I am trying to setup my laptop to dual boot Ubuntu 13.10 and Windows Vista. I get as far as the drive table and it either freezes up or I get an error saying "unable to satisfy partition parameters" or something very similar. Now I just have a black screen with alternating indications that a request for cache data failed and something to do with a "write through". Any ideas on what I might be doing wrong?
The "unable to satisfy partition parameters" message usually indicates a mismatch in the partition alignment policy between the current partitioning program (Ubuntu's installer in this case) and whatever created existing partitions on the disk. To elaborate, in the past partition start and end points were aligned on "cylinder" boundaries. Disk cylinders are real, but the "cylinder" boundaries used for partitioning have been convenient fictions since the 1990s. More recently they've become INconvenient fictions, and now they're downright detrimental, which is why new software aligns partitions on 1MiB boundaries.
The problem is that there seems to be a rounding problem in libparted, such that when you tell it to create a new partition with no space between the preceding or following partition, it tends to try to adjust the alignment, which can create an overlap in the partitions. The solution is to create your partitions manually, but leave a short (1MiB should be enough) gap between the partitions you create and any that already exist. Unfortunately, this means you'll need to use the "Something Else" installation option rather than auto-partitioning.
That said, your other errors sound like they may be symptoms of hardware problems. Certainly problems that can't be repeated are often symptoms of hardware failures. Posting the complete and exact error messages is necessary for further diagnosis, though. If necessary, take a photo with a digital camera and post it (or a link to it) here. Be sure the text is legible, though.