0

if been using ubuntu for 3 years now. unfortunately my laptop died. I bought a new one:

  1. HP 15-an000nd (a star wars special edition :) )
  2. Skylake 6200U
  3. nvidia 940m (2gb)
  4. 1gb hardrive
  5. 8gb of ram
  6. windows 10

On my last laptop ubuntu installation was easy (dual boot). but times have changed so im doing a lot of research beforehand. I have identified a couple of problems:

The first is that hp decided that they need 4 partitions for a windows installation :( . just why ?! . There is maximum of 4 partitions on a single harddrive, i need 2 extra ofcourse swap and root. does anyone have suggestions ?

i have 2 recovery partitions and one efi partition. which brings me to problem 2: UEFI, information is kind of all over the place concerning this problem, some say that with the newer versions of ubuntu it is no longer a problem. others follow a long list of actions like disabling fastboot,secureboot,switching to legacy boot methods etc. So what is the current status of ubuntu/grub installation regarding UEFI ?

And then there is skylake. Originally not supported in kernel 4.2 , yet some newer articles claim support out of the box with 15.10. Does anyone know the truth of the matter ?

There are also alot of questions on nvidia cards. Some people experience black screens after installing the drivers. I would like to install the proprietary drivers (gotta go fast). A friend recommended that a use the following ppa: Proprietary GPU Drivers. i have always been hesitant using things i dont understand. What are your experiences with nvidia driver issues installing/using ubuntu

Sorry for the amount of questions. Any and all advice is welcome. Greetings

2 Answers 2

1

The first is that hp decided that they need 4 partitions for a windows installation :( . just why ?! . There is maximum of 4 partitions on a single harddrive

The 4-partition limit is a problem with the old Master Boot Record (MBR) partitioning scheme. Almost anything that ships with Windows 8 or later uses the newer GUID Partition Table (GPT) instead. GPT's limit is 128 partitions by default, and that limit can be raised if necessary. Thus, the fact that HP used four partitions on its default Windows 10 installation on a new computer is unimportant.

UEFI, information is kind of all over the place concerning this problem

EFI is not a problem, although it is a significant change from the earlier BIOS. You're right, though, that there's a lot of conflicting information on the subject. FWIW, I'm the author of the GPT fdisk (gdisk) partitioning software and maintainer of the rEFInd boot manager, so I know a thing or two about this subject. Here's my recommended reading list:

I admit that's a lot. If you don't want to read them all, I recommend you read my EFI installation page (#3 on that list) first, then move on to Adam Williamson's blog and/or the Superuser.com question and answer.

Signs that an author doesn't know what s/he is talking about include:

  • Recommendations to enable the CSM/legacy support, except in limited circumstances. See my page on the subject (referenced above) for more on this subject.
  • Claims that Ubuntu doesn't support Secure Boot. It does. (A case can be made for disabling it, especially temporarily or in certain situations, though.)
  • A routine use of Boot Repair. This tool is meant to fix boot loader problems, but a working installation procedure should not create such problems, so use of Boot Repair should be limited to cases where something went wrong.

To be sure, it's sometimes necessary to use CSM/legacy support, to disable Secure Boot, or to use Boot Repair. These cases generally indicate a problem with a computer's firmware, though, and they are not common enough problems that people should be doing them routinely.

Since I've mentioned firmware problems, be aware that many vendors are known to deliver broken EFIs that forget or ignore their NVRAM boot manager entries. These entries are critical for normal booting. If you can install Ubuntu but the computer then boots straight to Windows, you may have such a computer. If this happens, and if you can't easily resolve the problem, return the computer for a refund! EFI has been the dominant firmware type for long enough that such problems should no longer exist in new products, and consumers accepting such defects qualifies as self-abuse.

others follow a long list of actions like disabling fastboot,secureboot,switching to legacy boot methods etc.

The Windows Fast Startup setting is a problem. See here for information on disabling it. You may also need to disable the Windows Hibernation feature, as described here. These are Windows features that make dual-booting unsafe because they leave filesystems in an unsafe state when Ubuntu takes over. They really have nothing to do with EFI. Note also that many EFIs include a feature called "fast start" or something similar. This feature can make it difficult to boot from an external medium, but don't pose the sort of threat that the Windows Fast Startup feature poses. Don't confuse the EFI and Windows features; despite having similar names, they're completely unrelated.

There are two other issues that often get short shrift:

  • Bit depth -- Most EFIs are 64-bit, and with them, you should install a 64-bit Ubuntu. Installing a 32-bit Ubuntu on a system with a 64-bit EFI will require jumping through extra hoops and will likely create maintenance headaches down the road. If you've got a rare system (mostly tablets and netbooks) with a 32-bit EFI, it's theoretically better to install a 32-bit Ubuntu; but the last I checked, Ubuntu's 32-bit installation images lack EFI boot loaders, so you've got to jump through hoops to get those installed.
  • Installation medium preparation -- Multiple tools (Unetbootin, Rufus, dd, etc.) exist to create bootable USB drives from Ubuntu .iso images. Some of these tools work better than others for creating an EFI-bootable image. Some (especially Rufus) offer options that can affect the results. What works best varies from one computer to another. If you can't get the installer to boot, DO NOT immediately enable BIOS/CSM/legacy support; at best, that will work around the immediate boot problem but create worse problems down the road. Instead, try re-creating the boot medium in another way or using another tool.

