It started so innocently. I was going to record an episode of’s The Real Deal about Ubuntu.  So I decided to install Ubuntu on the company ThinkPad as a dual boot with Windows.  Know going into this story, the laptop in question has a piece of screen capture software on it we use for making videos. Not that it couldn’t be reinstalled.

So the installation goes fine, and I intentionally let Ubuntu choose all the settings.  My point was to replicate how easy Ubuntu is to install for the average user.  I boot into Ubuntu, start surfing the web, all is well.

Then I reboot to check the Windows partition. Grub loads up several boot options including the Windows XP partition. I choose that and in the next moment my stomach falls to the floor. A file called hal.dll has been corrupted and needs to replaced. Oh that’s just dandy.  I reboot again and get the same result, so offf to the Web.

After a bit of searching I find that the Hal.dll problem comes up quite often when folks install dual boot systems on a pre-existing Windows machine.  Seems Windows does not like to be the second partition.  The solution however, is fairly simple.  Whew.  I just need to alter the boot.ini file to have a number 2 instead of a number 1, so that Windows can understand it is now on the second partition.  No problem right?  Wrong.

Turns out Linux has issues reading an NTFS partition.  I try messing with fstab and cannot get the Ubuntu to browse the files.  Finally I try cgoing to the command line.  Frankly, if I’d been too afraid of the comman dline I would have never got this fixed. I learn that to mount a drive one must create a folder for it either in the mnt or media directories. (I suppose you could make it anywhere, you’re just pointing to it). I create the directory and can mount the drive from the command line.  However, when I try to browse it from the GUI, I get nothing.  I’m told I do not have permission to do that.  Back to the command line and I whip out a sudo command.  A little something I picked up on awhile back. Sudo is what you need at the command line in order to run a command as root.  Apparently in Ubuntu they wisely keep you out of root as much as possible.  Good for them. I cd to the windows directory I created and find the boot.ini file. Then I throw down a sudo gedeit boot.ini.  Ah-ha, there’s the little sucker int he text editor now.  I just need to change those two (1)s into (2)s.  No problem.  Except the save button is greyed out.  I try to save as which lets me try but fails.

At this point I decide to track down a Windows XP boot disk and try to launch off that and edit from within Windows. Not a single boot disk off the Interent works for me.  So I get one fromt eh CNET labs. It works but I need the admin password.  Turns out I don’t have the admin password.  Even though I’m the admin.  See, this is a work computer so there’s  a super secret admin password only IT knows about. That kinda sucks because I don’t want to go to IT and explain all this.  Besides, they won’t fix it, they’ll just blwo out the hard drive and reinstall Windows.  At least that’s what I’d o in their situation.  So back to Ubuntu.

I’ve given up on fstab by the way as I’ve gotten enamoured with trying different command switches on the mount command.  That leads me to learn the umount command of course as I need to unmount every time I want to try a new combination of mount switches.  No luck.  I cannot get the darn thing to write to NTFS.

Most of what I’ve read implies that you can write to NTFS as long as you have the 2.4 kernel or later. But there’s also ntfsprogs.  This little package of utilities promises to let you read and write to an NTFS partition with mroe success.  Not COMPLETE success mind you, but more. SO I download the tar and unpackage it but it cannot run.  ./ configure does not work. Well I realize I’m running ubuntu so that didn’t work.  I need to use Synaptics right?  But when I look in Synaptics I don’t see ntfsprogs available.  So I surf around some more and find a .deb of 1.12.1 of ntfsprogs.  Not the most current package but it’s a deb right?  But I still can’t see how to install it with synaptics. So I try installing it the Windows way by double clicking on it.  It opens and give me an install dialogue, but no it’s run into a FUSE library that doesn’t have a satisfactory dependency.  Well darn.  I download that lib and when I install it, it says it’s unsatisfied with the libc dependency.  When I install THAT it says a later version is already installed.  Damn.  I obviously am not doing this right.

So back to the drawing board.  I prowl around on the Ubuntu site and discover ntfsprogs should be available in the universe area.  Hmm.  I eventually go back to synaptics and look at the repositories.  I ran into the term repositories somewhere on the web.  Turns out not all the repositories are turned on by default.  I turn on all the binary repositories and voila!  What do I find but ntfsprogs 1.12.1? Gloriousness. Synaptics installs it and all is looking fabulous.

I happily launch terminal and try the ntfsmount command.  Doesn’t work. Says the drive is dirty.  Happily there is a force switch I can turn on at the command line.  I do and it forces itself to try to mount the Windows partition.  Alas it still fails.  It needs fusemount or something and it just can’t find it.  Taking what I’ve learned I turn to synaptics again.  I search for fuse and find a package of fuse utilities that among other things, appears to contain fusermount.  It installs in beautiful synaptic fashion.

I go back to the command line and try out ntfsmount again.  Hurrah!  I CD over to the windows partition and sudo gedit boot.ini.  Hurray! The save buttonis NOT I repeat NOT greyed out. I let out a yelp.  I change those (1)s to (2)s and save. The text editor warns me that it can’t save a backup of that file and am I really sure I want to do this.  I say caution to the wind text editor, do your worst.  t saves and I reopen in gedit and it looks to have taken just fine.

Now comes the real test.  Restart. I choose Windows XP at the Grub screen and I get the most beautiful site since I left my wife this morning.  A Windows logo.  never thought I’d think that but I did.

Then the sky blue screen of death says it’s checking the drive for integrity.  I can understand that.  It goes about its checking and I turn to my other laptop to check mail.  At one point I turn back to see it’s checking the indecx and is 92 percent done.  However when I turn back I see it’s booting into Ubuntu.  My heart skips a beat!  Just the autoboot, it must have restarted itself.  I power down and reboot, and choose Windows XP.  I get the nice slightly darker than sky blue screen of login and life.  I login and there’s the desktop.  I run the screen capture program.  It works!  I surf the Web.  It works!  It’s amazing.

I immediately search for how to change boot order in grub, reboot into Ubuntu and change a default number to the Windows partition.  Now I can safely give this laptop to otheres int he department to do screen captures on.  And nobody will have to worry that Ubuntu is bootable.  And we now have a dual boot laptop ofr other videos that may require it.  Huzzah!

The rela moral of this story however, is that, while obviously not a Linux master by any stretch, even with my knowledge I found it quite frustrating to learn how to install programs in Ubuntu.  And most people won’t find the command line as exhilerating as I did.  Judgement?  UBuntu’s good.  very fgood.  In fact if you get it set up right, it may be good enough for people who don’t need to intsall programs much.  Or at least not install odd programs.  Liek Linux has been for years, it’s getting better on the desktop, but is not quite all the way there.