For the past several months, our support forums have been plagued on and off with a number of weird and inexplicable failed attempts at installing Ubuntu by many users. We’ve finally pinned down the cause of the problem, and it isn’t pretty. Ubuntu (ever since version 5.04 Hoary Hedgehog) will not install properly on a filesystem other than ext2fs or ext3fs.
Unfortunately if you attempt to install Ubuntu with the “/” partition formatted as ReiserFS, JFS, XFS or any other non-standard filesystem, Ubuntu installation will begin like normal and tick merrily along its way until it attempts to install GRUB. At that point, you’ll get a fairly inexplicable and non-verbose “fatal error” message about “grub-install()” failing.
We finally managed to pin down the error thanks to a user at Ubuntu Forums who pointed out that our dual-boot instructions worked alright when using ext3fs instead of our recommended ReiserFS (for speed, size, and performance). In an attempt to reproduce and pin down the error, we dropped down to the console when the “fatal error” message was given, and found out that grub-install was not recognizing the non-ext3fs partition.
Basically, Ubuntu’s copy of grub-install is not configured to write to anything other than ext3fs during setup, and attempts to install GRUB when the /boot/ folder is on a ReiserFS partition and GRUB is to be written to the bootsector were failing. This issue manifests itself in all releases since (and including) Hoary Hedgehog (5.04); including the most recent Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (7.04) and Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon (7.10) releases.
Unfortunately this has been a (little-) known issue ever since March of 2005, but no one has bothered to fix it since. Every once in a while someone “bumps” the bug and confirms that it’s still present, but it hasn’t yet been addressed or even assigned.
We’re not exactly sure what the Ubuntu dev team is waiting for, but this is a rather important issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, in our opinion. Other Linux distros like Fedora and SUSE Linux do not exhibit this problem.
Related Bug Reports on Launchpad.net
- grub-install fails for JFS root partition (Mar. 2005)
- grub-install failing in Ubuntu setup (Jan. 2008)
- GRUB Installation Fails if non-ext3 Root Partition (Jan. 2008)