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Getting Ubuntu to work on your Eee Box

My Eee Box (model B202) arrived today. I actually plan on using this machine to run Windows (I have a very short list of things that I *require* the blasted OS to run).

First impressions: Yeah, they really are 'cute'. About the size of a Wii, but thinner. The splashtop mini OS that's built into the BIOS is pretty groovy, but I haven't really been able to think of a good use for it. The VGA mounting bracket for LCD monitors is just plain awesome. Out of sight, out of mind. I plan on using Windows XP via remote desktop from my main Ubuntu machine.

Who cares about all that, though. I obviously had to try and see if I could get Ubuntu running on it, which I did, and that's what this post is all about.

To do this, you'll need a linux machine with internet access and a USB key.

Create a bootable USB key with ubuntu-8.04.1-desktop_i386.iso and the isotostick.sh script mentioned on the Ubuntu FromUSBStick Wiki page. This assumes that you have an already pre formatted (ext2 or fat32) USB key, and that the device is /dev/sde1 (to find out what device your key is using, type 'dmesg' a few seconds after plugging it in).

$ wget http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu-cd/hardy/ubuntu-8.04.1-desktop-i386.iso
$ wget http://www.startx.ro/sugar/isotostick.sh
$ chmod +x isotostick.sh
$ sudo ./isotostick.sh ./ubuntu-8.04.1-desktop-i386.iso /dev/sde1
Not verifying image...(no checkisomd5 in Ubuntu so skipping)!
Copying live image to USB stick
cp: cannot create symbolic link `/media/usbdev.Dn7319/dists/stable': Operation not permitted
cp: cannot create symbolic link `/media/usbdev.Dn7319/dists/unstable': Operation not permitted
Installing boot loader
USB stick set up as live image!

The 'cannot create symbolic link' errors are normal if your key is formatted with fat32. Next, you'll want to get the initial custom eeepc kernel packages from array.org and copy them on to the usb key.

Next, you'll want to configure your Eee Box to boot from your USB key. Unlike the manual (and the interwebs) would like you to believe, pressing F8 at the splashtop boot screen will not allow you to choose your USB key as the boot device. Plug the key in, and enter the BIOS setup screen. Press the right arrow key to "Boot", down arrow to "Hard Disk Drives" (if you don't see this option, make sure you plug your USB key in before you power on the Eee Box), select the "1rst Drive" option and choose your USB device. Press F10 and enter. The Box should now boot the Ubuntu install ISO.

If you are using an LCD monitor connected via the VGA->DVI converter, once you get past the "Ubuntu" boot logo screen with the progress bar, your monitor might just go into powersaving mode. If this happens to you, press CTRL+ALT+F2 to go to a virtual terminal. Your monitor should come back on. Type 'sudo bash'. Edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf and change it so that it looks like the xorg.conf file located here. Once you've saved it, type 'killall -9 X'. If X doesn't start back up automatically in a few seconds, just type 'startx'. If the installation doesn't start automatically after X is running, hit ALT+F2, type 'ubiquity' in the box, and press enter. The familiar Ubuntu installation screen should pop up.

I'm not going to go over the installation process, I assume you already know how to install Ubuntu. The Eee Box 80GB hdd is separated nicely into two partitions already. One for Windows, and one for "data". I chose to dual boot the machine, so I just erased the "data" partition, created a 2GB swap and used the rest as the root ext3 filesystem. Obviously you can partition the system however you want.

Once you get Ubuntu installed, and you've booted into the new installation, you're going to want to install those two custom kernel .deb files you copied onto the USB key. Because you installed Ubuntu from the USB device, your /etc/fstab file will have an entry telling the OS that your USB key is a cdrom drive, and it won't mount correctly when you plug it in. Edit /etc/fstab and remove the last line. Plug your USB key in if you haven't already, and if you have, remove it and plug it back in. It should mount automatically. Open a terminal, see where it mounted using the 'mount' command, and install the .deb files:

$ cd /media/disk/eeepc
$ sudo dpkg -i *.deb

Reboot. Everything should be working at this point. WiFi, the wired network device, sound, compiz, etc. Woot!

