My story behind triple booting of my laptop with CentOS 6.5, Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 7

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Few months ago I had to format my entire hard disk due to some problems I had with my laptop which finally turned to very nice story with good ending. Actually for long time around two years I had Ubuntu 12.04 in my laptop which I installed it via Wubi. Although, my experience with Wubi was quite good, in long term usage I felt slowness and low performance in my Ubuntu system.

You might be curious about the reason that I used Wubi. Actually, hard disk of my laptop was full and I had just one NTFS partition.

Since, I did not have spare hard disk to take back up of my data which is obviously very very wrong practice, so I did not want to take risk of losing my data with manipulating (resizing, deleting) of my hard disk partition.

However, after around two years (few months ago) finally I got opportunity to format my hard disk and create a dedicated partition for Linux (around 50 GB). Since, I was little bit tired of Ubuntu on that time, I switched to Debian Wheezy 7.2 which was not very good experience at all.

To summarize my experience with Debian I can say that it is quite stable and very good but I had very odd problems with my ATI card in Debian which was start of my bad and horrible experience with ATI cards. My laptop equipped with ATI 4570 Radeon HD which considered as Legacy Series and thank to AMD for discontinuing providing driver for Linux.

Therefore, with bunch of tweaks I finally managed to install driver on Debian Wheezy but it did not work as expected and resulted in laggy system. For instance, I could not play Youtube videos on Firefox if I used any desktop rather than Gnome 3+. I had tested playing video streams in Mate, Xfce, Gnome 2, IceWM desktops and all failed to display video properly in Firefox, means Firefox played videos damn slow. The strange point was that, with using Gnome 3+ I did not have such problem, though I had another problem with that and that was overheating of my system.

Since, the driver is kind of hacking of original driver it did not have good performance as it supposed to work and caused overheating in my system. Hence, the only remaining option was Google Chrome to play online stream but still I could experience overheating sometimes.

As a result, one day I have decided to remove Debian Wheezy by contrast of my desire (FYI, I am big fan of Debian and one of my machine I had Debian 5.0 Lenny for over 4 years) and install another Linux distribution with more compatibility and better performance.

After doing some research, I have decided to give a try to one RPM based distribution and I have chosen CentOS 6.5.

From its specs, it seemed very nice distro. Very solid and stable Linux kernel (2.6.32) which is much faster and lighter than any kernel 3.0. Long term support up to 2020 and also offering Gnome 2 natively. In addition to that previously I had CentOS in Virtualbox and I was very happy with its speed and performance.

For installing CentOS I resized my NTFS partition safely and then created extra 30 GB for CentOS. At first, my intension was to triple boot CentOS 6.5 with Debian Wheezy and Windows 7, but during installation, CentOS installer AKA Anaconda refused to do installation on newly created partition and forced me to remove my Debian partition and do repartitioning for Linux again.

Before that, the structure of my hard disk was like below,

  • ~390 GB NTFS Windows 7
  • ~30 GB unused [Supposed CentOS 6.5]
  • ~48 GB EXT4 Debian Wheezy 7.2
  • ~2 GB Swap

Then after re-partitioning it turned like following,

  • ~390 GB NTFS Windows 7
  • ~ 30 GB EXT4 CentOS 6.5
  • ~ 30 GB EXT4 Free [Another Linux Distro]
  • ~ 31 GB EXT4 Data [Personal files]
  • ~ 2 GB Swap

After re-partitioning I finally managed to install CentOS on my machine which supposed to be very stable and satisfactory but my nightmare began after installation.

I found that latest legacy ATI driver (Again thank to AMD) is not compatible with CentOS X server and basically I can not install driver on it without downgrading my Xorg. So I searched on the internet and with applying bunch of tweaks which you can see in this post, I managed to install driver and other stuff and make homemade friendly system.

But regarding 3D performance and online video stream, the problem seemed more severe than Debian. In CentOS I was not even able to play single online video without lag. It is good to know that Google dropped support of Chrome for CentOS 6.X and when I installed it with tweaks as described in this post, I got very laggy and slow Google Chrome which was not good enough to surf even regular web pages.

Regarding, Chromium, I followed one guide as I explained here and managed to install it but flash plugin did not work despite description of the guideline. So, I ended up using Youtube with Firefox with my own tweak which is using HTML 5.0 rendering instead of Flash but it has following disadvantages,

  1. All online video stream websites do not offer HTML 5.0 video playing.
  2. In Youtube only available quality with HTML 5.0 is 360 and there is no 720, 1080 and even 480.

In the end after big frustration with CentOS, I have decided to return back to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS which has support until 2017.

I also have to admit that working with CentOS was very nice, though I could not reach to what I wanted, I gained lots of experience (see here) which I might have gained with other distro.

Installing Ubuntu 12.04 was not very difficult, I simply dedicated the free partition I had for Ubuntu installation and everything worked seamlessly. The first thing I tried after installing Ubuntu was ATI driver, it was working great.

Then I decided to update the packages, I marked everything to update which offered by update manager. The process took around one and half hours and after finishing update, the system prompted me to restart my laptop. When I restarted my laptop, instead of seeing Unity login page, I saw hanging terminal.

I was very frustrated with updating but somehow managed to login with using Ctrl + Alt + F2 and then attempted to install ATI driver again. I suspected that since kernel updated and the driver uses kernel module with redoing installation things should be OK.

After reinstalling ATI driver, I finally got fully functional Linux OS with no problem and latest patches. The system does not have overheating problem and I also can play online video streams like Youtube, Dailymotion, etc. without any problems. And all these problems happened to due to weak AMD driver support.