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China Doll: Dell + Ubuntu, Again

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It took me a few days to get it right. Didn’t have any problem installing Ubuntu5.10 on my old DIY desktop pc. But the same couldn’t be said about installing the newer release on my brand new Dell. There were unpleasant surprises and frustrating moments:

Getting the Ubuntu6.06 LiveCD to run was easy – it probably didn’t load any exotic video driver even when it was not actually running in Safe Graphic mode. Installing it on my harddisk was entirely a different matter.

As mentioned in my last post, the first surprise was that the Ubuntu6.06 LiveCD just installed its Grub bootloader on the MBR – no warning and no option to choose from. Grub is a fine bootloader but there are two major problems: first, if the computer is a Dell with a special MBR to cater for its two hidden partitions, Grub will simply mess up your specially partitioned harddisk. Second, Grub will invariably see your harddisk arrangement differently than your OS does (whether it’s Ubuntu or Suse) if you are using SATA or USB external harddrive. For my Dell, my internal SATA drive was sde during installation but becomes sda once Ubuntu was booted up (unless you are aware of this, you won’t be able to boot up Ubuntu using the Grub menu. One simple but sure-work way is to press ‘e’ and manually changes the root. In my Dell, I have a card reader which alone takes up sdb, sdc, sdd and sde. So my external drive can be anything from sda to sdg depending on (1) which harddisk I boot up from and (2) whether the OS will first see my card reader or the USB harddisk). One thing for certain is that whichever partition Grub thinks your root actually resides on will be wrong. It is necessary to manually edit the grub menu before Ubuntu will boot up.

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