Ubuntu Dapper Drake – taking the plunge

This is it. Hopefully the start of a new and exciting journey and successful switch to Linux, something I had been contemplating for a long time. The time feels right, Ubuntu sounds right, the brand new release is out, so here goes…

Downloaded Dapper Drake yesterday and of course I couldn’t wait to install it on my company-given laptop. Throwing caution to the winds, I decided to actually resize the existing Windows XP partition on my IBM Thinkpad R51.

Steps I followed:

  • Laptop has a measly 40GB hard disk. Decided to do away with the IBM PreDesktop Area to gain some space. This page was useful and I was able to “un-secure” the IBM PreDesktop area (set it to “Normal” from the BIOS).
  • Backed up my data.
  • Defragged the windows partition. Linux / Ubuntu enthusiasts say this is not necessary as a prerequisite to resizing an NTFS partition using the installer nowadays, but I did this anyway, hoping that it would make things easier for the mighty installer program :) and somehow reduce chances of zapping my Windows data.
  • Okay, showtime. Put in the Ubuntu install CD and booted.
  • I wanted to do the resize before the actual install, and verify that all my Windows data was OK before installing Ubuntu. So instead of running install, I went to System -> Administration -> Gnome Partition Editor (GParted). Went ahead resized the main partition from 32 to 25. (Remaining 7 or so is used by the IBM PreDesktop area). Took a deep breath and confirmed the operation. It took some time, and ended with a scary message saying something like the operation was performed on a device that was mounted and that I needed to reboot to continue. I thought I was basically screwed, but anyway I rebooted. It got even scarier because CHKDISK with the sinister blue screens ran at startup. But there were no errors, Windows booted and it all looked OK. I ran defrag again for good measure. *phew*
  • Feeling a lot better now, reboot back to the Ubuntu installer CD.
  • Insallation commences, some basic questions about date, locale and passwords at the start
  • Chose to do the partitioning manually.
  • Deleted the existing IBM PreDesktop area partition with slight pang of guilt. I hear that IBM support mails recovery CDs to you if you are under warranty. Anway there are a couple of colleagues in office with the same config.
  • Decided to have an additional separate partition for /home – especially since one of the things I loathe about windows is its total incompetence in this area. (Obviously there is a nexus between MS and all those companies selling defrag and system optimization tools.) The Ubuntu default desktop install needs 2 GB minimum. I am really pressed for space so I allocate 4 GB for root ( / ), 2 GB for swap (I have 1 GB RAM) and the remaining 6 or so for /home. Root has to be a primary partition (bootable), created it first. Then created an extended partition with the remaining space and then sub-divided it into the /home and swap logical partitions. (I found this page useful when doing those pesky GB to MB conversion calculations)
  • Okay, the partition stuff happens (GParted again under the covers)
  • I initially wanted to not have GRUB on the MBR as explained in this nice how-to, but could not find a way to specify that root had to be ‘bootable’. Gave up. Maybe I should have had one more partition for /boot? Anyway, the Ubuntu installer assumed that I needed GRUB inserted into the very first partition and I realized this after the install completed – when I restarted.
  • After the partition creating is over you choose what goes into the partitions for the install. The windows partition needs to be mounted as well (read-only), and this is helpfully selected on the screen by default. I made the other three selections a) / (root), b) /home and c) swap. Straightforward.
  • After installation, reboot with the CD out of the drive, GRUB comes up at first with linux as the default selection
  • *boot* It works! Hooray!

There appear to be a lot of old how-tos around related to getting linux to work on IBM laptops, but so far Ubuntu seems impressive, of course the things like USB mouse and network are working, a “hibernate” button appears on the shutdown menu which I haven’t tried yet. The volume control special buttons on the laptop work. Have yet to try wireless. The trackpad and IBM “stick” work. Firefox and OpenOffice.

The real test is the office environment. So many challenges ahead – DHCP, Windows Domain stuff, e-mail… And of course, setting up the java development environment, Subversion access…

5 Responses to Ubuntu Dapper Drake – taking the plunge

  1. Justin says:

    I just love Dapper (6.06) you definately did pick a great time to switch over. I’ve been using Ubuntu since day 1 (5.04 Horay i think) and just love it. A very interesting article Pete, I’ll make sure i remember about it!

  2. Albert says:

    I just installed Dapper on my Thinkpad r51e the other day as well. The r51e has a little more space (60GB) than the r51, but I still got rid of the predesktop partition. Anyways, the install was flawless except for my wireless connection. The right drivers are loaded and the network preference panels says the ath0 device is active. However, I can’t seem to get an internet connection. Connecting using ethernet works fine though. Did you get your wireless to work?

  3. Joe says:

    Well I just tried to load Ubuntu 6.06 on my R51 and the process went pretty well until the application load. The scrren wen blank with two white blocks, one in the first colum around row 10 and the other in the middle column of the same row. The hard drive lite is showing activity so I don’t think the units locked, but I’m not sure whats going on.

    Any idea’s?

  4. Airuck says:

    I had an issue with the network gui. I had no issues with non-encrypted wireless access points, but it was incorrectly configuring /etc/network/interfaces when
    I attempted to insert a WEP key. To configure with DHCP, WEP and attach on boot, hand edit /etc/network/interfaces to include

    iface ath0 inet dhcp
    wireless-essid
    wireless-key
    auto ath0

  5. ubuntu says:

    please, suggest something. i downloaded dapper drake. burnt the image on to a cd and all. and then i put in the live cd and booted. the screen comes. it has two icons:Example and Install. I clicked on Install and nothing happens at all. i waited so long. nothing happens. mine is an r51 too. why?

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