I don't currently have anything to say about Skylake or Nvidia hardware.

1
  • thanks ! im confident i can get it done now. can confirm the hard disk is indeed using GPT. Feb 23, 2016 at 7:00
0

I'm actually running a a number of Skylake processors here, so I can confirm some fears and allay others.

Skylake support improved dramatically from 4.2.0-17 in about October 2015. Previously, I had to run in legacy mode because even in generic Ubuntu, things would suddenly freeze or crash, and sound was patchy. I played with a number of kernels and settled on a 4.1 kernel in legacy mode. It worked well for months while I tested out various 4.2.0 kernels that were in RC.

Now, everything works pretty much out-of-the-box if you install from an up-to-date version of 15.10.

So, I wiped them in November and did a UEFI install but still disabled secure boot.

Why? Because secure boot needs you to install keys into your BIOS and (AFAIK) those keys have to match the kernel that you're booting. So, technically, there's a potential that you could get a pretty normal kernel upgrade, run apt-get autoremove which could theoretically uninstall the old kernel (that being the one you're running) and then get locked out of your machine on the next reboot. Ech.

@rod-smith has pointed out in the comments that Secure Boot now works due to a Microsoft to Canonical key shim arrangement, but I can't speak for this yet.

If you're careful, it works. And I'm sure there's a workaround that might involve booting from a USB key or pulling out the hard drive, but I digress...it's just something I'm not (yet) comfortable with.

UEFI, on the other hand, does work. I find it's a little touch-and-go with suspend (but then, suspend is hard!) The thing you have to remember is that the EFI partition is the most important thing. Don't touch it, don't move it, don't update it, and everything will be fine (so long as it's mounted at /boot/efi). Don't forget if you're rolling-your-own kernel or doing something else like that, don't forget to tell grub that it needs the efi module.

One of the other people here who uses a Skylake likes to mod Ubuntu to within an inch of it's life, running Xubuntu with a whole bunch of streamlining. However, while I get through the day now with next to no hassle, he finds he has audio issues, graphical glitches, and completely unexplained complete video lockups. (Everything is still running since we can ssh in and look around, but for some reason the screen is completely frozen.)

So, you probably do this already, but I tend boot from a USB key first to dd the whole disk over the network running through gzip. That way, I have the whole machine stored exactly as it came out of the box, and it's usually only 16-32GB after compression.

Then, my suggestion is to disable secure boot and go for a normal UEFI install. Let it shrink the Windows partitions if you like, but don't touch the EFI partition. You can delete the Windows rescue partition (presuming you backed it up), because it most likely won't work once you move partitions around, anyway.

I found, even on later models, some switches are still only accessible via alsamixer. If you find you have no sound, go looking for the strange muted channels that alsa shows you but pulseaudio doesn't.

Finally, if your boot isn't set up the right way (or windows overwrites it), you may have to use your USB key/SD card to chroot into your root partition, mount /boot and /boot/efi and reinstall grub.

Have fun! :-D

7
  • thanks for your reply. some great info. i never actually used dd, that is a very useful tool. do you really clone the entire disk ? or just the windows partition (so no efi , recovery )? how would one use the compressed clone to recover? Feb 22, 2016 at 12:52
  • Your concerns about Secure Boot are unfounded. Ubuntu uses Shim, which is signed by Microsoft and includes Canonical's key hard-coded within it. Thus, the firmware is not touched by this implementation. Furthermore, Ubuntu's kernel-update procedure always leaves the currently-booted kernel untouched, so even if there's a problem (with Secure Boot or something else) with a new kernel, you should be able to fall back to the old one. Because Secure Boot provides security benefits, I recommend leaving it enabled unless you believe there are problems with it.
    – Rod Smith
    Feb 22, 2016 at 15:01
  • @user3376192 Yes, I clone the whole disk and run it through gzip before sending it over the network. e.g. dd if=/dev/sda | gzip -c | ssh me@mybackupserver 'cat > ~/completediskbackup.gz' Since most of the disk should be zeros when you buy it, it should be a reasonably small file. Feb 23, 2016 at 1:30
  • Additionally, if you use dcfldd instead of dd, (or you can pipe dd | pv) you'll get a running summary of the transfer. Feb 23, 2016 at 1:31
  • If you've used the disk before you do the backup, then you can blank out the remaining space by mounting each partition and creating a blank file that takes up the remaining space and then delete it. e.g. dd if=/dev/zero of=blankfile.tmp; rm blankfile.tmp Then do your backup. Feb 23, 2016 at 1:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.