Monday, September 17, 2007

Ubuntu (64-bit) on a Toshiba A215-S4747 Laptop

It took me a while but I did it!

A quick explanation; I bought a Toshiba Laptop with the intention of running Ubuntu on it. It came loaded with Vista whatever on it and I tried unsuccessfully to dual-boot Ubuntu on the machine. I'm sure I paid a price for Vista and I expected when I was told by the salesperson that the machine was dual-bootable that the claim included Linux offerings.

What followed was an education in marketing. By attempting to partition the 200GB drive using Vista, I had no luck installing Ubuntu (I tried many versions). I used the Vista help which tells you dual-booting is for Windows systems only. All of which made me sweat. Nor could I find a way to get rid of Vista!

(Long and short) I called Toshiba who gave me zero help and are, largely a waste of time on the phone and on their web site.

The store, Best Buy, was belligerent and wanted money to get rid of Vista. Not a happening proposition.

So I tried friends (Julie Group) and Slashdot and finally, through discovery, and nights of experimentation, I am up and running.

Here's the skinny:

Getting rid of Vista

The only thing that worked for me came from Slashdot.
You can use an existing XP installation CD to repartition the drive away from Vista without violating your EULA. You do this by booting from the XP CD and repartitioning the drive by deleting Vista (Toshiba's come with a backup Vista CD).

Don't install XP!

Now you have a clean hard drive with nothing more than Toshiba's small partition showing.

Installing Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty 64-bit:
My box is a Turion 64 x 2 Dual Core Mobile model so despite warnings of instability I chose to install the 64-bit version of Ubuntu.

Feisty will repartition your disk fine but at the very end of the installation the X-Windows fails. You will be confronted with a series of log file screens. After much experimentation I found out that you must click through all these to get to a command line prompt.

Again, after much experimentation, this is what works; at the command line type: sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-org . This will result in a series of questions.

Accepting most defaults will work fine. Two important exceptions are that your driver must be vesa and your screen resolution must be 1200 x 800 (chosen using the spacebar).

At the end of this you will return to a command prompt and type, startx . This will begin the installation of Ubuntu onto the drive. Once installed, reboot without the Ubuntu installation disk.

Important post-installation processing:

When Ubuntu boots from the hard drive, two alerts will scream at you. One is that updates are available and the second is that the screen driver is not working.

IGNORE THE SCREEN DRIVER ALERT! Activating it hoses the system and results in a black screen of death.

Instead, install all updates and reboot. The screen driver resolves itself automatically.


The screen looks great. The sound works. Internet connectivity required a hard-wire to the modem. Installing the wireless is a separate issue.


Robert Fischer said...

Do you have any tips for installing your wireless? I just got this laptop, and I can't seem to get it to do anything with the wireless -- doesn't even seem to recognize the hardware is attached!

The Caretaker said...


The holiday, family, and work have kept me from coming up with a working solution to the wireless question.

I'll get back to it soon.

The short answer is that I believe its a very real problem with only hit-or-miss solutions.

- krasicki

MR said...

I set up a how-I-did this as well. I wanted to know though, was the modem you talked about an ethernet or 56K modem? The computer was not mine (family-member) and they now also want to use dial-up at a location and need the modem. I just want to make sure it works without problems. Thanks.

The Caretaker said...

I use an ethernet connection at home to a cable modem.

I am currently in the middle of what I hope is an atheros wireless solution that I'll post asap.

Steven said...

I was able to throw in an Ubuntu 32-bit and use its auto-installer to resize my Vista partition and make an easy dual boot. I'm now tryin a triple boot (Gentoo Linux/XP/Vista) comment back if you want to hear any progress.

Oh and a Google on "gentoo a215" gave me some quick tips on the Atheros Wireless.

The Caretaker said...


By all means continue to publish what you're discovering, especially any Atheros tips.

I haven't really had time to pursue that very much and many people do check this particular thread out even today.