Update: No crashes, not even a hiccup, after 3 weeks of continuous running following this fix.
This subject matter is a little out of character for this site, I know. I had so much trouble finding an answer to this problem that I wanted to post my solution here, in the hopes that it would help someone else.
I’d built a Linux box out of old parts and installed the latest release of Ubuntu (Gutsy), only to be met with constant, random crashes. Sometimes it would take a minute, other times an hour or two, but from the middle of nowhere everything would lock up in a kernel panic, with the scroll-lock and caps-lock lights flashing on the keyboard.
Now if this was Windows, from experience I would have suspected a funky video driver first, and a sound driver after that. A lot of poking around seemed (initially) to confirm those culprits in this case, so I spent days changing out cards and drivers, rebooting, and getting the same results. Even when it was up and running, there were weird little glitches and gremlins all over the place. Very frustrating; Windows XP was starting to look solid as a rock by comparison.
Google searches for a solution suggested BIOS tweaks, version roll-backs and lots of command-line gymnastics, none of which yielded anything useful. So here’s what the problem was, and it might be your problem, too.
The box accessed my wireless network through a LinkSys WUSB11 adapter, one of the most common WiFi dongles out there (at least in my junk box). Replacing this with a D-Link WDA-2320 PCI card fixed absolutely everything that was wrong with this machine. Now, I can’t crash it if I try; nothing I change in the BIOS or other configuration makes it any less stable, from restricted video drivers to overclocking.
The LinkSys adapter is still fine for my Windows machines, and it works great with TiVo. There’s just something about it that Ubuntu Linux apparently doesn’t like at all.
It seems like a lot of people are experiencing a similar problem. If you’re one of them, I hope this suggestion leads to a good, healthy Linux box for you.