Best of Technical Support

Our experts answer your technical questions.
Odd Booting Message

When Linux boots, I receive the message “LIL-”. Documentation said that it is a description table error. How can I fix this problem? —Adrian Lasso,

LILO is looking for your kernel and can't find it. Usually this happens in one of two cases. The first is when you install a new kernel and forget to tell LILO it's there by running lilo as root before rebooting. The second is when LILO simply can't cope with your hard drive format. You can solve it either way by booting from a set of boot disks and rerunning LILO. If running it alone doesn't help, try running it as lilo -l. This often lets LILO work around certain hard drive formats that it otherwise might not be able to read. —Chad Robinson,

Recovering from such problems is not trivial, as you need an alternate way to boot. I'd suggest you rerun /sbin/lilo after entering your system on booting from CD or floppy. Also, adding a “linear” keyword to the /etc/lilo.conf file is usually beneficial. These problems, however, are usually very hard to track down; you can find a lot of information on architectural problems related to system boot in Andries Brouwer's pages, at —Alessandro Rubini,

The Headless Serial Console

I would like to set up a serial console. I would like to be able to issue LILO boot commands on the serial console. Eventually, if all goes well, I'd like the machine to be totally headless. If you could give me a hands-on “how to do this”, it would be great. I have already read your “Serial Terminal as Console” (Issue #36, April 1997) article, but I don't get the LILO prompt on my terminal. —Rick McFarland,

This is not a problem at all. If you run kernel 2.2 or 2.3, just configure serial console support and read Documentation/serial-console.txt. If you run 2.0, you must apply the serial-console patch ( and fall back to the previous case. To use LILO on the serial port, just add serial=0,9600n8 or an equivalent line to the /etc/lilo.conf file. In order to interact with LILO, you'll need to send a “break” character. —Alessandro Rubini,

Here are the relevant two lines from my lilo.conf file for serial port 1:

append="panic=40 console=ttyS0,38400n8 console=tty0"

On my machine, I had to disable hardware flow control for minicom to interact with the lilo prompt over the serial port. —Marc Merlin,

Workstation and Server Connection

I am having problems understanding the concept of setting up a Linux box as a workstation and connecting it to the server. I have set up a server: IP:, and a box with IP:; netmask is on both machines. My network cards are working, and I can have them ping themselves, but I can't ping one box to the other—I'm stuck there.

Once I do get connectivity, I'd like to run StarOffice from w1 off of the server. I'm wondering how I go about creating a simple network between the two and the concepts involved. —Nick Anderson,

You are slightly confused when you use the DOMAIN term; what you are giving are FQDNs (fully qualified domain names or host names with the domain attached).

Being able to ping yourself doesn't mean much; it can work even if your network is non-functional. You may have a bad cable or some other link-layer problem. You should check the link light on both of your Ethernet cards to make sure it's lit. Maybe you connected the machines directly without using a crossover cable.

To run an application on a remote display, you need to do the following:

w1:~$ xhost server
w1:~$ rlogin/telnet server
server:~$ export DISPLAY=w1:0
server:~$ soffice &

This is not completely secure, since you're allowing anyone on the server to take over your X display and snoop on your keystrokes. Instead of going into detail about exporting an MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE to allow only one user (you) to access the display, I'd recommend using SSH (secure shell) version 1.2.x (not 2.x which isn't free), as SSH takes care of X security and the display exporting for you. —Marc Merlin,

Every computer can ping itself, even if the Ethernet card is not working or not there at all. If you try running ifconfig and route, you'll be able to see what the problem is (errors transmitting, receiving, or just no route at all). I suspect you have no routing associated to the interfaces; try: route add -net dev eth0. —Alessandro Rubini,