Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

PCLinuxOS Day 12 – Attempting to triple boot my laptop

Last friday my car broke down. This in itself has nothing to do with the series about PCLinuxOS, but it did leave me with a couple of unplanned spare hours. A perfect opportunity to change the operating systems on my laptop. I wanted to upgrade Ubuntu to 7.10, to install Sabayon Linux and to install PCLinuxOS. Yes, this was going to be a triple boot laptop.

Before upgrading Ubuntu to 7.10 I first had to clean up the hard drive. Contrary to my own advice I had installed Ubuntu 7.04 without a separate /home partition. This necessitated copying some folders to an external harddrive. I then designed a new partition table. I kept the hidden restore partition (sda1) in case I want to sell the laptop on a future date. The entire table became this:

sda1 – fat32 (the hidden restore partition)
sda5 – swap
sda6 – /home
sda7 – Ubuntu 7.10
sda8 – Sabayon Linux
sda9 – PCLinuxOS

This layout will give me the least headaches when upgrading in the future or replacing one or all of the distributions, since it wouldn’t change the numbers on swap and /home. I had no plans of sharing /home with Sabayon Linux or PCLinuxOS, but it would be mounted as a /data folder for each of them.

Installing PCLinuxOS
I had quite a few expections for PCLinuxOS on my laptop. The responses to my earlier review pointed out that PCLinuxOS was the only distribution – in the opinions of the contributors – that would recognize multimedia devices, screen resolution and wifi out of the box. I didn’t expect too many problems with my Acer Aspire 3681 WXMi laptop then.

The installation was amazingly fast. I tried using the wifi option with the live cd, but when selecting it, it requested the location of the driver’s .inf file to cooperate with ndiswrapper. Since I completely ditched the Windows installation already, that was a problem. Once the installation was finished the wifi did not work and necessitated the installation of a bcm5x driver. Not a problem, but not out of the box either.

The screen resolution was stuck at 1024 x 768. A bit too low and I knew 1280 x 800 was possible. Under Ubuntu I used 915resolution to fix the problem, but it wasn’t in the PCLinuxOS repositories anymore. Searching through the forums I found the message that 915resolution had been replaced by a x-related package (sorry, lost the name). I installed it, logged out, restarted X and found myself on the command line. Well, another disappointment that I didn’t expect. I know how to fix problems like this, but as I only had a couple of spare hours I decided to drop PCLinuxOS for now and move on.

Installing Sabayon Linux
Sabayon Linux is a favorite, though I haven’t used it as much as I wanted to. I believe Sabayon to be one of the greatest looking distributions around that offers an insight on the bleeding edge of developments. It’s based on Gentoo, but installing it doesn’t require compiling the whole thing from scratch.

I downloaded Sabayon 3.4f and sat down to install it. Sabayon wasn’t fast when I tested it in the past, but the installer has improved. It took somewhat more than an hour and a half to give me a working system with a 10 Gb footprint (meaning a ton of software). Wifi worked out of the box with a very nice resolution. Sound was a no no and I still have to figure out how to get the intel driver up and running.

Installing Ubuntu
For Ubuntu I used the custom made Ubuntu 7.10 dvd that I compiled for readers of my book. It includes three desktops (GNOME, KDE and Xfce) and extra software. The wifi problem was solved by incorporating the bcm4x package. This installation took about one hour. Again the sound wasn’t working, but I had the solution to that problem close at hand. The screen resolution defaulted to 1280 x 800 without needing my intervention.

After that it was a matter of tying the Ubuntu GRUB in the MBR to the Sabayon Linux GRUB in it’s own boot sector. Not complicated, but it required some fiddling. I wrapped up the procedure by copying the files back to the /home folder. At the end of the day I didn’t have a triple boot machine, though PCLinuxOS 2007 and Minime still run in virtual machines.


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4 thoughts on “PCLinuxOS Day 12 – Attempting to triple boot my laptop

  1. Ridgeland on said:

    Yeah Multi-boot!
    I have Ubuntu 7.04, Ubuntu 7.10, SuSE 10.1, SuSE 10.3, Fedora 8, Mint 4.0, Debian Lenny, and clones of Ubuntu 7.04 for backup and testing software others brag about. I tried and ditched a dozen others, PCLinuxOS was one I ditched (2 versions). To truly use the OS though takes time to get everything setup. This I’ve only done for Ubuntu 7.04 (main OS), SuSE 10.3 and Fedora 8. I have two drives with 30 partitions. Having three OS’s helps. My webcam works great on SuSE, not Ubuntu.

