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Category Archives: Tutorials

I just got locked out of my Linux machine (details here) for reasons I am still trying to determine (see the link). I tried to recover my password but, unfortunately, all my most recent Live CDs I’ve left at work. All I have with me is an old Karmic installer, incidentally, the first Ubuntu I ever tried to install (and failed miserably more due to hubris and absence of mind—but that’s another story).

So from the Live CD, I was able to mount my Linux partition fine. Note that, I guess due to EFI and/or the tutorial I was following is just outdated, a mere sudo fdisk -l did not show me all my partitions; I had to use gparted (thankfully available with Karmic). But when I try to chroot, into my mounted partition, I get an exec format error which is apparently because my Karmic LiveCD is just 32-bit while the installation I am trying to salvage is 64-bit.

Thankfully, tinkering around with how Linux stores passwords, I got to reset my main account to have no password.

  1. Edit /etc/passwd. Look for your username in the first of the colon-delimited fields. A typical line in the this file looks like bin:x:2:2:bin:/bin:/bin/sh. The ‘x’ in the second field means that the password for this account is encrypted. Remove the x so the line corresponding to your user becomes similar to bin::2:2:bin:/bin:/bin/sh.
  2. Your actual password is stored in the /etc/shadow file. Open this file and, again, edit the line corresponding to your user to just have four colons after it like so: user::::.
  3. Reboot. You should now be able to log-in passwordless. Remember to reset your password at once.

Note that to get my system to boot from LiveCD I had to tweak my BIOS yet again. I had to set my boot mode to Legacy and, after doing the steps outlined above, had to switch back to UEFI and disable Secure Boot. Man is BIOS dealing becoming traditional for me!

I’ve been planning to get a new laptop for quite some time now, maybe at around December. However, certain miscalculations and one heartbreaking failure from the charger of my previous one means that I’m now typing this on a new machine, bought pretty way earlier than expected. And, like all good (or semi-good, depending on your loyalties) geeks do, I set-up the machine to dual-boot Windows 8 (pre-packaged with the hardware) and Linux the first time I had the opportunity (i.e., this long weekend).

It was hell.

Almost like this. Thankfully, only took me 1.5 days.

It seems that my hardships are all courtesy of UEFI/Secure Boot. Maybe there exists an easy way to achieve what I wanted but, judging by the volume of unresolved posts related to my problem scattered on the internet, it is not an obvious way. To anyone who might come across the same problems as me, here’s the complete narrative of how I managed to dual boot my machine.

0 Prologue

I dual-booted on an Acer Aspire-471G laptop. The OSes I want side-by-side is Windows 8 and Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin). Since we’re dealing with the BIOS, I think it’s just proper that we get my machine on the record. If you run these steps on another machine, there might be some differences along the way.

Also, it seems that UEFI (and related dual-boot problems) has been around since Windows 7. However, I have never tried dual-booting a Windows 7 machine with Ubuntu—my experiences were all with XP and Vista, and it was all easy. And yes, I also encountered some 7-specific questions along the way.

1 Make sure that your LiveCD is 64-bit

There is no such thing as 32-bit UEFI. You will not be able to boot your machine in UEFI mode from your LiveCD if your LiveCD is  32-bit. While UEFI has support for legacy BIOS (and, from legacy BIOS, allow you to boot from a 32-bit LiveCD) this will result to a rather awkward and possibly-dangerous dual-boot set-up: you’d need to switch your BIOS mode from UEFI to legacy and back, depending on the OS you want to load.

(Blooper disclosure: I almost bricked my BIOS trying to boot from a 32-bit installer in UEFI mode: I ended up installing rEFInd through Windows and renaming stuff from my EFI System Partition, and got all sorts of weird and horrifying errors. The thing is, I just got the installer from one of our sysads at work and have used it previously to dual-boot an old 64-bit machine running XP. I’m glad I realized my mistake early.)

How do you determine then the bitness of your LiveCD installer?

At the root of your LiveCD, there is a file named README.diskdefines. Open that file (right-click->Open with->Notepad, or any other plain text editor). If you are looking at a 32-bit installer, that file will read like this (notice the ARCH variables):

#define DISKNAME  Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" - Release i386
#define TYPE  binary
#define TYPEbinary  1
#define ARCH  i386
#define ARCHi386  1
#define DISKNUM  1
#define DISKNUM1  1
#define TOTALNUM  0
#define TOTALNUM0  1

On the other hand, if on a 64-bit installer, you’ll get:

#define DISKNAME  Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS "Precise Pangolin" - Release amd64
#define TYPE  binary
#define TYPEbinary  1
#define ARCH  amd64
#define ARCHamd64  1
#define DISKNUM  1
#define DISKNUM1  1
#define TOTALNUM  0
#define TOTALNUM0  1

Also, the 64-bit version will have a directory named “efi” at the root. If you are seeing a 64-bit README.diskdefines and no “efi” directory, there is something wrong with your installer.

