Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Karmic Koala killed my netbook

I don't want to sound bitter or anything. I'm probably doing something really unusual here. What I am doing is trying to dual boot Windows XP and Ubuntu 9.10 on an Asus EEE 901 (the one with a 4gb and 16gb SSD). Windows XP is installed on the 4gb and Ubuntu 9.04 was on the 16gb, which was set as the boot drive. Everything was fine but I obviously want to try the latest Ubuntu now its out - 9.10, "Karmic Koala".

I popped the Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 disk in my external DVD drive, booted and installed, allowing it to wipe the 16gb drive and use it entirely.

Is that wrong? Really?

Anyway, the state this left it in after an apparently sucessful installation was when it boots I get the apparently infamous Error 15 message.

A quick search reveals I am far from the only person with this issue, but most of the solutions involve editing /boot/grub/menu.lst which in my case is missing altogether. So I use my highly useful Supergrub CD to boot (which works - not very convenient long term of course) into Ubuntu, which all looks satisfyingly more polished than 9.04, and I commence hacking about with Grub to get it working, with no real progress. Most of the solutions appear to be for 9.04, where this issue was hardly unknown, especially if you have tried to upgrade Grub. I wipe the whole thing and reinstall - same result. All this time you can imagine a weaker man might have pointed out to passers by that you don't get this kind of nonsense with Windows.

Anyway, deciding to come back to Grub I try doing other things and it is clear that there is more broken than just a boot menu. When I run Firefox, nothing happens. I try to run it again and I get an odd box called "Close Firefox" which then will not close. I try to run the take screenshot program (to record this chaos) but this does not work either! I borrow a digital camera off someone...

I give up. I install the eeebuntu version of "Jaunty" 9.04 and it works just fine first time.

I could take the blame myself and admit that I am no expert on Linux or Grub, but then I am hardly a complete newbie either, having been playing with Ubuntu for about 6 months and administering Linux servers for three years. I might have got this working if I was willing to spend a few days on it but quite honestly I should not have to. From this story on The Register lots of other people seem to be having random problems with this release. I am sure that under a lot of hardware Karmic works very well but its evidently not been tested on an eee 901, unless my installation really is that unusual.

I know its a cliche to say that Linux won't go properly mainstream until your average man on the street would have a chance of installing it, but its true. If I can't even install an OS on such a common piece of hardware, someone who was not technical would have no chance.

No wonder its free...

UPDATE - 06/11/2009

There are some clues here which I since picked up on. The screenshot of Grub Stage 1.5 means that Grub1 is still hanging about somewhere. The fact that /boot/grub/menu.lst was missing meant that Grub1 was not installed, but it had Grub2 installed, as it should being a fresh install. Apparently, despite the fact that I had erased the whole 16gb drive, it had not re-written the MBR. Hence the error 15 (which means "file not found" - no really?).

Its probably because I have the 16gb drive (sdb, not sda) set as the primary. And because the Ubuntu 9.10 installer was not tested properly! :-D


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