Dual Booting NB205: Try 2

4 04 2011

Over a year ago I attempted to install Ubuntu to my Toshiba NB205 and failed miserably. I would recommend extreme caution if you attempt to do this, but I finally got it working (though it took most of a day, spent simultaneously browsing and watching Deep Space 9 reruns). Problems/solutions below. I’m not going into details since frankly, if you’re not already very familiar with Linux, it’s a bad idea to try this.

I’m quite happy with my current Linux install, but I don’t know if I’d actually call it Ubuntu anymore. Calling it Ubuntu is like taking a VW bug, taking off the body, rebuilding the engine, turning it into a dune buggy, and then calling it a VW bug still. What I finally ended up with is a very small kernel running Fluxbox for a GUI (with conky, transparent aterm, and all the other fancy Fluxbox features).

Problem: failure to boot without pressing keys nonstop. It’s like the kernel just falls asleep while you’re booting, maybe waiting to probe some hardware, and pressing a key (shift, enter, whatever) seems to wake it back up.

Solution: I compiled a custom stripped down and Atom optimized kernel. The instructions for compiling your own kernel are too long and complex to put here, but instructions can be found on the internet here. Basically, I stripped out anything that wasn’t needed for my hardware, and I really have no idea which of the dozens/hundreds of things I stripped out actually fixed the problem. An easy workaround is simply to press the shift key repeatedly while booting so it’ll stop pausing.

Problem: Unable to boot with error “ALERT! /dev/disk/by-uuid/84b7f9ae-e9b3-44a5-8709-37f5bfb7d8e6 does not exist.”

Solution: When grub loads up, type ‘e’ on the Ubuntu entry and change the root=/dev/disk/blah/blah/blah to /dev/sda3, or whatever your Linux partition number is. For some reason using the UUID instead of the actual partition file was buggy after I installed. I haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to configure the new version of grub to stop using UUIDs and go back to the old schema.

Problem: Once Ubuntu is installed, Windows XP will blue screen of death with a STOP error when booting.

Solution: Use a Windows CD and get to the recovery console or command line, and then run “chkdsk C: /R” in order to fix the corrupted NTFS partition. Resizing the partition with gparted is the cause of this error, and it happens every time on this model of Toshiba for some reason.

Problem: Ubuntu netbook remix is too slow to be usable on the NB205.

Solution: For some reason, the NB205 just can’t seem to handle Gnome, and actually seemed to perform worse on the netbook remix GUI rather than the standard Gnome GUI. It’s not usable, but it is annoying. The solution is to switch to a lightweight window manager or GUI. I’m using Fluxbox right now, but you might prefer Xfce if you still want a lot of functionality.

Problem: Battery life is terrible.

Solution: When recompiling your kernel, change the default CPU governor to “ondemand” instead of “performance”. This will let the kernel use the Intel speedstep technology in the atom and lower the clock speed when it’s idle, increasing battery life to something that almost rivals windows. I’m sure there’s a way to load the needed modules and change the CPU governor without recompiling the kernel, but you’ll have to resort to Google for that one.

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2 responses

24 05 2011
cbeck

I sympathize. Tried to do this last November and it was somewhat of a trainwreck – though I didn’t have the same issues, there were still a plethera. I was able to get gnome running with out too much of an issue. I went from the server install then added gnome from the repos.

“and it [BSOD] happens every time on this model of Toshiba for some reason.”

Probably happens with every installation of windows when resized outside of it’s own utilities. Part of the boot process is checking the size of the partition against it’s partition table (I think)and that may be the source of the failure. Have you actually had success resizing a Windows XP partition with gparted and still had a bootable installation when done on a different machine? If so, you are much luckier than me, as I haven’t gotten it to work once yet without scrounging around to find a recovery CD. Same issue with Windows 7, only it is worse because you now have a recovery partition instead of a CD. If you happen to delete that partition initially? I don’t know, I guess you would be out of luck perhaps…

31 05 2011
pherricoxide

I’ve resized Windows XP partitions on multiple occasions with gparted; never had any difficulty until I tried it on my Toshiba laptop. For Windows 7, I just use the build in utility to resize the partition, but XP does not contain such native tool.

There’s almost always an option to burn recovery disks from the content stored on the recovery partition. The best course of action if you happen to delete your restore partition before burning disks would be to use a generic recovery disk (any Windows 7 disk will work to fix Windows 7, even if it’s not the one that came with your computer), and then make sure you have a safe copy of your Windows License key laying around in case you ever need to reinstall. You can usually reinstall Windows by using any OEM Windows CD (friend’s, neighbor’s, torrented) and your license key (often on a sticker glued to the bottom of your computer, if not it can be found with the Magic Jellybean Keyfinder or other tools). The downside is that you might need to go out and manually find all the drivers your original Windows install came with, plus you’ll likely be missing any of the Toshiba/HP/Dell/etc applications you might have used.

It’s really the license to use Windows that you’re purchasing with your computer though, and not the actual media. It’s a pain, but worst case you can try to requisition tech support for your computer manufacturer and get them to send you recovery CDs (almost all of them will, once you convince them you own their computer and an OEM Windows license they sold).

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