Need assistance booting onto USB stick with Linux distro

pdx-linux

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I have a fairly old mini PC with an Intel Atom Z3735F. Some stats are available here:

The listing shows Win10, but mine came running Win8 (32-bit I believe) and I used it briefly as a HTPC. The onboard eMMC chip subsequently died/corrupted however, so that storage cannot be used. I would like to salvage this and boot onto a flash drive-based Linux distro to run a pihole server.

The main issue is I cannot get it to boot into most Linux distros. The USB drive is detected, but the system will ignore whatever is on it and then I end up in an EFI shell. Secure boot is OFF in the BIOS.

Porteus, Puppy were among the a few I tried. (Given my very limited needs, I have been looking at the smaller builds). However, after flashing the images onto a USB drive (using Rufus), the BIOS just won't boot into them.

I thought maybe this was a x86 vs x64 issue. The Atom chip is reported x64 capable, but the Windows OS's were not. However, various i586 builds would not boot.

Through this troubleshooting, I managed to boot a ChromeOS and Debian Bullseye with Raspberry Pi Desktop on the PC (that's sort of a win). But anything else is ignored in the boot-up.

Is there something obvious I am missing here?
 


What tool are you using to write the .iso files to the USB thumbdrive?
 
Hello @pdx-linux.
Welcome to Linux.org forum.
If it's 32 bit Even if the chip is x64 capable the bios may not be. So you need to try 32 bit distros.
AntiX has a good 32 bit build. Give it a try. Also some have reported that rufus is not good for burning linux .isos
So I would download Etcher and give that a try. good Luck.

 
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Thank you for your replies. I have been using Rufus but will try others. I will focus on the 32-bit issue more; the Debian build that worked was labeled as an i386 build.

In regards to terminology, I have been assuming "i486" and "i586" builds are equivalent to 32-bit builds, is this accurate?
 
Thank you for your replies. I have been using Rufus but will try others. I will focus on the 32-bit issue more; the Debian build that worked was labeled as an i386 build.

In regards to terminology, I have been assuming "i486" and "i586" builds are equivalent to 32-bit builds, is this accurate?
yes I386, I486 and I586 are all 32 bit.
 
Is there something obvious I am missing here?
It would be wise to verify the usb you write with the relevant means, something like a sha512sum.

Not all writers for isos are the same. The first thing it may be useful to check is the size in bytes of the original iso compared to the one that is written to the usb. They need to be identical. Some writers pad out the written iso with extra bytes so the written result will often cause problems with booting.

It may be useful to see if there is a BIOS update for the old machine since it'd likely be best to have the latest possible BIOS to take advantage of the latest improvements.
 
In addition to the checksum verification and needing a 32 bit distro, I'd consider trying Balena Etcher to write the .iso to the USB drive.

Here's a fairly recent list of 32 bit distros:

 
In regards to terminology, I have been assuming "i486" and "i586" builds are equivalent to 32-bit builds, is this accurate?
@kc1di has already answered this, but I'll add this anyway.

To the Linux kernel, i386, i486, i586 & i686 differ; referring to different levels of x86 32-bit processors.

Debian (which includes Debian based such as Ubuntu) do not follow this classification, when it comes to media (ISOs). Debian (and even Ubuntu releases) use i386 for all 32-bit x86 ISOs. Current i386 ISOs actually require i686 in CPU terms in that pentium(4) or better is required, but some older ISOs included i586 & i686 linux boot kernel options on the same i386 ISO.
 
Welcome to the forums
your Intel Atom Z3735F is a 64-bit [amd64] CPU, as KC said it could be mounted on a 32 bit motherboard, But as it is of 2014/15 vintage, I doubt that to be the case, most boxes made after 2010 are 64 bit and have UEFI,
As KG and others haver mentioned, try Ballina Etcher to make your installation pen-drive [Rufus has not been playing well with Linux for a long time now].
If you can run Debian 32 bit and can connect the box to the internet, then open a terminal and run inxi -Fnxxz and paste the results back, we can see if we spot any other problems. [you may need to install inxi from the software manager]
 
@kc1di has already answered this, but I'll add this anyway.

To the Linux kernel, i386, i486, i586 & i686 differ; referring to different levels of x86 32-bit processors.

Debian (which includes Debian based such as Ubuntu) do not follow this classification, when it comes to media (ISOs). Debian (and even Ubuntu releases) use i386 for all 32-bit x86 ISOs. Current i386 ISOs actually require i686 in CPU terms in that pentium(4) or better is required, but some older ISOs included i586 & i686 linux boot kernel options on the same i386 ISO.
i386 and i486 were the oldest of 32-bit Intel CPU's, since 1985.

What is called somewhat mistakenly "i586" away from Intel, were the first Pentium processors, the one just called "Pentium" and the Pentium II, and their AMD equivalents such as AMD-K6-2. What is dubbed "i686", where almost all the 32-bit support is going these days, was into the Pentium III and Pentium 4 and the ones AMD built which had similar specs. After Pentium 4 the first 64-bit processors from AMD and Intel appeared.

"Celeron" is the budget version of the full-blown Pentium sold by Intel, and they are still using that label today. It is not a separate processor or architecture.

I am able to say something about this processor because it was my first computer, a Compaq bought at Radio Shack, which came with Windows, in this case Windows98:

Few Linux distros support "i586" brand. If I'm not mistaken Mageia and Slackware are two of them. Earlier than that is becoming impossible this year.
 
