What does this mean? Well, it means that for a good run I was able to use Solydk, the KDE version of the SolydXK Linux Distribution. I recently had to replace Solydk with another distro because I ran into issues with my Dell Inspiron 15z, which is UEFI, Secure Boot with Windows 8 Pre-installed.
I do regret purchasing a Windows-based machine thinking it would be easy to dual-boot with Windows and Linux. More specifically, a non-BIOS machine anyway. It’s been blogged about countless times, that it’s just downright painful to get Linux and Windows 8 (with UEFI) to play nicely and dual-boot without issue. In retrospect, a System76 laptop with a Windows 8 VM would have probably been a better choice.
Here’s what I learned before I first switched to Solydk. That (on this machine so far) Ubuntu and its derivatives (for that matter) will install (in general) without major issues. But I discovered soon after that the Ubuntu Boot Repair CD becomes your best friend soon after. And of course, tutorial sites such as How To Geek come in handy as well. Here is a tutorial which may help with boot repairs. Even though Ubuntu has gone to the trouble of getting their kernels signed and approved by MS, there are still some minor post-install issues where you have to jump through a few hoops to have a reliable dual-boot system.
Then I switched to Solydk, as I recently became a big fan of not only the KDE, but the concept of installing a rolling release – install once, update as necessary. Sadly, because Solydk installed GRUB to the MBR, (my bad choice) I was unable to boot into Windows 8. Thus my machine became a single-boot laptop. It wasn’t bad for a while – but then you reach a point where you need to get at that Windows 8 OS to do something. And it won’t boot.
I reached for the Boot Repair CD, which has a feature to restore the MBR. That part of it worked great, as I was finally able to get to Windows. The bad news was I could no longer get to Solydk. Tried many different things and of course got some really supportive help over at the SolydXK Forums. But did not have any luck in getting the machine back to dual-boot capability.
At that point, it was time to choose a distro that would dual-boot properly and play nice with Windows 8 and all the UEFI/Secure Boot nonsense installed on this computer. I considered Fedora 20, but I could not get my head around the errors I was encountering on the manual partitioning page. I’ve been using Debian derivatives for so long, that I kind of got used to the way they do things. The Fedora partitioner was the deal-breaker for me. Maybe someday I’ll get it working via experimentation in a virtual machine.
The other viable candidate was Kubuntu, so I installed the current latest version (13.10) and had a lot of issues with the well-known “black screen on boot from grub” issue. This occurred whether the Live DVD booted in EFI mode or Legacy mode. It simply didn’t matter. I followed many blog posts that advised adding grub parameters `nomodeset` and `acpi_osi=Linux`, and `acpi_backlight=vendor`. None of these parameter add-ons fixed the issue. So it was time to make a judgment call. Fix the 13.10, or do something else. With April only days away, I decided to move forward toward the long-term support release of version 14.04 “Trusty Tahr” but since it’s not yet officially released, I downloaded and installed the Alpha2 version.
Kubuntu 14.04 Alpha2 installed nicely (the Live DVD booted just fine with the computer in UEFI mode), and the install process did not wipe out the MBR. However it did do some kind of monkey business as I was unable to boot into Windows. Once again, the boot repair DVD to the rescue. I was able to properly purge and reinstall GRUB and of course repair the MBR. After that, I am able to dual-boot Windows 8 and Kubuntu 14.04 with no black screen issue.
I’m seeing two somewhat interesting and strange items, but I can live with them both. One of them is that the grub menu theme is missing a character to the point where my grub boot screen is using “? in a box” as its border character. Also I have the Yakuake terminal set to autostart, where under normal conditions it stays hidden until you press F12 key. Currently, the terminal drops down once the desktop has fully loaded into a usable state. Again these are minor things that are possibly the result of rocking an Alpha2 (Pre-release) version of the OS.
In summary, it’s back to Kubuntu for now, but I can see myself reinstalling Solydk at a later time. Preferably when they implement support or handling of EFI and allow the boot loader to not be put onto the MBR. The SolydXK team is working on it, so hopefully they’ll release this feature soon.
Thanks for reading.