Only A Little Lie


Ah fixing a parental units laptop. It was never going to be easy, was it.

After taking home the mother's Netbook with the simple request of pulling a Jesus on it and "bring it back from the dead" I encountered many a headache. Enough that it would make me seriously think twice before buying a Netbook for myself.

Then again if the Netbook had been mine I wouldn't have minded messing around with it so much. More to the point it would not have had Windows on it at all.

See I decided to be the good tech head and hand back the Netbook the way the mother would have expected. With Windows XP reinstalled on it and everything right in the world. Sadly this "simples" task was not meant to be.

Problem 1, as I think I mentioned before, was that we had no install discs to work from. So I was going to be reinstalling the system with my own "copy" (maybe those quotation marks should be around 'own') of Windows XP. Easy enough to do, even with the lack of an internal CD drive, because I had an external USB case with DVD drive in it that I had used for installs before.

Except the Netbook, despite having a BIOS option to boot from USB, didn't see the drive at all during boot up.

Then I stumbled across the interesting idea of creating a bootable USB stick with Windows XP on it. Something that I had never heard of before and even now after talking about it with one of the guys in the office seems to not be all that well known a thing.

After four attempts, using slightly different methods, I had four bootable sticks with XP. Each one booted my desktop fine, even attempting an install if I had so wished.

The mother's Netbook? One of the four booted it but refused to install it.

This left me with two options. Option A was to get my hands on a server of some sort and perform a network boot. I had created a jumpstart server and an autoinstall server while working in Sun, so I was pretty sure this was something I could do without too much hassle. But, since I didn't fancy blowing away my own Windows system, which is used mainly for graphical work, and didn't fancy setting up my laptop as a small server for this one of job that option was rapidly thrown out the window.

Not unlike the Netbook on one occasion.

Option B was to blow away the Netbook entirely (sadly not with actual explosives) and install Ubuntu onto it.

There is actually an Option C but it involves getting another Netbook and taking out the internal drives, then making a direct copy of the working drive onto the borked one. That just sounds like effort.

So Linux it was. Hell Ubuntu even have a Netbook edition of the OS to download, what was not to like about this plan? All the tools to create the stick are included in Ubuntu as standard, it was easy as pie.

Except for a small bug that seems to exist in the syslinux supplied with Ubuntu 10.10 (and earlier it would seem). After making the stick you need to make a small edit to one of the files on it, otherwise the USB won't boot your laptop/Netbook correctly.

Once your stick has been made open up the following file on it: /syslinux/syslinux.cfg. Then remove the word "ui" (usually the last line) save and exit. The USB Stick should now boot without issue.

Now, the only problem with this solution is that the mother doesn't know what Linux is. Then again the Netbook had only ever been used for surfing the web and writing small document files. Both of which she used Firefox and OpenOffice for respectively. Installing a new application? That was a call for me to come along. So at the end of the day there won't be any real need for her to learn how to use Linux, so long as Firefox works for her.

Plus I changed the desktop theme to a Windows XP one and removed the multiple workspaces down to one, so she shouldn't know any difference either way :D


franyhi | Sun, 20 Feb 11 21:10:55 +0000

I went for option c with a colleagues netbook, recovered all his files first but had no replacement drive so lent him a usb memory stick with bootable Ubuntu.1 month later I'm leaving the office and I'm like, where's my usb stick?

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