Filed under: Gadgets, Linux
Comments:

From Legs McNeil on Nov. 16 @ 12:24 a.m. 2008

The Ubuntu stuff on array.org are for the laptop versions of the EEE systems. The "box" (B202) is not supported.

I ended up in a world of pain because of this. It _seems_ to work for a while then you get all kinds of weird errors-- screen turns black/white randomly, wireless dies, etc.

I'm going to try the procedure at http://www.eeextra.com/linux/installing-ubuntu-810-on-the-eeebox.html. I will let you know how I make out.
From Adam Olsen on Nov. 16 @ 8:45 a.m. 2008

There were some flickering screen issues for me, but they only happened for a split second occasionally, really nothing that caused any problems. Upgrading to Intrepid (8.10) fixed this problem.

Other than that, I've been using it every day since I posted this article and I haven't experienced the problems that you have. I leave the box on 24/7, and it's my main machine at home. Are you sure you're not having hardware issues?
From Legs McNeil on Nov. 16 @ 11:21 a.m. 2008

Did some digging and it appears this may be an issue with the Intel x.org drivers that ship with 8.10.

See https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/xserver-xorg-video-intel/+bug/292549 for more info.

Setting my xorg.conf to use the vesa driver as mentioned in the above bug report fixes the problem, though it takes about 17 minutes for a window to draw on the screen. :P

That's weird that you aren't having that issue. Possibly going 8.04->8.10 as opposed to 8.10 straight away is the key.
From Adam Olsen on Nov. 16 @ 3:38 p.m. 2008

It actually wasn't an upgrade, it was a fresh install from a USB stick. I wonder what's different...
From Legs McNeil on Nov. 16 @ 7:49 p.m. 2008

Very interesting. Some questions:

* linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-21-eeepc_2.6.24-21 doesn't appear to be in the list of available packages for Intrepid at http://array.org/ubuntu/dists/intrepid/eeepc/binary-i386/. Did you install another package in the place of the linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-21-eeepc one in your 8.04 procedure above?
* What are you looking at as far as boot times? Like, from when you power the Box on until you are at the desktop (minus any time spent logging in)? I'm seeing upwards of 2 minutes to get to that point, and while not _completely_ unacceptable, I was hoping for something at least on par with the boot time of the XP install on the other partition, which clocks in closer to 45s-1min.
* How about the startup time of applications? Firefox, while not the leanest of apps, still takes a good 10-15 seconds to come up after selecting it from the menu. Even smaller apps such as gedit seem sluggish to start up.
* Does your xorg.conf specifically define the intel driver? I.e. does it have the 'driver "intel"' entry?
* Did you get the same powersaving behavior with the DVI-VGA converter in Intrepid as you did with Hardy?
* Are you using Compiz? If so, do you have desktop effects set to "Normal" or "Extra"?
* What are you getting for framerates for glxgears?

I'm going to try one more time to do a fresh install using the array.org mods, since after some light research I haven't found evidence to indicate those customizations are NOT meant for the 202. I will let you know how it works.

Thanks for your time. I have a feeling that I've got configuration issues rather than bad hardware, so I'm hoping to align my config with what you have. The fact that someone else is seeing this behavior sort of confirms this for me.
From Adam Olsen on Nov. 17 @ 8:39 a.m. 2008

* Using kernel 2.6.27-7-eeepc, which is different than the one I first installed. I can't remember if this is an update or what I installed with the fresh install of Intrepid
* 50 seconds at most for boot times.
* Firefox does take about 10-15 seconds to load, but gedit is almost instant. OpenOffice.org Writer takes about 10 seconds.
* My xorg.conf file does not specify a driver at all. Xorg.0.log says this: "Matched intel for the autoconfig driver" and "LoadModule: "intel""
* I'm not using the DVI-VGA converter, just the DVI
* Compiz is set to extra
* 535 FPS on glxgears
From Dan on Nov. 21 @ 4:27 a.m. 2008

Thanks for the write up. I'm just following this through at the moment. However, the link seems to your xorg.conf seems to be broken: http://media.vimtips.org/files/xorgeeebox.conf.txt
From Adam Olsen on Nov. 21 @ 8:50 a.m. 2008

Sorry, the link should be fixed now.
From Dennis Au on Nov. 25 @ 7:03 p.m. 2008

Nice write up Adam. Worked perfectly.

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