Synchronising package selections between Linux Mint and Linux Mint Debian Edition

To generate the package list on the GNOME version of Linux Mint, I used the Backup Tool. It simply was a matter of using the Backup Software Selection button and telling it where to put the file that it generates. Alternatively, dpkg can be used from the command line like this:

sudo dpkg --get-selections > /backup/installed-software.txt

After transferring the file to the machine with Linux Mint Debian Edition, I tried using the Backup Tool on there too. However, using the Restore Software Selection button and loading the required only produced an irrecoverable error. Therefore, I set to looking around the web and found a command line approach that did the job for me.

The first step is to load the software selection using dpkg by issuing this command (it didn’t matter that the file wasn’t made using the dpkg command though I suspect that’s what the Linux Mint Backup Tool was doing that behind the scenes):

sudo dpkg --set-selections < /backup/installed-software.txt

Then, I started dselect and chose the installation option from the menu that appeared. First time around, it fell over but trying again was enough to complete the job. Packages available to the vanilla variant of Linux Mint but not found in the LMDE repositories were overlooked as I had hoped and installation of the extra packages had no impact on system stability either.

sudo dselect

Apparently, there is an alternative to using dselect that is based on the much used apt-get command but I didn’t make use of it so cannot say more:

sudo apt-get dselect-upgrade

All that I can say is that the dpkg/dselect combination did what I wanted so I’ll keep them in mind if ever need to synchronise software selections between two Debian-based distributions in the future again. The standard edition of Linux Mint may be based on Ubuntu rather than Debian but Ubuntu is itself based on Debian so the description holds here.

Getting VirtualBox working on Ubuntu after a kernel upgrade

In previous posts, I have talked about getting VMware Workstation back on its feet again after a kernel upgrade. It also seems that VirtualBox is prone to the same sort of affliction. However, while VMware Workstation fails to start at all, VirtualBox at least starts itself even if it cannot get a virtual machine going and generates errors instead.

My usual course of action is to fire up Synaptic and install the drivers for the relevant kernel. Looking for virtualbox-ose-modules-[kernel version and type] and installing that usually resolves the problem. For example, at the time of writing, the latest file available for my system would be virtualbox-ose-modules-2.6.24-19-generic.  If you are a command line fan, the command for this would be:

sudo apt-get install virtualbox-ose-modules-2.6.24-19-generic

The next thing to do would be to issue the command to start the vboxdrv service and you’d be all set:

sudo /etc/init.d/vboxdrv start

There is one point of weakness (an Achilles heal, if you like) with all of this: the relevant modules need to be available in the first place and I hit a glitch after updating the kernel to 2.6.24-20 when they weren’t; I do wonder why Canonical fail to keep both in step with one another and why the new kernel modules don’t come through the updates automatically either. However, there is a way around this too. That means installing virtualbox-ose-source via either Synaptic or the command line:

sudo apt-get install virtualbox-ose-source

The subsequent steps involve issuing more commands to perform a reinstallation from the source code:

sudo m-a prepare

sudo m-a auto-install virtualbox-ose

Once these are complete, the next is to start the vbox drv as described earlier and to add yourself to vboxusers group if you’re still having trouble:

sudo adduser [your username] vboxusers

The source code installation option certainly got me up and running again and I’ll be keeping it on hand for use should the situation raise its head again.

Repairing Windows XP

I have been having an accident-prone time of it with Windows XP recently and have had plenty of reason to be thankful for the ability to perform a repair installation. Here are the steps:

  1. Pop the installation disk into your PC’s DVD drive and reboot the PC.
  2. If you have your PC set it up to boot from DVD’s in its BIOS, then you at least will have to option to do this. You may find that this happens by default but I needed to tell it to do the deed.
  3. Select normal installation from the first menu that is presented to you by the installer.
  4. Accept the licence agreement.
  5. Press R at the next menu and that’ll repair the installation.
  6. Follow all of the menus from there on; it’ll be all the usual stuff from here on in and there should be no need to reactivate Windows or reinstall all of your other software afterwards.

There is a repair option on the first screen (step 3 above) but this takes you into the dark recesses of the command line and isn’t what I was needing. I do have to say that they do leave the required option late on in the installation process and that assumes on users having a risk taking streak in them, something that definitely does not apply to everyone. If your boot.ini file is not well, you may find yourself needing to do the full installation and that wipes the slate clean on you, extending the recovery process.

HAL.DLL: a roadblock on the resurrection of a poorly PC

My PC is very poorly at the moment and Windows XP re-installation is the prescribed course of action. However, I have getting errors reporting missing or damaged HAL.DLL at the first reboot of the system during installation. I thought that there might be hard disk confusion and so unplugged all but the Windows boot drive. That only gave me an error about hard drives not being set up properly. Thankfully, a quick outing on Google turn up a few ideas. I should really have started with Microsoft since they have an article on the problem. has also got something to offer on the subject and seems to be a good resource on installing XP to boot: I had forgotten how to do a repair installation and couldn’t find the place in the installation menus. In any event, a complete refresh should be a good thing in the long run, even if it is going to be a very disruptive process. I did consider moving to Vista at the point but getting XP back online seems the quickest route to getting things back together again. Strangely, I feel like a fish out of water right now but that’ll soon change…

Update: It was in fact my boot.ini that was causing this and replacement of the existing contents with defaults resolved the problem…