Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

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AppleGuy14
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Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by AppleGuy14 » 2023/02/16 16:29:29

Let me start off with a (brief) background on what's been going on. I have an Apple 2008 64-bit Intel Xeon Xserve (Xserve2,1) (with an NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT) that I am trying to install CentOS Stream 9 on. I currently have CentOS 7 running (very outdated, I know) because part of my use case requires CentOS/RHEL/Fedora. When I installed 7, I thought that was the only compatible version. It turns out that Stream 9 will work as well, and I am hoping to upgrade because I keep running into problems with GLIBC being outdated when trying to run things.

I had this same problem when installing CentOS 7, but I do not remember what ended up fixing it. As it stands now, my installation of CentOS 7 boots just fine using rEFInd, a popular Mac bootloader, to boot GRUB, and using that to boot CentOS 7. The CentOS 7, Stream 8 and Stream 9 installers do not boot past the GRUB menu. Upon selecting any entry, including "Install using text mode", there is a black screen with a solid (non-blinking) white underline at the top left, and the system completely locks up. I have flashed each of the three ISO images onto a flash drive, all to the same fate. I have researched extensively and cannot find anyone with my exact problem, because it is (obviously) very specific, but I thought that I might as well ask just in case. I am listing what I can remember trying, but I've been fighting this for so long that I may not get everything in the list.

Things I have tried (with CentOS Stream 9 unless noted):
- Flashing the ISO(s) to a different flash drive, and an SD Card
- Flashing the ISO(s) using "dd" on both my current CentOS 7 installation and macOS 13 on different hardware, balenaEtcher, and Raspberry PI Imager
- Physically burning the CentOS 7 "Minimal" and "NetInstall" images to a CD-R
- Booting the kernel using the included GRUB bootloader with default configuration
- Booting the kernel after temporarily adding options, including "nomodeset", "text", "inst.text", "ipmi_si.trydefaults=0"
- Booting the kernel after temporarily removing "quiet"
- Booting the kernel directly through rEFInd
- Booting GRUB through rEFInd, then using GRUB to boot the kernel
- Using other hardware to completely install onto a flash drive, then attempting to boot the Xserve off the flash drive
- Taking apart the ISO and making a flash drive with two partitions, a FAT32 and an ext4 and putting the ISO back together on the drive partitions
- Installing rEFInd on aforementioned flash drive and booting directly through that
- Using the Mini DisplayPort and the DVI port on the NVIDIA GPU (Note I got this Xserve on eBay, and where the motherboard's Mini DP should be, there is an empty space, so no iGPU booting)

I am about out of ideas, and this is incredibly frustrating because of how Apple likes to make everything proprietary. I wish I had written down what fixed it last time, as that would probably fix it again. But oh well. If anyone has the slightest experience with this, I welcome your suggestions. If not, I might consider it a lost cause, as much as I don't want to have to do that. Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this.

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TrevorH
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by TrevorH » 2023/02/16 16:57:41

I'd recommend that you try with a version of el8 or el9 that is not a permanent beta (a.k.a Stream). CentOS is no longer what it was and Stream is too unstable to be used for any production workload. I suspect you will get the same problem on RHEL 8/9 or one of the RHEL clones (which Steam is not) but I think it might be good to try it to confirm.

But to confirm, you're saying the CentOS 7 installer behaves exactly the same as the newer ones and does not boot with the same symptoms as the others? If you boot CentOS 7 - the installed copy - and look at /proc/cmdline, does that show any unusual parameters that you might have needed to get it to boot before?
The future appears to be RHEL or Debian. I think I'm going Debian.
Info for USB installs on http://wiki.centos.org/HowTos/InstallFromUSBkey
CentOS 5 and 6 are deadest, do not use them.
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AppleGuy14
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by AppleGuy14 » 2023/02/16 17:21:21

Thank you for the timely response and your suggestion. I will download the el8 and 9 installers tonight and try them out.
And yes, unfortunately the CentOS 7 installer does the same thing, GRUB loads but nothing past that. No way to see logs, a terminal, nothing.
The only things in /proc/cmdline that I have added are "net.ifnames=0" and "biosdevname=0" to ensure predictable interface names. I was sure there was some other parameter I must have added, but it does not seem like that was the fix, unless it applied only to the installer. I will update tonight after trying el8 and 9.

