Boot Problem

Ubuntu Won't Boot First Try

by Lonnie Lee Best

This article discusses a bug that was preventing me from dependably booting Ubuntu Linux 7.04.

The Problem:

My laptop was consistently failing to boot on the first try. This failure would take about 10 minutes to complete, leaving me with the following screen:

BusyBox v1.1.3 (Debian 1:1.1.3-3ubuntu3) Built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

/bin/sh: can't access tty; job control turned off

(initramfs) [ 217.408000] ata2: port failed to respond (30 secs, Status 0x80)
[ 247.580000] ata2: port failed to respond (30 secs, Status 0x80)
[ 338.156000] ata2: port failed to respond (30 secs, Status 0x80)
[ 368.328000] ata2: port failed to respond (30 secs, Status 0x80)


At this point, pressing enter would bring me to a (initramfs) prompt where I would then press ctrl-alt-del. Usually, the laptop would then reboot all the way into Ubuntu, but sometimes it would take 3 or more tries before it would actually boot correctly. Once a successfully boot was achieved, Ubuntu worked fine. For example, if I needed to reboot Ubuntu during a session, I could successfully do so without experiencing the boot problem I've mentioned. However, if I would completely shutdown Ubuntu, and then unplug the laptop from the electrical outlet, I could reliably expect this boot problem to reoccur on the next boot attempt. Isn't that unusual? Apparently, after the first successful boot, something resides in RAM that isn't there on the first boot. Last, I should note that this laptop's battery is completely nonfunctional.

Future Bay

The Compaq Presario 2700 laptop computer has a "Future Bay". The Future Bay is a large and versatile slot-housing inside the laptop that allows you to quickly install certain custom "removable" hardware devices (such as a future bay CD burner, a future bay battery, a future bay floppy drive, etc.). By simply sliding devices into into the future bay you can connect and install them.

The Indirect Cause

When the CD-R/RW drive (Toshiba MODEL NO. SR-C8002) is inserted in the laptop's future bay (see the side-note to the right) I experience the "first try boot failure" described above. However, when this drive is not inserted, Ubuntu boots on the first try.

Fleeting Thoughts

I'm not yet clear as to why this CD-R/RW prevented Ubuntu from booting on the first try. However, I consider this future bay CD-R/RW a peripheral device and I suspect it is possible for Ubuntu's boot process to be more resilient than allowing a peripheral device to prevent it from booting. We need to update the boot procedure so that peripheral device problems cannot prevent a "first try" boot.

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About the Author

Lonnie Best has been using the internet since 1993, and has been making web pages since 1995. visit:

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