Precise Pangolin install hints

My desktop at work is a Dell Precision T5500 – a fairly standard desktop, you’d think. My video card is an NVIDIA Quadro FX 580.

I recently spent most of 3 days trying to upgrade from Lucid to Pangolin. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but here are some things I wish I’d known.

  • I have two monitors, one on each of the DisplayPort outputs. The LiveCD will not use either of them *unless you have a third monitor plugged in to the DVI port*. My monitors happen to be able to handle Picture-by-Picture, so I can actually make one of them track both the DisplayPort and DVI inputs, which comes in handy.
  • Although the installer can use the graphics card just fine, the system it installs by default is broken. At the very first part of the installer (a purple screen with a keyboard and a human – at least, I think that’s what those two fuzzy blobs are meant to be), press any key. You’ll be asked to choose a language, then you’ll get a menu with options like “Try Ubuntu without installing” and “Install Ubuntu”. Press F6, arrow-down to “nomodeset”, and press x to activate it. This makes no difference at all to the installer, but does result in it installing a system that can use your graphics card later.
  • This part of the installer uses the DVI input to your monitor. Take the time to set up Picture-by-Picture so you can track the install as it flips back and forth between DVI and DisplayPort throughout the rest of the process.
  • Now choose “Try Ubuntu without installing”. Despite the misleading name, this gives you a chance to set your system up before running the installer.
  • The installer may now switch from DVI to DisplayPort, but then again, sometimes it won’t. Be glad you set up PbP so you can catch it wherever it appears. If it’s on DisplayPort, you probably didn’t set nomodeset correctly. Don’t waste your time continuing with the installer, even though it seems to be working fine – just restart it.
  • The standard LiveCD does not support LVM, so will not handle the LVM partitions already on your desktop (you do use LVM, right?). You can switch to a terminal by pressing alt+F1, and then:
    • sudo apt-get install lvm2
    • sudo vgchange -ay

    You can then use alt+F7 to get back to the GUI and kick off the installer.

  • The installer doesn’t seem to be able to cope with existing swap partitions – at least, not when you have several swap partitions. It does amusing things like popping up modal dialogs to tell you that creating the swap space failed – and then doesn’t let you dismiss the dialog, so your only option is a hard power-down. Don’t waste your time, just tell the partitioner not to use any swap partitions at all.
  • If you choose to use encrypted homedirs, the process that creates the homedirs assumes you have at least one swap partition. Because you’ve had to choose not to use any swap partitions, this will fail – but it does so in a recoverable way. Just use alt+F1 again, “sudo swapon /dev/sdXY”, (assuming that /dev/sdXY is your swap partition), then switch back to the GUI and click “Try Again” on the installer.
  • When you’re setting up your partitions, you will be asked to choose a device for boot loader installation. Choose your hard drive, not your USB stick. Near the end of the installer, sometimes the installer will try to install grub on the USB stick anyway. This will fail, but you will get the chance to pick another partition to install GRUB to. Pick your actual hard drive again.
  • If you cancel the installer, it will think something went wrong and ask if you want to send a message with details to Ubuntu developers. If you cancel this, the window never dies. If you start the installer again, it will eventually reach a point where it’s blocked waiting for the original window to go away. Switch back to the console and use “kill $(ps auxwww | grep [a]pport)” to terminate the original process.
  • Even though you’ve manually installed lvm2 and are installing onto LVM, ubuntu won’t bother installing LVM into the system it creates. Make sure you follow step 7 of this guide before you reboot. If you forget, you can always boot up the LiveCD again and run through this step.

Edited to add: One more tip: Once you’re done, unplug the DVI cable. If you leave it plugged in, a reboot will see the system using the DVI output and ignoring the two DisplayPort outputs again. If I ever do a reboot and the screens go to sleep, I’m going to try plugging in the DVI cable again. The system really seems to love that DVI output.

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