Installing Windows 8 on a Samsung Series 5
Here's some info on installing Windows 8 Pro on a Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook, in case anybody else has one and they wanna reinstall Windows from scratch.
To get the basics out of the way first:
My particular laptop (the 13.3" variety) includes a 500GB hard drive and a 32GB SSD drive, which apparently is the ExpressCache drive. This is important.
So first, how to get Windows 8 to actually attempt to install. You can't just boot a vanilla DVD or USB, because the installer will see the OEM product key baked into the BIOS, and complain because it's for Core Edition and you're trying to install Pro Edition.
You need to make a USB installer for Windows 8 using the "Windows 7 DVD/USB Tool" (Google it). This is because you have to add a text file to the USB. You might be able to modify an ISO to add the text file to it, but you're on your own there.
Open Notepad, and create a text file named "PID.txt", and put this in as its contents:
[PID] Value=XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXXSubstitute the X's for your Windows 8 Pro product key. Place the text file in the Win8 USB under the "sources" directory, for example
Now when you boot from the USB, Windows will use that product key instead of looking in the BIOS. And the installation will continue as normal.
But, it won't boot from disk after the installation is done. This is because the Windows Installer saw the 32GB ExpressCache disk, and it installed its bootloader onto that disk instead of onto the primary hard drive. The problem with this is that the BIOS on the laptop can't see the ExpressCache disk, and so it can't boot Windows from it.
I saw a couple solutions floating around the Internet for this. One solution said to format the ExpressCache disk with a Mac OS X file system, so that Windows wouldn't make use of it for its bootloader. You could probably format it with a Linux filesystem as well and get the same result. In this case, Windows 8 would've installed the bootloader directly onto the primary hard drive, and the BIOS would be able to boot it. This isn't much help to you, though, if you don't already have Windows installed to be able to format this partition.
What I did instead when I got to this point was... go ahead and install Linux. When I installed Windows 8, I gave it a 128GB partition on the hard drive. I gave Linux the remaining space to partition up as it pleases. When Linux installs the GRUB bootloader, it installs it onto the primary hard drive. This means the BIOS is able to boot GRUB... and, GRUB is able to see the Windows 8 Bootloader on the ExpressCache disk. Score! So now you can boot either Linux or Windows from GRUB.
This is what worked for me, anyway. If you don't wish to dual-boot Linux on your laptop, you may want to just boot a Linux LiveCD/USB, format the ExpressCache disk (/dev/sdb, probably) with a Linux filesystem like ext4, and then run the Windows installer again. Theoretically, Windows won't touch the ExpressCache disk to install its bootloader, and will install it on the primary disk. No guarantees that will work, though, as I haven't tested it.
For once, this is actually not going to be a rant about Gnome Shell. It actually runs decently on a touchscreen!
I recently got a Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook which has a touchscreen on it. After having trouble getting Windows 8 how I want it on this laptop, I installed Fedora w/ XFCE across the entire disk. I got motivated to try again with Windows 8, though, because it's a shame having a touchscreen and no software that knows how to use it properly.
XFCE doesn't work well with a touchscreen. I can't move windows around on it by touching and dragging their title bars. I can't highlight text.. when I touch and drag over text, it selects it, but it immediately de-selects as soon as I let go. About the only thing I can do on XFCE is click on things, and scroll a window by touching and dragging the scroll bar.
Before dealing with repartitioning and getting Windows 8 back on there, I decided I'd
yum groupinstall "GNOME Desktop" and see how well Gnome Shell works with this touchscreen.
The first thing I tested was dragging windows around. It works. I opened Firefox and dragged inside a web page, which highlighted text (don't remember if the text stayed highlighted though). Dragging the scrollbar worked.
I opened Nautilus and navigated to /usr/share by touching the icons. This folder had a scrollbar. I could drag the scrollbar just like in Firefox, but I could also scroll the window by touching anywhere else in the window and swiping, just like you'd expect on Android or iOS. It supported acceleration too, where you could swipe quickly and let go and the window would continue scrolling and eventually slow down.
Dragging windows around in the Activities view worked exactly how you'd expect, too.
Gnome Shell doesn't support multi-touch, though. But I think this is the fault of X11 in general not supporting it, so you can't blame them for that. If you try a multi-touch gesture, it just gets confused and tries to treat all your fingers as one and you get erratic mouse movements or something.
