Hiccups While Moving To 64-bit On My Media PC


After my initial thoughts about moving from Linux 32-bit to 64-bit I couldn’t of course hold back for long and decided to upgrade my Media PC I mostly use for video streaming from the 32-bit flavor of Ubuntu 15.10 to the 64-bit flavor. It should have been a straight forward reinstall, what could possibly go wrong!? Or so I thought…

The Startup Disk Creator Doesn’t Want To Cooperate

Just to make sure I don’t end up with something that doesn’t work I ran Clonezilla to back-up my current Ubuntu 15.10 32-bit installation, a move that paid out in the end as you will see shortly. While the backup was running I downloaded the current Ubuntu 15.10 64-bit iso image and used Ubuntu’s “Startup Disk Creator” tool on an Ubuntu 14.04 machine as I’ve done many times in the past to create a bootable USB stick. Unfortunately that didn’t work as after creating the stick the tool complained that it can’t create the Grub bootloader for a 64-bit bootable USB stick from a 32-bit Ubuntu installation. Yes, that would have been too easy…

Unetbootin Seems to Cooperate

“Unetbootin” is another tool I’ve used in the past to create bootable USB sticks from iso images so I gave that tool a try on my 32-bit Ubuntu with my Ubuntu 15.10 64-bit iso image. It didn’t complain and the stick actually booted. So I went ahead on my Ubuntu 15.10 32-bit media PC and went for the install options. The first option in the restore menu was to overwrite the current 15.10 installation and to keep the settings in place. That sounded very good, it would have been much less work than a complete reinstall. Unfortunately it didn’t work, the process aborted with an error message that I can’t remember now about halfway through. Ah o.k., never mind, it was worth a try, let’s reboot and overwrite the now defunct installation.

When install from scratch, everything seemed to be fine at first but again, halfway through the installation process, the Ubuntu installer complained, this time that there was a problem reading from the USB stick. How strange, it was brand new!?

Let’s Install Over the Net

All right, let’s go for approach number three and use the 40 MB network installer image that Canonical offers that grabs everything it needs during installation from the cloud. That installation actually ran through and my mood started to improve again. Unfortunately, the mood swing was premature as the reboot after installation ended up in a Grub boot panic. On a fresh installation!? How odd. Perhaps it had something to do with that dusty 32-bit Windows partition that I use twice a year that is also on the drive!? Nothing that my Linux Boot-Repair-USB stick couldn’t fix. Again I was wrong because the 32-bit “boot repair” complained that it couldn’t fix a 64-bit installation. Yes, that would have been too easy…

Recovery Problems

O.k., time to call it a day I thought, let’s put the backup of my 32-bit OS back on the drive so I have a working system again and give it some more thought tomorrow. And just to make my joy complete, Clonezilla failed to restore the image, giving some strange error message as a reason that made no sense at all. At this point I was glad I had several other backups of the system so in case this backup was really broken I could still recover from another one. But I already had an inkling of what could be the problem and a quick look at the partition entries of the drive confirmed that the automatic installer did not use the already existing swap partition but created a new one. As a consequence the partition for the OS was now smaller than before so Clonezilla couldn’t restore the image. A well, removing the system partitions and the two swap areas and manually recreating a proper system partition and a single swap area made Clonezilla happy and I ended up with a working system again.

Another Day For Success

The next day I decided to give it another try by using another USB stick and Unetbootin to create a 15.10 64-bit bootable stick. Before doing so I made sure the md5 hash of the image I had downloaded was correct, just in case I had a corrupted image. But everything was fine so no need to download it again.

I’m not sure if I was surprised or not but the installation procedure failed halfway through again with a USB stick “read error” message. O.k. that was definitely no hardware error.

Going Back Means Going Forward

So perhaps this is a backwards compatibility error I thought and downloaded an Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit image. Again I used Unetbootin to create a bootable USB stick and tried another install for the x-th time.

This time I was keeping my fingers crossed as the installation procedure got to the half way point and indeed it ran through this time! The next critical point was the first boot procedure which also didn’t run yesterday after installing over the network. This time, however it just ran fine and I finally had a working 64-bit installation on my media PC! Also, I could still boot that 32-bit Windows 7 image.

Time To Celebrate But A Little Graphics Scare First

Having a working 64-bit Ubuntu installation, even if it is a somewhat dated 14.04 is fine but I wouldn’t call it a success until I saw Netflix running with the 14.04 64-bit graphics drivers in a 64-bit Chrome browser installation. So I downloaded and installed Chrome and gave Netflix a try. When playing a movie, however, I got very strange graphics effects such as horizontal shear and very blocky artifacts every couple of seconds. Oh no, I thought, that can not happen now! But perhaps it’s o.k. after a reboot!? Well, reboots usually don’t fix things like that but just this once I was lucky as Netflix worked perfectly after the reboot.

Great! Done! Finished! – Ah, No!

In a Casino you should stop playing while you are ahead. But not here! What about the Ubuntu 15.10 64-bit image that aborted with a read error halfway through the installation from two different USB sticks? I followed up on this by using the “Startup Disk Creator” tool on the Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit installation I now had to create a bootable USB stick. This time, unlike on the 14.04 32-bit installation I got no error message that the bootloader couldn’t be installed on the stick.

Well, at least I didn’t get an error right away. When booting from that stick a minute later, Grub refused to boot with the following error message:

Missing parameter in configuration file. Keyword: path
gfxboot.c32: not a COM32R image"

Yeah, sure… By chance I then found out that by typing “help” + “Enter” + “Enter” at the boot prompt I could make the stick boot into the 64-bit Ubuntu 15.10 image anyway. After that the installation of Ubuntu 15.10 64-bit went smoothly without any further issues just like it should have the other day in step 1…

A Great Learning Exercise

No, it was not a waste of time, I learned a lot in the process, including some new Clonezilla restore tricks. Yes, I’m such an optimist…