Bootscripts and error handling

Ivan Kabaivanov chepati at
Fri Jul 8 23:28:25 PDT 2011

On Friday 08 July 2011 17:55:09 Bruce Dubbs wrote:
> I've been working on bootscripts.  Basically, I'm rewriting them to get
> a better understanding.  I may end up throwing them out completely but I
> want to discuss the issue of error handling.
> There are three bootscript files that use the
>    read ENTER
> construct:  checkfs, udev, and functions.

Hi Bruce,

I'll throw in my $0.02, as this read ENTER has been always a thorn in my side 
and I've been patching the lfs-bootscripts for a very long time to get around 

What I do: I have a dedicated partition of 100MB for storing boot failure 
logs.  I pass an extra argument to grub:


however, with a bit of tweaking I can use rescue-logs=LABEL=rescue-logs just 
as well.

Then in /etc/rc.d/init.d/functions I have this:

# This is the partition where logs are saved in case of boot failure
# this partition is never used for anything else, and is never mounted rw
for i in $(cat /proc/cmdline); do
        case ${i} in

        # $i is inherited by the rc script
        boot_mesg -n "FAILURE:\n\nYou should not be reading this error 
message.\n\n" ${FAILURE}
        boot_mesg -n " It means that an unforeseen error took"
        boot_mesg -n " place in ${i}, which exited with a return value of"
        boot_mesg " ${error_value}.\n"
        boot_mesg -n "If you're able to track this"
        boot_mesg -n " error down to a bug in one of the files provided by"
        boot_mesg -n " the LFS book, please be so kind to inform us at"
        boot_mesg " lfs-dev at\n"
        boot_mesg -n "\n\nWaiting ${TIMEOUT} seconds..." ${INFO}
        boot_mesg "" ${NORMAL}

        # Now try to save the error into the rescue log
        rescue_logs "Error in ${i}!!! Error value= ${error_value}"
        sleep ${TIMEOUT}


rescue_logs() {
        DATE=`date +%Y-%m-%d-%H-%M-%S`
        if [ x"${RESCUE_LOGS_PARTITION}" != x"none" ]; then
                if mount ${RESCUE_LOGS_PARTITION} /media/rescue-logs 2>&1 > 
/dev/null; then
                        echo "=== BOOT FAILURE on ${DATE} ===" > ${LOG}
                        echo "${MESSAGE}" >> ${LOG}
                        echo "=== END OF BOOT FAILURE on ${DATE} ===" >> 
                        echo -e "\n\n\n" >> ${LOG}

                        umount /media/rescue-logs

And then for example in /etc/rc.d/init.d/udev I have this:

boot_mesg "Populating /dev with device nodes..."
                if ! grep -q '[[:space:]]sysfs' /proc/mounts; then
                        boot_mesg -n "FAILURE:\n\nUnable to create" ${FAILURE}
                        boot_mesg -n " devices without a SysFS filesystem"
                        boot_mesg -n "\n\nAfter you press Enter, this system"
                        boot_mesg -n " will be rebooted for repair." ${INFO}
                        boot_mesg "" ${NORMAL}

                        # Now try to save the error into the rescue log
                        rescue_logs "No SysFS filesystem"
                        sleep ${TIMEOUT}
                        reboot -f

Now, I use a grub trick that I believe Bruce posted to this mailing list a few 
years ago to set a grub env variable  "recordfail" to 1 upon every boot which 
is then cleared in case of a normal boot.  In case of a failed boot, grub 
picks a second entry which is a rescue mode initrd with busybox which tries to 
get a DHCP lease or in case of no DHCP server, it tries to find a free IP on 
the same network.  I had it then email me this temporary IP, but I removed 
this as I had to include my email password in the initrd.  Maybe there's a way 
to encrypt the password, but I didn't look hard enough.  This works even for 
an internet-facing machine and I've successfully tested logging into my 
machine from a different location, as long as my internet connection is 

Finally, I just ssh to this mini os, check the rescue logs, fix the problem, 
reset the default grub entry and reboot.  So far it has worked for me.

As a matter of fact, I created this initrd in response to this email thread:

My idea was to have a "self-healing" system as much as, and if at all, 
possible.  An initrd which will try to fix corrupted filesystems, or at least 
provide a way for you to log into the system after a failed boot and allow you 
to troubleshoot and fix problems yourself.  For headless/keayboardless 
machines this is a good thing.

My next crazy idea is relocatable kernel which with some black voodoo magic 
and kexec can be loaded in case of a new kernel failing to load.  Also an 
initrd which boots either from harddisk or from a bootable cdrom/usb 
thumbdrive/usb floppy/etc in case of hard disk failure.  My goal is to ensure 
that I can always reach my system even in case of serious problems (except of 
course loss of power or internet connectivity).

I'm not saying this is the best approach, but I submit it to your attention in 
case you find it, or parts of it, interesting.

> In the case of functions, the construct is used in print_error_msg that
> is only called from the rc script.  It is not a fatal function.
> In checkfs, the construct is called in three different places.  In two
> places it is followed immediately by a halt and one place a reboot.
> In udev, the construct is called in two places. In both cases, it is
> followed by a halt.
> The question is how to handle these errors in a headless or keyboardless
>   system.  The problems identified are pretty serious and it's doubtful
> anything could be written to the disk.
> I'm thinking about moving the messages/halt/reboot to the functions
> script so they all can be handled in one place.   If we then have the
> functions script do:
> [ -e /etc/sysconfig/init_params ]  && . /etc/sysconfig/init_params
> then when we want to optionally stop for the user to read something:
> # Wait for the user by default
> [ "${HEADLESS=0}" = "0" ] && read ENTER

I always replace the read ENTER with sleep 20 (or more if the message is 
long).  And I replace shutdown with reboot which boots into rescue mode.  To 
me a linux server should never make itself unavailable, by either waiting 
infinitely for user input at the console or by shutting itself down.

> To disable the need for a keyboard entry, the /etc/sysconfig/init_params
> file would define the following:
> --------
> The above would only apply to LFS bootscripts.  I can't think of
> anything from BLFS or a third party that would need to stop the boot
> sequence to wait for the user to read a message.
> Should we integrate this into the LFS bootscripts?
>    -- Bruce


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