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Solving a VirtualBox server rebooting with Debian Wheezy

Debian Wheezy recently made it to being released as the current Stable version. With a new version of Debian, I thought it time to update my Intel Atom based server. This runs two Virtual servers, allowing me the advantages of a good network setup without the associated power consumption, noise and space requirements of using physically separate hardware. After updating the host system, I turned my attention to one of the guest systems. After updating, it didn’t come up cleanly after a reboot. Checking the system with a Remote Desktop Connection showed a kernel error that the new -686 kernel no longer ran on non-PAE systems. Not a problem, quickly checking the options for VirtualBox meant that I could configure the guest system to include PAE extentions.

However whenever the guest system was stressed, the host would reboot. Using rsync over SSH seemed to be a particularly reliable way of causing it to reboot, though that could just have been due to the load on the guest system.

After quite a lot of head scratching, I finally noticed the following in my syslog.

 bebop kernel: [    0.000000] Atom PSE erratum detected, BIOS microcode update recommended

Sadly there seem to be no BIOS updates from Jetway to update this on my motherboard. Some research led me to the intel-microcode package, which updates the CPU’s microcode on the fly. A simple case of apt-get installing it and then a reboot showed that the microcode was being updated early in the boot process. Better still, my system no longer rebooted when the guest was stressed.

Another problem solved :).

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