Documenting something that I tripped over while trying to fix a very old Linux system.
Grub Legacy (0.97) is dependent on 128 byte inode sizes. Newer systems use 256 byte inodes to store extended attributes. This confuses grub causing it not to be able to boot system as well as cause boot loader installation to fail with odd error messages like can find /boot/grub/stage1.
Fortunately googling found that Kristian Reese had documented this in his own "knowledge base", somewhat like I'm doing here in a less organized fashion.
Use tune2fs -l /dev/foo to see the current file system parameters. Tip: Save tune2fs dump info someplace for import (root) file systems someplace off the system.