2 Get comfortable tweaking your BIOS

Warning: This can be dangerous! Proceed with a well-rested mind.

As you may have guessed earlier, there will be a lot of BIOS dealings involved here. To get to the BIOS set-up, press F2 while your machine boots.1

You need to be comfortable with two things: changing your boot order and adding .efis to the white list (“trusted”) of your machine. The first one is pretty basic but the second one has bit more technical details involved.

(For the first one, aside from being pretty basic, it is oftentimes unnecessary. You just need to make sure that your computer considers the HDD/Windows bootloader later than your optical drive and USB drive for bootable media. This is often the case. ACER ASPIRE-471G USERS, I must note that I was a bit surprised to find out that on this machine, this is not the case.)

White listing .efis involves setting a password and navigating your EFI System Partition (ESP) as well as other possibly-bootable media (like your LiveCD). Just remember two things here:

  • If you mess-up your system and suddenly can’t boot Windows, the .efis which Windows uses are at EFI/Microsoft/Boot and EFI/Boot, not case-sensitive, AFAIK. Might be worthwhile re-white listing the .efis inside these two.
  • If, after setting your boot order, you still can’t boot from your LiveCD installer, you need to white list the LiveCD efi, efi/boot/bootx64.efi

3 Installing Ubuntu

(I’ll be linking this part mostly.)

Now we get to the fun part. If your circumstances are anywhere like mine, you might need to partition your drive first. While you can partition your drive from the Ubuntu installer, in the interest of dual-booting, I recommend that you partition from Windows beforehand2. Here’s how.

Finally, you can proceed with installing Ubuntu. This tutorial pretty much says it all.

Note that the linked tutorial uses an older version of Ubuntu (11.10) which may or may not have caused the existence of the next section of this post which is…


After successfully installing Ubuntu, I rebooted. Sure the boot-up screen looked a bit different (there was a Unix-y underscore cursor present) but it still loaded directly to Windows 8!

I tried white listing the new EFI/ubuntu/grubx64.efi found in my ESP. However, that resulted to Ubuntu loading directly without even a shadow of GRUB showing up.

I then used the boot-repair utility and got these results. I had to re-white list EFI/ubuntu/grubx64.efi. Indeed, GRUB now shows up but without any option to boot Windows 8.

At this point, it’s been close to 1.5 days since I embarked on this task. I’m glad that xkcd got most of this stuff documented. And I’m also glad that, though I went beyond the 24-hour mark, nothing became a lost cause.

Besides, I’m not a very good swimmer!

In a moment of almost-frustrated defeat, I found zen from an earlier episode in this adventure. It dawned on me: just install rEFInd.

(Yep, my boot-up is now managed by rEFInd. Far from a perfect solution, in my opinion but it does what I wanted it to do. So long for now!)

  1. That’s on this Acer machine. If F2 does not work on yours, other candidates might be F10 and F8. []
  2. In my case, the Ubuntu installer didn’t detect another OS in my machine, didn’t detect Windows 8. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I made a wrong move while partitioning from the Ubuntu installer in this case. Hence, not recommended. []

(You’ll find lots of this online. I’m just putting this up here for my personal reference.)

Hi there. I’m writing this with a Linux/Unix/OS X environment in mind. Basically, any OS that has a pretty powerful terminal. Don’t know how this goes for Windows…Cygwin maybe?

First off, make a virtualenv to work on and install Django. You need virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper. If you do not have them installed yet, do not despair. You can use virtualenv-burrito (and I do recommend that you use virtualenv-burrito). The readme of the GitHub repo linked is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t dwell much on that. I’ll just say that…

…if, after following the instructions for virtualenv-burrito, you still can’t invoke virtualenv commands, you might have to do

$ source /home/username/.venvburrito/

Or, better yet, just put that line in your .bashrc file (or equivalent).

And also, if you are a Python 3.x fan, Django does not work yet with Python 3.x .

So, make and work on a virtualenv by

$ mkvirtualenv env_name
$ workon env_name

While inside a virtualenv, install Django (note that, being in a virtualenv, you need to be in a virtualenv to use Django):

(env_name)$ pip install Django

Create new projects by invoking

(env_name)$ startproject project_name

This will create a directory named project_name . This directory has some Django-related files. Go to this directory. Start the server by

(env_name)$ python runserver

And your set to create your web apps!

I’ve heard of Django long ago but what really got me started with it is PyCon Philippines. Here are Daniel Greenfeld’s notes on the PyconPH Django talk by Marconi Moreto, which was my primary reference in setting up my Django installation. However, I had a few deviations and personal discoveries, hence this blog post.