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Partitioning Lenovo & Installing Ubuntu
Its been about one and a half years now that I haven't used Linux as my development platform. I don't know if its the age + lethargy or just change of priorities that I did not have that push of that 18-22 old phase. And having a customer who used to write code on Windows didn't help either. But all that changed after I moved out of Aztecsoft (now Mindtree) and have been working in a startup for the last 8 months.

My current activity called for a Linux environment and had to setup my laptop for a dual boot. I will list down a few ways in which you can partition a "factory-installed-Vista-on-a-single-partition Lenovo Thinkpad T61" and install Ubuntu-8.04 (64 bit) on it.

Possible ways to partition

Before you try any of the option below, defragmenting your HDD will help.

1. Use Windows Rescue and Recovery (RnR)

Lenovo Blog has more information.

Lenovo comes with RnR installed on your laptop and hence you do not get a separate CD/DVD with your laptop order. In my 100 GB HDD, the first 6GB is preinstalled with OS + s/w which is required to being back my laptop to factory defaults (The blue ThinkVantage button takes you thru this process).

You can write this 6 GB partition onto 5 CDs >> wipe out your entire system >> partition the way you want to >> and do a clean set up of everything. But I personally think this is very risky.

2. Use a 3rd party software like Partition Magic or Linux fdisk

I did not want to spend $70 on a partition magic license and neither did I have lots of hope on this process.

3. Use Windows shrink volume (This is what I did)

It is best to partition your HDD right after you buy the laptop. After some usage, no amount of defragmentation gives you a large chunk of contiguous memory. In my case, after nearly 5 months of usage, I could only get 24.6 GB of free memory as the last chunk.

Of all the options available, this is the most risk free and easiest. Go to Windows Control-panel >> search for partition (or go to Disk Management) >> right click >> shrink volume >> followed by format it as NTFS or FAT. This filesystem format does not matter as you would anyway use fdisk (Or GPart) to format this partition as ext3.

Once you have a partition, setting up Ubuntu is a breezy. I truly believe that Linux installation has come of age. But a few gotchas here.

One of the major, "Oh no, I did not think of this before" issuse with setting up a dual boot is writing GRUB into MBR thereby loosing the option to boot into Lenovo RnR. Hence I would suggest creating a /boot as a primary partition and installing your boot loader there. And even during installation, the "Install GRUB on /boot" is hidden behind an "Advanced" button which appears just before you start the installation process (after creating partitions etc). Lookout for this, else you might repent later.

The reasons for this are as follows. The Windows boot loader (NTLDR) has pointers to both Lenovo RnR and Vista installed on MBR. I did not want to overwrite this as I wanted to retain RnR on HDD and did not want to write it on a whole stack of CDs. There have been complains that these CDs do not work later on and that during the process of dumping, it deletes the partition on HDD (something to do with Windows licensing). So if I wanted to retain RnR on HDD, I also had to retain the pointers to boot into it. Hence created a /boot to put GRUB.

But the surprise is that GRUB locates even the RnR (hidden partition type) and gives you an option to boot into it. But again, booting into RnR thru GRUB only takes you to the initial screen of RnR after which it throws up "Could not login" err message and restarts. Hence the only way you can boot into RnR is thru the ThinkVantage button (pressing it just when the laptop boots). Hence don't get misled by seeing RnR as one of the boot options in GRUB.

And after all the installation is done change the active partition from C drive to /boot.

If you keep these in mind there should be no hassels.

And as a checklist, on my Ubuntu, Wi-Fi, Display, keyboard, trackpad, vertical scroll on the trackpad and most of the Lenovo function keys work out of the box.

If you are an ardent fan of Linux, you may want to consider this.

Key Notes:

1. Do a shrink volume as early as possible to get a large chunk of contiguous partition
2. Do not forget to create a /boot and store GRUB here instead of MBR
3. Swap the active flag from C drive to /boot


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Ubuntu 8.04 has wubi. You can just pop the cd in windows and it'll take care of the rest...(shrinking, grub mod etc etc)
BTW Aztec was acquired by Mindtree?? Thats news!! ...and you ditched Fedora 9 for Ubuntu?

