How to reinstall grub after Windows 8.1 upgrade on a HP Pavilion

Recently I made the daft decision to actually update my son’s HP Pavilion laptop …

As expected – Ubuntu was as smooth as silk, no issues and everything was up-to-date in a few minutes.

Then I rebooted into Windows 8. One hour went by – 79 updates later and everything looked ok. I made the fatal mistake – lets install Windows 8.1 – it was a free upgrade – what could go wrong?

Well it hosed the dual boot.  In Microsoft’s infinite wisdom, “I’m the only operating system – lets reset everything the way I want it to be”.

Previously I used boot-repair :

boot repair

On firing up boot-repair, it recogised the laptop had an efi bios.  I hit the advanced options and ticked the “hard coded error” option – this is where it renames your various efi files where a manufacturer such as HP similiarly doesnt recognise / doesnt follow the EFI standards and hard-codes the EFI boot file to be the Microsoft version.

Unfortunately, this time around, this didnt work for me.

Remembering the trials and tribulations last time, no problem I thought … so what follows is how I solved this.

  1. Power on the laptop and immediately hit F9 – yes I mean immediately – if you wait a split second, you’ll miss the chance and Windows 8/Windows 8.1 will boot
  2. Up pops the OS Manager – just select Ubuntu from the list of choices.
  3. Then you’ll see the familiar Grub – let it boot into Ubuntu

Now comes the tricky terminal stuff…

  1. Launch a terminal
  2. Now install the following package
    sudo apt-get install efibootmgr
  3. Now run
    sudo efibootmgr -v
  4. You’ll see in the output a string path corresponding to the Windows OS – it is prefixed with a bunch of garbage and suffixed similarly – but you should see something like
  5. That is the magic Microsoft EFI boot file we need to replace … so navigate to the folder
    cd /boot/efi/EFI/Microsoft/Boot/
  6. Copy the file bootmgfw.efi to somewhere safe – I put mine in the root folder -
    sudo cp bootmgfw.efi /
  7. Now I copied Ubuntu’s version of this file and overwrite the Microsoft version:
    sudo cp /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu/grubx64.efi bootmgfw.efi
  8. Reboot – and magic – Grub reappears.  Ubuntu is the first option and Windows 8.1 appears as the option immediately after the Ubuntu recovery

See – never be defeated by Microsoft and manufacturers such as HP that idiotically follow Microsofts line…

Everyone say Moo to Unity … aka Ubuntu Unity Desktop on Arch Linux


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For this article I wanted to have a look at the Unity interface and how it translates on non-ubuntu distros and its various unofficial derivatives.

A quick Google doesnt reveal too many distro’s that have taken up the Unity interface.  This in my opinion this is a real shame – Ubuntu 14.04 shows Unity in its best colours – stunning graphics, careful attention to detail and remarkably easy to use & productive.

I came across this new distro – the very memorably named mooOS

mooOS is an … unity/compiz(gnome) … based desktop ready to go out of the box, libre focused, privacy aware, livecd and installer aimed at experienced linux users or aspiring developers such as myself. mooOS is based upon Arch Linux and uses the Arch repos and AUR exactly the same as Arch Linux. Usage of the aforementioned mooOS comes without support as shape shifting space alien penguins are expected to be well versed in GNU/Linux and Arch Linux respectively and proficient thusly.


Now, I’m not going to give an in-depth review of the O/S itself – that wouldnt be fair since this is a beta piece of software.  This is just a quick look at how well the Unity interface is integrated.

However, just to say, this is obviously a very eclectic distro – everything that is anything has been thrown into this – for example, VLC/ XMBC Media Center and even VLC available by default.  There are some very strange choices such as the use of KDE dolphin for the primary file-manager.

Out of the box, this distro is large – 1.7Gb download.  It has some very nice touches such as working with Virtualbox nicely with full screen graphics because Guest Additions is automatically installed.  I wish Ubuntu did this.

The use of Tor for the network strikes me as a bit paranoid – but hey – each to their own.

As the screenshot shows, this is a busy looking distro.  A darkish Ambiance looking theme with a Unity interface from Ubuntu 13.10. 

Remember though, this is Arch Linux based – so you would expect a 14.04 code-base soon after 14.04 is itself released.  Arch Linux is a rolling release – so nothing is frozen – so how this interface will bear up with the constant shifting sands of new packages such as Gnome 3.12 being released is going to be interesting.

