Ubuntu on the Asus Eee PC: Part 1 (or How to run a functional Ubuntu install off a USB drive)

Ubuntu USB pen drive on the Asus Eee PC
I’ve been combing over various guides and instructions online for installing Ubuntu on the [[[Asus Eee PC]]], and I ran into a few kinks along the way since I don’t have a USB CD-ROM to install from and opted for a USB flash drive instead, so I thought I’d write the process out in this post in the hopes of helping those of you out there who are thinking about taking the plunge, but unsure of how it’s going to work. All of this information is available elsewhere, but I found it somewhat scattered, so I’m documenting it all here for my future self.

Step 1: Make a bootable Ubuntu USB Pendrive—First thing I did was follow all the instructions over at Pendrivelinux.com for installing Ubuntu 710 Gutsy Gibbon to a USB flash drive. I recommend printing out the full page and checking off each step as it is completed. The really great thing about this USB pendrive installation solution is that the install remains persistent. You can make changes to it, save changes, and it can always serve as a backup drive for your Eee or as a fully functional Ubuntu install that you load from time to time. To take full advantage of that we’ll activate the WiFi on the Eee PC for this pendrive install in a few steps.
Step 2: Make sure you have an active Ethernet connection—With the completed USB pendrive install completed, plug the USB drive into one of your Eee PC’s open USB ports. IMPORTANT: Make sure your Eee PC is plugged in to an active Ethernet connection via the Ethernet port. The WiFi doesn’t work right away (we’ll fix that in a few steps) and the Ethernet connection needs to be present at boot for Ubuntu to have an active internet connection.
Step 3: Boot into Ubuntu Live Persistent mode—Start up the Eee and hit the Escape key (ESC). This will bring up a dialogue asking which drive you want to boot from. Choose your USB pendrive and hit enter. It will take very little time to boot to the Ubuntu Live option page. Select the first choice (Persistent mode) and hit Return. Ubuntu will start unpacking the kernel and this can take a few minutes.
Step 4: Make those windows draggable—The most important tweak to do is to make sure all the windows in Ubuntu are draggable, so that windows that default to a taller size than the Eee PC’s default screen can be moved into a useable position. Fortunately, there are some pretty useful instructions for doing this on the Eeeuser wiki that I found via this helpful blog post. Launch the Terminal by navigating to Applications—>Accessories—>Terminal via the menu bar at the top of the screen. At the command line type in gconf-editor and hit Return. This will launch a GUI window with a long list of items in the left side bar. Follow this path:

apps
—>compiz
——>plugins
———>move
————>allscreens
—————>options

Then uncheck constrain_y
As soon as you do this, you should be able to hit the Alt key while clicking on any window to drag it wherever you like. Since we did this on persistent mode, your USB pendrive will remember this setting whenever you use it again, however, you will need to repeat this step after you install Ubuntu onto the Asus Eee PC itself.
Step 5: Enable the WiFi—To enable WiFi on the Asus Eee PC running Ubuntu, you simply need to follow the instructions found here:

sudo apt-get install build-essential

wget 'http://madwifi.org/attachment/ticket/1679/madwifi-ng-0933.ar2425.20071130.i386.patch?format=raw'

wget http://snapshots.madwifi.org/madwifi-ng/madwifi-ng-r2756-20071018.tar.gz

tar zxvf madwifi-ng-r2756-20071018.tar.gz

cd madwifi-ng-r2756-20071018

patch -p0 < ../madwifi-ng-0933.ar2425.20071130.i386.patch?format=raw

make clean

make

sudo make install

reboot

After rebooting repeat step 3 above to get ready to install.

This post was getting pretty long, so I decided to split it up into sections. This above post includes all the introductory steps. If you stop at this point, then you already have a pretty nice Ubuntu alternative to your default Xandros installation that you can boot to via USB whenever you like.

Update: For instructions on installing Ubuntu to the internal drive see Part 2.

About C.K. Sample III

I am a father, a husband, a blogger, a parrot owner, a pug owner, and the VP of Technology/Engineering for Chaotic Moon. This site has no comments. If you want to talk to me, send me an @cksample on Twitter. If you like this post, feel free to send me a micropayment via Bitcoin.
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