  2. Leo Danuarta on said:

    Rather than dual or triple boot, would you not recommend virtualization instead ? The latter’s advantage is that you can then have all three OS running at the same time, rather than having to switch and run only one OS at a time.

    While VMWare has gained deserved reputation for its virtualization product, there is VirtualBox which is a free (as in free beer) open-source and competent alternative.

  3. @ Leo
    Yes and no. I use virtualization quite extensively (just look at the various articles on this blog). I even bought a new desktop with 8 Gb RAM to have enough power for it. The laptop only has 512 Mb RAM and that puts serious boundaries on virtualization.

    When discussing modern distributions I can only go so far on a virtual machine. The improvements in the field of eye candy etc. can only be tested on a real box.

    On the laptop I swtiched to VirtualBox some time ago. The performance of VirtualBox is somewhat better that VMware and I don’t need all the VMware features.

  4. Kuwago on said:

    I’m following this series and have enjoyed your other series, BSD, I’ve been keeping an eye on the BSD’s. I’ve never tried one but looking to eventually.

    I have PC-Linux-OS on one of my notebooks, HP zv6000us
    so will be interested to see your conclusion and thoughts of using it. I used it roughly a month and installed it to my other half’s computer in dual boot.

    (for the next time she gets 300+ viruses on her windows that I may or may not be able to ‘rescue’.

    I was looking at your criteria for this and wondered, if you might like to test ’sidux’. I know you use Ubuntu and though I’ve never tried it, I hear it’s very GUI oriented. Yet still requires some CLi.

    What I think is nice about ’sidux’ which attracted me to it was a very up to date manual! I think this is overlooked often and you had that in your criteria.

    Is it user friendly? Or for the novice? I am not really that experienced with linux. However, after trying several distros. I find myself telling people to try PCLINUXOS, Simply-Mepis (Now that it’s DEBIAN based again), or sidux.

    Sidux teaches you how to use it and therefore how to use DEBIAN.

    Yet with the KDE desktop, it is still easy for the user. They also have their own control center and other things. They recommend a user use apt-get instead of synaptic I do, but I suppose synaptic can work but how hard is typing? As opposed to clicking boxes? A matter of choice, but it’s there. Choice that is.

    The BEST tool I have ever seen, is the upgrade maintenence script, smxi.

    This is why I use this system. Just spoiled by it. If U want the NEW stuff, I think ’sidux’ is a close comparison to the cuttign edge ubuntu.

    By bringing themselves in close alignment with the DEBIAN community, they are not ‘exactly’ a small group
    developers. One has options with this system, other than just staying on ’sid’. Though it’s not supported in the main forums. There are a lot of other suggestions and ideas in ’sidux-underground’.

    If you have a chance, I’d like to see you look at sidux for 30 days or, even DEBIAN. Ubuntu comes from Debian, but sometimes it seems people forget that.

    I once tried Mint and I thought it was nice, but I found there were some differences in the code, since Mint is Ubuntu based. I and some others found DEBIAN to be faster on start up. Again, I don’t know the reasons, but what I have also found is that most things found to work with Ubuntu, work with it’s parent DEBIAN.

    I don’t think that to be learned and used well even by the average user, everything has to be 100% GUI. I started with Mandriva, PClinuxOS, and sometimes i found the GUI slows the learning curve. True, the average user doesn’t want to LEARN that much, but for some simple things, it’s not that hard.

    Just would be interesting to see your idea of using an OS that has a balanced mix of both and works fast and well.

    Ironically, I want STABLE, I don’t want to updat/upgrade so much. Yet “IRONICALLY” I’ve found ‘sidux’ to literally just work! It does! I have just not had problems or funny quirks. I didn’t say you won’t get that, but I typically upgrade when they do a new release. About every 4 months. I’ve got several desktops installed etc.

    Hope to see a review and 30 day test of something like that. If Kanotix gets going, it’s also promising.

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