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.