Now longer back than I care to think about (which is only August) I ordered a Solid State Drive, figuring it'd be good to have in one machine and get some experience with SSD setup. I figured I'd have to do some special partitioning and filesystem tweaking, but it would mainly be a matter of "plug it in and it works." That's how it seemed to start.
The physical mounting of things went well enough. All the hardware fit. The cables reached and locked into place. The motherboard saw there was another piece of hardware. The old disk booted up and I could set up the simple partitioning. And then the "fun" began. The install CD wouldn't boot, or at least looked like it didn't. It worked fine on belgian but was useless on percheron. So A-Googling I went and found that this is Not Unusual and there is supposedly some weird interaction with IDE DVD/CD drives and *buntu in systems that also use SATA and it's as if the boot media can't be found once things get started from it. So I started looking at and for inexpensive SATA DVD drives.
Not much later a decent deal for SATA DVD drives came up on NewEgg and I went for it, and waited for the delivery. The physical install didn't go as well this time. The physical mounting went well enough, but it's still boggling me that I managed to not seat both the power and data cables and they both have a snap-fit to them. This was foreshadowing by Reality. Once that was sorted out, the Xubuntu not booting was NOT fixed. I'm glad to have replaced the IDE DVD drive all the same, so that wasn't a big deal. But that nothing else really changed annoyed me.
Checking to see if anything would boot, I found a recovery disk (both poorly and aptly named, RIP for Recovery Is Possible) came up just fine. This was as well as I'd be using it later to repartition the old spinning disk. But Xubuntu utterly refused. It didn't even give an error message. I got a black blank screen and if I was really lucky, a blinking cursor. More research. Perhaps it was time to ditch *buntu and try something else? I looked at a few things and rejected them for lack of sufficient 32 bit compatibility (Dangit, Linden Lab, go 64 bit already. It's not 2003 any more.) or rather old kernels. I figured I'd give Xubuntu one more chance and downloaded the "Alternate" install CD.
The good: It lets one set noatime during install (lowers wear on SSD) and was simple to set up. The bad: Now the system does just what the regular install CD did: hang with a blank black screen. More Googling commences. Aha! Grub can be triggered into showing itself by holding SHIFT down just as the machine beeps on boot. There is a sort of safe/rescue mode. I get there and.. don't see anything obviously helpful, but try a resume (not re) boot.. and things work. But only with that silly start up sequence. Fine, it's something. Oh, there was some talk of video driver issues - which I'd ignored before as I needed video (even text, but console wasn't there either) to do that. Time to install nVidia's own driver(s). A proper reboot is tried and it takes a bit longer than I'd hoped (not everything is on the solid state drive) but it does finally come up right. I spend the next hour or so installing the programs I expect to have and use, and recovering from the backup I'd made of the files I wanted preserved.
There was actually more to it than that. Though many, many reboots before getting anything working there were changes to BIOS settings, reversions to standard settings, adjustments after that. Matters of IDE vs. AHCI and the switching between them. And when things looked they were about to start working, more research to be sure of what partitions to put where. (SSD has / while the spinning disk has /tmp, /var, /home and swap - though swap might never get used, it is there just in case.)
Now I can relax, or try to, as I hope things don't find one more nasty surprise to throw at me. And I hope that when I eventually replace the old spinning disk (120 GB Western Digital that's about 8 years old and has been running nearly continuously all that time) that that change will go much more smoothly. Well, I can dream.