My experiments with installing Ubuntu 13.04 (pre-release) with UEFI Boot

The Live image is Secure Boot compatible, but the installed system is not?
By J.A. Watson, Member blogger on
1 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Installation language

I said last week, after posting galleries for installing openSuSE 12.3 and Fedora 18 with UEFI Boot, that I would do the same with Ubuntu when it got a little closer to the final release. It is now one week until the release, so I suppose it is time.

The following installation was done using the Raring Ringtail Daily Build for April 17, 2013. 

Of course, it is possible that some things might still change in the week before the release, but as time gets shorter, that gets increasingly unlikely — still, my point is there is no guarantee that any particular part, feature, or bug discussed here will still be the same in the final release.

The Ubuntu Live ISO image includes UEFI Secure Boot compatibility. When you boot it, you can choose between going directly into the installer (ubiquity) or going to a live desktop. If you choose the latter, there is then an icon on the desktop to start the installer.

The first screen in the installer has the language select, and a whole lot of empty space. I find this a bit baffling, why not fill that space with something, even if it is only Ubuntu propoganda? Seems like a waste to me, but perhaps there is a reason for it.

2 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Disk, Power and Internet Check

Disk, power, and internet check 

The next screen checks and confirms the installation environment.

Note that it says at the top "For best results..." — these are not strict requirements, they are suggestions. If there isn't sufficient disk space available, you will have the opportunity to free some more, or assign some existing partition(s) to this installation; if you are are brave enough to start the installation without power connected, that's up to you — if you don't have an internet connection, there are a couple of optional things you won't be able to select during the installation, but otherwise, the basic installation will work just fine.

If you have an internet connection, you can choose to have ubiquity download and install the latest updates during installation, and you can also have it install some commonly used third-party software packages along with the installation.

3 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Wireless network connection

If your system has a wi-fi network adapter, this screen gives you the opportunity to make a wireless connection. Well, sort of. There should be a list of available networks shown here, but I was doing this installation on my HP Pavilion dm1-4310, and Ubuntu still doesn't include the firmware for its Ralink 3290 wi-fi adapter, so it only shows the name of the adapter, rather than the SSID list.

4 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Disk layout selection

This is the first step in determining the disk partitioning. If your computer only has Windows installed, and you want ubiquity to shrink the Windows C: partition to make room to install Ubuntu, all you have to do here is leave it on the default "Install alongside them". But my system has a bunch of other stuff on it already, so I chose "Something else", which will take me to a partitioner where I can do exactly what I want. Of course, I could have also chosen to have ubiquity wipe the disk clean and install Ubuntu alone...

5 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Disk partitioning

Because I chose "Something else" in the previous screen, ubiquity now takes me to this disk partitioning screen. This shows the current partitions with their sizes, both in the table and in the colored graphic display at the top of the window.

Unfortunately, when the partition layout is large and/or complex, the graph is not scaled, so it just shows the first part, and then runs off the edge of the window. That is not a problem, but it can be confusing if you haven't seen it before — I just ignore it.

This screen is where I think the Ubuntu installation with UEFI gets a bit confusing. It shows the EFI Boot partition, and has it correctly labeled as efi in the "type" column, but it gives absolutely no indication that it is actually going to do anything with that, or for that matter, it is not even obvious that it is going to make a UEFI-compatible installation at all. 

There is a column labeled "mount point", and it doesn't show that the efi partition will be mounted, but in fact, when the installation in complete, that is what will happen, and I don't need to do anything here about it. It just occurred to me that the same is true of the swap partition, it is labeled correctly, but there is no indication that it will be properly configured and used, but it will be. Oh well, I just press on and see how it turns out.

In fact, the only thing I need to do here is designate the root partition, which is shown in the next screenshot.

6 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Root partition specification

At this point, I have scrolled down the partition list in the previous screen and selected the partition where I want to install Ubuntu, and clicked "Change". Once again, I find this window to be short of information — in this case, it doesn't say what partition we have selected. 

Yes, I know, I must have just selected it to get here, but would it really be that hard to be user friendly and add the partition name at the top? I can't tell you how many times I have done this and then had to move this window so that I could see the parition list under it and be sure that I had selected the correct one.

Oh, and another thing I had to watch out for — ubiquity has a nasty habit of popping this window up with the "Size" set to 1MB more than whatever the current size of the partition is. I don't know why it does this, but if I leave it like that, it will want to resize the partition — and if the disk is full, as mine is, that will fail. Ugh.

So I check this, and if it is too large, set it back to the correct (current) size.

You also have to select the filesystem type from the drop-down list in the "Use as" field, and specify the "Mount point" and whether you want to format it (although in many cases, it will be automatically formatted, regardless of what you specify here).

