Saturday, December 22, 2007

Installing Ubuntu 7.10 - AMD64

I decided to take my previously installed machine and switch from 32 bits to 64 bits. I was more than a little nervous about the switch since I had done a ton of work customizing the old one.

Some background:
This computer was purchased specifically to work with Ubuntu, so it's almost entirely an Intel machine. As much as I root for AMD, Intel releases all of its specs and writes open source drivers for almost all of its stuff. Here's the spec:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo
HDD: SATA 250GB Samsung
Chipset: i801
Graphics: Onboard i945
NIC: rt8139
Wifi: RaLink rt73usb

My first step was to back up my data. I attached the external drive, hit CTRL-h to show hidden files in my home folder, hit CTRL-a to select everything, then went item by item, deselecting the parts I knew I didn't need, like my .wine directory. Finally, I dragged everything onto the removable drive (46GB!!) and waited. And waited.

While I waited, I burned the Ubuntu 7.10 AMD64 disk image that I had downloaded the night before. It was too easy: I stuck a blank CD in the drive, clicked "Ignore," right-clicked on the image, and chose "Write to disk." Nothing could have been simpler, except that the first CD had an error during write, so I had to repeat the process, this time at a lower speed just to be safe. I used the md5sum command to check the hashes of the burned CD and the image to make sure that they were the same. (I had previously checked the hash of the image.)

I rebooted with the CD in the drive, hit F4 to change the resolution to 1280x1024, and hit enter. Once the live CD was up and running, I immediately ran the install and surfed the web while I waited.

Then I ran into my first problem. The wireless dropped the connection and wouldn't come back up. The security updates failed due to the lack of an Internet connection. Indeed, once I rebooted into the installed system, the RaLink 73 USB device wasn't even recognized, so I busted out the LAN cables. Meh.

Then I started the restore process suing the same method I had used earlier, only in reverse.

I went to Software Sources, activated all the extra repositories and updated the package list. I used Add/Remove to install my normal additions to Ubuntu: ubuntu-restricted-extras (for all the codecs and plugins), Lyx (for writing), Referencer (for my bibliographies), Epiphany (which I prefer to Firefox), Devede (a DVD creator), Pitivi (a VERY simple video editor), Istanbul (for taking screencasts), and the Empathy / Telepathy set (the upcoming Gnome IM / VOIP / Video chat solution integrated into every application). I also updated all the software.

So here I am, typing on my newly reinstalled and configured, barely an hour after I first started the process. F-Spot has all my photos. Rhythmbox still has my songs. Best of all, my documents are all here and Tracker has the index of them. My bookmarks and passwords are even in place. Computational tasks like encoding seem faster, but I didn't do any benchmarks. My 2GB of RAM can now be handled natively, instead of in 1GB chinks. Reinstallation couldn't get any easier. Next time, I won't even have to restore because I've given myself a separate /home partition. I'll still back up before the upgrade, though. Always back up.

Now I need to get to work on the wireless driver ....

Well, that's done. Download the from and grag the sole directory onto the desktop. Install build-essential to set up the build environment. Enter the Module directory in rt73 and type "make" then "sudo strip -S rt73.ko" and finally "sudo make install" to finish the installation. Blacklist the regular rt modules in the kernel and load the new rt73 module.

In /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist:
# Blacklist rt73usb
# Blacklist rt2570
blacklist rt2570
# Other modules
blacklist rt2500usb
blacklist rt2x00lib

Set up networking. Done. Maybe ten minutes.

On a side note, this shouldn't have to be done at all. RaLink wireless devices used to work fine. There are many people like me who went out of theri way to buy RaLink specifically because they were supported. I'm pissed at Canonical for shipping drivers which it knew to be bad. They drop. They crash. They just don't work. I filed bugs during the alpha phase. Nothing happened. Friggin' don't ship them if you can't fix them! This situation had better be fixed by Hardy, or the LTS moniker won't mean shit.

Well, I found another problem. Flash isn't installed. Normally, in 32 bit, ubuntu-restricted-extras would install flash, but that didn't happen here. Installing flash-plugin-nonfree appeared to work, but the browser experience is the same as if I hadn't installed it.

It turns out that there's a bug in the 64-bit version, and the fix is linked to in the bug tracker. Installing this fixed all problems. NOTE: Installing packages from untrusted sources is a bad idea.

Next on the agenda is to get a seamless backup and restore system working. TimeVault is my preferrred application for this, but no 64 bit version exists. Compiling my own fails, and there's almost no documentation on dependencies required, etc. Stay tuned for this one.


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