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Technology > Linux > Linux over RAID on Amilo M3438G
Linux over RAID on Amilo M3438G

The purpose of this short article is to provide some useful feedback about installing Linux on a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo M3438G laptop. What makes things complicated here is the hardware RAID controller by VIA, which prevents even Windows Vista from recognizing the arrays, especially RAID 0 or RAID 1 configurations. The JBOD configuration does not need to be recognized as such by the OS, since it does nothing more that providing the HDDs as they are, without creating any arrays at all.

Without explaining what RAID is in this article, the author will try to point out some basic information about how to install Linux while keeping the RAID 0 or 1 array, especially when another OS is installed, mostly Windows and the user does not wish to loose any data.

First step is to ensure that there are drivers available for the RAID controller, searching by specific Linux distribution at VIA's support website, VIA Arena. If the distro one wants to install is not listed there, then Linux cannot be installed without "breaking" the array. Important is to remind that the RAID controller's model for this laptop is the VT6421.

After downloading the drivers read carefully the PDF enclosed document, about how to load them before installation begins, by using a live or installation CD/DVD. Before moving forward and restarting Windows, the author proposes that the user should backup all valuable information, mostly documents, emails, photos, music, movies, etc. You never know what happens...

Next step is to choose if we want Linux to deal with the booting procedure, or Windows. Given that we want to keep Windows OS and have a "Dual Boot" system, it is recommended that we do not let LILO or GRUB to edit the MBR, but do the tweaking manually from windows, using msconfig.exe application. If the user is amateur, there is available software for Windows that manages the bootloader settings, like EasyBCD for Windows Vista. Read carefully the instructions provided by the selected software and proceed to reboot.

After setting our laptop to boot from CD/DVD drive, we follow the instructions about how to patch the Linux Kernel and apply the drivers for the VT6421 RAID controller. After this procedure is completed successfully, we will be able to isolate the windows partition and use any free (preferably unallocated space) for our Linux installation. Special attention should be given when the Linux installer is asking the user where to install the bootloader (LILO or GRUB). User must remember the choice and follow any instructions required if supporting software is used like EasyBCD. For example EasyBCD requires that the Linux bootloader is not installed on the MBR, but anywhere else on Linux partitions, most likely on the extended partition that includes all Linux partitions.

After installation is completed, user can normally login to Linux if bootloader is installed on the MBR, or just adjust the settings from Windows and reboot to activate the Windows bootloader list, which will redirect to Linux.

So after all these "tortures" come to an end, we have our dual boot system on our Amilo. But be careful! Never update the Linux Kernel... If user is not a specialist, a general update of all Kernel components will discard the RAID drivers and logging into Linux will not be possible...

That's all for now, hope this short guide is useful to anyone who would like to play around with his FSC M3438!

Tested hardware - software configuration:
Laptop: AMILO M3438G Vision
Primary OS: Windows Vista Ultimate
Secondary OS: Linux OpenSuSe 10.2
Utilities: EasyBCD
Drivers: VIA Arena

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