Category Archives: boot

Automatically turn on the radio

I use my netbook mostly for playing music or the radio, using Banshee and the browser, e.g. I’d like to be able to turn on the radio with minimal fuss in the mornings. Here’s how I set it up so that it starts BBC Radio 4, i.e. I just press the power button and the rest is automatic.

  1. Set Ubuntu to auto-login
  2. Go to “Startup applications…” and add the command google-chrome --app=
  3. Bob’s your uncle

This assumes that the Google Chrome browser is installed. Other browsers should work similarly.



Since it is always a bit of a headache getting the partitions right when upgrading, I am noting down here my partition setup for future reference – though it might change. I’m dual-booting with Ubuntu and Windows 7.

Partitions 500 GB hard disk /dev/sda (Master Boot Record)

  • DellUtility /dev/sda1 (41 MB, Hidden W95 FAT16 (LBA) (0x1e))
  • RECOVERY /dev/sda2 (16 GB, HPFS/NTFS (0x07))
  • OS (Win7) /dev/sda3 (107 GB, HPFS/NTFS (0x07))
  • 377 GB Extended /dev/sda4 (W95 Ext d (LBA) (0x0f))
    • Stuff /dev/sda5 mounted at /media/Stuff (268 GB, HPFS/NTFS (0x07))
    • 10 GB Filesystem /dev/sda6 mounted at /home (10 GB, Linux Ext4 (0x83))
    • 8.2 GB Swap Space /dev/sda7 (8.2 GB, Linux swap (0x82))
    • 90 GB Filesystem /dev/sda8 mounted at / (90 GB, Linux Ext4 (0x83))

Mounting FAT32 partition automatically at boot

In Gutsy, all my partitions would be mounted automatically at boot. At the time I was thinking that I want that for my FAT32 partition, which I store most files on, but not for my NTFS (windows) partition, which I generally don’t need access to.

After installing Hardy, things have changed around and neither of those two partitions are mounted automatically. They mount when I choose them in the “Places” menu. That is good for the NTFS partition, but quite annoying with the FAT32 partition, as I have photos, music files, wallpapers, etc on there. Which means, to play a song I first have to click on the drive to mount it and then load the media player (banshee, or…). Also, my wallpaper doesn’t show up until I have clicked on (i.e. mounted) the partition.

So, after some searching, I found some instructions about how to edit the /etc/fstab file. This page here is quite useful among others:

It seems that the fstab file has changed somewhat with Hardy, and the changes seem pretty difficult to understand for a newbie like me, but I decided to try it out following the somewhat older instructions. This is what I have done:

  • backup fstab: sudo cp /etc/fstab /etc/fstab.backup
  • make a directory to mount the partition in: sudo mkdir /media/fat-partition
  • find out about my partitions: sudo fdisk -l
  • edit fstab: sudo gedit /etc/fstab
    …added the line: /dev/sda3 /media/fat-partition vfat defaults,nosuid,nodev 0 0
  • save and reboot

…I am writing this just before the reboot, so lets see what happens…

UPDATE: at first it seemed to work… but then it didn’t. I have postponed solving this issue until after the Intrepid Ibex upgrade. Perhaps it won’t even be there anymore.

To-do list

Now that I’ve upgraded to Ubuntu 7.04, here’s a note to myself of things I can think of now that I still need to do:

  • Keep windows in /boot/grub/menu.lst
  • Every time there is a kernel upgrade (or after upgrading to Feisty), the menu.lst file gets changed. That file lists what operating systems choices GRUB lists upon bootup. I dual-boot between Ubuntu and WinXP. After every upgrade, however, WinXP gets deleted from the list. I have learnt to backup the old menu.lst and restore the appropriate lines of code to it afterwards, but it is annoying. So I have to find out how to tell Ubuntu to keep that choice there when upgrading.

  • Does linux keep all the old kernels around? (i.e. there are more and more options in GRUB) Can I get rid of old ones and save disk space?
  • Wireless networking
  • Before the Feisty upgrade NetworkManager has given me all sorts of headaches when trying to connect to wireless networks. Need to investigate situation now and see what needs to be done…

  • Have DVD’s autorun in VLC player instead of gXine.
  • Move the home folde to a different partition… maybe
  • Get rid of the icons for my different partitions on the desktop
  • I can access them through the > Places menu. However, do show icons for inserted media such as CDs or USB sticks. Also, I want to make the “DellUtility” Partition, that presumably is factory installed from Dell, totally disappear from view.

  • Install beagle, tracker, … desktop search?
  • Experiment with desktop effects?

…I’m sure there will be more.

Upgraded to Feisty

I have just upgraded to Feisty Fawn (i.e. Ubuntu 7.04) and it all went so smoothly there is nothing to write home about. I’m almost disappointed 😉
I took an hour of letting the upgrade tool do its work.

The only small annoyance that I have noticed so far is that it changes menu.lst the way it always does when you do a kernel upgrade. It takes Windows off the list, which is quite annoying for a dual-booter like me. More in another post.

Editing /boot/grub/menu.lst to change the GRUB boot menu

UPDATE (April 2010): The information in this post is outdated! Most linux distributions, including Ubuntu, are moving to GRUB 2. Because the contents of this post is about the previous version of GRUB, it is fast becoming obsolete. More about GRUB 2 here:

I have an Ubuntu/WinXP dual-boot machine. The GRUB bootloader menu allows me to boot into several Ubuntu options or into WinXP. Unless I have to fix something (which I hope I won’t have to), I only ever choose the main Ubuntu option or WinXP. These options are, however, at either ends of the list. I’d prefer them to be next to each other for quick access.

Here’s a helpful reference. And here’s what I did:

The GRUB boot menu configuration is in the file

1. backup
sudo cp /boot/grub/menu.lst /boot/grub/menu.lst-backup

2. edit
sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

3. Move the paragraph with the WinXP options up the list.

4. Change default to 1 (was 0)
default 1

5. comment out the lines about “Other operating systems

So now I have the following options when booting:

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Ubuntu, kernel 2.6.17-10-generic
  • Ubuntu, kernel 2.6.17-10-generic (recovery mode)
  • Ubuntu, memtest86+

…and the second option is automatically selected and boots-up after 10 seconds if I don’t do anything.

Here is the contents of the resulting file (showing only the uncommented lines)

default 1

timeout 10

title Microsoft Windows XP Professional
root (hd0,1)
chainloader +1

title Ubuntu, kernel 2.6.17-10-generic
root (hd0,4)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.17-10-generic root=/dev/sda5 ro quiet splash
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.17-10-generic

title Ubuntu, kernel 2.6.17-10-generic (recovery mode)
root (hd0,4)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.17-10-generic root=/dev/sda5 ro single
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.17-10-generic

title Ubuntu, memtest86+
root (hd0,4)
kernel /boot/memtest86+.bin

I should emphasize the importance of the first step, i.e. backing up the original file. I’d like to quote a comment on a relevant website here for future reference:

TuxGirl wrote: As a side note, I think it’s important to mention that, if you do manage to completely mess up your grub.conf [or] file to the point that your machine won’t boot, you can fix it by booting into a livecd (like the Ubuntu livecd or Knoppix or DSL or *something*), and then copying your backup grub.conf [or] over while in there. In fact, this method is great whenever you do something to your system that makes it temporarily unusable.