Friday, September 17, 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Remix On An HP Mini 2140 Netbook - Part Two

For the actual install, I used an external CDROM drive attached to the HP netbook. For internet connection, I use a Ethernet LAN cable to the netbook.

1) Placing the install CDROM in the external CDROM drive attached to the HP Mini, I powered it up and pressed the F9 key to access the boot menu. The USB CDROM drive was selected as the boot drive by pressing the Enter key after which the netbook proceeded to boot the OS. After a while an 'Install' dialog box appeared giving choices of languages and 2 other options. The first is to try out Ubuntu 10.04 without making any changes to the HP and the other is to install Ubuntu 10.04 to the HP without trying it first. Note that:

(a) it is possible to install the OS later to the HP even if you select the first option (i.e., try out the OS) by selecting 'Install Ubuntu-Netbook 10.04' on the 'Favorites' screen that appears first after starting.

(b) it is also possible to create a USB stick containing the same Netbook Remix image as the CD by using the 'Startup Disk Creator' present in the Ubuntu 10.04 'System' screen. Note that the 7-steps install process itself is similar in both cases.

2) After making sure that the correct language was used, I then selected the correct location, keyboard layout, and then came the important disk space preparation. Note that the easiest way is to accept the default - i.e., 'Erase and use the entire disk'. However, this would create partitions using the ext4 filesystem - the default filesystem used by Ubuntu 10.04. The problem with using this relatively new filesystem is that most popular disk cloning and backup system do not support ext4 yet. I found this out the hard way when I tried to clone and backup a Kubuntu 10.04 based system using my favorite cloning software - Arconis Home 2010. This software will simply fail to process an ext4 based hard disk. In order to avoid this I decided to partition my hard disk manually by selecting 'Specify partitions manually (advanced)' and use the ext3 filesystem for the partitions. (If you do not plan to clone your hard disk or do not want to tinker with the manual method, then I suggest using the default method.) I will skip the details of actually making the partitions - it is only sufficient to say that I created 4 primary partitions for 'boot', 'root', swap and 'home'. When the partitions have been specified, I then entered my user information, password and netbook name in the next step. Note that the 'Log in automatically' option is selected by default - for security reason I changed this to 'Require password to log in' instead. The actual install process began after clicking on the 'Install' button on the next screen that appeared and the whole process took a while to complete.

3) When the install process was completed, a notice appeared on the screen saying so, and also notified that a restart was required. Upon pressing the 'Restart Now' button, the netbook re-booted into the newly-installed Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Remix OS - after logging in, of course. One noticeable difference from the previous release 9.10, is that there was no startup sound - it has to be enabled by clicking on the speaker icon on the top right panel and selecting 'Sound Preference'. On the dialog box that appeared, I selected 'Ubuntu' in the 'Sound theme' drop list box after which the startup sound was heard.

4) After a while at the desktop (2 or 3 minutes), two things happened. The first is that a flashing 'folder' icon appeared next to the Ubuntu icon at the top left-hand side of the screen. This was the Update Manager telling me that there are updates available for the OS. The second thing was that a message appeared saying that restricted drivers is available and a new icon (which looks like a plug-in PCI card for a PC) appeared next to the 'mail envelope' icon. This was the Hardware Drivers telling me that there are restricted drivers available for me to use - in fact, this is the driver for the Broadcom wireless chipset. For the moment I ignored the Hardware Drivers notification - instead the OS was updated using the Update Manager (via the Ethernet (LAN) internet access). As of September 2010, there were 272 updates to be installed - so this process took some time to complete. The kernel was also updated, so a reboot was required as soon as all updates were installed - which I did.

5) In the previous version of Ubuntu (9.10), the installation of the restricted driver for the Broadcom wireless chipset caused problems for my Lenovo netbook. This has been fixed in this version. The restricted drivers was installed by selecting System -> Hardware Drivers from the menu. The netbook started to search for available hardware driver and when found displayed the results - which turns out to be 2 type of drivers for the Broadcom wireless chipset. I selected the 'Broadcom STA wireless driver' and then clicked on the 'Activate' button. After entering my password, the drivers was downloaded and installed, after which a message appeared saying I need to reboot in order to activate the drivers. The Hardware Drivers window was closed and the netbook restarted. Once restarted and upon clicking on the network icon on the top panel, I saw a list of accessible wireless access points within range - I clicked on the one I wish to connect to, entered a password and I was connected to the internet wirelessly! No fuss - no freeze as in version 9.10! At this point I also disconnected the LAN connection.

All in all, installation was painless - kudos to the Ubuntu team for making it right this time - especially the restricted Broadcom wireless drivers. Of course, it would have been nicer if the wireless had been detected and the drivers installed automatically but this would be asking too much from Canonical.

More to follow ... stay tuned.

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