LAST AUTUMN I encountered and wrote about a serious glitch in a software maintenance upgrade distributed by Mageia Linux, the popular fork of Mandriva Linux that I’ve had installed on my desktop PC for about a year. Now the Mageia Linux distribution has permanently resolved that problem.
At the time it was a somewhat disconcerting experience, since Linux software maintenance upgrades are relatively frequent events that most often proceed quietly once authorised, and they never fail. Well, almost never. I was able to recover the system without too much difficulty however, so I wrote about how to fix the problem in order to help other Mageia Linux users that also might have encountered the same upgrade error.
Recovering from that problem was relatively easy once I had booted another Linux system and saw that the soft links in the failing system’s /boot partition had not been updated to point to the new config and System.map entries to match the new initrd and vmlinuz images. I explained how to do that, and I believe that more than one other Mageia user found that helpful.
At the time, Mageia kernel maintainer Thomas Backlund commented that apparently there must have been a race condition in the /etc/rc.sysinit script that prevented the symlink update from completing successfully.
The Mageia Linux kernel update problem apparently affected only systems that used the non-free AMD and Nvidia graphics card drivers. It seems that my desktop PC was hit because it happens to have a now somewhat ageing ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card.
Although I saw some discussion of the kernel upgrade problem on the Mageia forum, I didn’t get involved with testing sofware updates to resolve the issue. I was confident that the Mageia Linux developers would find and resolve the problem, since it was clear that they knew it was there.
Indeed, several months passed, but finally another Mageia software upgrade involving the Linux kernel came out in January. I crossed my fingers and let it go ahead and upgrade my desktop system. It completed without any errors, and my desktop PC rebooted successfully.
Today another Mageia software maintenance upgrade to the Linux kernel appeared on my desktop system. Again it proceeded without any errors and my system rebooted successfully.
I take this as proof that the Mageia Linux crew has permanently resolved the kernel upgrade problem related to non-free graphics card drivers that I encountered previously.
I keep separate /boot partitions on my systems’ hard disks. What can I say? Old habits die hard. I use 64MB /boot partitions, which are each big enough to hold four kernel revisions.
However, this latest kernel upgrade nearly filled the /boot partition on my desktop PC, so I used the commands below to list it and remove the files that I no longer need, freeing up disk space for the next Linux kernel software maintenance upgrade.
If you don’t have a separate /boot partition on your system, you likely won’t need to care about this, but you can still delete old unused Linux kernel files if you want.
su # enter superuser mode (enter root password)
ln -al /boot # list the /boot partition
rm /boot/*3.3* # remove Linux 3.3 files, answer “y” to delete each file
exit # exit superuser mode
The last two Mageia Linux kernel updates installed Linux 3.4 release files. This will remove the config, initrd, symvers, System.map and vmlinuz files related to the previous Linux 3.3 kernels that most users won’t need any longer, even for backup.