The Trials of Cohabitation: Juggling Debian Sid and Fedora 16

Juggling more than one relationship at a time isn’t easy, even when you’re completely truthful and honest about it. You forget what you tell one, one day, and you can even mix up what they’ve told you – always at your own peril.

I had no illusions that Fedora 16 and unstable Debian from the future would get along with each other completely, living on the same hard drives. And you know, they do, for the most part.

The biggest problem was, when I brought Fedora 16 home and installed, it played that cocky/arrogant, better than you card with poor unstable Debian, completely pretending like Sid wasn’t even there. F16 completely stripped Debian from the grub2 boot menu, along with Ubuntu. But Fedora 16 was happy to coexist with that fat, filthy Windows 7 partition. Go figure.

Fedora 16 denies it, saying it’s grub’s fault, not his. That’s a little like buying a house from a builder, and when the structural beams collapse, the builder says it’s not his fault, it’s his wood supplier’s fault. Sure. The thing is, many people with multiple OS’s didn’t experience this same problem, so it leads me to believe Fedora 16 has a problem detecting other OS’s installed on other LVM volumes, or some combination of RAID/LVM. I’m sorry, the version of grub Fedora chose to use – not Fedora’s fault. Yeah.

Anyway, it’s a quick enough fix. After you boot into Fedora 16 and run a software update, it seems you get a grub that’s been fixed, and will now detect your other OS’s just fine. You just have to be sure to rebuild your grub.cfg file, which I’ve documented if you happen to have this problem, too.

Once Fedora 16 is put in its place, it’s no big deal switching between Fedora and Debian Sid. But you know what, as lovey as even unstable Debian from the future seems to be, she’s not past a little backstabbing dagger herself, when no one’s looking.

If Debian Sid does an “update-grub”, all the OS’s on the system are detected just fine. Everything looks great. But when you find yourself wanting to be with Fedora 16, you’ll find Fedora 16’s been seriously drugged. Pretty well unusable, in my situation at least, though an “emergency” kernel parameter can get you to some sanity there.

What happens is unstable Debian is being very tricky. Sneaky even. When unstable Debian sees Fedora is there, it’s grub-mkconfig will very graciously put in a grub menu entry for Fedora 16, but the root device kernel parameter it will set to a dm device, which may or may not be the correct one, and doesn’t load all the grub menu image definitions that Fedora 16 needs, either.

Now, to be fair, unstable Debian is not psychic, even in the future… yet. How is it supposed to know which special modules Fedora 16 will need to wake up properly? But it should know better than to rely on a sequentially-numbered dm device for the root volume; the world is an unpredictable place.

And you know what? Fedora 16 shouldn’t be so picky and complicated about what it needs. I can say it’s Debian’s fault for drugging her, but I can also say it’s Fedora’s fault for requiring so much medication in the first place to get going. Must be a downside in the life of an elite corporate military secret assassin spy.

My feelings so far in co-habitation? I feel comfortable and safe with unstable Debian from the future. She’s always treated me right, she’s smart, and is far more intuitive and accommodating of my quirks than Fedora 16. Yet Fedora 16 is a badass. He’s lean, mean, no-nonsense, and literal as all hell. He’s got your back, unless you do something he doesn’t like, and then he’s just as likely to shoot you himself, then blame it on the stars.

These are my two right now. I’m making no commitments. Mint’s LMDE RC just came out today. I think it needs some attention. But in the meantime, I regret to say it, because it disgusts me, and this is where I am right now — in fat, filthy Windows 7. Writing this. Waiting for the last 13% of Skyrim to finish downloading.