This is how I built a dual-boot AA1 … I made every mistake in the book!
I have a model 150 Acer Aspire One (AA1). Because I’m silly I thought it would be nice to convert it to dual-boot so that I can play with linux. However, what should be a 30 minute job turned out to be a 30 hours ordeal of trial-and-errors before I was back to normal with a working machine – an awesome effort. This is a cryptic summary of what I did.
My base machine is a AOA 150 Bb (1Gb RAM 120Gb HDD) with Windows XP Home, onto which I loaded Open Office version 3 as well as some other stuff like a small Bluetooth dongle for my cellphone modem.
My objective was to build a machine that I can take with me when I travel overseas. I must be able to connect to just about any network and access network shares on other machines and servers at random. I have about 80Gb of data (Office docs and such) that I carry with me and I need access to that data at all times.
My love of linux comes from 7 years ago when I started running my own web server and I host some clients on linux (Red Hat and SME and Centos).I have learnt to live with the idiosyncrasities of linux and I’ve made some stunning friends on the net. I am comfortable with the servers. I am NOT comfortable with the GUI desktops. Oftentimes I don’t know what a command does, I just type it blindly because I know it works.
The intention with my AA1 is to have two bootable partitions, one XP (C:\) and one Linpus (root and /home), followed by a data partition (D:\ and/or /mnt/partwo). I can then do revenue-earning work safely from XP, while having a transition linux environment available to “play” with and getting to know the software.
Some identified concerns with Linpus are OO 2.3 (I need version 3) and Powerpoint presentations that must retain their aspect ratios when on the external projector. Hardware concerns are Bluetooth support to tether my cellphone for 3G access.
Finally, I don’t know if this is the best way of doing things, but this is the road I discovered by accident (lots of trial-and-error) to give me a working (maybe not optimized) solution to my problem. YMMV.
1. I used a copy of Hiren’s boot CD from his website at http://www.hiren.info (version 9.5) (converted to USB booting) for general booting and some of the brain surgery. It fits on a 256Mb stick but my stick is 1Gb which gives me a small amount of extra storage. Make sure it works, that you can boot your AA1 from this stick at any time.
2. Make sure you have a copy of your AA1’s Windows XP backed up – for example in Ghost format on an external drive somewhere, and make enough extra copies (!!) so if you have an accident you can still recover. Remember you are going to WIPE the Windows recovery partition. I made a Ghost copy of the entire disk; the “diagnostic” (recovery) partition; and the live XP partition (labeled “Acer”). I am using two independent 40Gb external USB drives formatted Fat32 for backup.
3. A very useful reference document is “Ten tweaks for a new Acer Aspire One” at http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/09/05/ten_aspire_one_tips/ and my thanks to Tony Smith. However some of his tips can give errors (e.g. Liveupdate) so be prepared to restore your system at any time. Another useful source is “The road to Elysium” by Jorge Barrera Grandon at http://jorge.ulver.no/ on his posting re AA1 stuff.
First Steps: – remove XP and create a Linpus machine
4. Obtain a Linpus CD (included in linux 512Mb/120Gb model or downloaded). Boot the AA1 from an external CD/DVD drive (press F12 during post) and perform a full recovery. I was also able to use a USB stick to boot by following the instructions elsewhere for making a USB stick from the DVD, it also works if you don’t have an external DVD.
5. Reboot and set language and other settings, and let the system reboot again to the Linpus desktop. The issues at this stage are that Acer modified the grub loader to load from the MBR instead of the partition, and it also claims the entire hard drive as one partition with no easy ability to shrink or reduce the size. I also enable the advanced desktop so I can easily right-click in linpus.
6. Reboot with Hiren and use Paragon Partition Manager 7 to shrink the linux partition down to 8800Mb and move it to the beginning of the disk, estimated time is 2-3 hours. Then move the swap partition to the next available position and resize it to maybe 1480Mb. (2 minutes). While we are busy we can also now create a new NTFS partition for XP (about 12Gb) and an extended partition for data on the remainder of the disk (about 92Gb). This gives us 4 primary partitions which is the maximum we can create on the HDD. Personally I then create a logical drive in the extended partition but that is your personal choice.
7. Reboot linpus and check that everything still works. It should. This is a very good time to make your first backup of the entire drive. I use Ghost, You can expect errors about the NTFS partitions not initialized which you can ignore for now. You must also make a safe copy of your MBR.
8. Still booting correctly? Good. You can now restore your XP image (the one you created in step 2) into the 12Gb partition. I don’t want to restore the data partition yet, it is going to make the backup too big. Don’t boot XP yet. You also won’t be able to simply “see” it in the linpus file manager, you will have to mount it first as a NTFS partition.
9. Still booting correctly? Lets now move on to fix the grub boot loader. To do this you have to uninstall and re-install grub, and to do that you use yum (the automatic software installer) from a console. Issue the following commands without rebooting in between:
and without rebooting continue to set up grub to boot from the partition and not the MBR:
At this stage it is critical that the linpus system should boot automatically from power-up, and if you can’t you should back out to your last known good Ghost.
10. Now is a good time to install a dual-boot manager in the MBR. My choice is “boot-us” from Dr Ulrich Straub at http://www.boot-us.com/contact.htm . I created another small bootable USB drive with a dos or windows image on it, then I ran the “bootusc” program with a config file like this:
At this stage you have to reboot linpus and check that it is ok, followed by a reboot into Windows using the dual-boot screen from power-on. Let XP do its thing (check disks, install new devices, reboot, etc) until it is ready to talk to you.
This is a critical junction in the road. My heart is always in my throat when I do this because I expect the system to hang. But if she is nice she will reward you with a smooth running dual-boot system.
Finish your installation by pointing the XP “My Documents” to D:\XX_data or wherever you wish so that your work and documents don’t clog up your C:\ drive.
Now, before the fairies come and sabotage you, make a backup. It is possible to do a Ghost partition-to-image of the two bootable partitions onto your new-found D:\ drive, with compression the images are not too big.
You’ve earned it – sit down and have a cold beer!