Exploring Linux Part 20
by Alan German
PowerPoint actually LibreOffice Impress
presentation on the basics of Ubuntu Linux (http://opcug.ca/code/html-fdnld?frames=n&recno=5248512), given at the February meeting
of the Ottawa PC Users' Group, went quite well.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the live
demonstration of installing Ubuntu!
I had set up my laptop's hard drive as a single partition
with Windows Vista. To demonstrate just how simple it is
to install and use Ubuntu, I used a USB memory stick on
which I had installed (using UNetBootin) a bootable
version of the Ubuntu 11.10 distro. It was easy enough to
show how to start up the live-CD version of
Natty Narwhal, and then navigate through the few setup
screens in order to commence the process to install
Ubuntu to the hard disk. I chose to establish a dual-boot
format with Vista, and then left the software to run
while I gave my main presentation on a second computer.
Finally, at the end of the presentation, the pièce de
résistance restart the laptop and demonstrate how
easy it is to boot into Windows!? Yes, that's
right, the demo-gods were not smiling on me that evening
or perhaps they were laughing! After a re-boot,
the laptop failed to show the GRUB start-up menu, and
booted directly into Vista.
A quick check using GParted from the bootable USB stick
confirmed that the Ubuntu root and swap partitions had
been created, as had the /boot/grub folder, and there was
a reasonably-configured grub.cfg file. Clearly, the
problem was that the installation had somehow failed to
reset Vista's master boot record (MBR) to point at GRUB.
So, how to fix this little mishap? Once back at home, I
tried my bootable Super Grub Rescue CD. Now, perhaps I
have an old version of this software, but the only option
that Super Grub Rescue provided was to boot into the
installed Linux system. While this let me use Ubuntu, and
so confirmed that the installation was viable, it wasn't
going to fix the boot problem.
I decided it was time to learn more about just how GRUB
works, and how to manually fix boot problems. However, a
Google search identified an Ubuntu Community document (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Boot-Repair) discussing the use of
Boot-Repair as a small graphical tool to restore
access to Ubuntu. Even better, Boot-Repair offered
a "Recommended repair button to repair most frequent
boot problems. (generally repair filesystems and
This sounded like just what I needed. So, out with the
idea of learning about the inner-workings of GRUB, and
move along to try yet another boot-fixing tool.
Downloading and installing Boot-Repair was as simple as
following the instructions in the Ubuntu Community
document. Copy each of two commands that were provided,
paste them into a Terminal window (recalling that one
needs to use Ctrl-Shift-V as the keyboard short cut for
pasting), and let each command work its magic.
In no time, I had the main Boot-Repair window on the
screen. Sure enough, the "Recommended repair"
button promised that it repairs most frequent
problems. Pressing this button, and waiting
patiently while it did whatever repairs were indeed
recommended, led to a request to restart the computer.
GRUB menu was immediately displayed, and the laptop would
into boot into either Ubuntu or Windows Vista.
In addition, to the quick repair button, the
advanced options for Boot-Repair allow considerable
customization of the utility's operations, including
backing up partitions, boot sectors and logs; repairing
file systems; changing the location of the boot flag;
restoring the MBR; and editing GRUB's configuration file.
Alternatively, the program offers a second button to run
Boot-Info-Script, a trouble-shooting utility that will
produce a very useful list of all the hard drives
installed in the computer and information related to the
So, if you need to fix a boot problem, Boot-Repair may
well be worth a try. And even if you want just a little
more information about your system's hard drives, this
little utility can provide the goods.
Boot-Repair (Open-source software)
Originally published: February, 2012
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.