Friday, November 6, 2015

Easyish Triple Boot on a Macbook Pro, Round 2

So my "easyish" install using Wubi finally crashed when I was trying to change things and install Ubuntu 15.10. If I'd have left it at 14.04, it probably would have been ok for a long time. However I was getting tired of the poor disk performance when creating large archives for work. So once it was broken, I had no reason not to just try and get a full triple boot (luckily I had backed everything up before trying anything). I found this recent article about triple booting, but its process has the deal-breaking requirement to install ubuntu before windows. What if you're handed a machine already set up for dual boot (without the recovery disks, mind you)? Funny that with 2 operating systems to choose from I wasn't happy with either....

Well it can be done (at least on my MBP 11,3 with yosemite and a windows7 bootcamp partition), and the secret sauce is rEFInd. I don't understand EFI at all. And every time I start going through the docs (rEFInd has a lot of GREAT documentation) I get distracted with needing to do work or something. Anyhow, before, I couldn't boot any Ubuntu live usb drives after 14.10 (I think the switch to systemd maybe?) but once I installed rEFInd I could... When I resized the bootcamp partition using a 14.04 live usb, booting windows didn't work any more. But once I installed rEFInd it did... After installing 15.10 from the liveUSB I couldn't boot osx or windows from the grub bootloader. But once I held the option key and used apple's boot selector to boot into OSX again and installed rEFInd again I could... boot from rEFInd's boot selector that is. Somehow rEFInd is magical.

So in a recipie:
  1. Boot a live usb (I had to use 14.04)
  2. Use gparted to shrink down the bootcamp/windows partition (make sure you've defragmented the partition in windows first).
  3. Install rEFInd by downloading in OSX and running the from the OSX terminal
  4. Boot  windows just to make sure you still can (when you have to)
  5. Boot from a live usb of ubuntu 15.10 and install with the empty space turned into the / directory (root)
  6. After the ubuntu install hold option next time you boot and boot into OSX, install rEFInd again (the grub configuration messes it up somehow)
  7. Enjoy using linux but still having 2 other operating systems to choose from (though you'll have to twist my arm to get me to boot anything other than linux).
Hopefully this helps. Its not as detailed as my last post, but I'm much more satisfied with the results so far. I'm still amazed that a free and open source project does boot management so much better than the expensive proprietary options.

Oh ya, and do all this at your own risk. Please make backups.