back to article Linux 5.13 hits rc5, isn’t yet calm, Linus Torvalds is only mildly perturbed

The fifth release candidate for version 5.13 of the Linux kernel has emerged, and project boss Linus Torvalds has expressed only mild concern about progress. “Hmm,” opened Torvalds' weekly State of the Kernel post. “Things haven't really started to calm down very much yet, but rc5 seems to be fairly average in size. I'm hoping …

  1. RyokuMas
    Coat

    Still brickin'...

    Don't suppose there will ever be an rc of Linux that focuses on making it straightforward to install...?

    This weekend, about 10 years since my last attempts to venture into Linux-land (which resulted in a dead PC tower), I tried to install Debian on an old laptop - mostly because I need it to kick-start another side project I've been dabbling with, but partly on the grounds that so many on here have said "oh, things have gotten a lot easier since then".

    I now have another computer that can only be made useful if I re-install Windows on it - which kind of kills my project dead in the water. No network connection. No graphics card recognition. No trackpad/mouse recognition. Heck, not even a way to scroll back up through the text output and try to figure out what might have gone wrong.

    Web searches have given me nothing beyond "try another flavour of Linux" (not an option due to the nature of the project), or "download some firmware" - which I can't do on the box in question (due to the lack of network), and can't even figure out which devices need which versions (due to not being able to scroll up through the output).

    Last time I installed Windows on a machine... yes, it was a pain stepping through all the wizards etc. But at least it told me what was wrong and either scanned automatically for fixes or pointed me in the right direction.

    Yes, I know this post will get a lot of downvotes - mostly, I expect from the same Linux users who view Windows users as lower life forms.

    But it's clear to me now why Windows still rules the roost on the desktop - and until Linux (and, from what I have seen in a number of places, various members of its community) get a bit more friendly, that's likely to remain the status quo.

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: Still brickin'...

      I never downvote anyone for having mere opinions, unless they like Trump.

      "about 10 years since my last attempts to venture into Linux-land (which resulted in a dead PC tower)"

      Hmm.. So another hard disk didn't help? Or simply starting from scratch?

      How dead was it, on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being "very, very dead")?

      Personally I never had an issue installing Linux. Less so than with Windows, at least. But drivers for some specialised hardware used to be a bit of an issue.

      1. RyokuMas
        Meh

        Re: Still brickin'...

        "How dead was it, on a scale from 1 to 10"

        To be honest, I can't recall - it got past the BIOS check and started booting, but never got to anything resembling a desktop, or anything I could interact with... thinking about it, it was probably salvagable, but given that it was an old machine at the time I got to the point where I thought "to heck with it".

        ... so yeah, "dead" is probably a bit unfair on my part. Apologies.

        As for this latest attempt, I was using a Dell Studio 17 that's the best part of 10 years old. I'm guessing that the Radeon graphics card is part of the problem (pretty sure I saw something about it in the output before it zipped off the top of the page), but the lack of network etc. proved something of a showstopper.

        I spent the best part of the weekend poking at it and searching the web, but didn't get anywhere... it feels like a catch-22 situation - I need to fix the problem to be able to find out what the problem actually is...

        1. GrumpenKraut

          Re: Still brickin'...

          I suggest to always boot a "live system" to check that thing can work at all. Because if the live system doesn't work, it may be wise to give up. When it does work, looking at the output of lsmod can be instructive regarding what divers are used, especially for graphics.

          When you get a black screen without *anything* on it, hit ctrl-alt-F1. This should give you a text console, showing the "login:" prompt. If not, it may again be wise give up.

        2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Still brickin'...

          Did you use Ubuntu, or similarly well supported version of Linux?

          And, as another poster suggested, boot from CD (or USB) first and test, only then install onto HDD.

          You can even boot from a disk image in a large file under some other OS, such as Windows (long time since I did this so I don't know how supported this is now).

          From your description it seems something very basic was misconfigured. Happened all the time with Windows too, but normal users seldom had that problem since Windows came preinstalled, so some expert had already sorted it for them.

          BTW, even if the graphics craps out, you can typically get good old character based terminal windows to let you log in. You can hot swap between several such ones.

      2. David Austin

        "How dead was it, on a scale from 1 to 10"

        Be honest - We've all had upgrades that went like this:

        https://xkcd.com/349/

        1. GrumpenKraut
          Joke

          Re: "How dead was it, on a scale from 1 to 10"

          May I offer How to fix any computer by the oatmeal?

      3. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: Still brickin'...

        "Personally I never had an issue installing Linux. Less so than with Windows, at least."

        Never? So you didn't install Linux in the 90s or even early 00s?

        Failure to install Windows usually boils down to unrecognised storage. Understandably older releases didn't understand native SATA, NVMe, RAIDs or similar, so drivers were needed. Same thing with any other OS.

