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Thread: A little advice for getting started?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    35

    Question A little advice for getting started?

    Greetings -
    I've been a registered user of this forum since 2006, but haven't attempted to run any Ubuntu release since 2008. Now I'm back again, and the changes in that time are staggering and exciting. I've recently found my way back to Linux after getting sick and tired of the restrictions being placed on me by Apple under Mac OS X (versions of which I have used since the late 1980s). I have never been a Windows user and don't care for that OS, although my current setup for the target Ubuntu install does involve Windows.

    I'm dealing with a few peculiarities that have now tested my skills beyond what I am capable of figuring out on my own, so I thought I'd come here for a bit of advice. Here's what's up:

    About a month ago, my friend and I both picked up a Lenovo V570 laptop (i5, maxed it out to 8 GB of RAM, swapped hard drives to increase ours to 750 GB) at an extremely cheap price. We both wanted to run Linux, as well as have a backup machine running Windows for those situations that sometimes arise that necessitate using it.

    We got a dual-boot system running on the new hard drive, which is now split 70/30, Linux Mint 14/Windows 8 (horrible OS, btw) Both of us also have the leftover hard drive that we swapped out, a 500 GB hard drive that seems to have about 50 GB reserved, presumably for recovery.

    Try as we might, we cannot blast this hidden partition away. We've also had trouble getting this disk formatted using GParted under Linux Mint. Mac OS also had trouble even seeing it (it can't mount it due to a lack of support for NTFS). Anyway, we had to strongarm the formatting of the 500 GB disk by running diskpart in Windows/DOS and formatting it as raw, then trying to get it partitioned in GParted - which failed.

    Finally, we decided to see if we could get it formatted during the Ubuntu installation process. Just to be safe, I yanked the hard drive out of the laptop and booted off the Ubuntu disk, with the target hard drive connected via USB. Once in the Ubuntu installer, I formatted the disk and created the following drive map:

    /boot 200 MB ext2
    /swap 2 GB
    / 15 GB ext3
    /home ~430 GB ext3

    [unallocated] ~20 GB <-- plan to format this as NTFS and use it as a shared partition between OSes

    Unfortunately, the install fails right after I am supposed to choose a time zone, and gives me the ??? ??? OK error/dialog box. I can't actually choose OK or get out of this error unless I reboot.

    So, my questions are:

    - Are there any special considerations I should be aware of when trying to install and run Ubuntu on an external USB HD?

    - Am I really out of luck in ever succeeding in getting this Lenovo HD with the hidden partition truly reformatted and ready for use for an Ubuntu install?

    - Does anything else I mentioned sound fishy?

    Thanks so much for reading this. I cannot wait to be up and running in Ubuntu again.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    6,543
    Distro
    Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail

    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Has the drive ever worked properly? What sort of error does Gparted spit out?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    35

    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paqman View Post
    Has the drive ever worked properly? What sort of error does Gparted spit out?
    The drive worked properly, yes. It was the original drive that my laptop shipped with, running Windows 7, with an additional "Lenovo" recovery partition.

    GParted doesn't issue any error; it seemingly formats the drive, but upon mounting the drive again, the formatting has not held and we're back to ground zero with a seemingly unformatted drive.

    The whole thing is really annoying. If I'm just screwed because there's no way to get rid of this rescue partition that insists on wreaking havoc, I guess I can move on and get another 2.5" disk to install onto, but it's such a waste of 500 GB that I can hardly stand it.

    What's the general word, otherwise, on best practices for installing on an external USB HD? I have some concerns.

    For example, when I partitioned and started the (failed) install under Ubuntu, the drive showed up as /dev/sda - seems like this will cause problems once I reinstall the internal HD, which is also /dev/sda. Is there a way to tell the USB external to be /dev/sdb?

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahr View Post

    So, my questions are:

    - Are there any special considerations I should be aware of when trying to install and run Ubuntu on an external USB HD?
    It is extremely slow to write many small files to USB 2.
    It may be confusing to determine which drive to select and where to write grub. So if you disconnect the internal drive (or swap the drives), it will be faster and simpler.

    I know there have been issues to boot from USB 3, and I haven't found much evidence of success. It works well with eSATA.

    Furthermore, if you don't install any proprietary drivers, an Ubuntu desktop system (not a plain mini-iso installation and maybe not a server) will be truly portable (as long as the hardware is modern and powerful enough). So you could also use a desktop, where it is more convenient to connect/disconnect internal drives.
    - Am I really out of luck in ever succeeding in getting this Lenovo HD with the hidden partition truly reformatted and ready for use for an Ubuntu install?
    If there is something strange on the HDD, you can wipe it with dd (write zeros to all positions including the MBR). dd is nick-named 'disk destroyer' because it does what you tell it to do, not what you intend to do. It asks no questions. But set correctly it does marvelous things. If you want to, I can help you with a command line. In that case, post the output of
    Code:
    sudo fdisk -lu
    to identify which drive to wipe.
    - Does anything else I mentioned sound fishy?

    Thanks so much for reading this. I cannot wait to be up and running in Ubuntu again.
    I have read about some special features of Lenovo's new laptops, that might need to be switched off before Ubuntu will install properly. But it is outside my skill.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    35

    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Indeed, I did disconnect and remove my machine's primary/internal hdd. There is nothing suspicious in the BIOS that I can find. I would be happy to try a low-level format, although I'm still not sure that that will do it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahr View Post
    Indeed, I did disconnect and remove my machine's primary/internal hdd. There is nothing suspicious in the BIOS that I can find. I would be happy to try a low-level format, although I'm still not sure that that will do it.
    Please post the output of
    Code:
    sudo fdisk -lu
    And connect the HDD internally to boost speed a lot (several times).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Australia
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    29
    Distro
    Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Welcome back to Ubuntu. You may have to brave it and wipe your Lenovo clean.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
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    Al Ain
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    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Wipe the start of the disk so that it looks like new then use gparted.

    For example:
    $ sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1024 count=1024

    Read the data definition man page:
    $ man dd

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Quote Originally Posted by HermanAB View Post
    Wipe the start of the disk so that it looks like new then use gparted.

    For example:
    $ sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1024 count=1024

    Read the data definition man page:
    $ man dd
    +1
    And check twice with for example
    sudo fdisk -lu
    that you are wiping the correct drive. There is no undelete!!! And you should
    run dd when booted from another drive,
    for example your Ubuntu install CD/DVD/USB drive.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    35

    Re: A little advice for getting started?

    Quote Originally Posted by sudodus View Post
    In that case, post the output of
    Code:
    sudo fdisk -lu
    to identify which drive to wipe.
    Well, I only have one hdd installed, because I yanked the other one that I normally use in order to avoid accidentally wiping a functional disk, and I installed the disk I hope to have Ubuntu on that is giving me problems so it will be on a much faster internal SATA bus. I'm currently booted off the Ubuntu install DVD.

    Here's the output:
    Code:
    ubuntu@ubuntu:~$ sudo fdisk -lu
    
    Disk /dev/sda: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes
    255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 60801 cylinders, total 976773168 sectors
    Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 4096 bytes
    I/O size (minimum/optimal): 4096 bytes / 4096 bytes
    Disk identifier: 0x00000000
    
    Disk /dev/sda doesn't contain a valid partition table

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