I got a new laptop, a Toshiba a205-s5814, and I wanted to make it dual boot. It came with Vista and was planning to downgrade it to XP, but I’d heard that you can XP-ify Vista to make Vista more usable. Basically you turn off the really annoying features and the resource intensive desktop effects. I’ll write a post about it later, maybe. I’ve made it usable enough that I don’t mind using Vista. And by XP-ifying it it’s a lot peppier. Now on to Ubuntu.
So I did the usual Google search and found How to dual-boot Vista with Linux (Vista installed first). Followed the instructions and voilà!. It worked. Except for the wifi. Wifi is always a challenge to get working under Linux. I have Fedora Core 4 installed on a Dell 600M. More on that in a moment for both wifi stories. But first a word about VMWare.
My friend Sean strongly recommended 1) I downgrade to XP (because Vista sucks ass. It really does suck ass.) but my XP-ifying made Vista less sucky and usable. 2) I install VMWare Server and install Ubuntu under it. I did try that first. VMWare Server wants you to install IIS. You don’t need to. Just do a custom install.
I installed VMWare Server and then I created a 30GB space to install Ubuntu in. I did the install everything worked great including the WiFi. The virtual machine just used the native drivers on Vista. I had to monkey with the settings to get the display right. The only thing I couldn’t get working was the desktop special effects under Ubuntu. I also wanted to install Compiz-Fusion and if the normal SFX didn’t work then it wouldn’t work either. I figured it was a VMWare limitation so that’s when I did the dual boot install. Turns out I didn’t need to do that. I had the same problem after I installed Ubuntu as dual boot. So I googled again. I needed to install xglserver.
I followed the instructions for making the laptop dual boot. Vista allowed me to shrink the partition using the Disk Management Tool. I created a 36GB free partition. I rebooted with the Ubuntu CD (7.10 Gutsy Gibbon) but I had to hit F12 Boot Menu to select the CD to boot from. I did the install.
One note about the instructions. When you get to the part where to install Linux it says to select “Manual – use the largest continuous free space” but the screenshot and my screen said “Guided – use the largest continuous free space”. Choose the latter. I was confused and afraid that it might install on the Vista partition. It didn’t. Ubuntu installed just fine and rebooted the laptop.
Up came Grub and I selected Windows Vista/Longhorn (loader)”, the last item in the list to make sure Vista still worked and it did. I rebooted again and selected Linux. It came up just fine except for the wifi. I played around a bit but since I had no network connectivity and was spinning my wheels I hooked up an Ethernet cable. It found the network right away and I did all the updates and installed Compiz-Fusion. I also installed xglserver to get the cool special effects. CF is a bit buggy and the computer froze up a few times but I monkeyed around with the settings and haven’t had any problems since. Back to the wifi. See the links at the bottom if you want to skip to the actual solution.
I spent about a day and half figuring out the wifi problem which was less time than it took for my Dell. WiFi support for Linux sucks. It’s better than it was, but it sucks almost as much as Vista does. I had to buy a PC card with wifi for my Dell 600M, but I used our friend Google again to find out what cards were supported. I ended up using MadWifi. I went through the list of cards and found a NETGEAR WG511T. I had to find the correct rpm for FC4. I won’t go into the gory details, but I got it working. You just have to make sure the kernel and the rpm match and that the driver works under that kernel. Now for the Toshiba
After a few false starts and installing the wrong things, I discovered that my laptop uses a Realtek WiFi driver which does have native drivers in Linux. After searching again I found a modified driver for RTL8187B (see link below). I installed it and followed the instructions for connecting. It created a wlan0 driver I activated it put in my WEP key for my home wireless network and I connected. I had to once again monkey with the settings but I got connected.
So if anyone else got an a205-s58xx series Toshiba I hope this helps you if you decide to make it a dual boot with Vista or use VMWare.
Modified drivers for 8187B