Ubuntu On The EeePC, Part 3 – The Sickening

The story so far: Part 1, Part 2

Charlie Stross, a sci-fi writer of some regard, talks about installing a new Linux OS on his Asus netbook, and again I am inspired to give it another go. Where was I?

Unetbootin woulnd’t work, that was it. So just to confirm I gave it another try, installing it on my Ubuntu dektop with the Debian Package Installer, making sure to install the dependencies. This time when I ran it, it worked fine, giving me the config screen to allow me to choose my ISO file. In the background, I’d been downloading (via bittorrent) the new Easy Peasy distro, which is the new name for Ubuntu Eee.

Unetbootin tells you to make sure the USB stick you are going to use for the ISO installation is formatted as fat32. OK, I opened gparted (the Gnome Partition Editor) and had a look. A strange thing, the USB stick, an Integral 2GB blue thing, appears as two devices in Linux, mounting itself as two drives. One of them contains a single file, U(something).exe. Both drives appear to have the same amount of space available, 1.92GB. What’s going on? In gparted, I was able to unmount and format one of the drives as fat32 as required. The other I couldn’t touch.

I left it as it was, ran unetbootin, selected the Easy Peasy ISO file and the correct USB drive, and let it do it’s magic. Once it was installed on the stick, I pulled it out and plugged it into my EeePC. I switched on, pressing the f2 repeatedly to get it into the setup screen. There, I chose the boot options, making sure the USB stick was top boot priority. Then I restarted. Fingers crossed!

“Invalid system disk. Remove and press any key”. Bugger.

I suspected this was due to the two devices issue – maybe the EeePC was trying to boot the device without the ISO on it. It didn’t give me a choice. So could I remove this other device, leaving a single 2GB device, mountable as a single drive? Gparted wouldn’t allow it. Fdisk see two devices, which you can’t merge.

I bit of googling around about this issue told me that this phenomenon of two drives is a result of some software built into the stick itself called U3, which helps with some autorun issue with Windows, allowing the stick to autorun applications or something. I don’t care about all that shite, get it off my stick.

There is a bit of a fuss about U3 on the net, with the idea of a drive purchased coming with extra software that installs itself. I found that for a long time there was no way to get rid of this software, until the creators SanDisk published a tool which could remove it. But of course, this would only run on Windows or Mac, everyone else can just sod off.

No wonder the stick was so cheap, and once again teaches me not to buy anything from f**king Dixons.

This tool seems to work though, so I came to work this morning with the intention of running the tool on my work Windows PC - in between shifts, obviously, while my colleagues wait for their turn at the pail of water. I downloaded the tool, stuck the USB stick in, ran the tool, and it said “Please insert a U3 smart drive”. The ‘Next’ button was greyed out. The tool wasn’t recognising my stick. Why won’t it recognise my stick!?

Sod it. This lunchtime I’m going to go out and buy a new USB stick from somewhere. I have myriad sticks lying around, but they’re mostly freebies with 128MB or 256MB- not big enough. I’ll crack this yet. BoingBoing Gadgets has covered other compact netbook Linux distros in the last couple of days, so it’s obviously the thing to do.