freeware, software

Installing Linux on a Bootloader-less Windows PC

In short: You need to make a CD.

Recently, I decided to erase my partitions containing my old linux distros. I had Ubuntu on my main hard drive and Linux Mint on my external. My objective: continue using Vista and install Mint alongside it on the main drive, leaving the external for file saving.

With that in mind, I used disk management, located in the Control Panel Administrative Tools Computer Management. If you are lazy, type compmgmt.msc into your startmenu search bar and select Disk Management from the left side menu that pops up. Okay, great, now when you erase those partitions (via disk management) – the only effectively way of actually eliminating linux *sigh* – it does something annoying: it erases Grub. To get get Grub back, you can either do one of two things: 1) Install it while your computer is still on or 2) Continue following the directions here.

Problems That Arise
i.e. Why I had to boot from CD

The setup: Trying to load Linux Mint 16 from a flash drive created via Universal USB installer. It worked to install onto my external, although I should have seen it as a omen when it only allowed me to install onto my external. My computer can boot from USB, but happens to be the problem. Why? I get this message something along these lines:

MDM cannot write authentication … Error: Not enough memory.

Or memory unavailable, or drive cannot mount, etc. It’s the same problem. Memory Disk Management is stuck.

To get it to stop, I initially unhooked my external. It loaded!… uh… No. I got to Linux Mint at first, but it wouldn’t let me install. Why? Could not mount drive, no memory available. It wouldn’t let me mount the other drives (hard drive or external when I did plug it in), giving me the same reason. The problem, as it turned out, was that it saw the flash and thought that was its domain.

I did boot Mint and used GParted to create unallocated space and then formatted it to ext4. No luck in either case, and it made it worse because for whatever reason, now it only made it to the Mint boot screen, not the desktop.

By the way, I tried booting with nodmraid command on the bootline and it failed. What’s that you say? When you boot up Linux Mint, you get the screen that says “Automatic boot in 15 seconds”. Press “Esc” and you are given a four-option list, and pressing [tab] gives you more options. Pressing [tab] for the top option – launching the OS – brings up a command line list of things passed to the OS. Before the last two dashes (–) at the end, typing nodmraid prevents the OS from checking for other hard drives or something. Don’t do this if you are using USB install. I didn’t try it after I used the CD (I didn’t have to), but I believe it may only work there. You would use it if you have multiple partitions.

I should mention my first error encounter. I had been able to load Mint a first time and was trying to install it and ran into this guy: ubi-partman. It fails with an error of “10”, a number that appears to be only relevant to the poor nameless fellow who coded that section. Attempting to install from here on out will end in failure, so don’t bother continuing.

CD/DVD Install… onto NVidia issues

I used free ISO burner for installing Linux Mint 16 (Petra) onto a DVD. I have a CD/DVD reader, but if your computer only has a CD reader, then find a smaller linux distro to start with.

Booting up from the CD worked! I was able to install without issues. I allocated some space to Mint, and it didn’t override my files on Windows.

Ah! But if only that were the end.

Linux Mint loaded fine. I even got to the desktop! I opened the file system – no problems there. I then opened Firefox. The first couple websites loaded until decided to visit WordPress. Then all of a sudden, the screen went black. My mouse was visible, and I could load the terminal (at least until I froze it messing around on the desktop). If your screen goes black in this situation, there’s only one thing it could be: the driver.

Do you have a NVidia GeForce 6150SE nForce 430? It’s probably not just you. This issue happens alot with Linux as online search results suggest, but everyone’s problem is different. Some people have tried rebooting the GUI manager or display (e.g. restarting Cinnamon), but I don’t want to be doing this. I want Linux to work all the time. Apparently to fix the problem may require editing a config file (who knows where) or installing a new driver for NVidia, which you can get here:

NVidia driver search

NVidia display driver for linux 32 bit (for GeForce 6)

I didn’t see a 6000 series in the search list, but I assume it would give me the same thing. I haven’t tested it just yet. Once I do, I’ll try to remember to update this post to let you know if it worked.

Unimportant Concluding Remarks

I did try to make the switch to Linux some time ago, but with the mess things turn into, it can be very discouraging. It would be nice if there was more focus on fixing bugs than adding features. But alas, the kernel is such a huge mess now, it’s an intimidating thing to learn even if, like me, you want to fix it. And you thought EVE Online had a learning curve? That’s laughable in comparison!

What’s more of a mess is Windows 8, which I tried to replace with Ubuntu not to long ago. As it turns out, the only way to do that would probably be using a CD as well after turning off Secure Boot (via boot menu options, which you can get to by pressing F12 after shutting the computer down fully with Shift+Shutdown button). Oh, and you have to use the 64bit version of Ubuntu even if your system can’t support it. Don’t you love Windows?

This little escapade has made me wish the internal components of computers – like graphics cards – had the same plug-and-play nature as stuff on the outside. At the very least, they could all comply with the same protocol and have some simple interface for accessing them or something. Obviously, I don’t know much about graphics card drivers, but then again, neither does 80% of the world.

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