The dash contains many but not all of the Ubuntu scopes.


Some parts though suffer from the true Gnome choices – for example, the Settings window looks and feels out of place in the Unity interface because this is the Gnome-shell variant that doesnt have minimize/maximize option.  You’ll notice this for all of the true Gnome 3.10 apps and later versions appearing in the repositories.


The primary config tool is compiz settings manager itself – it is available as the first option in the launcher right after the mooOS dash launcher.  You’ll note that “Ubuntu” is very visible – no attempt here to-do a strings search and replace.  Before anyone complains – this is definitely allowed in terms of Canonical liberal licensing.

The Arch Linux variant of Unity interface defaults to the overlay scrollbars.  This doesnt really work in my humble opinion – there are too many exceptions where this doesnt work and you are left with a mix and match of overlay scrollbars and traditional scrollbars.  Its best to turn overlay scrollbars off.


The global menu is a bit hit and miss as well – some apps appear with their menus in the global menu.  Some apps such as Gimp appear in their traditional window based role.  Again – maybe when 14.04 based Unity is made available and assuming the integrated menu patchwork is also included then it would be recommended to run with integrated menus not the global menu to give more of a consistent look and feel.

In conclusion – the Unity interface can and does translate into non Ubuntu based distros.  However, the Ubuntu patchwork is unlikely to be available and thus the interface loses that clean Ubuntu look and feel.

This is a shame but not really unexpected due to the oft conflicting priorities of the Ubuntu devs vs the Gnome devs and their differing visions.

Here is hoping that the QT based Unity 8 due in the next year or so will more easily translate to other distros and thus make Unity a more viable option.

Launchpad PPA Download Statistics … almost 6 million and counting


One of the more hidden parts of using Launchpad to host your PPA is actually knowing how popular – if at all – your hard work is benefiting the wider ‘buntu and derivates.

It is so hidden in-fact, that you need to use the Launchpad API to find out.

… and there is a brilliant PPA so solve that!

From the wonderful Jean-Philippe Orsini is an easy to use command line tool that gives you the raw statistics.  Even better, you can output the results in HTML format and this allows you to drill down to individual packages.

saucy ubuntu [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_085

One of my favourite PPA’s I maintain is the Rhythmbox Plugins – from the stats I can easily see that since mid-2012 there has been almost 6 million downloads.  All I can say is wow!  Three cheers for all the support – I’m just astounded how popular the PPA has really been.

How to install

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jfi/ppastats
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ppastats

The OP doesnt backport the latest stuff – so its best to use the latest distro available – 13.10 Saucy at the time of writing this.

How to use

Create a folder and change to it – for example

mkdir stats
cd stats

Run the following to create the statistics for your PPA – lets assume your username is myname and the ppa is called myppa

ppastats -o . myname myppa

Wait until it has completed and then point firefox at the index.html file that was created

firefox index.html

N.B. if you see 503 errors in the terminal – that is Launchpad not playing ball.  Just rerun ppastats and few times and examine if you get the same or similar results.

How to calculate totals

On the left-hand side copy packages and their totals.

Open Libreoffice Calc.  Paste the text copied.  This will prompt you with an import dialog – just use the other delimiter and choose “:” as the delimiter to split the package name with the download statistic.

Raw Stats for rhythmbox-plugins

rhythmbox-plugin-coverart-browser 352382
rhythmbox-plugin-coverart-search 294666
rhythmbox-plugin-llyrics 285711
rhythmbox-plugin-equalizer 240169
rhythmbox-plugin-radio-browser 233333
rhythmbox-plugin-rhythmweb 233074
rhythmbox-plugin-opencontainingfolder 229156
rhythmbox-plugin-countdown-playlist 208035
rhythmbox-plugin-randomalbumplayer 199757
rhythmbox-plugin-complete 199183
rhythmbox-plugin-suspend 196925
rhythmbox-plugin-remembertherhythm 188952
rhythmbox-plugin-send-first 183734
rhythmbox-plugin-smallwindow 176064
rhythmbox-plugin-hide 174170
rhythmbox-plugin-desktopart 172961
rhythmbox-plugin-fullscreen 170756
rhythmbox-plugin-artdisplay 150943
rhythmbox-plugin-wikipedia 148492
rhythmbox-plugin-android-remote 144504
rhythmbox-plugin-screensaver 139713
rhythmbox-plugin-jumptowindow 125488
rhythmbox-plugin-microblogger 123194
rhythmbox-plugin-lastfm-queue 119197
rhythmbox-plugin-lastfm-extension 118629
rhythmbox-plugin-albumartsearch 114165
rhythmbox-plugin-tray-icon 110132
rhythmbox-plugin-rhythmremote 109492
rhythmbox-plugin-jumptoplaying 109252
rhythmbox-plugin-webmenu 108188
rhythmbox-plugin-repeat-one-song 108159
rhythmbox-plugin-tabguitar 108066
rhythmbox-plugin-stopafter 108035
rhythmbox-plugin-fileorganizer 101529
rhythmbox-plugin-rating-filters 96941
rhythmbox-plugin-seek 39360
python-pylastfp 36089
rhythmbox-plugin-looper 20625
python3-mutagenx 666
rhythmbox-plugin-playlist-import-export 24