        Windows has had the ability to load missing drivers from Windows Update since its inception and usually works pretty well for most users.

        "But drivers for some specialised hardware used to be a bit of an issue."

        Specialised? You had to use NDIS wrapper for most of the wireless cards back then. Not to mention spotty support for newest graphics chips, Bluetooth, even touchpads beyond basic service etc.

        Of course, specialised hardware can be an issue in Windows as well, obsolete driver models not supporting newer Windows versions, unavailable 64-bit versions etc.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Still brickin'...

          I was thinking about modern versions, such as Ubuntu.

          Yes, it was a bit hairy back in the early 90s. But so was Windows.

          Installing Linux, that's how you knew the real geeks from the mere men.

    2. CAPS LOCK

      Re: Still brickin'...

      Hmm, this doesn't see right to me, I've successfully installed Linux on all manner of old laptops, I'm currently using an Acer Aspire 1, the single core Atom variety from 2009. I suspect FUD from a MS reputation manager.

      1. Adam Trickett
        Linux

        Re: Still brickin'...

        Agree with your comments here. Mainstream distributions work on most hardware without a problem, most of the time, mostly first time. Some closed source hardware requires you add the non-free drivers but once that's done everything works. I've only had problems on really-really old or really-really new or really-really obscure kit. Most stuff uses commodity parts that are common across a wide ranges of systems and just work.

        Adding the non-free bits does require you to engage your brain for 30 seconds, between just pressing yes to the defaults when you do an install, but it's hardly difficult to follow the instructions.

        Things were different 20 years ago, and even 10 years ago you could have pain, but most of the time, things just work now, and I believe it doesn't matter much the distro chosen anymore...

        Can't comment about a modern Windows install, but I remember reinstalling NT and 2K many, many times and suffering all sorts of grief over missing drivers, or drivers that bluescreened the system until you hacked them out...!

        1. Paul Kinsler

          Re: Mainstream distributions work on most hardware without a problem,

          In my fairly long experience it's *recent* laptops, not old ones, that have a problem with hardware drivers when installing linux. For a few recent laptops I've had to get a newer kernel, or install the very latest firmware (usually wifi card related), or perhaps tweak the display config. Nothing too demanding, but I imagine more than enough to put off any not-especially motivated windows user, and certainly reasonable grounds for a gripe or two.

          But old laptops? I don't ever recall having a problem.

    3. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: Still brickin'...

      >>can't even figure out which devices need which versions (due to not being able to scroll up through the output).

      dmesg | more

      or

      dmesg | less

      will let you see the boot messages (actually the kernel ring buffer) page by page.

      also try using an older version of Debian - the Linux world does sometimes retire hardware from support. As it's a network issue I suspect you might have a Broadcom network card in the laptop which causes problems (Broadcom, like Nvidia, aren't entirely Linux friendly. The issue is with the vendors, not Linux in general). It is resolveable fairly easily (install the Broadcom support from the install source) and definitely findable on Google (I know - I had to do just that for a bunch of older PCs/Laptops before Easter this year).

      Alternatively try to install Windows which won't work if the laptop is old enough to have a 32 bit processor or too little RAM...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still brickin'...

        > dmesg | less

        > will let you see the boot messages (actually the kernel ring buffer) page by page.

        These are good suggestions. And if they don't work may I ask if you have a mobile phone with the ability to make video recordings and play them back at various speeds? You might like to try videoing the boot up if truly stuck.

      2. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Still brickin'...

        "Alternatively try to install Windows which won't work if the laptop is old enough to have a 32 bit processor or too little RAM..."

        Or just install a 32-bit version of Windows which requires a whole 1GB RAM.

    4. Robin Bradshaw

      Re: Still brickin'...

      Debian by design doesnt support non-free drivers or firmware out of the box you have to specifically enable that and that position will never ever change as its somewhat central to debians ethos.

      Its quite likely that your network chip and gfx card require firmware and/or non free driver to operate.

      You might want to look into installing the appropriate nonfree firmwares or at least whatever your network interface needs, then enableing the non-free repo and installing the rest.

      You can also get unnofficial install media with the nonfree drivers builtin which might be easier for you.

      https://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-including-firmware/

      1. Robin Bradshaw

        Re: Still brickin'...

        I had a very quick look and I *think* firmware-amd-graphics and firmware-brcm80211 are going to be what you need to get things to a useable state where you can then add the non-free repo and install anything else you need

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still brickin'...

      Mostly the install experience isn't down to the kernel it's more to do with the distro you're using. Red Hat, SUSE and Debian's installers are all very different. I did say mostly. If you don't get as far as the install program ... well that might be another matter, but it can be down to what's on the initrd, not just the kernel.

