My Ubuntu Experience

I recently bought a new computer, so I have my older one to play with. It’s still completely usable (or, was), and probably performs better than most people’s home PCs. This machine was my first (and last) experience putting my own PC together; it’s personally just not worth the time I spend researching, buying, and building, which is why my new machine is a Dell refurb.

I put the old machine together about three or four years ago from the following parts:

  • AMD Athlon64 2200 (approximate clock speed)
  • Gigabyte Socket 939 motherboard
  • 2GB Ram
  • Two hard drives: one 320GB, one 250GB. Each has two separate partitions, totalling four separate partitions.
  • ATI X800XL video card, 256MB RAM 
  • Trendnet 433-PI wireless network card
  • Separate CD and DVD burners.

The machine was dual-booting with XP Pro and Vista Ultimate from the original October 2006 OEM release (thank you, MSDN). Since I never really used the Vista install, as it would’ve been too much of a pain to install and configure everything, I decided to delete the Vista partition. I considered making this either a server or a media center PC, so I thought a dual-boot machine between the existing XP install and a flavor of Linux would be neat.

With that I researched the various flavors of Linux, and decided Ubuntu was easiest to just get up and running. I played with the Live CD before, with both 7.04 and 8.04, albeit on other computers. It was (and is) amazing that you can run a completely working operating system off of a CD. It seemed easy enough, so one Saturday I went at it.

Round one found the first few configuration screens easy to understand, until I got to the disk partitioning screen. I didn’t want it to automatically wipe and combine the partitions, so after playing a bit, I managed to install Linux without losing any data. Or so I thought, as during reboot, I was greeted with “grub error 18”, and an unusable PC.

And this is yet another reason why, folks, Linux will never become mainstream. Thankfully I had the new PC up and running, so I could find exactly what grub error 18 is. Clearly, this was not the problem, so I went back into the Ubuntu installation sequence. This time, i fiddled more with the partition options, and managed to not only install Linux, but maintain a dual-boot system with the current XP installation. This was an exciting development.

I rebooted, chose Ubuntu from the Linux boot manager, and started Ubuntu. Only to find I couldn’t access my wireless network.

Back to the new PC. Seems a lot of Trendnet‘s stuff isn’t supported by Linux. Awesome. I even had a new Trendnet USB wireless adapter… that also wasn’t supported. More research. Turns out they may be supported by using either Ndiswrapper or madwifi (or its somewhat newer but less-supportive relative, ath5k), neither of which I had any clue about, nor seemed to be particularly easy to configure. Also, since I didn’t have a network connection, it would’ve entailed downloading the software, and either burning to a CD or hoping Ubuntu supported my USB thumbdrive. Not worth it to me. At this point, tired, frustrated, and just wanting to be done, I deleted Ubuntu from its partition.

This was my final mistake in the big Ubuntu Experiment: Deleting Ubuntu also removed the information to boot into XP, leaving me with an unbootable system.

And that’s where I am now: it seems the only data I managed to delete was my old Outlook file, which contained about a year and a half of email. I bought a 1TB drive and external enclosure, and moved all of my data (mp3s, videos, pr0n) to either it or the new machine.

At some point, I’ll reinstall XP on the old machine, and never look back.

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