31 May 2011

4. Getting mouse and keyboard to work on Lenovo Thinkpad SL410 under Debian Testing/Wheezy

For the past few months (it seems) Debian Testing will install just fine on system. On the first boot, however, neither (internal or external) mouse nor keyboard will be responsive and to a casual observer it will appear that the system has hanged. This is fairly well documented and the solution is simple if you have an EXTERNAL keyboard and mouse available (but I'll show it here anyway):
1. Disconnect and reconnect your mouse and keyboard, or, on a laptop, connect a usb keyboard, so that you can log in.
2. Open the terminal  or a console (e.g. ctrl+alt+f1) and proceed to rename /run e.g. sudo mv /run /xrun

You could also delete the folder instead of renaming it. At this point you simply have to reboot and everything should be working without any reconnecting.

NOTE that everything will be responsive during the inital part of the boot - the mouse and keyboard do not stop working until startx/gdm3 starts.

If you do not have an external keyboard you would be advised to install openssh-server during the installation of Debian. This way you should be able to ssh to your laptop from another computer and fix it remotely.

I've set up four systems - three desktops and one laptop - using this approach, and all has been well. The past week a laptop that was set up this way suddenly booted into gdm3 with an unresponsive mouse and keyboard. Plugging in an external keyboard (which I do anyway to slow down the onset of carpal tunnel from using a keyboard at weird angles - I'm not much of a fan of touchpads either) made my laptop usable, but the problem has been annoying - a system which you use for work should be in, well, working order.

At any rate, the /run folder was back. I tried just removing /run/udev, and it didn't help. I couldn't easily remove /run, since it was locked, but by attaching the hdd to another system I could remove it. On boot I got a number of error messages saying that various folders under /var/run/ could not be accessed, and I never made it to either gdm3 or a console. Booting by selecting the 'rescue/recover' option in grub dropped me into a terminal, but I could little beyond creating a /run folder (sudo mkdir /run).

ls /var/run -lah showed that /var/run was linked to /run. /var/lock had also shown up in various error messages. I renamed the /var/run and the /var/lock files (xrun and xlock), made sure that there was no /run folder, and rebooted. Still not happy and no console - complains about various things missing. Booting using the recover option (or is it rescue? Whatever, you'll know when you see it) created the necessary files, but did not create a /run folder. Rebooting and selecting the normal startup option in grub now went off without a hitch, with gdm3 behaving and the touchpad working. It took a few nervous seconds after the start of gdm before the mouse became responsive, but work it did.

So, if you're having the same problem, and you haven't had much luck deleting /run, have a look at /var and see if there are any links.

Now, the big question is: why was /run recreated in the first place?
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