When Installers Go Bad

Linux, Software, Technology November 30th, 2006

I recently bought a brand new Core2 Duo. With this new CPU I decided I would install the 64bit distribution of Gentoo onto a free partition I have on the current hard drive. This would allow me to then use my previous installation in 32bit mode if I needed to go back to my old setup.

So I downloaded the 2006.1 Gentoo live cd and whacked it in. Firstly, because of issues with motherboard makers not including native ATA devices on the board (just SATA to ATA converters), it could not detect the cd drive (which is funny because it’s booting off it….). This wasn’t too hard to fix, a trip to the Gentoo forums and the kernel line “all-generic-ide” and she booted sweet.

So the rest of the “live” experience is great – I have a fully functioning GUI and all sorts of other things I don’t need. A tty would have done me fine actually. Anyway, I decided to use the GTK+ installer to install my new Gentoo distro. I have previously installed Gentoo many times, but always by hand. So I tell it to reformat the hdk4 partition and install on there. I assumed it wouldn’t touch any of the others, and that everything would be hunky dory.

So I click the final button, and the installation process starts….”Resizing partitions” it says. Here’s me thinking “What the hell is it resizing? I didn’t tell it to resize…” and then bleep – “Error resizing ext2/ext3 partition”. The installation stops. There is no resume button. There is no restart button. I know for a fact that the only ext2 filesystem I have is the boot partition. I open up a terminal and check my partitions with good ol’ dependable fdisk…..1 partition. HOLY SHIT, IT’S WIPED MY PARTITIONS!

I work in software, so I realise that it’s hard to make things error free, but holy shit, this is MY system THEY just screwed. Thankfully I had backed up all my photos and music, so I didn’t lose anything, but I had a great little setup and it’s all gone.

I went to work the next day and angrily replayed the previous nights events to kindred souls. Fletch said sardonically “….How much did you pay for Gentoo again?”. I reckon he hit the nail on the head right there; I can’t expect people writing code in their back yard for fun (and writing install wizards doesn’t sound like fun to me) to knock something up that is professional, well tested and robust. There just isn’t the driver for it.

Some things are tried and tested, like fdisk, mkfs and tar (which is pretty much all you need for the manual installation) and then there is the bleeding edge GUI installer for my Mum. Gentoo is not meant for my Mum, and given the horrendous mess it made of my hard drive I don’t think they should even TRY to be more user friendly. Leave that up to Ubuntu, Suse and all the others. They already differentiate themselves with the whole “meant for computer dudes” thing, I say they should stick to their guns, and not try to keep up with what the “Mum distributions” are doing. Or if they DO go down that path, do it well instead of half arsed.

2 Responses to “When Installers Go Bad”

  1. Chuck Theobald Says:

    Yeah, my experience almost exactly in trying to bring up a dual-boot system. Except that I mounted my Windows partition before the Gentoo installer got to repartition it, so the installer fails saying it cannot partition a mounted partition. Thank the Maker, I say. I also say, WTF is the installer doing repartitioning every friggin drive on my system? I set aside a portable for Gentoo, *very* carefully specify the correct /dev, and proceed. I tell the installer nothing about my intentions for /dev/sda (perhaps therein lies the problem), yet it still tries to lay over everything it can find.

    I’m with you on the Gentoo philosophy, which seems to be completely betrayed by the GUI installer. At least you can still shell out and do it the right way.

    Cheers and grumbles,

  2. gemmell Says:


    Glad to see my site finally registering on the radar. I’m interested to know how you got to it though.

    With regards to the gentoo installer, there are a couple of threads going in the gentoo forums
    Gentoo 2006.1 installer kills partition table
    Goddamn GTK+ Installer wiped my partitions!

    Although my “Goddamn GTK+ Installer wiped my partitions!” has since been hijacked and is used to help someone setup their linux (I don’t really mind).