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TrevorH
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by TrevorH » 2023/02/16 17:22:49

I do see posts about ubuntu saying you need to pass 'video=efifb' and also perhaps 'noefi' but I don't see an efifb kernel module in any RHEL version, 7,8 or 9.

Also, I just did a quick google for the specs of this machine and it appears to use either a single or a dual Xeon E5462. According to cpubenchmark that's a quad core processor rated at 80W and scores 2067 on their 'passmark' score system. It may be worth you thinking about replacing that machine with something newer that uses less power - for example, all 4 cores on that would be outperformed by a single core on an AMD Ryzen 3600 processor (it has 6 of those) or even by an Intel Pentium G5900 costing a whole US$22. Processors of the age you're looking at are also notoriously power hungry so an upgrade would probably pay for itself in electricity cost in a relatively short period of time.

Haha, I checked a site that compares processors too, they don't have the E5462 listed but they do have an E5450 which is the same generation of Xeon and is actually faster I think. Just for giggles I asked it to compare the E5450 with a Raspberry Pi 4 and the results are quite surprising: https://www.cpu-monkey.com/en/compare_c ... xeon_e5450 - on the tests that both complete it appears that an rpi4 is about 40% the speed of the E5450 and uses 7.5W vs 80W. Not really suggesting that as an alternative but the comparison is quite illuminating.
The future appears to be RHEL or Debian. I think I'm going Debian.
Info for USB installs on http://wiki.centos.org/HowTos/InstallFromUSBkey
CentOS 5 and 6 are deadest, do not use them.
Use the FAQ Luke

AppleGuy14
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by AppleGuy14 » 2023/02/16 17:37:01

Well even if the kernel module for efifb isn't included in RHEL, do you suggest I still try those two parameters? I can try those tonight right before I reformat the flash drive with el8/9.

And yeah, it definitely isn't the best option. I have two CPUs in it, and yes it's loud, hot, and takes up about 250W of power on average. It's just such a neat piece of hardware that I'd hate to get rid of it. I have considered buying a small form factor Dell PC to replace it, or heck, even an old Mac mini, but it seems too cool to just give up on.

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TrevorH
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by TrevorH » 2023/02/16 17:44:52

I checked with grep -i fb_efi /boot/config-$(uname -r) on 7 8 and 9 and it is part of the kernel on all of them, not a module so I think it should be available:

CONFIG_FB_EFI=y
The future appears to be RHEL or Debian. I think I'm going Debian.
Info for USB installs on http://wiki.centos.org/HowTos/InstallFromUSBkey
CentOS 5 and 6 are deadest, do not use them.
Use the FAQ Luke

AppleGuy14
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by AppleGuy14 » 2023/02/16 17:48:29

Thank you for helping me research this. I will update tonight after trying these various ideas.

AppleGuy14
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by AppleGuy14 » 2023/02/16 21:46:15

So I just tried adding each of those arguments individually, in addition to combining them. No luck. I am trying to download el8 or el9, but I'm afraid I misunderstood. What exactly do you mean by el? I presume it stands for Enterprise Linux, but as CentOS doesn't seem to have a version 9, I can't quite figure out what you meant by that.

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TrevorH
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by TrevorH » 2023/02/16 22:09:19

CentOS as a rebuild of RHEL ceased to exist at the end of 2021. Red Hat decided to turn it into a pre-release of the next point release of RHEL so it's effectively a permanent beta.

Several other respins of RHEL were set up as a result of that RH decision. There is Rocky Linux, Alma Linux, Oracle Enterprise Linux (a.k.a OEL. This existed prior to the CentOS change). You can also sign up to the free Red Hat Developer subscription and that allows you to run up to 16 instances of RHEL itself. All of those qualify as Enterprise Linux hence the el8 and el9 descriptors.
The future appears to be RHEL or Debian. I think I'm going Debian.
Info for USB installs on http://wiki.centos.org/HowTos/InstallFromUSBkey
CentOS 5 and 6 are deadest, do not use them.
Use the FAQ Luke

AppleGuy14
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Re: Unable to boot Centos Stream 9 installer on 2008 Apple Xserve

Post by AppleGuy14 » 2023/02/16 22:13:59

Ah, okay. That would explain the footer in your posts then. I believe Rocky Linux was included in the compatibility list for the one specific part of my usage, so I will give that a try really quick. That's funny, as I understood it CentOS was started independently of RedHat as a way to turn it into a free product. I guess I missed a step in between, I just find it ironic. Let me go try Rocky and get back to you.

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