Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Multi-booting with Linux

Windows 8 uses a GPT-formatted hard drive and an EFI boot partition. This is so new that Linux does not yet play well with it. While a few distributions handle it, I came to the conclusion that the state of EFI support in Linux right now is so poor that it's just too much hassle. So I decided to change the partition table on my drive from GPT to MBR. Then I turned on "legacy" boot support in my BIOS.

Of course that means I will lose the ability to boot into Windows 8. But it also means that I can now boot Linux using the normal GRUB boot loader the way it has been accustomed to. As you can see above, I have SIX different Linuxes installed. And when I boot the machine I'm presented with a GRUB screen where I can choose which one I want. I have one swap partition and one partition for my data that I share between them all. I am NOT however sharing my /home directories between each one. That will prevent conflicts with user configuration files between the different distros.

I initially read that I should not install GRUB with the installation of each version of Linux that I set up. But many of those installations did not give me an option. Luckily each one recognized the other operating systems installed and added them to the new GRUB configuration being installed.

This is way better than messing around in virtual machines. I'd commented earlier that VMs take no guts to set up... because they can be nuked in a second and they're not really running on the hardware. Booting directly into 6 different Linuxes becomes more real. Support for the actual hardware needs to be configured.

One of my goals is to test out which distribution will support my scanner out of the box. I already know that several of these are having trouble with my ethernet adapter. Though luckily they seem to support my wireless adapter with no problem.