Rhythmbox 3.0.2 is released – install this on 13.10 (Saucy) and 14.04 (Trusty)


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Today, Rhythmbox 3.0.2 has been released – bang on 6 months after the last v3 update and as usual coincides with the next version of Gnome to be released – Gnome 3.12.

So what’s new?

Well visually, not much – in reality this is much more of a bug-fix and behind the scenes revamp.

Below is the best bits of the release

- Search by genres – you can now look for specific genres in the library music view


- Dragging the window

Click and drag within an empty space of the toolbar is now available – this is more in-line with the Gnome way of doing stuff now that Window decorations are being phased out in Gnome-Shell

- Support for iTunes based itmss podcast streams

Whilst Rhythmbox has always had a wide range support for various podcast protocols – this newer iTunes format was not supported – well it is now!

- Support for mp4 file type

Traditionally mp3 is the audio format of choice.  mp4 was the preserve of video.  Well rhythmbox can now play the audio for any mp4 encoded files.

The complete list of bug fixes and changes are here on GitHub.


Well I’ve decided to repackage this release and make it available for both Saucy (13.10) and Trusty (14.04) users.  However – I’m hoping that 3.0.2 will make into the repositories officially – so please go and support this through my bug-report here.

EDIT: 3/04/14 – the bug-report has prompted Sebastien Bacher to package 3.0.2 for Trusty \o/

At the same time I’ve retained the Trusty support for local-integrated menus as well as the more controversial “hide on quit” functionality first introduced in Ubuntu Natty – yes I know this annoys the hell out of the Gnome-developers – but this now seen as the default functionality in Ubuntu.

The side benefit for Saucy users is that the Global menu is now the full menu enjoyed by the Trusty users rather than just the single long-list menu in Rhythmbox 2.99 :-)

In addition, I’ve added the visualization plugin available rather than a manual install.

Add my PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:fossfreedom/rhythmbox
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install rhythmbox

For Saucy users, it will upgrade both the stock Rhythmbox 2.99.1 version as well as Rhythmbox 3.0.1 that you may have installed via PPA.

For Trusty users, it will upgrade from stock Rhythmbox 3.0.1.

Rhythmbox does greatly benefit from the hard-work of the external plugin developers – there is huge variety of plugins and they are definitely worth checking out:


Tidying up the Virtualbox boot sequence (force_addr=0xaddr etc)


Cosmetic I know, but when running Ubuntu in virtualbox, two annoying issues are visibly seen during the boot sequence -

- long black screen, followed by

- a visual switch to display the error “piix4_smbus 0000.00.07.0: SMBus base address uninitialized – upgrade bios or use force_addr=0xaddr”

- followed by another switch to lightdm

Well, the issues are:

- Virtualbox drivers are not KMS based – which doesnt allow plymouth to correctly run when it should

- the Virtualbox bios doesnt support the kernel module Ubuntu is attempting to load

To resolve this needs a quick tweak.

First though, lets remove all the old kernels we dont need otherwise the tweaks below will take forever to complete (copy and paste this into a terminal):

sudo apt-get remove --purge $(dpkg -l 'linux-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d')

Now lets hide the attempt to load the kernel module causing the TTY switch

sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

Add the following line to the end of the file and save  (CTRL+O following by CTRL+X)

blacklist i2c_piix4

Next, force plymouth to use the standard boot Framebuffer

echo FRAMEBUFFER=y | sudo tee /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/splash

Lastly, lets update stuff to ensure the above changes are recognized in the boot sequence

sudo update-initramfs -u -k all

Reboot and enjoy.


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