Dell Inspiron 1210 (Mini 12), dead hdd meets Ubuntu 12.04

So, my dad’s Dell Inspiron 1210 (Mini 12) finally died after years of service.  I had moved it from Ubuntu to Windows a few years ago, but now it was properly dead.  Dad’s friend had diagnosed a dead hard disk.  And after much work I decided I agreed, though the BIOS was behaving badly.  I used Clonezilla to boot to DOS and refresh the BIOS, and this helped, but in the end it was the disk.

I dismantled the laptop using Dell’s own instructions and found a disk I’d not seen before, a ZIF (zero input force) 1.8″ drive.  I’d never met ZIF before and had no clue how to release it.  Eldest daughter suggested pull it out, so I did, but I later found on youtube that there is indeed a clamp you release.

Anyway, I tried a large variety of methods to make a functioning machine.  I wanted it to boot of an SD card and bought a 16GB in town.  But booting from USB or making an image on the SD card was endlessly frustrating.

In the end, I sought out (with wife’s help) an old USB DVD.  This got me moving forward, and I finally got Mandriva installed, though the display looked awful.  Ubuntu 10.10 then worked, and I then thought I would go the whole hog and go for the latest version of Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support).

Installing was interesting.  Booting from a USB gave me weird display issues, but booting from the DVD was fine.  I installed to the SD card but the install failed at “install bootloader”.  I figured all the files would be in place and I just needed to get a bootloader working.  Thanks to it being an SD card it was easy to whack it in my main laptop.  Much searching got grub installed , I just had to find where it was mounting (/media/:

sudo grub-install –root-directory=/media/ /dev/sdb

This got the sd card in the 1210 to boot to the grub prompt.  More searching found three commands to get it booting:

grub> linux (hd0,1)/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1 
grub> initrd (hd0,1)/initrd.img 
grub> boot

Then I was in and it booted fine – all the files were there.  Sadly the display was a complete disaster, a known problem.

So ctrl+alt+f1 got me a command prompt to get grub working properly, which was as simple as:

sudo grub-install /dev/sda
sudo update-grub 

Then I needed to work on the display issues (it was booting to a blank screen or half a screen of garbled nonsense, depending on its mood.  Back to ctrl+alt+f1 (the dist-upgrade took a while)

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade   # this takes a while
sudo shutdown now -r        # this reboots

The last stage was to follow the Ubuntu wiki for the problematic Intel gma 500 graphics card.

sudo service lightdm restart

I was just following the wiki by now:

Ubuntu 12.04

With the default settings, Ubuntu 12.04 boots to either a black screen or or top half screen.
There are several potential solutions: console=tty1, disable splash, or 915 Resolution

Option 1 – console=tty1

Perhaps the easiest method is to use “console=tty1” as a boot option.
  • gksudo gedit /etc/default/grub

Find the following line: GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”
Add console=tty1 in between the quotes, the end result looking as follows
  • GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash console=tty1″
save and exit, then update grub with

sudo update-grub

 And now it works perfectly and seems very smooth.