Tuesday, 16 June 2020

How I added a Xubuntu partition

Below are a set of notes I made while adding a Xubuntu partition to my Windows 7 machine.

They are my rough working notes - use with care!

How to add a Xubuntu partition to a Windows 7 machine

This is not a guide it's a note that I wrote as reminder to myself. 
It is not a definitive set of instructions. 
As always your mileage may vary.
Playing with partitions can be destructive and you may lose data or 
brick your machine if things go wrong. 

Think carefully before doing this and make sure you have a backup of your data

Assess your machine

I have only done this on machines with a traditional hard disk - 
this has not been tested on an SSD based machine
  • check the size of the existing hard disk
    • you will probably need between 75 and a 100GB to make a usable Xubuntu partition for useful work. If you just wish to use it to run a quick start web browser and a basic editor 50 to 75GB may be enough
    • check the amount of data currently used by windows. To give yourself adequate headroom double it for the partition size
    • thus if you have a windows machine with a 300GB disk, and you have used a 100GB, you would give 200GB to Windows and 100GB to Xubuntu
    • Do not reduce the size of the Windows partition below 75GB
  • check that you can boot your machine from a usb device and the bios is not locked in some way
    • Dell machines usually require you to press F12 when the Dell logo appears during startup
    • Lenovo thinkpads usually prompt you to press Enter during startup
    • use Rufus to make a bootable volume - Rufus can be downloaded from https://rufus.ie/
    • slightly outdated documentation on using Rufus https://linuxhint.com/rufus_bootable_usb_install_ubuntu_18-04_lts
    • download the Xubuntu 20.04 LTS iso file from Xubuntu.org
    • using a blank USB drive (minimum size 8GB) use Rufus to write a bootable USB stick
    • on the machine that you intend to install the partition, boot from the USB stick
    • verify the stick contents pass self test and the system boots into the Xubuntu environment
  • click on Try Xubuntu and check basic functionality
    • check the mouse works
    • check the keyboard works
    • check wi-fi works (you will need your wi-fi password)
      • performance may be slightly slow, especially program load as you are running off a usb stick
    • reboot the machine

Installing Xubuntu

  • power cycle and boot your machine from the USB stick
  • click on Install Xubuntu
  • answer the questions to specify keyboard etc
    • procedure detailed at

  • specify the partition table size by dragging the slider to adjust the sizes in line with what you originally decided
  • answer the scary questions about whether you really want to do this
  • wait while xubuntu resizes the partitions
  • continue the installation process
  • remove the boot media and reboot
  • Boot into Xubuntu and check everything works

    • check the mouse works
    • check the keyboard works
    • check wi-fi works (you will need your wi-fi password)
    • reboot the machine

    Boot into Windows and check everything works

    • run chkdsk when prompted
    • log into windows when prompted
    • check everything still works
    I found I had to reinstall OneDrive and do a resync - unsure if this was due to repartitioning the disk or if it was broken anyway
    • you’re now done - enjoy (remember you may need to install additional applications and configure printing on your Xubuntu install)

    Monday, 15 June 2020

    Adding a Xubuntu partition to a production Windows 7 machine ...

    Windows 7 was in many ways an admirable operating system, but one of its major problems was its slow startup and shutdown times,

    On a desktop computer, this didn't matter much, basically you never bothered to reboot them unless necessary  and then a restart or planned shutdown was an excuse for an extended coffee break or informal meeting. However on a laptop being used as a portable machine it was a pain - while there were tricks like Alt-F4 to force a quick shutdown when running for a flight, startup was always tedious - I've lost count of the number of times I've spent making polite conversation to people while my laptop booted.

    Windows 10 is much better - faster startup, faster shutdown, and no irritating mandatory updates at inappropriate moments.

    Well, the old Thinkpad X230 I bought a couple of years ago is still stuck on Windows 7 due to its role as a backup machine for the Dow's Pharmacy documentation project, and is probably not worth upgrading to Windows 10, given that I always intended it to become a linux machine after the end of the project.

    Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, I've lost nearly three months, and instead of being finished sometime around the end of winter, January next year looks more realistic.

    The machine is quite a nice machine to work with in an extended session but a pain for a quick looksee operation due to the slow startup time.

    After my success making a dual boot work machine, and given that the disk was only about 25% full, I decided to sacrifice around 100GB of the unused space to make a Xubuntu partition - I could probably have made it smaller if I had to, but I had the space anyway.

    The idea was to build a quick boot partition and add a minimal set of applications to allow for work in a quick startup/quick shutdown situation.

    This isn't an original idea. HP to name but one, used to sell laptops where you could boot into what they called Quickweb - a minimal web based environment to allow you to check email etc.

    So, to do this I used the repartioner in the Xubuntu installer to shrink the windows partition, and did a vanilla install of Xubuntu - this gets you Firefox, Libre Office, Thunderbird, and the Ristretto image viewer in the box - essentially all you need to do useful work.

    To this I added Focuswriter for quick distraction free writing, ReText for MarkDown editing, and Notable as a way of grouping together notes.

    I didn't install printing and I reckon that material can be uploaded or downloaded from OneDrive/Google Drive/iCloud as required via a web browser.

    Making the Xubuntu partition just worked. Utterly unexciting.

    Shrinking the Windows partition also worked smoothly. As always, it wanted to run chkdsk afterwards to verify the volume integrity - which it passed with flying colours.

    The only problem I found was that the OneDrive widget had gone stupid on me and required to be reinstalled - whether due to my shrinking the partition or some other cause I don't know, and this then required a massive resync with the cloud instance - all 64 GB of it - which took several hours.

    Painful, tedious but ultimately a fairly straightforward mechanical process.

    However, in the end it was worth it - I still have an alternative machine to keep working with should disaster strike the project machine, and I also a have quick start linux based machine to get work done in these boring half hours waiting for trains that never come ...

    Friday, 5 June 2020

    Notable ...

    When I built my Xubuntu machine for research I suggested installing Standard Notes as a notes management application.

    I didn't install it at the time but yesterday I started a little project on the Yelverton case to track its coverage through newspapers of the time.

    I'd forgotten how sparse and featureless Standard Notes was without a paid subscription, so much so that it was useless to me. I guess I could have used CherryTree, which I've used in the past, but instead I though I'd try Notable, which has a feature list similar to that of CherryTree back in 2017 when played with it, but with one important addition - MarkDown support.

    For some people this might well be a hindrance, but given that I usually use MarkDown when writing notes to give myself some semi structured text, to me it's an advantage.

    There's also a windows client, meaning that if you add Google drive support to both your Xubuntu and Windows machines you can share the database between the two machines.

    I havn't played with it extensively yet, but from a bit of work I did yesterday, it's looking good ...