Rojakcoder
Of Linux, Programming, and Singaporean Ramblings

Installing SLED10 SP1 on EeePC Part 2

Thu, May 15, 2008 11:00AM +0800

In the previous post, I described how to create the installation thumb drive. After creating the installation thumb drive, the next step, of course, is to use it to install.

I have a 8GB thumb drive set as a boot drive for installation of SLED10 SP1. When plugged into the Eee PC, the drive may be recognised as device /dev/sdb or /dev/sdc. It is not necessary for you to know at the start which device name the drive is recognised as - the installation process will take care of this.

Before you boot up the Eee PC, plug in the thumb drive. Then in the start-up screen press the F2 key right after powering on the PC. This will bring up the BIOS screen. Use the right arrow key and move the cursor to the Boot item in the menu. Use the down arrow and Enter keys to enter the “Hard Disk Drives” menu. You should see two entries in the menu. In my case I had the following:

1st Drive        [HDD:SM-SILICONMOTI]
2nd Drive        [USB:SanDisk Cruzer]

You can tell from the listing above that I had a SanDisk thumb drive. Use the Enter key to make the 1st Drive the USB thumb drive. (Remember that you will have to boot from the thumb drive to begin installation.) Press the Esc key to return back to the main menu.

Then choose “Boot Device Priority” to go into the boot order menu. Here you should see the 1st Boot Device as [USB:xxx] This tells BIOS that you want to boot from the USB thumb drive before other devices (such as ATAPI CD-ROM, and Removable Device).

Then go to the Exit item. Choose “Exit & Save Changes”. Upon accepting the dialog box, the system should reboot and you should be presented with a text menu. The available boot options are the same as what you get from the graphical menu. The difference is that instead of using the arrow key to navigate the menu items as you would with the graphical menu, you type in the boot option in the textual menu.

To start the installation process, enter “linux”.

The installation process will begin and after a while, a basic interface will be displayed telling you that the installation program cannot proceed. (“Could not find the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 installation CD. Activating manual setup program.) Press Enter.

Next you will be presented with the language menu. Press Enter to accept. (I chose English.) Then choose the keyboard layout. (I chose English US.)

Choose “Start Installation or System”. (Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate the cursor in the menu.) Then choose “Start Installation or Update”, “Hard Disk”. The next screen may show a few options depending on how your system was previously formatted and how your disk was detected. What I had was

sda1 : ext3
sdc1 : vfat

You may have more than sda1, e.g. sda2, sda3.

These are the partitions that are available in the Eee PC’s solid state disk (SSD). What is significant for the installation process is the second entry which may be sdb1 OR sdc1 (not both). As long as you’ve got only one USB disk plugged into the Eee PC and the file system for sd(b or c)1 shows vfat, you should choose sd(b or c)1.

When prompted for the source directory, keep the field blank and press Enter.

Installation Phase 1

After a while the installation program begins. A message will appear telling you that “your computer does not fulfill all requirements for a graphical installation.” Press Enter to accept.

Note: The installation program uses the ncurses interface. You cannot use the mouse with this interface. Instead you use the arrow keys, the Tab and Enter keys to choose and make your selection. Each menu entry also has a letter that is highlighted in a different colour to indicate that you can use that letter in tandem with the ALT key as a shortcut to make that selection.

Choose your language. To accept your selection, you need to use the Tab key to move the cursor to the Next menu entry then press Enter. Alternatively you can press ALT-N to choose Next. In the License Agreement page, press ALT-Y to accept the license and ALT-N to proceed. Since we are using the USB thumb drive to install, the installation program will need to load the required drivers and inform you about it in the next screen. Press Enter to proceed.

In the Installation Mode menu, choose “New Installation”. Then choose your time zone. The next screen will show the installation settings and this is where you need to be extra careful. We need to switch to the Expert mode first. Press ALT-E. This will bring up more options. We need to tackle the partitioning scheme, the software packages, and the boot loader details.

Partitioning

The partitioning bit can be complex. Because of the complexity in this topic, I shall just describe what I did. I hope those of you who are reading this post are savvy enough to understand what I’m doing here.

