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I would like to know if logs such as syslog and messages begin their first loggings during the installation of the OS, or once the OS has already been installed and the first normal boot-up?

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I believe the answer is yes (although see my notes towards the bottom of the answer after the quotation from the manpage), but I have no recent installations to confirm this.

If you are trying to debug an installation, in addition to the syslog and messages logs, ubiquity (the liveCD installer) will also also send logging output to these files:

  • /var/log/installer/debug (debugging output)
  • /var/log/installer/dm (stands for display manager I believe, similar to Xorg.0.log)
  • /var/log/installer/version (the version of ubiquity)
  • /var/log/partman (logging from the partition manager)

These files will not be overwritten by more recent logging (as syslog and messages would), so they might be more useful in looking for installation errors.

If you require further detail you can also pass -d to ubiquity to enable verbose mode, as explained in the manpage:

     -d, --debug
       Run in debugging mode, sending verbose information to
       /var/log/installer/debug that may be useful to developers.  (The
       /var/log/syslog file is usually required in any case, along with
       /var/log/partman in the case of problems related to partitioning.)
       Note that passwords will be logged in debugging mode!

To to this, from a liveCD you can either press Alt+F2 and run ubiquity -d (this might need root privileges, in which case add a sudo) or open a terminal and run the same command. The messages about the syslog and partman files being required might indicate that they are not created until after installation, but in this case you should be able to make the files/directories first using sudo mkdir and sudo nano.

Another possibility would be that the logging would be done to the liveCD's virtual filesystem's /var/log/syslog, in which case you could open it and copy the information to a permanent destination being rebooting out of the live session and into the new installation.

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