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Monday, June 13, 2005

Installing FC3 on Athlon x86_64, SATA hard disks

We wanted to install Fedora Core 3 (actually even FC2 would do) for the
ACCV server. The system was a 64bit Athlon on a K8S MX ASUS motherboard.
Now here starts the trouble. I knew it wasn't overly trivial to get the
SATA hard disks working on the 64bit systems with FC3, and this
motherboard was all the more too new (and sophisticated) to have working
drivers in the FC3.

Meticulous fooling around with my head inside the open cabinet showed me
that it had a SiS 965L onboard SATA controllers. Luckily, I was able to
find the driver at, but that needed me to compile
the module, and that required a working FC3. With the promise RAID card, I
knew, the drivers would be found and the hard disks would be detected, but
the PCI bus would force sluggishness to the server which, of course, is
undesirable. Just to be able to compile the sata_sis.ko kernel module, I
installed FC3 with the Promise RAID card on. I needed RAID, but not with
the PCI RAID card. Having compiled the hard disk's kernel module
(sata_sis.ko), now I was to carry out the actual install. I got this
driver on a floppy (somehow found a floppy!).

I started the installtion with:

linux expert text askmethod noselinux selinux=0

I disabled selinux coz it's more of a painful paranoia than anything else.
When I was warned that the drives hadn't been detected (as expected) and I
had the option of choosing the drivers, I loaded ata_piix coz this would
load libata. sata_sis was mentioned as one of the options but it didn't
work for my Seagate 80GB SATA disk(s). With the libata loaded (with
ata_piix), on tty2, I had to mount the floppy and insmod sata_sis.ko.
dmesg just confirmed that the module was loaded properly and showed the
disks. Now the installation would proceed as usual.

However, the first boot was another problem. Surely enough, since I had
chosen ata_piix, this was used for installation, and not sata_sis. The
/etc/modprobe.conf had an alias entry for ata_piix as scsi_hostadapter. I
had to rescue the system (again the HD driver disk was required) and
change this alias to use sata_sis instead. This done, I copied my
sata_sis.ko to /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/scsi/ and the system
was ready for a normal boot now.

All this messing around, finding the drivers, forgetting something or the
other, trying to figure out things, etc took me a day and a half. RAID too
was to be configured. Hardware RAID would have been great but I settled
down to software RAID with the handy mdadm tool. I still don't know if the
Hardware RAID is supported on this motherboard or not. Even though I had
enabled RAID 1 in the BIOS and had mirrored the disks, I could still see
two disks in my linux. Even the software RAID for the whole disks
(/dev/sda & /dev/sdb) wouldn't be done coz the disks were in use and busy
when booted. Finally, I was happy with raid on two unused partitions
/dev/sda5 & /dev/sdb5.

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