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Partitioning Lenovo & Installing Ubuntu
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rohithv
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

Resources:

http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/ThinkWiki
http://lenovoblogs.com/insidethebox/?p=59
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Re: Question about accessing RnR

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

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