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Restoring Windows MBR (Vista) – bootrec is also your friend August 22, 2008

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Vista.

A lot of people have found my previous blog post about restoring your master boot record (MBR) helpful.  I did assume, however, that you were using Windows XP.  But, what if you (gasp), have a dual boot configuration with Windows Vista?  Vista has a different boot loader that can be quite annoying, and the tools to restore your MBR have also changed, but not a lot.  So, here are the steps.

Step 1

The first step is to pop in your Vista installation disc and boot from it.  This will bring you (slowly) to the first screen of the installer.

Step 2

When you see this screen, change the language or keyboard if you need to, and then click “Next”

Step 3

When you get to this screen do not click “Install.”  Instead, click on “Repair your computer” in the bottom left.  This will take you to the Recovery Environment (WinRE)

Step 4

The recovery environment will search your hard drives for Vista installations.  If you need a RAID driver or something unique, there is a button to load that driver (uncommon).  You should see your Vista installation on your boot drive.   Click “Next” to go to the next step

Step 5

There are two options here, fix it automatically or fix it manually by the command line.

Option A – Auto fix

With this option you just click on “Startup Repair” and let Windows check and repair the MBR.  This worked for me once, but it may not work for you.  I also think that it might reinstall the boot loader.  If you want only the MBR fixed but not the crappy Vista bootloader then you don’t want this option.  Once you run the fix, you can click “Restart” and let the system boot off your newly fixed hard drive.

Option B – Manual fix

For the aforementioned reasons I think this is a better way to go.  With this way you know exactly what you’re fixing (hopefully).  This is very similar to the FixMBR command that Windows XP has, which I talked about in my previous post. Here, rather than clicking on “Startup Repair” you instead click on “Command Prompt.”

Once it comes up, you type:

bootrec /FixMbr

With a bit of luck it will say that the operation completed successfully.  You can then close the command prompt window and click on the “Restart” button.

More details of the bootrec.exe commands can be found in this Microsoft KB article.

Hopefully this will work well for you, as it did for me.  If you encounter any problems or have more insights, be sure to add a comment below and I’ll try to incorporate them into this tutoiral.



Share folders via Samba without a password – easy! June 3, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.


Coming from the Windows world to Linux, one of the first things I wanted to do was to share directories on Ubuntu with my Windows laptop to easily transfer files. In Windows I can just right click a folder, go to sharing, and enable it. No users and passwords to set up. It goes without saying that this is not secure and you want to be careful doing it, but it’s a great way to share files between computers at home.

Sadly, it’s not yet that easy to do this in Ubuntu (let me know if there’s a simple way to do it with other distros). Ubuntu makes it easy to install the samba server. If it’s not already installed, you can right click on a directory and try to share it. It will ask you to install samba. You can also use sudo apt-get install samba or via the add/remove programs under the application menu.

Ubuntu, however, isn’t able to set it up for anyone to access without logging in, yet. It will only share with a login and password. So, to do this you’ll need to edit your /etc/samba/smb.conf file. Here’s how share a folder without a password or login:

  1. In a terminal type sudo gedit /etc/samba/smb.conf (kubuntu users type kdesu kate /etc/samba/smb.conf)
  2. Find the ### Authentication ### section (might be called Administration in older versions of Samba), where it says security = user
  3. Change it to security = share and make sure the line does not start with a semicolon. If it does, remove it.
  4. A few lines down from that you’ll see ; guest account = nobody Remove the semicolon at the beginning of the line.
  5. Scroll to the very bottom of the file and put in the following, adjusted for your own system[Share name]
    writable = yes
    path = /path/to/directory
    public = yes
    guest ok = yes
    guest only = yes
    guest account = nobody
    browsable = yes
  6. Save the file and quit gedit
  7. In the terminal restart the samba server to reload the conf file sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

That should do it. If you want to try a more sophisticated way to configure shares, there is a GUI application called gsambad. I’ve found it overkill for just doing a simple share, but for others it might be quite useful. In Ubuntu you can download it from add/remove programs.


Running Windows in Ubuntu part 2 – VirtualBox rocks! May 3, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.
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Following up on my prior post about running Windows (or other OS’s) in Ubuntu, I kept searching around for something better than VMware server. Why? I wanted something that was:

  • Not only free, but open source
  • Easier to install and configure than VMware
  • Had a GUI for managing virtual machines
  • Fairly stable and speedy

It seems like a tall order, but I found Innotek’s VirtualBox a few weeks back. It’s open source (GPL), easy to install and configure, has a nice GUI for configuring VM’s, virtual drives, etc. There’s no need for serial numbers like with VMware. It offers host accelerator drivers for Windows and other OS’s. Overall it’s been very stable for me. Oh, and they have good documentation! At present this is my recommended choice for running another OS under Ubuntu.

