[conspire] ubuntu installer

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Nov 12 15:13:57 PST 2004

Quoting bruce coston (jane_ikari at yahoo.com):

> the older ubuntu i used gave me a nightmare trying
> 2use a seperate /boot partition on the drive. 

I know this isn't directly relevant to what you're currently working on,
but I just thought I'd mention that there's no need for a separate /boot
filesystem, any more.  Prior to BIOS changes circa 1995 (on i386 arch),
you had to ensure that all boot code lived within the first 1024 logical
cylinders of your hard drive.  The easiest way to do that is to make
sure that the _partition_ (filesystem) used for booting was at the front
of the disk and extended no deeper into the hard drive than the 1024th
cylinder.  With Linux, confining /boot (as its own filesystem) to the
outside tracks of the disk sufficed.

But that was nine years ago.  Even *I* no longer run hardware that old.
;->  I still sometimes create a /boot partition, but it's mostly out of
habit and serves little purpose any more.

Speaking of the Ubuntu installer, I get the strangest mail (always), and
one of the most recent instances of same is a guy who needed "URGENT"
help installing Ubuntu on his Dell Inspiron 7000 and wrote to me
personally in private e-mail because I have a Web page about Linux on
that laptop:  http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/inspiron7000.html

Get that:  He's in some other part of the world, I don't know him from
Adam, but he thinks it's appropriate to send me vaguely worded emergency
help requests as if I owe him help on that basis as a personal, private

He eventually got around to doing the obvious, asking the Ubuntu people
for help (what a concept!) -- in his case not the way I'd do it (the
ubuntu-users mailing list) but rather via a Web discussion forum:

Notice it came down to:  his CD drive was timing out when the installer
tried to read it.  Gosh, you'd think hardware problems would be an
obvious suspicion.  Eventually, he did try a different CD drive, and
things worked.  As you'll see if you read the forum thread, there's
still some suspicion that the apparent hardware error masked an
underlying software problem.

This points out something that occurred to me, when I read the problem
description:  Linux installers tend to divide evenly between (1) those
that are fully automated and autoprobe hardware aggressively, but are
fallible on some hardware -- such as Xandros, Ubuntu, Mandrakelinux,
etc. and (2) those that Just Plain Work on all possible hardware but 
leave details of hardware setup / driver selection to the admin, such as
the Official Debian installer.

I tried installing the Ubuntu Linux 4.10 release image onto the disused
Linux partition of my mother's old K6/350:  It almost worked, except
that because the autoprobing software ("hal"?) failed to correctly
identify her USB mouse and the scanning frequence limits of her monitor, 
it choked on X autoconfiguration and therefore bollixed the GNOME setup
thereafter.  I was able to fix X11 by doing "XFree86 -configure" and
manually editing XF86Config-4 to use /dev/input/mice as the pointing
device, but then .Xsession or something crashed and burned on account of
GNOME problems.  I probably could have fixed everything by running
"dpkg-configure base-config" or something, but ran out of time.

My point is that the very automation designed to make the installer
"friendly" made it much, much harder to fix after it stumbled.  And my
new (e-mail) friend the "Ubuntu Newbie" may have encountered his own
version of the same syndrome.

Last, I should mention Fedora Core 3.  I've just now snagged all four of
the i386 CD images, plus the "Rescue CD" one.  Those will be available
for duplication at tomorrow's CABAL meeting -- along with the usual

(FC3 was also released for AMD64.  If visitors want to install that, we'll 
do a network install.)

> is the "kpilot" app in ignalum useful, say w my palm where somebody
> just stole my stylus+3color pen from linuxworld s.f.?

Kpilot is a kdelibs/qt front-end to the standard pilotlink utilities
(pilot-xfer, etc.), and I believe gives you an operating environment
similar to that of the proprietary Palm Desktop for MS-Windows.

I personally use JPilot, a GTK+ front-end, for my Palm V.  Among its
neat advantages is a "conduit" (plug-in) that lets it read and write
entries in one's Keyring 3DES-encrypted password database for PalmOS.
(I use Keyring a great deal.  http://gnukeyring.sourceforge.net/ )

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