I still don't like Gnome, but I am impressed that this actually works, for all the propaganda you hear from the Gnome devs about making it a tablet interface. I was expecting it to be as painful to use as XFCE on a touch screen.
Now, to install Windows 8 and then put Fedora XFCE back on.
I'm writing this blog post from Pidora 18, a build of Fedora Linux for the Raspberry Pi ARM computer.
I'm going to compare it to Raspbian, which is the usual OS that people install on their Raspberry Pi's.
As far as speed goes, Fedora 18 runs pretty well on this device. I haven't directly compared it side-by-side with Raspbian, but I haven't noticed any real annoying slow-downs at all. They've optimized Fedora 18 to run well and take full advantage of the floating point unit on the Pi, which previous versions of Fedora didn't do.
One huge plus with Fedora over Raspbian is that the NetworkManager applet comes installed and set up by default (as it does on all Fedora OS's). It was super easy to connect to my wifi network with it. Under Raspbian, there's only the
wpa_gui, and it doesn't work very well for me and I have to click the "Connect" button a dozen times before it finally connects. The NetworkManager applet is a huge improvement.
The Pidora distro comes with the XFCE desktop environment, as opposed to Raspbian's LXDE desktop (on my Raspbian, I had gone ahead and installed XFCE anyway). On my setup, audio was working how I want it to out-of-the-box. I have my Pi connected to a DVI monitor, using an HDMI to DVI adapter. In Raspbian, I had to uninstall Pulse and hack ALSA up to make it send audio out the analog jack instead of HDMI, so that I could connect it to some proper speakers. In Pidora, Pulse wasn't even installed by default, and ALSA already knew to send the audio through the analog jack.
I also managed to get Minecraft: Pi Edition to run on Pidora. I just needed to install
SDL, and fix the permissions on the vchiq device (using instructions I found on the Raspbian Quake3 page), and I was good to go.
The biggest downside to Pidora is that there is no RPMFusion for it. They rebuilt pretty much all of the standard Fedora packages for the ARMv6 architecture, but upstream Fedora doesn't include anything non-free, like MP3 support, and so Pidora doesn't have that available in their repos either. Raspbian is a better bet if you need MP3 and video codec support, unless you want to compile the software yourself.
I think I'll stick with Pidora though. It's a lot more familiar since I run Fedora on all my other computers, and pretty much everything about Fedora is exactly the same in Pidora.
Having used both brands of video card in Linux over the years, the tl;dr. is that Nvidia has much better support with their closed source drivers on Linux than AMD does. Here's my anecdotal evidence for why I think so.
I've used three computers that came with various kinds of AMD graphics cards, and all of them have given me nothing but problems in Linux. The first one was an ATI Radeon Xpress 200M, built into an old laptop I bought in 2007. This video card appears to have already been obsoleted by AMD at the time I bought the laptop, but that's another story.
The Xpress 200M card was problematic for both Linux and Windows. It only worked reasonably well with Windows XP; and it's entirely not supported by any means in Windows 7 or 8. In Linux, I can only use the open source
radeon driver with it, but that doesn't give me any kind of hardware acceleration. If I install the
fglrx driver (AMD's closed source proprietary one), it makes the system completely unstable, and random kernel panics and freezes become very common.
My second computer with an AMD video card was a Dell Studio XPS desktop. I don't remember the exact model number of this AMD card, but it was somewhere in the mid-range area. I installed the
fglrx driver in Linux, and it worked reasonably well, except every once in a while my screen would completely go black, and then I could bring back parts of my display by "refreshing" them (i.e. moving my mouse around, dragging a window... any time a part of the screen needed to be redrawn by Linux, it would be redrawn and the solid black would go away). My XFCE panels were particularly difficult to get to redraw themselves, though, because they don't refresh very often. I'd have to kill/restart the panels instead.
The reason I replaced this card with a mid-range Nvidia wasn't because of the random blacking-out issue, it was actually the card's pitiful performance in Windows 7. I ordered the desktop with suitably powerful specs (6 GB RAM, 6 core 64-bit AMD CPU), so that I could run emulators for the likes of Sega Saturn and GameCube. For the latter, the frame rate would be pretty slow in parts and I suspected the video card was the bottleneck, so I tried replacing it with an Nvidia card I had from my old desktop. This did indeed speed up the frame rate in the emulators by quite a lot (most games run at full speed most of the time), and of course fixed my blacking-out issues in Linux.