      I mostly use Linux as a server OS and do most stuff in the RHEL space. In my experience I'd say their install was much easier than the Windows one, but then I probably do over 100 Linux installs for every Windows one even if I discount the automated ones where I've set up the automation.

      With 64 bit x86 server type hardware Linux installs are usually trivial, as others have pointed out above Debian by design can be more difficult. So you boot the box of the network, the kernel takes over then the userland boot stuff starts to kick in, sees your NIC and stops and asks for the firmware for the card. It's not open source so it's not in the standard distribution, but they tell you the file you need and how to add it. Take a half step away from Debian to Ubuntu and most of that issue goes away. Older HW can be an issue if the required drivers aren't available. ProLiant G4 & G5 servers have smart arrays that want the cciss driver and that was obsoleted with the 2.6 kernel IIRC, so it all boots fine but then tells you there are no disks to install on to.

      Laptops are different. Some are Windows only by design, UEFI with secure boot only and with only the Windows key loaded, so nothing else boots.

      Get past that and you can have driver issues. I've an old HP 8740w I'd love to get Linux running on, but it's not interested in booting with the standard settings for any distro I've tried over the years and it's never been high enough on my priority list to work out where it gets stuck and what needs tweaking. Typically if it can get as far as running a GUI installer it will run a desktop after the install, so it either breaks before getting as far as reformatting your disk or it work OK ish. But then I'd normally be wanting to install over the network, so if that wasn't working I'd have not got far enough to damage anything that was on the disk already.

    6. DarkwavePunk

      Re: Still brickin'...

      "No graphics card recognition. No trackpad/mouse recognition", "not even a way to scroll back up through the text output"

      I'm finding this rather hard to logically parse. You see stuff on screen? I'm curious as to what happens next...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still brickin'...

        > I'm finding this rather hard to logically parse. You see stuff on screen? I'm curious as to what happens next...

        It's not that hard to parse: he gets text mode, boot info whizzes past far too fast to read and no way to scroll back when it eventually stops. No graphics mode means it won't boot any further into a desktop environment.

        This is why I suggested making a video up there ^

        1. DarkwavePunk

          Re: Still brickin'...

          Oh thanks. Hadn't realised that. I was under the impression that most installers fell back to a text installer or generic VGA driver. Having no idea what the OP was attempting to do, why, or what version of Debian, I'll just crawl back under my rock.

          1. GrumpenKraut

            Re: Still brickin'...

            > most installers fell back to a text installer or generic VGA driver.

            Not if an *undetected* problem occurs. Source: yesterday, latest Debian with an old-ish AMD graphics card on the machine of SWMBO.

            Ubuntu was installed. However that ^%&^* distro seems to have no text consoles at all (at last none reachable with ctrl-alt-F1).

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: Still brickin'...

              "However that ^%&^* distro seems to have no text consoles at all (at last none reachable with ctrl-alt-F1)."

              That's a crime against Linux, if true!

    7. Eddie G
      FAIL

      Re: Still brickin'...

      Someone seemed not to have too much of a problem installing Ubuntu 8.10 (way back in 2009):

      https://chrisjean.com/setting-up-ubuntu-on-my-dell-studio-17/

      I'd be surprised if things were any trickier with current distributions.

    8. Grimthorpe
      Linux

      Re: Still brickin'...

      To get around network not working I've often connected my Android phone to a machine using USB and enabled tethering.

      As long as your phone is connected to WiFi it'll use that instead of a mobile network, and USB networking doesn't require additional drivers on top of a basic Linux installation.

    9. Nate Amsden Silver badge

      Re: Still brickin'...

      Very confused.. as a Debian user (well until switching to Devuan) since 1998, if you are not familiar with Linux and are not looking to get familiar with it, Debian is nowhere near the top of the list of distros you should use. Really only more technically inclined people would of even heard of it.

      Even myself I ran Ubuntu on my laptops for several years until 10.04 went EOL then switched to Mint. I run Debian/Devuan on my personal servers (have about 650-700 Ubuntu servers for work).

      So you really set yourself up for failure. That is unless you were looking to dig in and learn about things and fix it or find compatible hardware which it didn't seem like you were in the mood for.

      Myself when I first setup Linux back in 1996 I chose Slackware(3.0 I think?) specifically because it was more involved to use than Red Hat (the most common distro at the time) and I wanted to get into the deep end. And I did, downloading and compiling tons of things over the early years from source whether it was the kernel, libc, glibc, X11, KDE, Gnome etc etc.. learned a lot. I don't do that too much anymore though. And stay far away from bleeding edge kernels. Last time I installed a kernel directly from upstream was in the 2.2.x days(back when there was a "stable" and "unstable" branches of the kernel once that stopped then I stopped toying with things at that level).

