Apologies for neccessary vagueness below, but I dont have all the
information to hand.

My system:
An i686 with 128MB RAM and a Fujitsu HDD organised into:
hda1: old RH 5.2 installation on ext2 (7 GB)
hda2: swap
hda3: a win98 installation (5 GB)

I have an ATAPI type DVD-ROM combo drive which I made bootable in
BIOS. The PC is basically a horrendous mish-mash of bits and pieces
some of which date back to 4 years ago; I replaced the motherboard &
CPU about a year ago, but the HDD is original, and don't even ask
where the monitor came from.

I have decided to install Mandrake 9.1 Power Pack over the top of the
RH 5.2 system; I had been running this up until about 3 years ago and
although fsck had reported some occasional problems I never had
show-stopping errors. The reason for this was to introduce a 'family
desktop' Linux system for a target for migration from win98 which had
become increasingly flaky of late.

While I am no novice Linux sysadm/user having had experience dating
back to the glory days of the MCC distro in 1992 I don't neccessarily
know all the ins and outs.

The install of Mandrake 9.1 went without a hitch seemingly until the X
configurator page well into post-install [the summary section],
although there had been a couple of apparent problems with
sub-sections of one of the packages which scrolled off before I had a
chance to check it. The X configurator had IDed my graphics card as
something like an ATI Mach 64 AGP card, when it was IDed by win98 as
an ATI Rage Pro Turbo AGP, which incidentally I couldn't find in the
list anywhere. The very next thing that happened on clicking 'next'
was that the entire machine locked out and froze solid, requiring a
hard reset. Not a happy experience.

I booted back into 'linux' and got nowhere, the boot just hung early
in the process, displaying the Mandrake 9.1 splash, a blinking cursor,
and nothing else. Thinking the installation was incomplete, I booted
back on the install CD and opted for an upgrade. All appeared fine,
except that the X configurator refused to self-test ok, reporting an
error about 'pcimod failing to load'. Eventually I chose to boot into
text mode [runlevel 3].

Booting back into 'linux' seemed to go fine apart from some errors as
reported below. However I then could not log in at the console: each
time I entered the userid the prompt was redisplayed. After 3 attepts
init reported that [something] had spawned too quick and would be
disabled for 5 minutes. This happened over all virtual consoles.

I then booted into 'failsafe' and investigated. To my horror, 'df'
core dumped! - though other 'basic' commands seemed to work fine.

From the rescue disk, I found that df worked again. I checked under
/var/log for dmesg, syslog and XFree86.log and found:

1. something called 'pcimod' and some other module had not been found
and hence the X configurator could not even load!

2. there were several errors of the type 'dma error - bad crc' in
syslog, not only during boot but also during run time, while I was
trying to log in as above.

3. postfix was not loaded due to repeated segmentation violations.

Now the question is: what can I do to repair my installation, or
should I simply reinstall from scratch and hope for the best? Would a
similar thing happen again?

Unfortunately replacing the HDD is simply out of the question; there
are valuable data on the win98 partition; we have no means of backup,
and no resources to buy another HDD.

Any help vastly appreciated!


Andrew Scott