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Making Ubuntu work for me

I had several problems installing ubuntu alongside Fedora Core 8. I had to rummage all over the internet to find solutions, so I’m collecting them all into one place here.

Objective: Install Ubuntu alongside Fedora so I can decide whether to upgrade Fedora or switch entirely to Ubuntu on this box.

Step 1: The usual: download ISO, verify md5sum, burn to disk, verify media.
Also: make sure you know the device names of your root Fedora partition (containing /etc/grub.conf) as this will save you a step later (mine is /dev/sda5). (Note that you’ll need to substitute in the correct device names anywhere this or other device names appear.)

Step 2: Make a partition to install Ubuntu on now (mine is /dev/sda1), before booting from the LiveCD. This is important: Ubuntu creates ext3 partitions with 256-bit inodes, and grub will not recognize them. If you already created a partition with the (otherwise very nice) Ubuntu partitioner, you can change it from Fedora using:

mkfs.ext3 -I 128 /dev/sda1

If you aren’t planning to boot using an already-installed grub, you can probably skip this step.

Step 3: Boot from the Ubuntu LiveCD. When you get to the “Prepare disk space” step, choose “manual”. Select your partition, and choose “ext3” and “/” from the appropriate drop-downs. Do NOT format it.

Step 4: Continue through the remaining screens. When you reach “Ready to install”, click on the “advanced” button and deselect the install bootloader check box. Let the installer do its job.

Step 5: After it finishes, it will deposit you in a working LiveCD session. There are a couple things to fix from here before you reboot.
A – The installer did not create initrd.img. To check, you will need to mount the root partition so you can examine it. Open a terminal, and do:

mkdir temproot
sudo mount -t ext3 /dev/sda1 temproot
cd temproot/boot

If there is NOT a initrd.img-[version] you will need to create one. Use the same version string that appears in vmlinuz-[version].

mkinitramfs -o initrd.img-2.6.27-7-generic

Check to make sure the vmlinuz and initrd.img links in / now point to the correct files in /boot.

Step 6: Add the new system to Fedora’s /etc/grub.conf so you can boot it.

mkdir tempfedora
sudo mount -t ext3 /dev/sda5 tempfedora
sudo gedit tempfedora/etc/grub.conf

Mine says:

title Ubuntu
    root (hd0,0)
	kernel /vmlinuz ro root=/dev/sda1  max_scsi_luns=6
	initrd /initrd.img root=/dev/sda1

By using the symbolic links rather than the files in /boot, you won’t need to update grub.conf every time Ubuntu is updated.

And… that should work, or at least it does for me.

Two more minor inconveniences:

gvim (an essential!, installed in the vim-gnome package), did not work properly. The text flickered, but was mostly invisible. Changing the setting in System: Preferences: Appearance: Fonts to “Subpixel Smoothing” fixed the problem.

My static IP settings, specified in the “Network Connections” tool, disappeared each time I rebooted. Adding a second connection with the correct settings, rather than altering the default connection, fixed the problem.

Still not working: audio. But that’s a minor inconvenience on this box. It’s used mostly for data analysis in R and writing papers, neither of which actually require me to be able to listen to anything.