The third time I had to deal with an AMD card was on a work PC. This one has an AMD Radeon HD 7400 Series video card, and it really caused nothing but problems.
First, the open source
radeon drivers in this case were entirely useless. About half of the time when I booted this computer, it was unusable. I'd end up seeing a completely white screen, with maybe 3 pixels worth of stuff happening at the top of the screen (I think it was the bottom of an XFCE panel, with a workspace switcher applet). It's like the screen resolution was completely wrong and/or scaled up to a ridiculous level. Switching to text mode didn't work either... the screen would go black, but there'd be no prompt (presumably, the prompt was WAY outside the screen borders).
The other half of the time, the display would simply be off-centered. The left edge of the display would be about 1/3 of the way across the monitor, and then it would wrap-around on the right so that the right part of the display was on the left 1/3 of the monitor. Attempting to change the screen resolution within XFCE (using both XFCE's built-in tool, or
xrandr directly), would put the monitor into "seizure mode" where it would flicker black and white rapidly.
fglrx drivers fixed most of my problems, except that AMD feels the need to let me know that my video card isn't officially supported. They placed a watermark in the bottom right corner of my screen, that's rendered on top of everything else the display puts out, that has their logo on it and says "Unsupported hardware". And there's no configurable option where you can say "that's fine, just let me try my own luck using this driver anyway". Nope, to get rid of the watermark, you have to hotpatch the driver binary to basically delete the image out of it, and then reboot. There's a shell script on the Internet that does this - just google "fglrx watermark"
In contrast, I have never seen an Nvidia card that gave me any problems in Linux. The binary drivers for Nvidia have always been absolutely perfect. The only issues I'd ever run into were the times when Fedora would get a new kernel update, and the third party group who package the Nvidia driver lagged behind a day or two in getting their update out. This is largely fixed by using
akmod-nvidia instead of
akmod's automatically rebuild themselves when you update your kernel.
So, I thought I liked Windows 8 a bit. The OS itself isn't absolutely horrible once you get used to it. I even bought the $40 upgrade to Windows 8 for my main PC, where I promptly spent 100% of my time on the desktop and not in the Metro apps.
But, I just bought my first computer that actually had Windows 8 preinstalled on it: a Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook. It has a touchscreen and some nice features, and I wanted to dual-boot Windows 8 and Fedora Linux on it (giving Windows the smaller half of the hard drive, of course). Microsoft apparently went to great lengths to make this darn near impossible.
I came to find out, when you have Windows 8 pre-installed on your computer, it's probably the Windows 8 "Core" Edition. The only Win8 install DVD I had laying around was the Professional edition that I bought for $40. It was logical to me that I should be able to hopefully reinstall Windows 8 on the ultrabook from this DVD, maybe even using the same OEM product key that the laptop came with and not having to worry about any activation issues.
Apparently, Windows 8 PCs have their product keys "baked in" to the BIOS ROM. If you boot a Windows 8 installer of any edition, the installer looks for this product key in the ROM, and if the key is for a different edition than what the installer is intended for, it gives you some ugly error message about, "The product key you entered doesn't correspond to any of the install images. Enter a different product key." -- except it doesn't let you enter a product key anywhere, and just restarts the setup process from the beginning.
There also apparently is no Windows 8 Core ISO floating around the Internet -- not one that I would trust downloading, anyway. With the baked-in product key, the only Win8 installer that would work would be a Core edition installer, which doesn't exist. You can't install Windows 8 Pro on your computer, because the installer simply won't allow it.
Long story short, Microsoft has basically forced me to forego dual-booting completely and just install Linux on the entire hard disk. The built-in Windows 8 OS came bundled with a bunch of Samsung's crapware, and there's no way to "start fresh" with Windows 8 -- your only option of "reinstalling" is to use the Control Panel feature, which restores "to factory settings", which means your Samsung crapware is still gonna be there after the reinstall is done. And you can't install from scratch from a DVD for the aforementioned reasons.
You can even completely remove Windows 8 from your computer, maybe install Windows 7 or Linux across the whole drive, and you still won't be allowed to put Windows 8 back on there from an install DVD or USB again.
There is a workaround, though: if you make a bootable USB for Windows 8, you can add a text file to it where you specify the product key to use. For me to do this, however, I'd need to buy an additional Windows 8 Pro license, and that's not worth it to me. So, good riddance Windows 8, I don't care to have you on my ultrabook anymore, anyway.