Ubuntu, not your typical install
Posted on 20 Oct ’06 by Earl Moore
I did a post a while back about trying to load Ubuntu Linux on an older PC I had setting around but wasn’t using. It was a P3 1.4GHz machine with 1Gb of RAM. I thought this would be a good machine to experiment with Ubuntu on but after many attempts I finally gave up. I can only conclude that there was some incompatibility in the bios of this machine that caused Ubuntu problems. It couldn’t always find the keyboard or mouse and then when it did it would often lock up during the boot or install process. It had been running Windows XP with no problems, but I went through the Ubunto boot/install routine at least 20 times before giving up.
Still wanting to experience and learn more about Ubuntu, I decided to try and install it on my main Windows XP PC in a dual boot mode. I had one partition for Windows XP and created second and third partitions for Ubuntu. I had already run the Ubunto Live CD from this machine so I knew it should work. All seemed to be fine until I started the install and Ubuntu wanted to format its partitions. You see, in this PC there were two 160gb hard drives mirrored via an onboard Promise 378 Fasttrak Raid Controller. Windows XP worked well with this situation but what I didn’t realize was that the Promise 378 is actually software raid. It’s the same basic situation as the old Win Modems, if you remember them. So Ubuntu didn’t see the Raid Array, it only saw the two individual drives with matching partitions. I searched and read all the support forums and groups concerning this problem. Others had experienced it and much of the advice given was to not use the Promise Controller. I feel there’s probably a way to get Ubuntu to recognize the Raid Array, but I don’t know enough about Linux to make it work. I hadn’t used this Windows PC for a long time. I only had it to play some PC games on and it had been almost a year since I’d done that. I decided to wipe it clean and move the two hard drives from the Promise Controller to the other on-board SATA Controller. This resolved the issue and Ubuntu installed without any further difficulties. However, I still had one issue to research and resolve.
When booting the Ubuntu Live CD I had to boot into safe graphics mode, if I let Ubuntu select its own graphics configuration it would shift into its final graphics mode at the end of the boot and my LCD monitor would go blank and display an error message about an incompatible signal that it could not display. So when I install Ubuntu from the Live CD, it installed with the default set to run in safe graphics mode. My monitors default resolution is “1920 x 1200″. In the safe graphic mode of Ubuntu the maximum resolution was “1200 x 800″ and the graphics were slow and jerky. What seems to be happening is that Ubuntu will query the monitor about its maximum resolution and refresh rates. At lower resolutions my monitor will refresh at 85 mhz, but it can’t do that at “1920 x 1200″. I feel that Ubuntu was setting the refresh rate too high for my LCD monitor hence the message.I manually ran and reconfigured xserve which gave me the options of setting the resolution and refresh rates manually. After rebooting all was well. The graphics now are smooth and fast. I know my situation was unusual.
For the majority of people Ubuntu would install without any problems. Even after all this, my first impressions are that it’s going to be worth it. I’ve already learned a lot.
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