Dual boot (Ed)Ubuntu/XP on Inspiron 4150 Laptop

Short URL: http://fsmsh.com/2235

Thu, 2007-04-26 05:17 -- Danboy

Inspiron 4150 Laptop Intel P4 1.8GHz 384MB RAM 30GB HD DVDROM

My aim is to set up this old laptop for my nine year old son to use as an educational/communications machine - Moderated internet usage, writing documents, educational software (typing tutor, maths software, maybe a spanish tutor if there is one), and emailing and skyping relatives (I know he should use wengophone but the relies don't so he'd be all alone on there).

The machine already has XP SP2 on it. And, while I'd love to wipe it clean, he has games that only run on XP and I've had trouble getting his iPod working on my Linux machine (I think it's a hardware issue not software) and I'm worried it won't work on his either and he'll still need iTunes... so, for now, XP stays, and he'll be dual booting (although he'll be staying on Ubuntu most of the time).

I've chosen Ubuntu because... well because it's all I know. And, unless someone can suggest a good reason that I should go with another unknown (to me) distro (I'm all ears), Ubuntu or Edubuntu it will be.

I've got to make the decision though between Edubuntu and Ubuntu. Is there really much of a difference? So that's my first question: Ubuntu or Edubuntu?

Tony Mobily's picture


I would personally go for EdUbuntu rather than Ubuntu, since a LOT of educational programs are already installed by default.

Please write here how you go with it!



This is also good timing, since Feisty has just been released. I use it myself, and it's fantastic!

Nick Ipe Mathew's picture

Its got the software you're looking for. I think KVerbos helps in the Spanish language practice. (Not sure, haven't tried it myself). Also try out TuxMath & TuxPaint.

I would like to know how your son uses EdUbuntu. Kids always find innovative ways to do things!!

PS:If you run into any problems, consult these sites. They have tons of info regarding installing & using linux on laptops. It has helped me lots of times.

  • Linux on Laptop
  • TuxMobil

Danboy's picture
Submitted by Danboy on

Thanks guys. Edubuntu was what I was expecting but it sounds like it might be better for my sons needs.

Okay, so, as I write, I am downloading Edubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. Now, before I install, I know there are some things to consider.

1) Backing up the files he'll want to keep. I'll just burn them to a CD and I'll wipe his music for now - I've got it backed up on an external drive already.
2) Working out what partitions I should use. I know I should keep 10GB for Edubuntu and 500MB for swap. But how much do I need for XP and should I split the rest off into a partition for file that will be used by both OSes - music, docs, movies, photos etc. I've got 27GB to work with in total. I don't know how much I can squish XP down to once I remove his files and defrag.
3) Anything else?

So any advice on the partitions and the "anything else" bit would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance

Nick Ipe Mathew's picture

hmm... there is no 'right' way to partition, it depends upon your need and use.

Device Boot Available Filesystem Use
/hda1 10GB ntfs Windows
/hda2 500MB swap Linux
/hda3 6.5GB fat32 common
/hda4 10GB ext3 Linux

Reserve around 10 GB for Windows. But install all programs to this. (I've used 6GB for XP, but had programs installed elsewhere.)

I suggest you create a FAT32 parition from the remaining space. You can store the music, docs, pics etc. here. NTFS support in Ubuntu is buggy. So stick with FAT32. This way both XP & Linux can read & write to this partition.

Check these links:
Linux Partition HOWTO

Share Partition

"Anything Else":

Ubuntu & iPod

Got this via Digg. Useful!!17 Must Have apps for Ubuntu

Danboy's picture
Submitted by Danboy on

I didn't end up needing them. But maybe someone else who reads this will find them useful.

Thanks anyway.

Danboy's picture
Submitted by Danboy on

Okay so things didn't go to plan.

Here's what happened:

* I backed up the files that needed to be backed up.
* I removed the music files because they were going to be moved to a shared partition.
* I did a disk clean up
* I turned off paging
* I did a defrag.
* I did it again 3 more times just to be sure.
* I ended up with XP taking up less than 10GB.
* I decided to divide up the disk like this: XP = 11GB; Edubuntu = 11GB; swap = 500MB; shared = whatever's left.
* I stuck my edubuntu disk in a rebooted.
* The LiveCD loaded up and I tested some everything.

(I found the sound wasn't working but I was willing to go ahead anyway because it was the only thing not working and I was really happy because the iPod was detected.)