7 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Confirm partition changes

This screen asks for confirmation before ubiquity goes off and starts fiddling with disk partitions.

I'm a bit confused by it, to be honest. I'm not sure when or why it shows up — I know what would make sense (if I have changed the partition size or type, or specifically formatted it), but that doesn't seem to correspond with how it really acts. Maybe I'm just confused, or maybe it is just being over-cautious. Anyway, when I am happy with the input, I just click "Continue".

8 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Disk partitioning

Now we are back at the partitioner display, and it shows the selection for the root filesystem. 

Unfortunately, the UEFI Boot gets even more confusing here. It still doesn't show that it is going to do anything with the EFI partition (you can't see it here, but trust me, that part still looks exctly as it did two screens ago), and now it is still giving you a choice of the "Device for Bootloader installation". What the heck does that mean? 

If it is going to do a UEFI Boot installation, then it will install the bootloader to the efi partition, so why does it need you to select anything here? Or perhaps you are supposed to select the EFI parition? 

Or is it going to make new EFI partition for its own use, like Fedora does by default? 

Or is it going to install the legacy boot loader to wherever you select here?  I just don't understand what it wants. 

All I can tell you is that I am paranoid enough that I don't want to risk having it install the bootloader to the MBR (or turn the entire SDA device into one huge EFI boot partition? Ack!), so I always change the partition that will contain the root filesystem. 

To be honest, what I suspect is that when doing a UEFI Boot installation, this input field is ignored, but I have never seen that documented anywhere, so who really knows for sure?

When I click on "Install now", ubiquity will do just that — it goes off in the background and starts performing the installation. At the same time, it will progress to the next screen and continue the user input.

9 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Timezone Selection

Timezone selection

This is where you select the timezone by clicking on the map. As far as I can tell, only by clicking on the map. I haven't been able to get the text bar to do anything useful. 

If you happen to live in a relatively small country, such as Switzerland, it can be challenging to find the right place to click.

10 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Keyboard selection

This is where you select your default keyboard layout. There is a text input box where you can type after making the selection to be sure that you chose the right one. If you aren't sure, or you just feel like a laugh, you can go through the "Detect keyboard layout" procedure.

11 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

User information

Finally, the last input screen. Here you enter the usual stuff — your full name and login name, the computer nodename, and your password. You can also choose automatic login on boot if security is not a concern for you.

12 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Installatoin progress

While you have been giving input in the last few screens, ubiquity has been chugging along with the installation. After you finish the last screen, you will join the installation in progress. The status bar at the bottom of the window will show how far along it is, and you will get a slide show of Ubuntu features while it finishes.

13 of 13 Screenshot by JA Watson/ZDNet

Installation complete, reboot

When the installation is complete, I am prompted to reboot (or continue working with the Live system). 

On both of my UEFI systems, I got the same surprise with Ubuntu that I had already gotten with openSuSE and Fedora — reboot didn't bring up Ubuntu, it still brought up whatever was booted before I did any of this (in most cases, this will be Windows 8). 

Now, there may be other systems, from other manufacturers that do in fact get UEFI boot parameters set, stored and stable properly so that they boot Ubuntu, but that hasn't been my experience. Oh, and there is another even bigger problem...

If you still have Secure Boot enabled, which was the purpose of this exercise, then when you finally do try to boot Ubuntu (probably by pressing Boot Select), you are going to be very surprised to find that it doesn't boot. 


At least, it didn't for me, on either one of my systems. What the heck is that about? 

The Live image on a USB stick worked just fine with Secure Boot enabled, but the installed system won't?  Really? I must be wrong about this. I must be confused. I must be doing something wrong. But I can't figure out what, and I have installed Ubuntu 13.04 quite a few times now over the past six weeks or so. 

I keep thinking this is some kind of pre-release problem, and they will get it sorted out before the final release, but time is running out.

Anyway, although I hope that they get this working, if they don't then you will have to disable Secure Boot for Ubuntu. Note that this means only secure boot, it works just fine with UEFI Boot then, you don't have to go all the way back to Legacy Boot.

Oh, and one last note for others who might have a system with the same Ralink 3290 wi-fi adapter my HP has. Although it doesn't work with Ubuntu 13.04 out of the box (at this stage), it actually has the correct kernal and drivers, all that is missing is the firmware file. I was able to "cheat" and copy the file /lib/firmware/rt3290.bin from either openSuSE 12.3 or Fedora 18, and then after rebooting, it works just fine. If you don't have one of those distributions, I believe that you can pick up the firmware file from the Rallink web page.


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