Ubuntu 15.10 (Re)Install Process

I've managed to munge the Ubuntu 15.10 install on my Asus UX305C, so I'm re-installing. There are a number of significantly unimpressive things about Ubuntu's install process - particularly when compared to Debian's, which is the one I'm most familiar with. Debian's install process is tedious and annoying, but this has given me a much greater appreciation of it.

  • the attached and Linux-usable USB-ethernet dongle is ignored, the installer instead insisting I connect to wireless - the only other option being to not use networking at all
  • the fonts are agonizingly small, but I don't blame Ubuntu for this one: the screen is 3200x1800 and none of the installers get it right (one place where Windows actually looks okay ...)
  • unlike Debian, you have no choices whatsoever in what software will be installed: it's "Ubuntu," not a set of packages
  • claimed install size is 6.9 GB - a bit of a squeeze given that I only created an 8 GB partition, anticipating a sensible distro like Debian (what am I bitching about? Debian wouldn't install at all on this machine)
  • encryption choices are extremely limited: you can have an encrypted home, but if you mess it up, you have to restart the install (reboot): you can't have random-key swap, and you can't arrange to mount an existing encrypted partition
  • in its favour, the selection of keyboard layouts is truly impressive: I wanted Dvorak and found about five variants ... they even have Colemak
  • also in its favour, it's simple ... I'd argue too simple, but it's not the end of the world
  • however: I ended up re-installing by trying to clean out some of the endless flak from the previous install. (You know, stuff that I couldn't say "no" to during the install.) Something I removed broke X. None of it should have (after 20 years of using Linux and doing this kind of clean-up, I have a pretty good idea ...). I reinstalled every single package (I keep extensive notes), but X remained broken.
  • and then there's the Unity interface: no option is given on Window Managers or Desktop Environments, you get the unpleasant and cumbersome "Unity." Like the Ubuntu install, it's dumbed down and hard to get anything useful done in it.

I'm not sure if this is the result of using Debian for years, but this optionless install just hurts. I can't do what I want!

The next fairly significant problem was that I had a LUKS-encrypted /home/ partition that of course I couldn't ask Ubuntu to use during the install (Ubuntu's idea of "using" it was to wipe it and re-install, not mount it). After some fumbling, I figured out I needed to do apt-get install cryptsetup. With that, I was able to run this:

# cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda7 home
Enter passphrase for /dev/sda7:
# mount /dev/mapper/home /mnt/home

This worked fine, so the needed software was in place, but adding this:

/dev/mapper/sda7_crypt /home ext4 noatime,discard 0 2

to /etc/fstab turned out to be insufficient: Ubuntu barfed on reboot, going into repair mode. So I discovered that I needed to add a line to /etc/crypttab as well:

sda7_crypt UUID=... none luks,discard

After this was added, I was asked for the password to mount the partition during the boot process. Makes me wonder though if the "discard" option in /etc/fstab is meaningless ... but it doesn't appear to be breaking anything, so I'll leave it.