* I then hit the install button on the desktop and started to edit the partitions.
* After some messing around and talking to some people on the ubuntu channel of irc about ext3 vs fat32 I had my partitions set up.
* I pressed forward to install ubuntu on the "/" partition and nothing happened!?!?
* I was back on the desktop. I thought that maybe I needed to just hit install again now that the partitions had been set up. But, when I did, the system didn't react. Okay...
* I rebooted and chose install edubuntu from the CD options again.
* I went through the process again.
* This time it started to install... YES!
* Once it was finished I rebooted and Edubuntu loaded up. It looked great and everything looked in order.
* I rebooted to check on the Windows side of things...
* Windows said it needed to perform some sort of disk check and I thought it best not to interfere and let it do its thing.
* After it had finished I got into Windows and everything seemed fine. Great!
* I rebooted again to go back to Edubuntu to set some things up...
* I was presented with the normal edubuntu loading screen but instead of the graphical login/password screen I was dumped on a CLI and asked for my login and password!?!
* I entered my details and when it loaded up I was presented with a desktop that looked more like Ubuntu than Edubuntu. The icons had changed, the wallpaper had gone, and it no longer detected the iPod. I still had no sound.
* Puzzled, I decided to set things up anyway. I needed to get my son's gmail password from Firefox on Windows for Firefox on Edubuntu - he was asleep. So I did a few things and then rebooted back into Windows...
* But all I got was the background image... no start menu... no task bar... no desktop icons...?!?!
* I did the usual thing and rebooted to try again.
* Nope. Same result.
* Somehow both OSes had stopped working properly.
* I didn't have anyway of correcting the problems with windows because I didn't have the disk with me. When my dad installed XP for him on the laptop he didn't give him the disk (I guess he didn't want him damaging it).

So... I decided if they aren't going to play nicely one of them will have to go. Goodbye XP.

I put the install disk back in rebooted. Made a 10GB partition for the OS; 1000MB swap; and made the rest one big "/home". The installation was a success. Everything was working nicely except the sound. I felt so much better not having Windows in the house.

Now, on to the sound problem. I looked all over the place, google, forums, ubuntu channel on irc. Everything appeared to be working fine but there was no sound coming out. And then after a couple of hours I realised that my son had his headphones plugged in the whole time. I unplugged them and there was sound! Don't you hate that. I hadn't noticed the headphones because they plug in at the back, whereas on my laptop they plug in at the front. It hadn't even occurred to me to look to unplug something. Usually you check connections to make sure everything is plugged in not to make sure something that shouldn't be plugged in isn't. Bah!

I was surprised to find that it didn't come with educational games installed by default. In fact, I found that Edubuntu is pretty much just Ubuntu with a different theme and wallpaper installed by default. Both of which my son changed in the first 5 minutes. Are there any other differences?

I was also surprised when I turned on desktop effects and got window wobbles, transparency, shadowing, and the other 3D goodies (except the cube workspace shifter, which I can't figure out). My son had been so disappointed when I told him they probably wouldn't work because of his graphics card. So he was very happy and surprised when he saw them working. You know kids love (eye) candy.

Now my son is happily a complete convert and I feel good that I'm not raising another MS zombie. Now we just need to convince his family back home to convert too so that we can use Ekiga for video calls.

I'll post again if that happens.

Thanks for your help.

Danboy's picture
Submitted by Danboy on

Well it's been just over a week now and my son doesn't miss Windows one bit. His iPod was detected and works great with Rhythmbox. He is happily installing games in his free time using Synaptic Package Manager (I showed him how to do it once and now he does it on his own - if a nine year old can do it then anyone older should be able to get their heads around it).

He is also learning to type using TuxType and is having fun with the other educational software.

Thank you free software.

primarycircle's picture

I'm glad you were able to work this out! It sounds like through this experience you learned a lot and you're starting the next generation of Linux user. Thanks to you!

Please keep us updated on anything your son wishes to do or needs from his machine and I'm sure this forum will be more than enthusiastic to help out.

Some other programs he may want to check out would be OpenOffice for word style writing. gtkpod for his Ipod. And as far as games go there are some great ones out that are completely free. If he gains interest feel free to let myself or any of us know, we can point in the right direction.

Inspiring story. Love to here about success with Linux of any sort and Free/ Open Software.


mcbill's picture
Submitted by mcbill (not verified) on

I have edubuntu on CD and am fairly impressed with it. However, I am not ready to dump my Xp installation just yet. When installing edubuntu it starts a partitioning process. Does this wipe out XP or can I have the best of both worlds?

Dave Guard's picture

Ubuntu will not wipe out your XP installation unless you tell it to. However, I would recommend following the steps Danboy took above: moving files that are to be shared (music, movies, photos etc.) to an external media (hard drive, CD/DVD(s) etc.); back up everything else!!!; do a disk cleanup; defrag several times. Then squish the partition containing XP, and split the new empty partition into one for shared media and one for Ubuntu to be installed. You may also want to create a parition for your home folder for ubuntu (like your c: drive for windows). This will allow you to install new versions of ubuntu without touching your home folder.

Now there are plenty of howtos all over the net that explain these steps in more detail. I think the Ubuntu forums have some of the best ones. I SERIOUSLY recommend doing some research before trying a dual boot. If things go wrong it's probably because you didn't know what you were doing. If you don't want to do the research then at least back up your precious files first.

It's all a learning experience so enjoy it.