Cool I didn't know that. I wonder none of the search gave me this. Darn.

And yes Aztecsoft was acquired by Mindtree (Its both a good and a sad news)

And oh yes Dude. It been long since my loyalty has shifted from Fedora to
Ubuntu. The moment I saw that stupid Pirut, trying hard to mimic Synaptic Package manager, I gave up.

Wow..nice write up. Will use this when I ever get around to it on my laptop.

Checkout the comments here. There seems to be betters ways to setup Ubuntu. Something called Wubi -

It takes space, time, and if I'm really strict, my game dvds will get scratched over time from so much use, and my laptop will use more electricity.

Was about to make the same comment(about Wubi)!

One problem with Wubi though, for some reason there are fixed disk sizes(max of 30Gb) for linux. Did not see an option of advanced setup so if you want to customize partitions(/home and all that jazz) you might as well do the boot up from disk and install.

Wubi gives you a cool uninstall linux option in windows though!

Btw, did you try the partitioning program that comes in the installer? Its very good and easy to resize and handle partitions.

Finally :P On my laptop Grub gave me two options in the os choice page for windows, one was for Vista and the other for the recovery partition! All I had to do then was to change the text displayed to be more clear thats all!

So you are saying that you can logon to Ubuntu from within Windows as yet another program?

That is amazing.

Nope its just an installer for linux in windows. It even treats Linux as a program that can be modified from windows(upgrading is not a feature yet but it looks like it will be added)

Details: Wubi

Yup! Went thru it yes'day. The screenshot were just so inviting for trial

Cool thanks a lot! This post has really served the purpose for Pramod!

Nope its just an installer for linux in windows. It even treats Linux as a program that can be modified from windows(upgrading is not a feature yet but it looks like it will be added)

Details: Wubi

If you try to get Linux to do the things Windows is good at of what most users use computers for — web, e-mail, IM, video, content creation, photo scanning & editing, web cam, iTunes, etc.

I've installed Ubuntu8.04 on VirtualBox. The nice thing is that it is pretty well integrated with the max. I can smoothly move in and out of the Linux guest and VirtualBox will handle the change of control of the mouse and keyboard. It also automatically resizes the resolution of Linux guest when I resize the window. I have had some issues with copying and pasting between mac and Linux but otherwise I'm really happy.

But how about performance? I remember trying out that VMWare a long time ago and it just hogged all resources.

It is pretty fast. Haven't done any heavy lifting like compiling. But it works fine for most other things. You do need to allocate the ram upfront. Since it uses a virtual harddisk, I'm guessing it won't be too great at disk activity.

It uses the same tech as VMWare so you would expect similar performance. This is not an issue on current processors. The overhead of the vm is tiny.

Question about accessing RnR


I'm considering using your experience as a guide to setting up a Vista/Ubuntu dual boot on my Lenovo desktop while retaining the ability to boot into Rescue and Recovery.

I'm confused about one point: is using the Thinkvantage button the only way you can boot into Rescue and Recovery now? I ask because I don't have such a button (I have to hit F11 while booting to boot into RnR). I'm wondering if using your method might leave me with no way to boot into RnR. It's not clear to me if the F11 is caught before the bootloader or not.

Re: Question about accessing RnR

Let me try F11 on mine and I will get back to you with my findings.

Re: Question about accessing RnR

Interesting. On my T61, F11 has the same affect as the ThinkVantage button. I did not know about this earlier. So I can confidently tell you that your can boot into RnR thru F11 and you don't need to have a ThinkVantage button.

But on a related note, comment in this thread also looks interesting. You may want to consider it if it serves your purpose. But again what option you choose depends on what you want to do.

If your an occasional user of linux, then that comment might help. If you want to migrate to Linux completely and have an option to boot into Vista/RnR, then this post might be helpful.

Re: Question about accessing RnR

Thanks. I went ahead and installed Ubuntu/Vista dual boot following your example, and everything is working great.

I thought you'd like to know that creating the product recovery CDs did not wipe my recovery partition, although I haven't actually tried using these CDs to restore my harddrive to factory condition. (I'm using Rescue & Recovery 4.0 on a Lenovo 3000 series desktop)


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