Sunday, February 04, 2007

Colour Me Brown (and Unimpressed), Part 1

In the course of a discussion/flamewar with folks on a mailinglist over Gentoo vs. just-about-every-other-distro, I made a commitment that I would try Ubuntu over the next few weeks and see what I thought about it.

I would like to point out before I start that I'm not a Gentoo bigot - I've tried many distros in the past and some of my favourites include Slackware, SUSE, and FreeBSD (not strictly a Linux distro, but close enough!). Unfortunately, I can't of course use SuSE anymore due to my stance on the MS/Novell deal. Oh well. I also have fond memories of Mandrake, as it was then, the first distro I had any luck with. It seems to have fallen out of favour since then, but back in those days it was probably THE distro for a beginner.

Having heard that Ubuntu takes "only 30 minutes to install", I started the install late last night. I found myself still at the computer at 5 am! Older and wiser...(!)

However, it didn't take long before I ran into problems. The first was that Ubuntu refused to install the /boot files in a partition that was XFS formatted - but not until I had already set the partitions up! So I went back and tried to partition the space I had set up into three partitions - one each for /boot, / and swap. I gave the / partition 3GB of space - 50% more than the install program recommended - and the recommended 256MB of swap. Everything seemed fine until I rebooted and tried to login, selecting drive 2 from the BIOS screen. Grub loaded, but couldn't find a valid partition and file to boot from. So I rebooted and tried again.

This time, after settings up as before I noticed that the installation program, in its wisdom, had decided that the 4GB partition should become the swap partition, and that 1/2GB, contrary to the instructions, was quite enough for /, thankyou very much. So I attempted to rectify the situation by giving the system 1.5GB swap - three times the amount of memory in this machine.

This time, everything seemed to go well. The system installed, I rebooted and chose the second disk to boot from. Still no joy. It turns out that Ubuntu had gotten the GRUB configuration hopelessly confused. No matter, just drop down to the GRUB commandline and set the correct parameters.

(cont. in Part 2)

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