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Tuesday, March 06, 2007
  Ubuntu! Installed! The whole story!
Given that I've got this brutal head cold, I canceled playing indoor soccer last night and stayed home and geeked it out.

Here's the story of how I installed Linux onto a spare PC, to co-exist with an existing Windows XP Professional installation.

1) It was about 6:00pm or so when I got started, and this is literally starting from zero, didn't even have the ISO or anything yet.

2) Decided it would be best to get the partitioning out of the way before attempting the installation, and I found there was a gparted ( the Gnome Partion Editor) LiveCD available, this means you download an ISO (disk image), burn it onto a Blank CD, and then your computer will boot up (start-up) off of this CD, taking you into an environment where you can adjust the partitions (sections) of your harddrive.

3) Started downloading ISO's for both Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), and the Live CD for GParted - found these on MiniNova (BitTorrent search engine)

4) The gparted ISO was only about 50MB, so it finished relatively quickly, so I burned it and got started.

5) It booted-up just fine, answered a few prompts at the command-line (just defaults - on keyboard layout, etc), and was taken into a Linux GUI, launched the utility and was very easily able to reconfigure the existing hard drive partition, and create the new ones... To be honest, I haven't had to think about partitioning drives in AGES, but I had lots of experience doing stuff like this a decade or so ago, so it was no problem. The utility was graphical, able to drag the partitions to the desired sizes, etc.. So I actually ended up with 4 partitions:
1 - The original which was resized from 40GB down to ~ 13GB
2 - The next would be for Linux (formatted as type ext3) - 14GB
3 - Linux Swap partition (Linux holds it's swap file / virtual memory - on a seperate partition) - 1GB
4 - A FAT32 partition, accessible from both OS's - I can hold shared data here - 10GB
Once this was all defined, I clicked go, the whole process took about 15-20 minutes to complete, and worked like a charm! All good, ready to proceed w/ installing ubuntu!

6) I encountered a problem on this step - I was unable to get the Ubuntu 6.10 LiveCD to properly boot into the installation... It did get as far as the initial screen, but after choosing to install, it would go away for about 5-10 minutes and then start returning errors something like hdb: timeout waiting for DMA

I googled around, didn't find a real solution, but did understand that hdb means the 2nd drive on the primary IDE controller, so in this case, that meant my CD-ROM drive, so it was having trouble reading from the CD. Now I've used this CD-ROM drive to install XP, and quite a number of kids software on this machine, so I was skeptical that the drive was bad. I burned the disk at 24x, so perhaps that was the issue... I didn't really feel like burning another CD, and I had a few spare drives kicking around, so I swapped out the CD-ROM drive for a DVD Burner from another machine, that worked! (Problem #1)

7) The Ubuntu LiveCD basically boots you up into the Linux GUI environment, without touching your existing HD, it came up, looked fine, and you've got an 'Install' icon on the desktop.

8) I proceeded to run the install - first time though it strangely died when trying to set the Time Zone (of all things!), the dialog box somehow just got hung-up, and I wasn't able to click Next, Back or Cancel, I ended up having to launch a console and just started killing processes until I found the right one... (Problem #2)

9) After that strange issue, the install went ahead according to hoyle, it took quite a while, I'd say at least an hour (P3, 256MB of RAM, 40GB HD) to copy all of the files... I just chilled and watched an episode of the DiggNation... video podcast

10) After the install, I wasn't too suprised that Ubuntu hadn't detected the NIC in the machine, despite it being a 3COM Etherlink III (3C509), I had played around w/ a USB-key distribution of Linux on this machine before and had troubleshooted this problem before, so I knew that I could just modprobe 3c509 to get it to sort of detect/load the module, and then add 3c509 into the modules file to actually have it load on each boot-up... This has worked fine, so I'm networking :) (Problem #3)

11) Once this was all taken care of, I played around a bit, surfed the weeb, installed the google toolbar, which all works great, I've got my bookmarks & all, I'm a happy camper.

12) Ran the Ubuntu updates next, there were over 100, keep in mind that these aren't just OS updates, but updates for all of the software in the distribution, Open Office, etc... Kind of a cool concept! I kicked this off and then went to bed.

13) In the morning, the updates had finished, but, (Problem #4), the 'task bar' was gone... I had a single copy of Firefox running, but I couldn't launch anything else or even shutdown... I tried ctrl-alt-delete, no go... I hit the power button the PC - this got an effect, brought up a shutdown menu, but clicking Shutdown didn't do anything either, had to do a hard reset.

14) Since then, the PC is working fine, I have to admit, I'm not thrilled with the performance, I know it's just a P3 w/ 256MB of RAM, but despite that I haven't actually benchmarked it, I think XP actually runs faster than Linux on this machine... For example, it takes about 2 minutes for the system to boot to the login screen, and Firefox takes close to 20 seconds to open! I'm planning to post this to some Ubuntu forum, request some general performance tweaking suggestions...

15) So I'll be playing around with this system for a while, try to get it to do all the things I can do with my primary PC and then consider making the switch!
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