Ubuntu on my Dell XPS M1330 – Booted with the MediaDirect button

So when my motherboard was replaced, MediaDirect stopped starting up, so there was no Media to be had from the button, Direct or otherwise and the button itself booted Vista and then started the MediaDirect application. Thinking I had a brilliant idea, I set out to see if I could boot Ubuntu using the MediaDirect button and Vista using the Power button, only to find that hundreds of other people have done that before to.

However none of those guides worked because I simply couldn’t manage to install GRUB to the extended partition due to many many errors. Finally, I deleted MediaDirect, installed Ubuntu in a couple of logical partitions and went back to using Windows. Then today, I decided to finish the job, and with LiveCD in hand proceeded to fight the demons of distro installation under esoteric conditions. GRUB kept failing trying to find stage1 and stage2 files, and no matter how many tricks I tried, none of them worked. Until I discovered this lovely parameter to grub-install.

So with GRUB already installed on the logical partition (as part of the Ubuntu installation process), I just had to point grub-install to the right place to get all the files from:
sudo grub-install --root-directory=/media/disk-1/ /dev/sda4
and boom! I had a bootloader on the extended partition.

The best part is that I’d already installed the Dell bootloader (the one that handles the difference between MediaDirect and Power) configured to look at the third and fourth partitions and so I shut down and hit the MediaDirect button and then much happiness ensued. At least until I saw how fonts looked in Firefox :)

The command to run from the Dell MediaDirect disc is:
rmbr.exe dell 3 4
Remember to start cmd.exe with Administrator permissions (right click, Run as Administrator). The only problem is that ‘Restart’ always means ‘Restart into Windows’.

To get proper instructions on how to do this instead of this garbled mess, here are the links I found most useful:
Using the Media Direct button to boot Ubuntu
Another thread for that
The thread where I found out about --root-directory

XPS Dellivered

A while ago, I was considering buying an HP laptop while grumbling about how hard it would be to carry around. Soon after that, I ordered a Dell XPS M1330 because for the size there just didn’t seem to be anything in the range that would get you discrete graphics at that price. In any case, they delivered it today, some 4 days outside the 8 business day promise they gave and some two weeks after the date originally on their website (8th April).

Roshan George’s XPS M1330 Thumbnail

I’m real happy with what I got. Vista isn’t very good, there are times when even 3GB of RAM and the GeForce 8400M GS make the closing animation sluggish when running only one or two programs. That and I hate the way the screen flickers dark when UAC comes up. That flicker is really annoying. But over all, everything looks great, the screen is bright and clear and Vista’s font smoothing is really nice. The laptop itself is nice and light and has enough ports for me to be happy :)

My changes to the base model:

  • An upgrade to the T8300 2.4Ghz processor. It was cheap.
  • An upgrade (in my view) to a 7200 rpm hard drive that stores 80GB less.
  • Discrete Graphics: 128 MB GeForce 8400M GS. It also does that shared memory thing.
  • The Intel 4965 AGN wireless card.

Maybe I should’ve chosen an extra gigabyte of RAM instead of the processor. Nevermind, it should be easy to do, and I remember I used to get along just fine with just 1GB on my previous laptop. Still, the one thing I really miss getting is the WLED screen that everybody’s just raving about. Maybe in a few years :)