Monday, January 12, 2009

Fun With Linux

I write this from my first successful Linux installation, Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex. It started innocently enough after reading this tweet.
Is a bad that I uninstalled Internet Explorer from all my family members pcs in the last 2 weeks and replace d it with firefox.
It's fairly innocuous, but it got me thinking about installing some flavor of Linux on my son's old laptop running XP Pro. Maybe it was the sneaky factor?

So last Saturday I went to Wal-Mart and bought an 8 GB San Cruzer flash drive, downloaded the ISO image from, unzipped it and put the files on the flash drive. Plugged in the flash drive to my son's computer and waited like 20 minutes for it to boot up. It's an old laptop with 256 MB Ram, and I'm not sure what the processor is...but it's slow.

When it finally did come up, I tried clicking on the Install icon on the desktop and it just sat there...for hours...and hours. Finally coming up with some gnome applet error. By the way, the scenery is quite nice:

From oraclenerd

So I sat there for the next 24 hours trying to figure this thing out. Finally, I just installed it from the wubi.exe file supplied in the ISO via Windows. Weird thing about that is it went out to the 'tubes to get the files when it had them right there. Oh well.

Installation went swimmingly. Had Ubuntu running just fine, a bit better than Windows ran on that machine. The update manager told me I needed had updates so I started that process. As I sat around I started to look around (very dangerous). I'm not much of an OS guru, I know enough to get by and that's it. So I'm looking at the files that I left on the system and decided to start removing them. Windows folder? Bah, don't need that. Trash. Trash. boot.ini? Trash. The only folder I did leave was Ubuntu and Documents and Settings (for the saved files). After the update manager completed I needed to restart, so I did.

Can't Load Operating System or some such nonsense. What? I just installed Ubuntu! Effing Linux! Can't these people get it straight? No wonder no one uses it!

Naturally, I'm an idiot.

Had it running on Sunday night and Monday when it came time for my son to get on the computer (after school), it was broken. I received a few irate IMs from the wifey in that regard. Ugh.

Found the XP recovery disk that night and tried to update the boot.ini and NTDETECT files (among others) to no avail. Began re-installation of Windows. Joy. Maybe I learned my lesson this time?

I decided to install Ubuntu on my old machine at home too. That was cut short because I had a very old Graphics card (Diamond FireGL2) that didn't work with Ubuntu. Perhaps I should get a newer graphics card?

In the meantime, I decided to install it on a 3rd machine, my other old box. This has been my mainstay for the last 7 years (yikes). Dell 4300, Pentium IV, 512 MB Ram. There are two disks on this machine, the first of which has 2 partitions, one for the OS and one for Data.

I successfully install it, reboot and am then prompted with a GRUB prompt? WTF? I can't remember the details as it all seemed to happen so quickly. Messing around there I played with the HIDE/UNHIDE commands, MAKEACTIVE, etc. Reboot. Error Loading Operating System. WTF? Come on!

XP Recovery Disk to the rescue. Getting to the command line I quickly noticed F:\WINDOWS. F? How'd that happen? Oh wait...HIDE...MAKEACTIVE...great. Spent the next few hours trying to replace the boot.ini file, but it wasn't recognizing the partition so it didn't matter. I finally just decided to delete the OS partition and re-install Windows.

Finally, finally, here I am. Ubuntu installed on son's computer, check. Ubuntu installed on my (first) old computer, check (still need graphics card). Ubuntu installed on my (second) old computer, check.

I decided not to delete any windows system files this time.

Next up, I need to figure out how, on restart, to have Ubuntu the default in OS selection.


John T said...

Have you tried FDISK? It will solve all your woes...

oraclenerd said...

FDISK? Never heard of it...maybe I'll give it a whirl. Jerk.

Cd-MaN said...

Welcome to the Ubuntu world :-). I didn't use the Windows installer, but AFAIK it uses the Windows partition + some of the Windows files to boot, instead of using its own partition.

IMHO it would be better (and I always done it this way) to install it on a separate partition, although the partition resizing can take some time. If you have the opportunity, please post the gnome-applet error you've received while trying to install from the LiveCD.

Best regards.

Anonymous said...

Xen with full virtualization - Run windows desktop inside your Ubuntu instance. No more need to dual boot.

Tom said...

Are you booting up with GRUB or NTLOADER? If NT, edit the boot.ini file and make Ubuntu the default. If using grub, then edit the grub.conf and make Ubuntu the default.

oraclenerd said...


I'll see if I can reproduce it or find out if it's in my saved searches and repost.

I should have ended up repartitioning, but I was so flustered by the end of it I was just happy to be done. Next time will probably be with a brand new computer so I'll have the experience necessary to plan better.

Mr. Labocki,

Baby steps sir, baby steps.


I did figure out a way finally...through System --> Properties --> Startup and Recovery (yes, I cheated).

At least I have a basis to start on now...

Stretch said...

If you are not an OS person, Linux is not particularly friendly to work with. I like it for the speed, and lack of ball and chain copy protection. I remember a mistake I made when first using linux. If you fat finger keys as often as I do. you might just end up wiping out the entire drive contents very easily. rm -Rf with a switch like /. or something along those lines. I wanted to delete the entire contents of the folder I was in. I ended deleting all files on the drive. I realized it, but it was too late. c'est la vie. No warnings like Are you sure? Y/N DOS 3.3 was more intuitive.