23 Nov

Dell Ubuntu Linux and xfermode (err_mask=0x4)

I bought a new PC from Dell and I bought it with Ubuntu Linux installed since I don’t use Windows and I wish to show that there is a market for machines outside the M$ monopoly.

Ironically, having run Ubuntu fine on a Dell PC for 3 years, I have had some problems and this blog is to record how to fix them, in case I need it in the future and in case you have just found this on Google and need help.

If you should need to reinstall Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron 530n desktop (and possibly other PCs) you should use the reinstall option in the GRUB menu at boot up [http://linux.dell.com/wiki/index.php/Ubuntu_7.04/OS_Reinstallation]. If, however, you have repartitioned the disk and no longer have the reinstallation partition then you may try and use a Ubuntu install disk (you get one with the PC) or one you have downloaded or been given. You may even want to boot from a disk for another Linux distribution or one of the utilities that use the same boot kernel in what is called a LiveCD.

If you do you will be offered a menu, make a choice (install Ubuntu in this case) and may experience a very slow and eventually failed boot up. The screen may then drop to a simple text screen and error messages like this may appear:

/bin/sh: can’t access tty; job control turned off
(initramfs) 34.324022 ata1.00 failed to set xfermode (err_mask=0x40)

If so then you need to turn off your PC, start again and when you get to the first menu you need to add an option to the boot command line. On an Ubuntu install disk you do this by pressing F6 and adding the word irqpoll at the end of the line that appears. You then can press enter and it will install.

I learnt this from these posts on Ubuntuforums:


That explains how to get around the xfermode problem

BUT if you install from the 7.04 disk that is in the box with the PC then you will not have the right network drivers and no network capability.

Read here:


To that end you need to download the remastered Dell 7.04 disk from here:


Which has the updated drivers, although it also has OpenOffice removed, so you will need to then add that by using Synaptic from the System menu.

I then suggest that (as root) you ensure that the installed system is not prone to the same problem (which I did find it often was) by adding “irqpoll” onto the end of the grub boot line in /boot/grub/menu.lst

Ah well, early days, it’s no more arcane than many Windows problems over the years! Don’t let it discourage you getting a Dell Linux box, it will only be a short while before this is fixed..

I would not, however, commit to an upgrade to Gutsy online and certainly not using a standard Ubuntu install CD unless you are comfortable with the above and/or a Dell remastered install CD for Gutsy appears here:


22 Nov

Leo and Matt

I watched Good Shepherd with Matt Damon and Blood Diamond with Leo DiCaprio and then The Departed with both of them in. I have to say what good actors they are, the new generation is here and it’s good.

18 Nov


I am in Athens, doing a reconnaissance trip for the BESTUFS conference 2008. It has been a wild weekend with winds, cold weather and some thunderstorms they’d be proud of in monsoon countries. We explored the Acropolis yesterday and despite my early doubts, vertigo and the building site nature of it all.. it was awesome! The sense of history, of Athens circa 4-5th century BC and the ruins they left, was cumulative and impressive. They don’t explain it well, every sign is a denunciation of the last restoration and details of the current one (no actual explanation of the building) but I’d read the guidebook on the plane so that was okay. We then ate at a very formal restaurant looking at the Parthenon, and I think in one fell swoop I had found the venue for the conference dinner. The skies opened and we watched the lightning strike the rock and ate our food. The food is the other great discovery, we all love Greek food and we never knew it!

We then walked home, since the annual November 17th demonstration meant that all the streets were closed. We ended walking with the demo, which took me back to my youth. Matt was fascinated and I was surprised that are just so many tiny left wing groups left active. It always strikes me as ironic that the Communists, Trotskyists, trade unions and anarcho-syndicalists all march together. The first thing after a revolution is that the Communists seize power, shoot the anarchists, lock up all the trade unionists and the Trotskyists leave the country, arguing amongst themselves as they go..

Athens, for all the weather, has been interesting..