      Hell I just started trying to dig into finding why there seems to be some major new memory leaks in linux 5.4 and 5.8 (Ubuntu 20.04) that didn't exist in Linux 4.4 (Ubuntu 16.04). First time really looking at /proc/slabinfo and /proc/zoneinfo in 20+ years of linux usage, hopefully something useful comes of it. Have never noticed this kind of memory leak in the kernel before, my use cases are very typical, nothing extreme so don't encounter problems often.

    10. Lars Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Still brickin'...

      Sorry but there is no way I will take your rant as honest although I do know there are people that can get lost in an elevator.

      As somebody pointed out at least find out first if the hardware is alive or not, one way would be to use a USB stick with a Linux that runs like that, but that assumes you are good enough to alter the BIOS to boot from USB first (or remove the HD first).

      I think you are a Troll and not very good at it.

    11. chololennon
      Facepalm

      Re: Still brickin'...

      "Don't suppose there will ever be an rc of Linux that focuses on making it straightforward to install...?"

      1. How is a kernel RC related to a distro installation? Linus and kernel developers don't create distros.

      2. You can't generalize based on personal anecdotes. I can say the opposite, in more than 20 years using Linux I barely had problems when installing it, on the contrary, installing Windows sometimes was a nightmare due to driver problems. IMHO both of them are very easy to install especially nowadays.

    12. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

      Re: Still brickin'...

      I've been running Linux since 1996 from bare metal installs to upgrades on everything from HP thin clients to Xeon powered rack servers.

      I've had one upgrade fail but thanks to the /home partition no issues.

      I've built PCs since 1987 and installed Win 3.1 (from building the MSDEX driver + boot floppy) to Win 10 x 15 times (last time a week ago).

      I'm not an IT pro or even in anything "IT".

      I run Linux at home and used Win 7-10 at work

      In my 'limited' experience, Linux has rescued a borked Win install/installation x20+ times. Windows has never done that in reverse.

      I have more issues with Windows + hardware than Linux (I've never bought Win pre installed as all my PC/server are second hand)

      So if I can manage this, how is it your experience is so different? Are you still in the 1990s?

    13. katrinab Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Still brickin'..

      That’s down to the distro. Unlike FreeBSD or Windows, Linux isn’t an operating system, it is a component of the GNU and Android operating systems.

      For server deployments, I find FreeBSD is the easiest/quickest to install, but I do it a lot and know what I’m doing, Linux takes slightly longer but not much more difficult, and Windows takes me by far the longest,

      For desktop deployments, I find Linux is the easiest to get a working system, though if you select the easy install route you will end up with more bloat than I would maybe like, but certainly a far better out of the box experience than Windows where you have to hunt down loads of third party drivers. FreeBSD is probably on par with Windows in that respect, though you end up with a much better system at the end of it.

    14. TCook1943

      Re: Still brickin'...

      I have been using Linux since the late 80's and was one of the pioneers at no time have I had any problems in installing any distribution.

      An earlier respondent put his finger on one of the possible causes of the O/P's issue when the comment was made that possibly support for the hardware had been removed from the basic set of utilities to be installed. That these would include his network card this would leave him between a rock and a hard place.

      Generally speaking it might be wise to opt for a distro no more recent than the latest Windows version the machine is capable of running, Windows 10, the latest, XP a very early one.

      The other possible source of the basic issues experienced might be a corrupted install media.

      The best way to retrieve the situation if the O/P still wants to proceed would be a live install of a suitable distro, I'd recommend either PCL or Rosa both of which are straightforward starting with the current version and working back if necessary.

      Starting with Debian was not the ideal procedure for someone who is clearly a novice was not ideal and he would have done well to seek advice BEFORE commencing.

  2. trevorde Silver badge

    Lazy option

    Bought an old IBM ThinkPad craptop without an OS. Had the choice of installing Windows (via my MSDN account) or Linux. I couldn't be 4r53d to download Windows, so installed Linux Mint. It was disappointingly easy and everything worked first time.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Diatros

    As has been pointed out, Linux is a kernel and not a full OS. This presents a problem for people like RyokuMas, the OP, since there are about 100 active distros.

    For dabblers in Linux, the question of "what should I install to run Linux on me old PC if I want to run basic tasks like surfing the internet, emailing, texting, playing music, and watching videos?" is not an easy one to find the answer to.

    If Wikipedia is any indication, the Linux community doesn't really care about the dabblers since its Comparison of Linux distributions hasn't been updated in two years.

    Let me say that various communities can be very helpful with newbie questions after something goes wrong but they are less helpful with "how do I start?"

    If we want to wash the unwashed we need to do a better job of handholding.

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