date, and a new BIOS would help. This sounded promising. In fact, one person had success here.

I got on Dell's website and spent some time trying to find a suitable BIOS upgrade (from AMIBIOS A03). I saw mention of an A06 version of this BIOS on some of the forums, but it took a while to track it down. I finally did so by using the Dell service tag number and drilling into the available BIOS upgrades via Dell's support page (nice!). The trick is that the upgrade does not have Pro200n in the description at all, rather "Pro XXXn" The file name is ProN_A06.EXE

So I upgraded the BIOS and the CD boots fine.

Now to figure out if I'm going to get X to start on my ancient graphics card.. *sigh*


Anonymous MikeG said...

Excellent suggestion. Thanks for "doing the right thing" and providing the keen feedback. I too have an old DELL ( Optiplex GxPro 200 ) and the BIOS upgrade helped to the extent that I no longer get error messages. However, now the system indicates that it finds the bootable CD, but it then boots into the O/S that's installed. The BIOS doesn't allow me to set the CD-ROM as the only boot device either.

Any ideas?



4:30 PM  
Blogger Nick Doelman said...

Thanks. I was pulling my hair out trying to install VMWare ESXi and getting this message. Updating the BIOS resolved the issue.

I agree, a Google search these days gives you a pile of poop and you have to dig deep to find the correct answer, if one exists.

5:38 AM  

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