I formatted the entire drive to create a single partition with no swap partition. That’s right, NO swap partition. The reason for this is that SSDs have a limited number of write cycles. The number of cycles is supposedly enough for normal use, but on a swap partition, with the frequent swapping between RAM and swap, this number can be reached very quickly. This is why on a SSD we should not have a swap partition.

To create this partition, I opted for the Custom Partition Setup. In the next screen where you are supposed to choose the disk, you should see three options: 1 - IDE, 2 - SCSI, and 3 - Custom.

IDE refers to the built-in SSD drive in the Eee PC. SCSI is the USB thumb drive. I chose the third option (Custom Partitioning) because this lets us remove the swap partition.

With the Expert Partitioner, I deleted all partitions on the SSD (/dev/sda). Then I create a new primary partition on /dev/sda. I formatted it with ReiserFS to mount on / and I modified the FSTAB option to enable No access time. This last action will help reduce the number of writes to the SSD.

By default the partition /dev/sdc1 (or sdb1 depending on the system) will also be mounted. This entry should be removed (NOT deleted). You must not delete this entry because doing so will wipe the partition off the thumb drive where your installation files are! Instead, you should select Edit, and then remove the entry for mount point.

Choose Finish. The next screen comes up with a warning that no swap space has been created and asks you if you want to change this - select No.

Software

Due to the limited disk space on the Eee PC, I remove packages that are not important e.g. the help files and documentation.

Use the Filter option (ALT-F) to change the filter to Patterns and then remove Help and Support Documentation. Choose Accept. After a few license agreement screens, a new window appears to inform you about the changes to packages. Choose OK.

Boot Loader

The most tricky part is the boot loader. The installation files came from the USB thumb drive and the thumb drive is recognised by Eee PC as one of the hard disk. Because of this, the GRUB boot loader may be erroneously set to install on the wrong disk

In order to understand the complication involved here, it is necessary to understand how GRUB recognises devices. The first hard disk in the channel is usually recognised in Linux as /dev/sda. For GRUB, this is recognised as hd0. Therefore /dev/sdb is hd1, /dev/sdc is hd2, and so on. With regards to partitions, it works in a similar way. The first partition on a disk (say sda) is recognised as /dev/sda1. In GRUB, this would be (hd0, 0)

I’ve installed SUSE Linux a couple of times on the Eee PC and sometimes I get different behaviour which I’ve yet accounted for. When writing this post, the installation settings say that the boot loader will be installed in the boot partition (/dev/sda1). This is correct. If you encounter a different setting, please post on the comments and I’ll try to respond.

Installation Phase 2

After the files are copied to the system the installation process will tell you that it needs to reboot. When the system has finished shutting down and is starting up, you should pull the thumb drive from the system. If you do not do so, the Eee PC will attempt to boot up from the thumb drive again.

After starting up (without the thumb drive plugged in), the installation program will continue. It will then prompt to search for the network card. Let it do so. Following that a message will appear saying “Cannot access installation media” (hd:///device=/dev/sdc1&filesystem=auto). Plug in the thumb drive, let the system try to read it and then proceed.

Following that, the system will ask for the root password. Then the host name and domain name. Following that will be the Network Configuration screen. Dialog boxes will appear asking you to “Confirm Hardware Detection” for DSL Devices, PPPoE DSL Devices, ISDN Cards, and Modems. Skip all of those.

If prompted to “Test Internet Connection”, choose to skip it. For Authenticatoin Method, I set it as Local and create a new user account. Read the Release Notes if this is the first time you are installing - it can contain useful information.

In the Hardware Configuration screen, the program prompt you to check for printers, TV cards and Bluetooth Adapter. Skip all of them. The default configuration for the graphic card will have the following:

  • Graphics card: Intel 915GM
  • Monitor: Unconfigured (Aspect Unconfigured) - (800x600)
  • Colourdepth: 24 Bit (16.7 Mio. Colours)
  • 3D Acceleration: Activated
  • Dual Head Mode: Activated

Fortunately for the sound card,it is also detected as:

  • 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) High Definition Audio Controller Configured as snd-card-0

Then you are done! Well almost. No doubt that at this stage your SLED is installed onto the Eee PC. However you will find that the Eee PC is useless without any network connectivity and a messed up display screen.

I shall cover that in the next post.

Tags: linux eeepc
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