Distributions drive setup Installing Linux MacBook

Ubuntu 10.10 on Macbook 6,2

Hello all, I write this from the OS-X side of the dual-boot Macbook 6,2

For a few weeks now I’ve been trying out different distros to replace Crunchbang 9.04 as my Linux OS.

It has not gone as well as I would have liked.  I first tried Mint Debian and liked that the sound worked right away but there were a few things that I didn’t like about it (or at least the current state of it):

  • I could not get wifi right away.  This was annoying but solved with a cable.
  • It never seems up-to-date due to problems with the update manager (Mint mentions this, but I proceeded anyway).
  • I didn’t think it would crash “that much”.  I’ve been using Linux since 2003 and the last time I remember crashing an OS was when I tried to run Mandrake on a Compaq 7360 with an AMD K6.  That machine ran Ubuntu and even Fedora Core 4 (slowly yes, but without crashing).  I crashed Yellow Dog Linux several times on a Powermac 7300, but I digress. The point is, maybe I should not depend so heavily on Mint Debian right now.  And again, the good people at Mint do specify that things may happen in the way of stability.  That, i guess, is the downside of using a bleeding-edge distro.  Crashes will occur. Hats off to you Mint, it is a cool distro, but not for me right now.

The next distro that I tried was Crunchbang 10 or “Statler” as I have grown to adore the lightweight Openbox environment and since I ran Crunchbang 9.04 already on this machine, I was thinking “this was the one” for a few other good reasons:

  • It was a newer version of Crunchbang
  • It changed from being Ubuntu-based to Debian-based (Ubuntu-based is NOT a bad thing)
  • Historically-speaking (9.04) was very stable, even though the #! site mentions it might make the system go “Crunch Bang”

So I downloaded the iso, checked its MD5 sum, and burned the installer.  Had some kind of issue where it would not boot after the HD install (maybe the media was a bad CD? dunno.  Maybe I’ll try it again on a new cd).

Next, I was thinking of trying out a different, unknown flavor of Linux altogether: Archbang Linux, which is basically Arch Linux with an Openbox as its default environment.  The only issue, is that I was surprised to find a text-based installer.  I’ve used text-based installers before, but since this is a macbook, there’s a “gotcha” when it comes to installing the boot loader.  You need to install it on the same partition that holds your distro (and not the MBR). So if you do install it on MBR it’s a bit of work to get the system back to where it was before.

The Archbang partitioner just seemed clumsy to me, and I did not want to lose time by accidentally hosing the MBR or deleting any of the mac partitions, so I just bailed out on Archbang.  I can always use the LIVE CD part of it, but I don’t think it’ll help much because it was really the package manager difference that I was planning to learn my way around.

Thanks for reading all the pre-amble (or pre-ramble).

Even though ubuntu has a planned release next month, I needed an OS immediately, so I went with Ubuntu Maverick.  I was impressed right away. I have not used Ubuntu since 7.04 in favor of trying other distros, getting away from GNOME in favor of speed.  I did need to run a cable to get connected to the Internet, but I knew this “Up-Front” as the installer GUI requested that I connect, plug in the AC Charger, etc.

So, I’m happy with 10.10 and will use the onboard tools to upgrade to next version when it’s available.  The boot up time I think could be faster, and for some reason I get a blinking dash for 5-15 seconds before I get to the login prompt.  But I think that’s the worst of my issues for now. It hasn’t crashed at all.

Previously, any ubuntu-based distro needed tweaking to get the sound working on this macbook.  This time, with Ubuntu, it was as simple as running apt-get on the command line to install gnome-alsamixer and the sound was good-to-go!

Cheers, and happy Linux-ing.


drive setup Installing Linux Using Linux Your Choice

Dual-boot Linux

What do we mean by “Dual boot” anyway?

Dual boot means that our computer has 2 (two) Operating Systems.  We choose which one to “Boot” into when the computer starts.

Many Linux users dual-boot as a way of sharing a computer.  This saves you money.  Why? Because you keep the computer you already own and install Linux on it.  I have dual booted with Windows XP and more recently, Mac OS-X Snow Leopard.  Since I don’t have a PC running Vista or Windows 7, this post will only discuss Win XP & Snow Leopard dual booting with Linux.

How to dual boot with Linux and Windows (or Mac)

There are many online tutorials available.  I won’t post a tutorial here because that would be  “reinventing the wheel”.  I will only describe the fine points.  If I’ve done my job, then the process might be less intimidating when it’s time to set up your dual-boot environment.

Dual booting with Windows and Linux

  • First things first.  If your computer already has Windows or Mac OS-X on it, then backup your documents.  While the process of dual-booting is better than it was years ago, things can still go wrong.  Don’t lose your files.  Be safe, not sorry.
  • If you’re running Windows XP (yes, I know this post may be outdated as we are already within the era of Windows 7) clean up your hard drive (junk files, temporary files) and then defragment.  It’s very important to defragment.  You don’t want documents and Windows Operating system files scattered all about the hard drive.
  • Open a web browser and get a cup of coffee or tea.  Why?  Because I think it’s a good idea now to view some online tutorial (with screenshots) about dual-booting.  You may even want to print out the pages of the tutorial so you can refer to them while performing the various steps involved with dual-booting.  The tutorial is easy to follow.

Dual booting with Mac OS-X and Linux

I recently purchased a MacBook and I wanted to dual-boot this machine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mac OS-X.  There are just things that I needed to set up quickly that I’m still learning how to do under Mac OS-X.  Under Linux there are things that I’ve done enough times that it’s become second nature.  Here are some notes and suggestions.

  • To dual-boot Mac OS-X and Linux, you will be creating at least one partition on your hard drive.  It’s not hard to do.  Here’s a link to the tutorial that I used.
  • I suggest following the instructions in the tutorial.  It helped me set up my Mac OS-X and Linux dual boot machine very quickly.  Same approach as before; backup your documents, do a cleanup if necessary, and read the tutorial completely before performing the steps.
  • Pay extra attention to the bootloader installation step at tutorial’s end.  If you install the bootloader in the wrong place, things can break—badly.
  • Even though my MacBook is a 64-bit machine, I installed a 32-bit Linux distro.  I would recommend a 32-bit distro as it’s likely to be more stable for uses such as these.
  • The tutorial assumes that you’re running an Intel-based system (also called “mactel”).  Be sure that this is the case before following any tutorial.
drive setup Installing Linux

Partitioning for Linux

Partitioning is a drive-setup process where you designate areas of your hard drive as “mount points”.

Depending on the situation, you can partition the drive as you’re installing Linux, or set up the drive first, (using a utility CD such as GParted or other).  For a single-boot setup, I suggest using the Install CD’s partitioning tool if you’re wiping out the old operating system or replacing one Linux distro with another.   If you’re adding Linux (to create a dual-boot machine with MS Windows or Mac OS-X) then you should attend to the partitioning chores first.  More on dual booting later.

Partitioning can intimidate newcomers, but fear not.  The Linux install process is flexible, and you don’t have to manually create partitions for single boot setup.  The install CD may offer suggestions (depends on distro) or at the very least have an “automatic partitioning” feature that works fine.

Manual partitioning, on the other hand, is worth learning.  Even the basic “3 partition” scheme (/, swap, and /home) offers the advantage of not losing your documents if you replace your distro.  While you should make frequent backups of your files anyway, common advice from the Linux community suggests keeping /home on its own partition for that very reason.  Find a partitioning tutorial here.