How to install:

  1. Download the .deb file of VirtualBox for your version of Ubuntu
  2. Use GDebi package installer (right click on the package from Nautilus), or you can use sudo dpkg -i *.deb where the asterisk is the name of the package file you downloaded
  3. This should install VirtualBox and any dependencies
  4. When it’s done you’ll need to add yourself to the new vboxusers group
    1. Open /etc/group with GEdit sudo gedit /etc/group
    2. Find the line vboxusers:x:1001:
    3. Immediately after the last colon, add your user name. For example, if mine is rando, then it would now look like vboxusers:x:1001:rando
    4. Save the file
  5. Having done that, restart
  6. Finally you can run VirtualBox from the command line and set up a virtual machine (an icon will also appear under Applications -> System )

I have skipped many options for pre and post-installation in order to give you a quick run-down on how to get up and running. For all the details, check out their excellent documentation.

Hopefully you’ll have as much fun with VirtualBox as I have!

How to mount UDF DVDs in Ubuntu May 2, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.

Thanks to silverkeys for the image

I’ve been mighty ill recently, so it’s been a while since my last post, but I finally seem to be recovering and it’s time for another post.

Traditionally recordable DVDs or CDs were written with the ISO 9660 file system. This made it work with everything from Linux to Windows to your car’s MP3 player. When DVD movies came out they used a new file system called Universal Disc Format or UDF, which is meant to replace ISO 9660. Ten years later people are still using ISO 9660 most of the time. But, that is changing. One of the biggest reasons for this is that ISO 9660 cannot handle files larger than 4GB. If you want to back up anything bigger than that you either need to split it (which can be a pain to split and recombine later) or you need to go with the UDF file system. I often backup files bigger than 4GB, so I pretty much only use UDF on discs I burn.

Ubuntu (and maybe other Linux distros – Debian?) seem to have a problem mounting UDF formatted discs. The solution to this is as simple as editing your /etc/fstab file and restarting. Here are the steps, from the Terminal:

sudo gedit /etc/fstab

Here you should see a line similar to this:

/dev/scd1 /media/cdrom0 udf,iso9660 user,noauto 0 0

The first part (/dev/scd1) is the device name (could be different with your computer), the second part (/media/cdrom0) is the mount point (where you access the disc in the file system). The third part is the file systems supported. This is where the problem lies. It shows UDF and ISO 9660, but if both are there (which is supposedly ok if comma-separated), then one or the other will not work, depending on the order they are written in the line. So the solution is the change both of those to:


Now the edited line will look something like:

/dev/scd1 /media/cdrom0 auto user,noauto 0 0

Now save the file and restart.

When you restart, UDF and ISO DVDs should work just fine!

Where are the Fesity DVD ISOs? On bittorrent only… April 20, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.
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Where are the DVDs?? (pic thanks to Andrew Mason)
Where are the DVDs?? (pic thanks to Andrew Mason)

Following up on my prior post, if you’ve looked for a DVD ISO of Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn, you might have noticed that they aren’t mirrored and there doesn’t seem to be a way to download them. At first I thought that they might not have been available yet. Fear not, they are available, but only via bittorrent. You can find the official torrents here:

Note that the Ubuntu servers are overloaded and getting the torrent file (even though it’s only 88KB) will probably be slow for a few more days, as will starting the torrent since the tracker is hosted at Ubuntu.com as well. Also, it appears that there is no DVD ISO for Xubuntu, which probably makes sense since it’s supposed to be a lightweight version.

Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn is Released – Get it today! April 20, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.
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7.04 is here!
7.04 is here! (thanks to Dhjiz for the screenshot)


Ubuntu is unique among Linux distributions in that it has a six month release schedule that includes a long-term support edition every few releases. Ubuntu 7.04 “Feisty Fawn” was released today with some good improvements. If you want a full ISO, you can grab it here, and when you do, please be sure to download it via bittorrent.

Why via bittorrent?

The philosophy

A number of universities and firms are nice enough to donate bandwidth and servers to mirror CD images (ISO’s), but none of that comes cheap. Bittorrent, by contrast, relies on users like you to contribute a portion of bandwidth and storage. This happens because when you download you are also uploading. With everyone contributing like that, the costs are no higher than the Internet connection you already have. Moreover, it reflects the spirit of Ubuntu and free/open-source – we’re all part of a community which is made better by each of us participating. Don’t worry about legality. Bittorrent is legal (downloading copyrighted content is not, however!). In fact, major studios like Warner Bros. and Fox are now distributing their movies via bittorrent.

Tips – HOWTO

  • First, you’ll need a bittorrent client (I suggest Azureus)
  • Next, you’ll need to get the right torrent file from Ubuntu.com or official mirrors
  • Bittorrent is a great way to get the latest release a at the highest speeds. When mirrors are slow and overloaded, you’ll find that bittorrent is substantially faster because the more people who are sharing, the faster it gets!
  • After you’ve downloaded, let it run for a while longer, ideally so that your ratio is >1.000 By doing this it means that you’ve uploaded as much as you’ve downloaded
  • Only get the torrent file from Ubuntu.com or one of the official mirrors. That way you ensure that you are you getting the legitimate (and current) version.