If you want to get technical, the 86 in the CPU numbering is the architecture of the CPU, the number that comes first is the series number, hence older computers are often referred to as 286/386/486 as they were mainly built using Intel licenced designs, after the 486 AMD had started to produce its own design processors, Intel changed to using the Pentium brand, and AMD started using the K series, Although intel were the first to start developing the 64 bit processor, it was AMD who hit the market first and developers quickly adopted the AMD 64bit, Intel did release their own pentium 64bit but were too late, with limited adoption in the industry, they had to licence 64 bit architecture from AMD.
I am old enough to remember the 4004 [4bit] and 8008 [8bit] chips in IBM compatible computers
 
Thanks for everyone's assistance.

After some further testing, I found that various distro builds specifically labelled as "i386" or "32-bit" worked, but most anything else labelled i486, i586, etc did not. That's somewhat baffling to me, but there must be something specific about how this small PC vender built these miniPCs 7-8 years ago that limits its functionality. I did use balenaEtcher and found that simplified and possibly helped, over Rufus.

Builds that did work:
RaspiOS bullseye i386
antiX-22 386
beryllium i386 (BunsenLabs)

The fact the onboard memory is corrupted made proceeding further with some of these difficult, as though I could boot onto the install disk, persistance was more difficult to figure out (for this novice), and I could not easily install them onto another drive.

In the end, I am running the raspiOS bullseye i386 build off of a 32gb USB drive. Since I'm running only pihole, it's more than I actually need, but it seems quite stable.

Here's what inxi returns:
System:
Kernel: 5.10.0-15-amd64 x86_64 bits: 32 compiler: gcc v: 10.2.1
Desktop: LXDE 0.10.1 wm: Mutter dm: LightDM
Distro: Debian GNU/Linux 11 (bullseye)
Machine:
Type: Portable System: Azulle product: A-1043-QB v: 4.12 serial: <filter>
Chassis: type: 8 serial: <filter>
Mobo: Azulle model: A-1043-QB serial: <filter> UEFI: American Megatrends
v: 5.6.5 date: 02/22/2016
Battery:
ID-1: axp288_fuel_gauge charge: 43% condition: N/A volts: 4.5/N/A
model: N/A serial: N/A status: Discharging
CPU:
Info: Quad Core model: Intel Atom Z3735F bits: 64 type: MCP
arch: Silvermont rev: 8 L2 cache: 1024 KiB
flags: lm nx pae sse sse2 sse3 sse4_1 sse4_2 ssse3 vmx bogomips: 10666
Speed: 947 MHz min/max: 500/1833 MHz Core speeds (MHz): 1: 947 2: 1271
3: 717 4: 696
Graphics:
Device-1: Intel Atom Processor Z36xxx/Z37xxx Series Graphics & Display
driver: i915 v: kernel bus ID: 00:02.0 chip ID: 8086:0f31
Display: x11 server: X.Org 1.20.11 compositor: mutter driver:
loaded: modesetting unloaded: fbdev,vesa resolution: 1920x1080~60Hz
s-dpi: 96
OpenGL: renderer: Mesa DRI Intel HD Graphics (BYT) v: 4.2 Mesa 20.3.5
compat-v: 3.0 direct render: Yes
Audio:
Device-1: Intel HDMI/DP LPE Audio driver: HdmiLpeAudio
message: bus/chip ids unavailable
Device-2: bytcr-rt5640 driver: bytcr-rt5640
message: bus/chip ids unavailable
Sound Server: ALSA v: k5.10.0-15-amd64
Network:
Message: No Device data found.
Device-1: ASIX AX88772B type: USB driver: asix bus ID: 1-2:3
chip ID: 0b95:772b
IF: eth0 state: up speed: 100 Mbps duplex: full mac: <filter>
IF-ID-1: wlan0 state: down mac: <filter>
Drives:
Local Storage: total: 57.55 GiB used: 8.64 GiB (15.0%)
ID-1: /dev/mmcblk1 model: NCard size: 28.91 GiB serial: <filter>
ID-2: /dev/sda type: USB vendor: SanDisk model: Ultra Fit size: 28.64 GiB
serial: <filter>
Partition:
ID-1: / size: 24.72 GiB used: 4.32 GiB (17.5%) fs: overlay source: ERR-102
Swap:
Alert: No Swap data was found.
Sensors:
System Temperatures: cpu: 45.0 C mobo: N/A
Fan Speeds (RPM): N/A
Info:
Processes: 171 Uptime: 1h 44m Memory: 1.85 GiB used: 723.9 MiB (38.3%)
Init: systemd v: 247 runlevel: 5 target: graphical.target Compilers:
gcc: 10.2.1 alt: 10 Packages: apt: 1983 Shell: Bash v: 5.1.4
running in: lxterminal inxi: 3.3.01
 
Everything in you inxi looks fine to me, the machine definitely looks like it should run 64 bit Linux the only restriction is the 2gb of ram
your inxi Memory: 1.85 GiB used: 723.9 MiB (38.3%) [it reads as 1,85 Gb as 15mb is reserved for basic audio and graphics processing]
 
There is very little in the way of workshop sheets for this product [non in fact] I have put out a call to see if any of my contacts can give me further technical info. [I have a couple of ideas but it depends on what i can find]
 
Glad you got it running with something. Some hardware can be very challenging in Linux. But the bottle neck here seems to be the limited ram and maybe the Atom processor. In any event good job for sticking with it. :)
 


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