Update: Finally made Part 2. Enjoy.
My quest for a laptop supporting linux has come to a close. However, that doesn’t mean that the category “my laptop+linux” is invalid anymore. There’s a whole world that I’ve just now passed through the gate of.
Alright. So my netbook is the ASUS Eee PC 1015PED-MU17-BK, which you can find here. I’m getting tired of Newegg’s crap with shipping, so it is with some reservation that I link to newegg. I also purchased a memorex USB CD drive from Staples.
I’m thinking that his will be a two part blog post. The first is going to be about getting linux onto the netbook. Part 2 will be a hardware review. The one thing I’m going to mention is that I went and bought a external CDDVD drive for this. There seems to be some tricks for booting from a SD cardusb drive that I haven’t found out yet. The CD drive made it so that I didn’t have to worry about that. It made my life a lot easier in a few other things as well, so it seems it was worth the outlay of cash.
Backing Up the Eee In Preparation For the New OS Install
The stock 1015PED comes with Windows 7 Starter. There is no aero, you can’t change change the background, and probably a few other things I didn’t take the time to find the limitations of. Mine shipped with a western digital hard drive, so I backed it up about 3 different ways using this, Acronis True Image WD Edition Software. Its a horrifically locked down version of Acronis that you can get from Western Digital because you’re purchased one of their Hard drives, but it did what I needed. I always advise at least backing up your HD with software. If you can afford it, it’s best to just install a new HD, so you always have the factory version. Acronis is the best imaging software I’ve used, hands down.
Factory Partition Layout
Let’s talk about the default Asus partition layout. The first partition is Windows 7 Starter, about 100 gigs. The second seems to be a backup for Win 7. The third partition is about 117 gigs, and is just empty, which is very nice for us. The fourth partition is named 0xFF (I believe), somewhere labeled “EFI”. After some googling I found that this is what Asus uses to enable rapid booting. This is actually a fairly optimal layout, all things considered though it does present a need for creativity.
Installing The Fresh OS
Installing Windows XP?
Originally, I was going to install Windows XP. I know that its a out-dated OS. However:
- It wasn’t going to be a primary operating system. I intended it just as a backup, for when I ran into something that just “had to be done” via Windows.
- It was light on resources. With only a gig of RAM, Win 7 will work, but a fresh install ends up reserving about half of the available RAM for its bloat.
- Same with the vid card. Win Xp doesn’t have aero. I can turn aero off, but its a nice eye candy feature and is something that I feel the Win 7 interface leans heavily on.
- It would do what I needed.
Okay, Maybe Windows 7 Instead
Sadly, the Eee seemed to need a hard disc driver that I couldn’t get the windows XP installer to recognize, because I had the files on a USB drive instead of a floppy disc. I believe I could have pulled off the install, as I have a USB floppy drive. But I didn’t want to fight the installer, so I settled on a fresh Windows 7 Professional install. The bonuses of using Win 7 are:
- Drivers are SUPER easy. Win 7 will literally go and find the device driver and install them for you.
- Security wise, Win 7 is bounds ahead of Win XP.
- End of Life is coming up for Win XP. I would have had to install Win 7 then anyways
The Actual Install
I over wrote the current Win 7 starter install. The had the bonus effect of preventing Win 7 from making its system reserved partition. I then use the Disk Cleanup utility to delete the old 20 gigs of Win 7 Starter install that Win 7 Professional had left on the system. I’m not going back and even if I do, I’m going to use one of those images I made with acronis to go back. The I installed all the updates available from Microsoft.
Other Windows Notes
While in windows, I also checked the layout of the disc, to make sure that I was going to overwrite the correct partitions. I wanted to leave the factory backup and factory EFI partition, mostly because I’m not brave enough to nuke them and find out what happens. I pulled open the start menu, then right clicked on Computer and chose Manage. I then found that the blank drive, G was partition 3. I wrote that down as I needed it for later. Then I made sure that the system clock is correctly set.
Then it was time to install my linux. That’s what getting my netbook was all about, wasn’t it? I’m not going to debate which distro. Some prefer debian, specifically Ubuntu. Recently, I’ve had just way to much trouble from Ubuntu, the rant about which I could make it own blog post. I used to prefer Mepis, which is a debian based distro. It has a dedicated developer and a vibrant, if small, community. However, I wanted something with a little bigger base, that wasn’t as “Kiddie” as I felt Mepis is. I moved to Fedora 13, code name Goddard which is the same distro that I use on my desktop. And, yes I went with KDE.
I booted off the live CD. After I got it booted, I loaded the fedora installer. The prompts are easy, and somewhat user specific so I’m not going to cover everything. One note: on a purely linux computer, the system clock is set to UTC. This is note the case on something that is windows based. Make sure that you de-check the “System clock set to UTC time” when you’re setting up your time zone.
Next partitioning. I had to go with a custom setup because Fedora couldn’t figure what was happening with my hard drive partitions. It wasn’t to hard to setup custom partitions as the Fedora installer is pretty smart. I deleted the Asus pre-made 117 gig partition (#3, I had you write that down, remember?). Then from that space I made the new partitions. These actually ended up being sub-partitions, but they work anyway.
My first partition is the root partition. The dialogue gave me a choice making it a specified size, using all the space, or saving some space off the end of the new partition. I picked the option to save some space off the end then told the Fedora installer I wanted 2075 megbytes reserved. The ended up being /dev/sda5.
Linux installers will usually complain if you don’t have a swap. As near as I understand it, its kinda like virtual memoryram a place to files if you want to hibernate a computer. You don’t have to, but if it complains there’s probably a good reason why the installer is doing so. That’s why I saved the 2075 megabytes off the the end of my root partition. Usually, your swap should be at least as big as your RAM. I can expand my Eee to have 2 gigs of RAM, which is equal to 2048 megabytes. That’s what I saved that last 2075 megabytes of space on the HD for. A little breathing room is always good. I created a a new partition without a mount point and setup as swap. Then I chose the option to use the remaining space. Easy.
After that I continued with the installer. For the boot options, I renamed “Other” to “Windows 7” because that’s what its detecting, it just isn’t labeling it correctly for me. I also installed grub to the mbr portion of the hard drive, something I also advise. From there, its pretty dang easy. Run the rest of the installer, then reboot.
Fedora will run you through some prompts, answer those and you’re off. On thing you may want to do is
su; yum install synaptic
and then you can use apt-get in fedora and well as have the excellent synaptic package manager.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I know I’ve played perhaps a bit to much with the <h1> and friends in this post. If it really bothers you, leave a complaint. Leave any notes, suggestions, etc in the comments. You can also tell me how stupid my current layout is if you’d like, however be prepared to give proof on why its better. Also, you’re responsible for the warranty on the horked up netbook.
On thing though, don’t use a fake email. I have your IP adress. That means you, strange fellow from University of Chicago in the ITS department who seems to have a real problem with the way I’m handling Geany Portable.