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It can go fast in the IT world. While I was rather Automatix for the people about Ubuntu 2 months ago, my enthusiasm has been dampened by the latest release in casu 6.06 LTS. Ubuntu 6.06 LTS “introduces functionality that simplifies common Linux server deployment processes”. Doesn’t that sound great? Yeah right. Everything always looks beautiful in theory. I sometimes compare IT (-solutions) with falling in love. At first you’re overwhelmed by things, but when the blindness of that first flush of love disappears you start to notice the small little things that you don’t like. The challenge then is to keep them small and overcome things. Nothing is perfect after all.
Anyway, I started the Update Manager and it retrieved and installed everything automatically without any problems. The problems arose upon restarting the machine, when the X server wouldn’t start anymore. Solutions like this forum thread didn’t exist yet, so I had two choices. Either find out how to get it up and running and lose a lot of time, as with my previous linux attempts, or install from scratch. As mentioned in my earlier web log installing from scratch doesn’t take much time. So I downloaded the installation image and burned it on to a CD. When I started up, I saw a major difference. The Ubuntu guys have been taking a good look at Knoppix and you just start a full Ubuntu from 1 single CD. Eat this Micorosoft. There is an extra icon to install on your machine, which I clicked on immediately. That worked very well and after doing the extra installations as described in my earlier web log, all was back as before.
Boosted by this, I decided to have a go at it on my home system. Once bitten, twice shy. The update via the Update Manager resulted in the same problems as with X Server. So we went for the initial setup again. Strangely enough it also hangs on start up like version 5 did. One would expect such problems to be fixed. Never look a gift horse in the mouth 😉  I noticed something else. I must have overlooked it on the other machine, but the installation didn’t ask me for either display or network settings. The result can be easily predicted: no network and an 800 x 600 desktop with only lower resolution options. Damn. Thinking that I didn’t pay attention during the first installation, I tried it all over again … with the same result. Just my luck. Setting the network correctly isn’t much of a problem, but finding the correct display driver was something else, certainly for an older video adapter like mine. I didn’t find anything in this forum thread to solve my problem. I was ready for a divorce.

Asta la vista Ubuntu 
Then a new love came into my life. A recent issue of a local computer magazine was accompanied with the installation DVD and product key for Microsoft Windows public beta 2. There are 2 options for installation. Either you do an upgrade of an existent Windows XP SP2, or you install things on a separate partition. Since I had a partition left over from my Ubuntu debacle, I decided to opt for that option. The installation of Vista took ages as compared to the Ubuntu installation, especially the copying of the files to the HD. Is my PC that old already? Anyway, after a couple of hours of installation it was the supreme moment of final restart of the computer. I got a Vista boot manager asking if I wanted to start Vista or an older version of Windows. It seems that Vista messed up my MBR for that. Why can’t one recognize my Symantec Bootmagic and leave my MBR as it is? What’s the big deal of overwriting the MBR anyway? So dear OS developers in the world, don’t mess with my MBR. Leave it alone!
Anyway, I started up with my rescue disk, assigned the correct start up partition, reactivated Bootmagic and expected that things would be back to normal. At least that was the idea. Until I discovered that both my data partitions were gone.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!

I fact the scream was a bit longer and less civilised, but I don’t want to waste an A4 on it. Since I was in the middle of preparing my income tax forms I badly needed the data. And no,
I didn’t backup that part. I’ve installed a multitude of things without damaging anything so why should it go wrong this time? Certainly things that as such had nothing to do with the installation itself. My only conclusion would be that Vista didn’t like the fact that there were Ubuntu/linix partitions and couldn’t handle them properly with the known result.

Operation undelete
So the next task was to recover as much as possible. My first attempt was with my old Symantec Partition Magic. It could see one of the data partitions and was able to ‘undelete’ it, in other words make my data visible again. The down side was that my tax data was on the other partition, which PM claimed not to be able to do anything with. After some cursing, I started to look for a tool that could achieve this. It took me hours to separate the chaff from the wheat and I finally found a tool that could retrieve my partition without forcing me to investigate each sector on my HD. Partition doctor was indeed able to recover my second partition without any loss.
The next thing was to get rid of Vista. It’s amazing how much incorrect information is available concerning this matter. It starts with the indication that you need to fix your MBR, which is correct. But then it’s indicated that one need to modify the BOOT.INI in order to remove the Vista Boot Manager. That is utter nonsense, since Vista doesn’t use any boot.ini (even if is there is one available). Instead it uses “a new firmware-independent boot configuration and storage system called Boot Configuration Data (BCD)”. If you want to change anything to it, you need a tool called BcdEdit. I wouldn’t recommend using it though unless you like the danger of not knowing what you’re doing. I had my part and used VistaBootPRO instead, which I certainly want to recommend to everybody.

Once bitten twice shy
I couldn’t resist giving it another go to try and tame the beast. This time I followed the upgrade path. One can do this by installing a complete Win XP SP2 on a partition. Since that would take too long before all the patches, etc were installed, I decided to copy an existent clean XP partition. This works wonderfully well with the above mentioned tools. Make sure that you have 15Gb free space for installation, otherwise Vista refuses to install/upgrade. Assigning extra space is therefore a must if your original partition isn’t that big.
My second try went rather smoothly. Even the copying of the files went faster than the first time. Maybe the extra space is the key to this. After installation the recurring problem of the MBR needed to be fixedagain, but by the end things started properly with all my partitions still live and kicking. I guess my Ubuntu presumption might become true.
I won’t elaborate on the features of Vista and how it looks, since that has been covered in the (specialists) press already. Personally, I don’t find that things have been significantly improved. It took me a long while before I could find the place where I could set my IP settings (I’m behind a router/FW) and let my NC talk to the outside world. Furthermore you need to download special drivers for all your peripherals and other internal hardware. For the moment, only Vidia has the proper driver which is really needed, otherwise you end up with an 800×600 display after each restart. HP and other still have no drivers, so printing is still out of the question.
I also wanted to try out thing like SAP Gui, but my VPN software doesn’t like VPN, so starting things up is the only thing I could do.
To sum up, except for the thrill(er) of installing it, you won’t have come far yet. There’s no need to hurry to get hold of a copy of the DVD.

 

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3 Comments

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  1. That’s a lesson everyone using Linux and Windows on the same machine has had to learn (or read about it).

    *) Never trust Windows to take care of your MBR (unless you maybe are windows-only)
    *) Never install Windows after Linux (DOS -> Windows -> Linux … never changed this order for multi-OS systems the past decade)
    *) Vista still beta => decrease “installing new software” trust level to paranoia status 🙂

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  2. Dave Grundy
    Eddy,

    in fear of starting a flame war, I feel the urge to defend Ubuntu, as I’m thrilled with it.

    The Ubuntu team have been well chastised over the x-server problem, and promise not to do such a thing again.

    In any case, I have three installs (the beauty of free software and no EULA), two on my desktop, one on my laptop. So, any updates are firstly applied to the test install and evaluated there. If any issues are found, wait for the forum to catch up, so no problem.

    By the way, does SAPGui work under Ubuntu?

    Regards,
    David

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