Compiling and Using Newest Nvidia drivers in Ubuntu – It’s easier than you think April 10, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips.

Nvidia control panel (pic thanks to jdk)
Nvidia control panel (pic thanks to jdk)

There are many ways to use open and proprietary graphics drivers for your Nvidia card in Ubuntu, as can be found at the Ubuntu Guide. But, if you want the latest drivers from Nvidia complete with all of their optimizations you’ll need compile and install it. Happily, it’s not too hard.

The following should work equally well on Edgy and Feisty. I’ve tried it on both and it worked for me, but your mileage may vary. Also, remember to back up your files, such as etc/X11/xorg.conf before you embark on this – just in case. Much of this is inspired by RYX’s Compiz install guide, so many thanks go to him. Finally, you might want to print this out to guide you through the process.

Step 1 – Getting the drivers from Nvidia

You can get them from their website. For most people, choose Linux IA32 latest version.

Step 2 – Compilation dependencies

The Nvidia drivers have a shell script to install and compile, but they’ll need some dependencies, which can done by typing the following in the terminal.

sudo apt-get install linux-headers-`uname -r` build-essential gcc gcc-3.4 xserver-xorg-dev

Step 3 – Clean out the old Nvidia drivers

First, you’ll need to purge the nvidia-glx driver

sudo apt-get remove --purge nvidia-glx

Second, you should make sure that the linux-restricted-modules for nvidia are disabled (blacklisted).

sudo gedit /etc/default/linux-restricted-modules-common

Note that it may be linux-restricted-modules on pre-Feisty systems.  You’ll know if it’s not the right one if the file you open is blank.

There, put in the following code, and save.


Step 4 – Reboot

This isn’t probably necessary, but good to make sure the purged stuff isn’t still loaded

Step 5 – Stop the X server (i.e. Gnome) and go to a command line interface. Note that this is/was a bug in the Feisty beta that may prevent you from doing this command.

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop

Step 6 – Run the installation script

sudo sh NVIDIA-Linux-x86-1.0-*-pkg1.run

Follow prompts to accept the license, and look for a pre-compiled kernel. Eventually it will ask you to compile a custom one, which is what you want.

After it finishes it will ask you to modify the xorg.conf file. Choose yes.

Step 7 – Finishing up

Hopefully the compile went fine and you’re back at the command line. If so, now we want to add a couple of optimizations to the xorg.conf file, by running the following commands.

sudo nvidia-xconfig --composite
sudo nvidia-xconfig --render-accel
sudo nvidia-xconfig --allow-glx-with-composite
sudo nvidia-xconfig --add-argb-glx-visuals

Step 8 – Reboot and cross your fingers!

If all went well, when you reboot you should see a gray Nvidia logo as Ubuntu finishes loading up. If you see that, give yourself a pat on the back – you did it!

VMware Server 1.0.2 Problems in Feisty – solution April 5, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Windows-Linux Transition.
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(pic thanks to shaymus022)
(pic thanks to shaymus022)

Installing VMware server means that you need to get your hands dirty in the command line, but it’s not too bad. No need to worry about permissions, dependencies, or kernel compiling.

That being said, VMware server doesn’t want to install without problems on Feisty. The easiest solution (and one that worked for me) is to incorporate the 1.0.8 patch. handband2 nicely outlines the steps in his post. Solution. But, keep in mind that it’s ok for the install to abort. That’s when you apply the patch and the install is restarted. From there on, it’s just as normal.

Starting and Stopping Gnome — You don’t need to reboot! April 4, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips.
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Everyone tells me that Ubuntu, like other *NIX operating systems are great because you rarely need to reboot. Today I figured out just how true that is. I was updating the Nvidia driver and I needed to stop the X server, in this case Ubuntu’s Gnome Desktop (GDM). By doing this the whole system is still running, but the window manager is shutdown and you’re just in a command line. After saving any open files, you can do this as easily as running the following command:

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop

Once you’re done you can start it back up again by doing almost the same command:

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm start

Doing the latter will bring up Ubuntu’s window environment, the Gnome desktop, and you’ll be back to where you were. All of this without having to reboot!

The Little Things – unclutter April 4, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips.
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One thing that bugs me in Windows or in Ubuntu is when the cursor (pointer, I bar, etc.) is in the way of what I’m looking at on the screen. When I’m not moving the mouse, it should disappear until the mouse is moved again.

The Debian (on which Ubuntu is based) Package of the Day posted a great little app for just this called unclutter. Check out the details, or if you’re lazy, just do the following from the terminal:

sudo apt-get install unclutter

unclutter &

You should also add this to your startup. In Ubuntu (which uses Gnome), go:

System -> Preferences -> Sessions

Click New and then give it a name like Unclutter and put unclutter & in the command box, then click Ok. That’s it. It’ll load the next time Ubuntu starts.